Math = Love: Rainbow Logic - An Activity to Promote Discussion in Group Work

Monday, August 1, 2016

Rainbow Logic - An Activity to Promote Discussion in Group Work

First off, how is it already August?!?  This month, I'm participating in Blaugust, a blog challenge to blog every day in August.  You can check out a list of other participating bloggers here.

Remember that book I was gushing about earlier this summer?  Well, I'm still SUPER excited about it!  In case you need a refresher, the book is Elizabeth Cohen's Designing Group Work: Strategies for the Heterogeneous Classroom (affiliate link to 2nd Edition / 3rd Edition).


I already wrote a post about the first activity I want to try, Broken Circles.  That's my current first day of school plan.  I've got my circles laminated, and I even cut the actual circles out.  The envelopes that I want to use to store the pieces are at school, so I'm waiting until I get them to cut the actual circles apart into their pieces.  

There were a few more activities for teaching group work norms in the book that had caught my eye during my first read, so I did a quick revisit this past weekend to see what other activities I wanted to create to incorporate in my first week of class.  I've decided that to do group work well this year, I've got to spend a significant amount of time at the start of the year teaching students how to work together effectively in a group.  This will pay off as the year progresses.  (At least that's what I keep telling myself!)  

The next activity from the book I've decided to make and use is called Rainbow Logic.  Depending on how long it takes my students to work through Broken Circles, I may do this with my students on the first day or the second day.  I was planning on Broken Circles taking at least half a class period, but someone on Twitter said that his students completed their circles in only TWO minutes.  I'm not expecting that, but I do try to always be over-prepared rather than under-prepared.  

There's a description of the Rainbow Logic activity posted on Stanford's website that you can read if you like.  

Just like with Broken Circles, I made a task card to laminate and hand to each group with the supplies, objective, rules, and norms that the activity is supposed to emphasize.  

In case that's blurry, here's a cleaner version:

(And, I've uploaded it as a PDF and editable Publisher file at the end of the post if you want to make tweaks!)

I also went ahead and made game boards and game pieces, too.  

Game Boards (2 to a page)

 Game Pieces:

If you don't want to worry about cutting the individual game pieces, you could just take card stock to a paper chopper and chop it into small squares.  But, I wanted my pieces to be laminated, so I decided this was the easiest route for me.  

Here's what they end up looking like:

I just used the first four colors of paper that appealed to me.  Any colors would work!  

Each person in the group will need a game board and 16 pieces (4 of each color).  

The general gist of the game is that one person in the group makes a colored grid in secret.  However, you can't make just any grid.  You can only use three colors, and you must use three of each of the three colors.  And, all of the squares of the same color must be connected by at least one full side.  

Here's a visual of what's allowed and what's not: 

Image Source:
Once the grid is made, the group discusses which questions they should ask to figure out what color goes in each box of the grid.  

I roped my husband into playing a few rounds with me to test it out.  

We realized that some lines of questioning lead to more efficient solutions than others.  

Of course, when students are working on this in groups, they are asking questions as a group.  Therefore, they need to discuss their questions before they choose which one to ask to see which questioning path will hopefully be the most efficient. 

The norms this activity is supposed to promote are: 

* Discuss and decide.
* Give reasons for your suggestions. 

After each student has a chance to be the grid keeper, I plan on having groups fill out this reflection form: 

Given that Shaun and I are both math teachers, we found the activity to be pretty simple and straight-forward.  When Shaun was the grid keeper, I was able to figure out where to place each color with only four questions.  If your students are finding this activity too easy, you could easily change the rules to make it a bit harder.  I would suggest taking away the restriction of having to use only three colors and exactly three of each color.  This would make it much harder.  

I've always complained that my students don't know how to have a proper, productive discussion when I put them in groups.  This year, I'm going to do something about it.  I can't recommend the book Designing Groupwork by Elizabeth Cohen (affiliate link) enough.  

If you would like to download the files to try this activity with your own students, you can find them here.  For the Publisher files, you'll need to download these free fonts: Flavors, HVD Comic Serif Pro, and Open Sans.  If you don't want to worry with the fonts, just download the PDF version. 


  1. Sarah,

    I really like this idea and hope to try it out with my students during the first. I would also suggest if you haven't already to look at There are some great group activities there.

  2. I like the Rainbow Logic! Thanks for sharing!

  3. This could also be a great activity right before a break, i.e. Christmas, to keep students focused and engaged while working on their group work skills.

  4. Love the rainbow logic! And second Sarah Martin's mention of YouCubed!

  5. This looks interesting! I love to collect exercises like these!

  6. I used the broken circles last year to start a discussion on how to collaborate. The toughest part was letting them do it themselves!! Before they began the activity we had a good discussion about aspects of groupwork that work well and things that don't work well. Then they did the activity (I chose the groups) and we reflected in small groups and a big group after. I was struck with how mature my grade tens were! Excellent, meaningful discussion. It definitely helped to set the tone of collaboration for the rest of the year. I hope it works as well for you!