Make your own Set! game: The combinations model
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You can create:

  • Your own sets of cards for the game of Set!
  • Ways to make sure your set is complete
  • Conjectures and theories about working with the combination model of multiplication

This activity is based on the game of Set! - you can read rules and play online. What's more important - you can figure out how to make a Set! deck of your very own. The cards of the original game use combinations of four features: color, shape, number and filling. Each feature has three possibilities, for example, purple, green and red for color. You should probably play "Set!" before doing the activity.

To start, you'll need to cut your paper into playing card-sized pieces. Thicker paper works better. You can also use smaller cardstock index cards found in office supply stores. Don't prepare all the cards at once, because figuring out how many you will need is a lot of fun (and not such an easy problem). The creative part is to figure out what you will use for your card subjects, and features. In the picture above, two features of animal cards are bodies and heads. You can use animal species or shape; color or number; size, filling, medium (watercolor vs. crayon) or anything else. This is a brainstorming activity, so be open to trial and error. It usually takes several sketches before you can figure out even one card.

Once card making gets going, people start to wonder how to keep track of which kinds of feature combinations they already made, and which are still missing. That's where beautiful multiplication work happens, through sorting activities. You can use arrays or tree-like structures to sort your growing deck of cards. Usually kids come up with strategies of their own. Support different strategies and see where they lead.

This activity, depending on the number of participants contributing to the deck, can take from one to several hours. For smaller decks, you can use three features instead of four. Of course, playing with your very own custom deck of Set! cards is quite rewarding, after all that work!

You can share your deck ideas and card pictures with the group.

Because this activity is good for lovers of games, and lovers of counting and sorting. It is also nice for small groups. It is fast and easy to set up, but it keeps you fruitfully occupied for a while.

As you go

  • Support even wild ideas and see where they lead. This activity is a model of problem-solving. There is much trial and error involved.
  • Seek multiplication
  • Ask problem solving questions, such as "Why?" and "How do you know?" and "What else can we try?"

Higher and deeper

  • Combinations, besides being a cool model for multiplication, is the basis of a whole branch of mathematics called "combinatorics"
  • Marvel at the number of combinations - the complexity just a few features can produce! Many things in life work this way, for example, our DNA.
Created: December 6, 2008, 6:55 am, by MariaD
Last edit: December 15, 2008, 7:14 am, by MariaD ( Edit, History )
Co-author: MariaD