Introduction: Makey Makey Math/Science Classify and Sort

About: Computers are going bananas! Use #makeymakey to practice invention literacy and connect the world to your computer.

Inspired by Makey Makey Operation game and cardboard sorting machine workshop by Jeff Branson of Sparkfun, you'll finally have a reason to make an Operation game, ahem, I mean sorting game with Makey Makey!


Makey Makey Classic, Alligator Clips, Protractor Ruler, Lesson A: Hinged cardboard box, duct tape, copper tape, aluminum foil, Lesson B: Poster board, pencils

Step 1: Two Lessons: One Guide

  • NOTE: This project was written to be used by teachers as a lesson plan

Lesson Objectives Lesson A: Classifying Shapes

  • Identify Shapes: polygon, quadrilateral, triangle, square, rectangle, rhombus, trapezoid, parallelogram, hexagon, diamond, pentagon, octagon, decagon,
  • Use a geoboard to brainstorm shapes
  • Describe objects: vertices, angles, sides, quadrilateral, right, acute, and obtuse angles, parallel,intersecting, perpendicular lines

Lesson B: Classifying Triangles

  • Identify types of triangles by sides: Scalene, Isosceles, Equilateral
  • Identify types of triangles by angles:Acute, Right, Obtuse, Equiangular
  • Draw all types of triangles, figure out the angles, calculate the sum of the angles of each triangle
  • Great triangle definitions and cutouts here

Educator Tip:

Note on Standards

These lessons were developed with the idea that teachers all over the globe and a variety of grade levels could hack the lesson plan to meet their students' needs. Therefore, these are just some of the standards the lessons are based on, and not an all-inclusive list. Many of the CCSS align by grade level, so if you teach 9th grade, you could find the stair-stepped standard for CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.6 by looking at CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.9-10.6.

Cross Cutting Concepts in NGSS:

  • Patterns observed patterns of forms and events guide organization and classification, and they prompt questions about relationships and the factors that influence them.
  • Cause and effect: Mechanism and explanation. Events have causes, sometimes simple, sometimes multifaceted. A major activity of science is investigating and explaining causal relationships and the mechanisms by which they are mediated. Such mechanisms can then be tested across given contexts and used to predict and explain events in new contexts.
  • Scale, proportion, and quantity. In considering phenomena, it is critical to recognize what is relevant at different measures of size, time, and energy and to recognize how changes in scale, proportion, or quantity affect a system’s structure or performance.

Step 2: Lesson A: Creating Shapes and Shape Sorter

  1. Brainstorm shapes with a geoboard that you want to use for your Operation style game.
  2. Using a ruler or stencil, have students draw the shapes you want them to study on a thin piece of cardboard (like an old cereal box.) Students should measure angles, count sides and vertices, define line types, and make an answer guide/ cheat sheet with all of the information of their drawn shapes. (View video tutorial here.)
  3. Use an exacto knife to cut a slit and then use scissors to out the shapes students have drawn.
  4. Once shapes are cut, use them to trace the shapes on the hinged box and then cut out the shapes from the lid of the hinged box. If desired, use the holes on the box lid to trace shapes onto the inside of the box. (See original Operation pdf for pictorial guidelines.) Students may need to do this twice. Once for the "guts" of the game and the other for creating tactile holes on the lid of the shoebox for game play.
  5. Students need to check that the cut out shapes have the correct amount of sides, vertices, and line types for corresponding shapes. Ask students to refer to their answer guide/cheat sheet to double check. (See - we are getting tricky here making them remember their math, but they just think they are making a game!)
  6. Cover the lid with duct tape , but trim away where the shapes are cut out. See this tutorial.
  7. Line the shape holes with copper tape and make sure all of the tape leads to EARTH on the inside of the box. This will be how students make a switch. When they place their shapes into the right spot, it will signify to Scratch that they have placed their shape into the sorter.

Step 3: Lesson A: Create a Corresponding Game in Scratch

Create a Scratch Game!

If your students haven't used Scratch, check out this guide for combining Makey Makey and Scratch for the first time.

Click here to remix the project on Scratch.

  1. For each shape, students need to create a "When block" that will announce the shape when it is placed inside the correct slot and score points if desired.
  2. If you have enough time, students could add questions to their Scratch game based on the shape's:
    • right, acute, or obtuse angles
    • vertices
    • sides
    • parallel and intersecting (including perpendicular) lines

This will further cement the math vocabulary in their head!

Step 4: Lesson A: Trade and Play!

  1. Students will have blank charts to determine for each game they play:
    1. right, acute, or obtuse angles
    2. vertices
    3. sides
    4. parallel and intersecting (including perpendicular) lines
  2. Have students play with the shapes, and fill in charts.
  3. Evaluate games with "I like, I wonder" stickies

Step 5: Lesson B: Classifying Triangles

Use this Scratch game:

Click here to remix the project in Scratch

Maybe your students don't have time to make a board game, but you still want them to create a sorting activity. In this lesson, students can make a simple sorting poster by drawing shapes with a pencil!

Step 6: Lesson B: Triangle Guide

  1. Give students this triangle guide.
  2. Using a protractor and ruler, students should draw each type of triangle on a poster. They need to measure all sides and label at least one angle in each triangle.
  3. Students will draw a kite tail from each triangle to the end of the poster so they can attach an alligator clip.
  4. In Scratch, students need to create a corresponding game that will speak when students interact with the poster.
  5. Trade games and play! (Follow guidelines in Lesson A for day 2-3)

Step 7: Extensions (Optional)

Create an "Operation style" taxonomy sorter with kingdom, pyhlum, genus and species for ten different organisms. Make a correlating dichotomous key game in Scratch to help identify each organism.

Students could easily hack this taxonomy lesson with Makey Makey by creating an Operation style flow chart that shows the taxonomic structure of these organisms. Then they could record the made up taxa names in Scratch, so that when an organism is placed in the right slot, the game would say the made up name.

Step 8: Resources