Education Technology

Mean Machine

Published on 06/09/2008

Activity Overview

Students construct a function machine from a small box. Students use the calculator to discover functions. They create their own one-step and two-step function rules and turn their calculators into a function machine.

Before the Activity

  • See the attached PDF file for detailed instructions for this activity
  • Print pages 117 - 127 from the attached PDF file for your class
  • During the Activity

    Distribute the page to the class.

    Follow the activity procedures:
    Activity A:

  • Read the poem Homework Machine to the class


  • Activity B:
  • Hide one cube inside a cup and call it the plus one machine
  • Add a certain number of cubes to the cup
  • Pour out all the cubes and count them
  • Observe one more cube has been added to the lot


  • Activity C:
  • Use grid paper and color (black) one square to represent the hidden cube
  • Color other squares to represent the visible cubes
  • Represent the action with symbols on the calculator
  • Repeat the activity with different amounts of hidden cubes and discover the hidden number of cubes


  • Activity D:
  • Use a sample function box to illustrate number patterns and relations
  • Identify the number pattern
  • Construct a function machine using a box and index cards
  • Create three cards for a number pattern
  • Guess the number pattern


  • Activity E:
  • Use the calculator to show addition number patterns
  • After the Activity

  • Review student results
  • As a class, discuss questions that appeared to be more challenging
  • Re-teach concepts as necessary