Thrifting, repurposing, and the Race to Round!

**This post is definitely my lengthiest thus far. The maker kit I chose uses two types of dough, and the game I created involved a lot of preparation. The following information goes into detail with how to create conductive/insulating dough, use the kit, and put together a game for practicing rounding.

In our second week of CEP811, we revisited the idea of “repurposing” (see my previous post about TPACK). This involves finding items/objects and giving them a new purpose (for this course, specifically, the new purpose is to be used in your classroom). Matt Koehler and Punya Mishra discuss in their keynote the idea of “NEW” technologies – being Novel, Effective, and Whole (Koehler and Mishra, 2012). Technologies cannot be NEW without all three coming into play. I really like what they said about being unique, and how technologies need to be useful as well (Koehler and Mishra, 2012). It is no good if your technology is totally out-of-this-world if it does not serve any kind of purpose! I knew that while my game would be “NEW” it also needed to serve a purpose – to help my students to develop their understanding of rounding, whether they figure this out on their own or through synergizing with the group they play the game with (more on synergizing at the end of my post).

We were tasked with playing around with our Maker Kit (I chose Squishy Circuits – who doesn’t love to play with play dough?!) and finding items around the house/at a thrift store that could interact with our kit. We were then supposed to put the two together to create something for our classroom that was in some way tied to our curriculum.

I began by having a tiny bit of a breakdown. I had absolutely no idea where to go or what to do. I spent a few hours looking online and was becoming more and more frustrated. I started with my kit’s homepage and then did some exploring. I was feeling pretty discouraged, but then stumbled upon this adorable video of this young girl who was SO excited to work with her Squishy Circuits kit. I realized I needed to change my views on my kit and think about it in terms of my students. If I was a third grader, I would really like the LED aspect of the kit – making connections with the dough to light up the different colors. I decided that I wanted to create some kind of game that involved getting the LEDs to light up. I thought I would focus on math or science. My students have been struggling with rounding to the nearest ten or hundred, so I thought that maybe I could create a game that could help my students with rounding.

My students love playing math games, so I knew I wanted to create a self-checking game that they could play without an adult standing watch the entire time. I decided on a game that would allow my students to practice rounding to the nearest ten or hundred, and they could self-assess while they played based on whether or not the LED light lights up. Now the only question left, was… what could I repurpose to create this game?

Part I – My Thrift Store Adventure
I started my search at the Salvation Army in downtown Royal Oak. I was there for about a half hour, and I had my mind set on a few things to buy: something to repurpose into a dice, something (4 to be exact) to use as game pieces, and something to turn into a game board. I immediately walked to the “trinkets section” (that’s what I’m calling it, anyways) and found all sorts of objects. They had a lot of holiday stuff, but not much of it was tiny. I then found what I’m assuming to be a “kid’s section” because it had a lot of little toys. I thought I found the perfect game pieces – these little shapes with magnets and a concave half circle, which I thought would be perfect for putting the conductive dough into. As I picked them up to take a closer look, I realized that each game piece had to be open at both ends so that the red/positive wire could connect with the dough inside. I now had to shift my focus a little – instead of having each game piece act as a pointer for my game, I was going to have to search for something cylinder-shaped to use as a pointer connected to the battery pack, and then I would have the students just move little game pieces on the board to keep their spot.

I did a few laps around the store with no luck. I decided to take one more look at the “kid’s section” and that’s when I stumbled upon this little Roxy cube-shaped clock.

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My mind immediately started running through the possibility of turning the outer cube shell of the clock into a dice. I took a closer look and saw that little tiny screws were holding it together – I would just have to remove the screws, pop out the clock, and then put the shell back together.

On the way home, I was really thinking about what I could use as the pointer that would be wide enough to stick the black/negative wire into. I thought a straw would be easiest, so I stopped at Tropical Smoothie Cafe by my house, ordered a couple smoothies (so it wouldn’t look weird when I asked for extra straws), and took some extra straws. I now had my pointer!

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All that was left was the actual game pieces that the students would move around the board. I went into my basement and dug up some fluffy pom-poms, craft glue, googly eyes, and popsicle sticks. The pom-poms were decorations on my birthday board from last year. The glue and googly eyes were from last year’s Halloween party. The popsicle sticks? A teacher can never have enough of those! So I set to work. Here’s what I came up with:


Part II – Squishy Circuits Preparation and Creating the Game!
To get started, you need to make the conductive and insulating doughs that will allow your Squishy Circuits kit to work (in this case, to light up the LEDs). Here are the recipes straight from the Squishy Circuits box.

