I've had this toy for quite some time, which is called "Jacob's Ladder." I have probably had it for at least 20 years, but I dug it out of cabinet before school started this year, and it's just the sort of thing kids come and play with before class. It's very "touchy-feely" and counterintuitive as to how it works...put those two things together and BAM! Fun class project!
Jacob's ladder from Wikipedia:
One year, many years ago, a student asked if they could make one when I gave them a very open-ended project - and he did--just by looking at my toy. So this year, I decided to have it become part of my Honors Problem-Solving Seminar, though I think it would be a great thing to do for any class before a holiday break.
I thought it would be easier to Google for instructions, and lo and behold, my favorite things all mashed together came up: something you can eat, play with, and in some sense, involves math (or problem-solving!) Here's the site I found:
CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW TO SEE THE INSTRUCTIONS! (This summer I hope to make up my own instructions and video)
Kit Kats were recommended, but they were super expensive, so I chose Ghirardelli chocolates because they were on sale at Target. However, I realized after that we had to tape back their extra edges.
The finished product!
What I would do differently next time:
--find chocolates that are more rectangular and inexpensive
--use the same color ribbon that is on the website because we kept getting confused as to which was which
--use thinner ribbons...those students who used thick ones did not come out as good.
AND--this is very important! Make sure you have extra chocolate for the kids to eat before hand, or else they will want to eat their candy! My students really enjoyed this activity, and they said they would make nice stocking stuffers for little kids.