Math = Love: How Far Can YOU Climb? - An Activity by Frank Tapson

Monday, February 13, 2017

How Far Can YOU Climb? - An Activity by Frank Tapson

Last week, I ran across an activity by Frank Tapson called "How Far Can YOU Climb?" (page 34).  

The premise of the puzzle is quite simple.  Form the longest chain possible by moving horizontally or vertically from one number to an increasing number.  

Here are Frank Tapson's instructions: 

I printed off a class set, and we slid them into our handy dry erase pockets (affiliate link).  I firmly believe that every classroom in the world could benefit from a set of these dry erase pockets!  I've found that the cheapest way to buy them is to order them as "shop ticket holders" (affiliate link).  They're the exact same product as the pockets marketed toward teachers - just cheaper!  

My students got really into this activity!  As students finished their first chains, they called out the scores to the class.  When someone realized their score was higher/lower than their peers, there were corresponding shouts of excitement and frustration.

I think this is a fitting task for practicing problem solving strategies with students.  Some students would erase their path and start over entirely from scratch if they messed up.  Other students would just back up a few steps and test if continuing their path in another direction would result in a larger score.

I got MOST excited when one of my students suggested we should find the highest value on the game board and work backwards towards 1 since that would surely give us the highest score possible.

The student who took that route eventually decided it was impossible to make a route between the lowest number on the board and the highest board.  I haven't played around with it enough to know if that is indeed true.

Some students in another class saw these puzzles setting on my podium, and they begged to take one with them.  Of course you can take a math-y puzzle with you!  

As I was writing this post, I made an exciting discovery.  Remember the giant number line poster I have in my classroom?

This number line was made with a printable I found online.  It turns out that file was created by Frank Tapson!  His website full of resources is a true treasure trove.


  1. My boss got me some dry erase pockets!!!! I printed this puzzle on cardstock and slid them all in and now I have an entry task for tomorrow for all my classes!
    FYI- I bought a bag of 15 pair of white socks at Walmart a few years ago. They make great whiteboard erasers. I put a whiteboard pen in each sock and now the students just have to get a sock (with pen) and a dry erase pocket and they are all set to write and erase. I keep them all in a file crate at the front of the room and the kids all know how to distribute them and put them back.

    1. Yay for dry erase pockets! And, the socks are a GREAT idea! Thanks for sharing!

  2. It is possible to reach 300 , the best way is to try working backwards

  3. Hello. I am a student and I have tried the puzzle. I have succeeded in making it from the lowest to highest number, but I want to know what the highest score possible on this puzzle is. Thank you for sharing this puzzle! By the way, I got a 72.

  4. I used this during some extra time with 6th graders today --- 72!!! Their technique was to work backwards (and I didn't even mention that idea to them). Most of my 6th graders were completely into this activity for 30 minutes - until I said we had to move on. Some didn't want to give up! Love it!