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My directions will teach how to make the conductive dough first. Gather water, flour, salt, lemon juice, vegetable oil, and some food coloring (optional, but helps to tell the difference between the two types of dough when you are working with your kit. I chose green – I’m forever a Spartan!). Mix all of the ingredients together, leaving out ½ cup of flour.

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After the ingredients are mixed up, put the mixture on the stove and heat it at a medium-high heat (I chose between “4” and “5” on the lo – hi setting on the burner) and stir continuously. After a few minutes, the mixture will turn into a bit of a scrambled eggs concoction because suddenly, you have a new consistency. Continue stirring until a dough ball forms.

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After the dough ball forms, turn off the burner and allow the dough to cool. It will be very hot after being on the stove, and the next stop is to knead the remaining ½ cup of flour into the dough ball. You will want to let it cool for 10-20 minutes (depending on how hot you can handle touching). Once cooled, spread the remaining flour onto a countertop and begin kneading it into the dough. Stop once you have your desired consistency – it shouldn’t be too sticky anymore. Store in an air-tight container or ziploc baggy at room temperature.

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To make the insulating dough, gather flour, sugar, vegetable oil, and distilled water. Mix the flour, sugar, and vegetable oil, again leaving out ½ cup of flour. Once mixed, add in the distilled water in ½-1 tablespoon amounts.

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Stop adding distilled water when your dough looks crumbly (you may notice my bowl has changed – for the first batch of this dough I added too much water too quickly, and completely missed the “crumbly dough” stage. I had to start over. Definitely pour the water into the dough in tiny, tiny, amounts!). You should be able to form a dough ball with your hands, and have it maintain its shape. Spread the remaining flour onto a countertop and again, begin kneading it into the dough. Stop once you have your desired consistency – it should no longer be very sticky. Store in an air-tight container or ziploc baggy at room temperature.

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Now that your dough is made, it’s time to put the rest of your kit together. Start by putting four AA batteries into the battery pack. Put the red/positive wire into one ball of conductive dough. The black/negative wire will go into another ball of conductive dough.

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Test that your dough will conduct properly by inserting an LED light into the dough. The longer/positive wire from the LED should connect with the red/positively-wired dough (left wire in image below). The shorter/negative wire from the LED should connect with the black/negatively-wired dough (right wire in image below). Turn on the battery pack. The LED should light up!

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**If the LED does not light up when the battery pack is turned on, check that the LED wires are connected properly. The longer wire should be connected to the red-wired dough.**

Play around with different setups of conductive and insulating dough. Do not allow two conductive dough balls to touch, or the circuit will be incomplete. Test out the two buzzers (only one is pictured) and the motor. Though they aren’t needed for this game, they do come in your kit!

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Race to Round! Directions
For the game, you need a game board, pointer, and game pieces. I chose to use a pizza box for the game board. The pizza box sides were too thick, so I had to do some cutting and taping to make the box slimmer. Design your game board in any way you’d like. I chose a fun, twisty trail for the students to follow.

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A straw is the perfect fit for the pointer (used to touch LEDs to see if their answer was correct/incorrect), because it is long enough to reach across the board and wide enough for the black/negative wire and conducting dough to fit inside. I chose to take one straw and cut it in half so that it could bend in the middle to reach the closer LEDs, but still be long enough to reach the farther away ones. I used tinfoil to help as a conductor and taped the straws closed after cutting them lengthwise to cram in the conductive dough.

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You need a dice. I made one out of a Roxy clock that I bought at Salvation Army. I limited the numbers on the dice to 1, 2, 3, or roll again, because otherwise they would make it through the game rather quickly. You only have twelve pairs of LEDs to work with (25 single LEDs, put into groups of two, which means you have one lonely LED left over), which means only twelve spots on the game board.

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You need game pieces. I made my own out of popsicle sticks, pom-poms, googly eyes, and craft glue.


Draw/place your game board track on top of the pizza box. Poke holes on the lid for the LED wires to poke through, deep enough to connect with the conductive dough. A needle works well for this. Trace the around the needle holes with marker so that you can tell where the dough will be going.

