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Broken Calculator math activity

Updated on December 20, 2012

Can you solve a problem using a broke calculator?

Students will try to find solutions to display selected numbers without using certain keys imagining they are broken.
Students will try to find solutions to display selected numbers without using certain keys imagining they are broken.

Activity Steps:

1. Introduce students to a ten minute activity, it can be a morning warm up or a transitional activity. Ask students did they ever have a broken calculator that they wished they could use to solve a problem? Allow a few to offer feedback. Give them a three digit number, example: "Today's number is 364". Ask students to find some way to display this number on the calculator using only addition. More than two numbers may be added together.

2. Give students ten minutes. Ask students to volunteer and show the class what they did to display 364 on the calculator using only addition. Write a few methods on the board.

3. Now ask students to generate combinations without using the 3 and 4 key on the calculator. This time they may use addition and subtraction.

4.After a minute or two , write several solutions on the board.

5.Ask students how did they come up with their solutions.

6. Choose one or two collected solutions to discuss with the class.

Objectives that this activity achieves:

  • Practice with large numbers, addition and subtraction
  • demonstrating how math can be solved differently by different students. Mixed abillity groups need to be able to learn in the same environment and have all their levels addressed in unique and creative ways. Such an activity allows the teacher to teach to the whole class and yet allow each child to discover his or her own way. Sharing what students find is away of letting them know that they are important and that their work is appreciated.
  • Please rotate through all the students so that all their work can be used in some way when sharing problems. Never use only the highest achievers work.



Solution Examples

Display 364

KEYS broken: 3 and 4

200 + 100 + 60 + 2 +2 = 364

500 - 200 + 70 -6 = 364

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