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Cup Stacking Challenge

This cup stacking challenge was a super fun and engaging activity for my chemistry students during the first week of school.

cup stacking challenge

I’m teaching a chemistry class this year for the first time. My class is made up of all juniors and seniors with the exception of one sophomore. I taught almost every single one of these students as freshmen in Algebra 1. This means that they’ve seen most of my tried and true first-week of school activities before. I decided to take this as an opportunity to try out some new ideas that I’d seen online but never tried. One of my favorites to result from this experimenting was the Cup Stacking Challenge. This is a definite keeper of an activity!

Each group received one rubberband, a piece of string (2 ft long) for each member of the group (2 pieces of string per person for groups of only 2), six cups, and a deck of cup-stacking challenge cards.

I set a timer for ten minutes and challenged groups to work through as many of the challenges as possible in that time.

The crucial rule: students are only allowed to touch the string. They can’t touch the rubberband or the cups.

It was super-fun to watch the groups progress from “This is impossible” to “Let’s try this” to “Oooooh!” to “This is easy” to “Uh oh. What are we going to do now?’

The last few challenge cards instructed groups to do it without any verbal communication. They found this super hard and kept accidentally talking.

Here’s a video I took of one of my groups:


Friday 15th of September 2017

This is great!! What was the starting position of the cups they use for each challenge?