The Marshmallow Challenge

in science •  3 months ago 

This is a famous challenge that is typically used for team-building exercises. It was introduced by Peter Skillman at the 2006 TedTalks conference.

The challenge challenges teams to build the tallest structure using 20 pieces of spaghetti, 1 meter of tape, one piece of string, and one marshmallow. You get 18 minutes to finish the challenge. The goal is to have the tallest free-standing structure using just the above items.

This challenge is typically performed in business to work on team building or resource management.

That being said, this is a fantastic experiment to do with your family. In fact, if you have children, I encourage you to do this challenge with them.

I would recommend you do it together initially, then split off and try to do it individually.

Most attempts of the challenge happen like this. The initial few minutes are spent talking about the project and individuals trying to take control. Next an initial plan is developed and executed. Most of the time this leads to failure once the marshmallow is introduced at the end.

This experiment has been done many times using different types of people. Kindergarten students generally do better than most everyone. While this sounds counter-intuitive, most people doing this challenge try to build their structure and introduce the marshmallow at the end. Students tend to use the marshmallow immediately and progressively iterate their structure to make it larger.

In fact, many people completely fail this challenge by having no structure at the end of 18 minutes.

You likely have all the items you need to try this challenge at home. Even if you don't have kids this is a fun challenge to try.

If you do give it a try, I would love to hear how it went. Just leave a comment below, even better if you have a camera, make video and tag it `#marshmallowchallenge', you can even tag me and I will personally check it out.

I recommend you check out the original TedTalk (3.5 minutes). There is also a more recent TedTalk that these images are from that I recommend as well. I do suggest watching these after you give it at least one attempt.

Image Sources: 1 2 3 4

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Solution: Eat the marshmallow first.

use the string and sticky tape to tie up all the other people, put water on to boil for the spaghetti...... then eat the marshmellow

~3.5 spaghetti lengths, maybe 4.3 depending on the spaghetti brand and environmental factors like age of spaghetti and humidity.

Now my brain is spinning... And yet I will probably wait till our toddler gets home to wait for expert advice!

Toddlers do better ...really?

Yes, they don't spend time fighting over who is in charge and they tend to try and then correct over and over rather than talking most of the time and trying once before you run out of time.


Virtually every CEO I've ever met or worked with has been functionally useless. I find the above chart difficult to believe. I suppose there are outliers!

Never heard about this challenge before but it looks both fun and smart. And I love that!