# Back to School: Explore math functions with 'Function Machines'

Posted August 21, 2013

The women behind "Moebius Noodles: Adventurous Math for the Playground Crowd" are back with another fun math game they call Function Machines.

I introduced Maria Droujkova and Yelena McManaman last week. The two met when McManaman took a math course that Droujkova, who holds a doctorate in mathematics education, taught to a group of homeschoolers a few years ago. They published the book earlier this year and have plans for more. Their goal is to offer new ways for young children to learn math. Read all about it in my earlier post.

Here's how to play their game called Function Machines:

The kitchen is a perfect place to begin exploring functions. A function takes “input,” changes or transforms it, and returns “output.”

Look at kitchen appliances and identify their inputs and outputs. For example, a dishwasher takes dirty dishes (input), washes and dries them (function), and returns clean dishes (output). What about a blender?

Ask children to name baby animals and tell them the corresponding mothers. This machine turns baby animals into adult animals (chick-hen, foal-mare, kitten-cat and so on).

Once your child is comfortable with the general idea of function machines, you can play with numbers. Think of a simple function for an imaginary machine. Maybe your machine will add 2 to the input.

Ask your child to give you a number for the machine to transform. Without revealing the rule, write down the child’s inputs and the machine’s outputs (3->5, 10->12, 6->8…). Your child’s task is to figure out the hidden function. Next, it’s your child’s turn to set the rule, and your turn to guess it!

Go to the Moebius Noodles website, Facebook page, forum and newsletter to learn more about the book and how to get involved in their online and local programs.