I was reminded recently of a divisibility game I used to play with my own students, called “Fizz Buzz.” It’s a great example of low floor, high ceiling as well as my motto interesting, not just challenging.
The floor is quite low. Students get in a circle and start counting up. Then they have a few complicators:
- If a number is divisible by 3, the student says “fizz” rather than the number.
- If a number is divisible by 5, they say “buzz” rather than the number.
- If a number is divisible by both, they say “fizz buzz”
So a sample game would start like this:
1, 2, fizz, 4, buzz, fizz, 7, 8, fizz, buzz, 11, fizz, 13, 14, fizz buzz, 16, and so on…
When a student says the wrong thing or breaks the rhythm, they leave the circle and the remaining kids continue on until there is one winner.
One Task That Scales
This is a beautiful example of an easily differentiated task because, rather than trying to develop three or more separate tasks for kids at different levels, you just adjust this one task.
- Group kids by ability and let them go as fast as they can handle.
- Too complicated? Alter the rules a bit. Start with just “fizz.”
- Too simple? Change it up. Make 7 “buzz” instead of 5. Add a third sound. Add a fourth sound! Use roots instead of divisibility. Change to a different number system. Switch to Spanish!
You could (with very slight adaptations) use this task with everyone from primary students through college math majors.
I believe Fizz Buzz originates from this book.