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You’ll need the conductive and insulating dough to run the entirety of the game board, hidden underneath the lid of the pizza box. I chose to use the insulating dough as my base, and then put the conductive dough on top. The dough needed to be close to the lid of the box, so using the insulating dough first meant I needed to use less conductive dough (so I wouldn’t have to make more).

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Set up your LEDs so that they light up for the correct answer. For a correct answer, poke the long wire from the LED into the conductive dough and bend the short wire upwards, on top of the game board. For an incorrect answer, poke the short wire from the LED into the conductive dough and bend the long wire upwards, on top of the game board. Since the “incorrect” LED is inserted into the dough incorrectly, it will not light up when touched with the conductive dough pointer.

Once the board is set up, you’re ready to play! Students take turns rolling the dice. They move their game piece the number of spaces on the dice. Once they land, they should read the number on the spot they landed on and decide how to round the given number (to the nearest ten or hundred). They check their answer by putting the pointer on the LED next to what they think the answer is. If they are correct, the LED will light up and they earn one point! If they are incorrect, the LED will not light up and they do not earn any points. Game play ends when all students have crossed the finish line. The student with the most points at the end of the game wins!

Part III – So, how do the Squishy Circuits kit and this game work together to support learning?

My third graders love to explore. They are working on developing their personal independence and responsibility. I’ve noticed that when I give my students an inch, they definitely take a mile – but not in a bad way. They are constantly rising to the challenge when it comes to working with partners or in a small group. Though they may sometimes get a little silly while working, I’ve truly never worked with a group as hard working as they are. We are a Leader in Me school, which means all students are working towards following and implementing the “7 Habits of Happy Kids”. The habit of synergizing, or working together, is implemented through this activity. Through working with others for this game, two things may happen. Students who do not grasp rounding will be able to work with their peers, if they choose, to find the answer. Those peers, who help others learn more about rounding, will be developing their understanding of rounding by “teaching” it to any group member(s) who may need extra help.

In terms of the Common Core Academic State Standards, students are expected to be able to use their knowledge of place value to round to the nearest ten or hundred. They should be identifying patterns while doing so. Though the CCSS mentions “arithmetic patterns” and not just general patterns, I still applied the standard to this activity because I feel it can lead them towards an understanding of how patterns are everywhere in math, not just wherever there is an equation involved.

When it comes to rounding, students should be able to round to the nearest ten or hundred in third grade. This game is perfect to be played after a general understanding of place value has been explored. Because students will rely on the LED lights to show them if they are correct or not, they self-assess with every movement in the game – whether they are rounding, or someone else in their group is. The LEDs are fun, different, and bright – we usually play math games with just number cards or base-ten blocks. The LEDs will definitely motivate students to be sure to solve for the correct answer. Having the two tens or hundreds on the board (for example, 46 as the number to round and 40 and 50 as the two choices) reminds students of what the closest tens/hundreds are. With this game, students are practicing their rounding skills while being immersed in mathematical patterns. They are working together as mathematicians and learning on their own, and from their peers.

You can find my lesson plan for this game here. If you have any questions, comments, or need clarification on ANY aspect, please let me know! I would love to help someone else implement a game like this into their classroom!

**Note: All images (taken by Whitney Cornelli) are to provide additional support in reproducing the kit/game by showing my first-hand experience with the process. The accompanying video (taken by my husband) is meant to show how the kit and game come together to create a learning experience for students.


Koehler, Matthew J. and Mishra, Punya. (2012). Teaching Creatively: Teachers as Designers of Technology, Content and Pedagogy . Retrieved/available from

Squishy Circuits. (n.d.). Welcome to the Squishy Circuits Project Page. Squishy Circuits (website). Retrieved from 

Super-Awesome Sylvia (video by her dad). (n.d.). Sylvia’s Squishy Circuits – season 2, episode 7 . Sylvia’s Super-Awesome Maker Show! Retrieved/available from

The Leader in Me. (2014). 7 Habits of Happy Kids Posters. The Leader in Me (website). FranklinCovey Education. Retrieved from

The Leader in Me. (2014). What is The Leader in Me? The Leader in Me (website). FranklinCovey Education. Retrieved from


2 thoughts on “Thrifting, repurposing, and the Race to Round!

  1. Pingback: Foundations of Learning – Constructivism in Mathematics | Whitney Cornelli

  2. Pingback: UDL and Race to Round! | Whitney Cornelli

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