Ever feel like you’ve lost your marbles? Well, get ready to find them so you can do this fun activity! With a few simple items, your family can make a marble run wall. This project was inspired by a magnetic ball wall that kept my kids busy for almost an hour while visiting a museum. My kids would love to have a magnetic wall with tubes, pipes, and gadgets to make ball mazes, but we parents prefer a more temporary set up.
Collect the tubes from empty paper towel and toilet paper rolls to make a marble run on a wall in your home. If you’re low on tubes, make your own by rolling up flimsy white paper plates and taping them into tubes.
Next, grab painter’s tape; it has a light adhesive that typically doesn’t damage walls.
Finally, hunt down those lost marbles. Where’s the wackiest place you found one?
After you have your supplies, let everyone explore and plan out ways to connect all of the tubes into one giant structure. As you brainstorm, note the math elements of your plans, like the number of tubes used in a design and the angle of those tubes.
Angles play an important role when placing the tubes. If a tube is placed vertically, or at an angle of 90 degrees from the floor, the marble will just zip right through. Conversely, if a tube is placed horizontally, or 0 degrees from the floor, the marble will only move based on the momentum gathered in the previous tubes.
Be aware that if the tubes are not well-aligned at the joints, or spots where 2 tubes meet, marbles may fly out of the tube or get stuck.
• Place one tube for point A and one for point B on your wall. Have your kids work as a team to see how many twists and turns they can create between the two points. An alternative is to create a marble run using the least number of tubes between points A and B.
• Older children may challenge themselves to create marble runs where the marble has to jump a bit from tube to tube. This will provide a great opportunity to discuss how tube placement and marble speed will change based on angles.
• Think outside of the box and look around your house for other gadgets and gizmos that can safely be used on your wall to make a larger marble contraption, like foam pipe insulation or pool noodles.
• Try running 10 marbles through the maze at once. What percentage will make it to a cup waiting at the bottom? For added fun, yell out, “You lost your marbles!” when one goes flying in an unexpected direction.
Images courtesy of Beth Levine