When the Firefly is first turned on, it awaits the input of a rhythm pattern. The left button records an accented beat; the right button records a non-accented beat. As of yet there is no way to input rests in the rhythm pattern and the tempo is fixed. After two seconds of inactivity the Firefly begins playback of this first pattern.
Once the Firefly has begun playing the first pattern, you can input the second layer in real time with the left button. Each tap plays a beat aloud and records its quantized position so that the beat becomes part of the rhythm loop. The first layer is usually played in a high-frequency timbre like a high-hat, because the beats are constant. The timbre for this second line is a low-frequency drum like a bass or low tom which sounds better when played more sporadically.
In solo mode the toy is a wonderful tool for musical exploration. To start out, you can experiment with accent patterns in traditional time signatures of 2, 3, 4, or 6 beats per loop. It is then quite interesting to play with less traditional patterns of 5, 7 , 9, or 11 beats.
When two Fireflies see each other, they automatically synchronize their rhythm patterns. One Firefly becomes the conductor and sends a constant metronome signal; the other follows this signal. While two Fireflies are synced, either one can initiate a Drum Deal, in which instrument sounds are traded between the toys. To keep with the solo-mode interface, the left button trades the instruments used for accented beats; the right button trades the non-accented instruments. Now each one plays its original patterns but with two new instrument sounds mixed. This transaction happens without interrupting the rhythm patterns, and can be a fun way for two Fireflies to interact. Furthermore, because the Fireflies are richer after interaction (they now contain four instrument sounds), the toys motivate social play.
It is in these syncronized social interactions that the mathematical aspects of the toy arise. If one Firefly has a 4 beat pattern and another has a 7 beat pattern, you can hear the process of divergence and convergence as the patterns go in and out of phase every 28 beats. Kids could be encouraged to experiment with different combinations of rhythm patterns to see what multiplicative relationships emerge.