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Are these toys or manipulatives? This is math?

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This week’s topic for the 2017 edition of the Virtual Curriculum Fair is Discovering Patterns — all things related to math.  After reading my thoughts, be sure to check out the other posts from my friends linked at the end of the post.

Discovering Patterns

I firmly believe that young children learn through play.  Playing pretend, building things, playing with toys and anything that gets them moving around outside – are these toys or manipulatives? Is this math?  Even playing board games and mind puzzles, quiet activities, are important play.  All of these are valuable for children of all ages.  When young children start discovering patterns with blocks or in nature, they are getting their brain ready for math skills.

Discovering Patterns Virtual Curriculum Fair 2017

More Fun and Less Scary

Just as reading to your children is one of the most important things that you can do to develop reading skills, playing games and using math in everyday situations will help develop math skills.  From popular pre-school board games to helping in the kitchen, demonstration of math usage – no need to call attention to it or label it – will go a long way in your child’s attitude towards math.  If you can make math more fun and less scary in the early years, it will be more fun and less scary when you tackle topics in algebra.

Some of our favorite preschool games that have helped with math readiness have been Hi Ho Cherry-O and Candyland.  Others we have enjoyed beyond the preschool years are Spot It and Sequence – which has many versions for kids covering letters, numbers, and states and capitols.  Honestly, anytime we can play a game and relate it to school, we do.  There are card games specifically for math practice or that can be played with a standard deck of cards (war anyone?) Don’t forget about dice or dominoes.  There are many more possibilities with these two inexpensive options.  Games are a fun way to engage the brain in a relaxed way.

Hands-on Activity

If your children are anything like mine, they love playing LEGO.  We incorporate the blocks and themed sets into many subject areas.  The easiest is math.  You can find many curricula supplements that utilize the blocks specifically or make up your own hands-on activity.  When my youngest was having difficulty learning subtraction, we pulled out our trusty bucket of bricks and spent 20 minutes playing.  By using the same words and language that our curricula uses, the translation from our playtime to his next lesson was much easier.

When one of my daughters was having difficulty with the concept of multiplication, we pulled supplies from the pantry.  With dry beans and small containers with lids (condiment cups), I was able to demonstrate that 2 x 4 is two groups of four.  The groups were represented by the containers.  In this instance, each was filled with four beans.  She could easily see that multiplication was a quicker way of adding.  Seeing that lightbulb moment was awesome!  Even though we had been singing skip counting songs for years, this hands-on activity was needed for that connection to be made.

Toys and Manipulatives for Math Learning

Traditional Manipulatives

We live frugally, saving money wherever we can.  I spent many years foregoing traditional manipulatives.  We could use toys, make our own, or download and print (and laminate and repeat as they became worn-out or lost), or just do without.  These all worked fine in many instances, but there were times they just weren’t quite enough.

Pattern blocks, unifix cubes, and cuisenaire rods are some of the traditional manipulatives we first acquired.  These filled the need of my kinesthetic learners and were fun to play with.  Once I realized what we had been missing out on, we added fraction cubes and Learning Wrap-Ups.  Learning Wrap-Ups are great for math facts practice.  They are portable (they often are found in our van), have no pieces to lose, and are self-checking – great qualities for a busy mom of many.

Curriculum Options

There are so many curriculum options for math, it can be overwhelming.  I think that choosing a math curricula is easier than choosing a reading curricula.  Once you match the learning style of your learner to the way the curricula teaches, it is a matter of what fits your style and schedule more.  We have tried most of the curricula out there and have settled on CTC for all of our learners.  With our relaxed, hands-on learning style this may surprise you.  By adding in our own manipulatives (and toys and games) we can tailor the lessons to each child’s individual needs.  We have the freedom to cover the topics in any order and at any level.

The video presentation and short amount of problems were the first features that I loved about CTC.  With six learners, I like not being needed for every lesson, every day for each child.  When they need help, I am free to work with them as long as needed.  We pull extra practice from Math Mammoth worksheets as needed or if our power is out (CTC is an online curricula).  For alternative presentations of tough topics, we utilize Math on the Level.  CTC offers flexibility, recordkeeping, rewards and review.  And my children all love it.

Remember, when we play and have fun, these things are less scary.  One of my main goals for early math learning is that math not be scary.  It doesn’t need to be the favorite subject (though for two of my six children it is), but not a dreaded one either (no subject should be!).

Please visit my fellow homeschool bloggers who are talking about Discovering Patterns: Math and the Mathematical Sciences this week:

Finding Our Math Equilibrium: Our Plan for 11th, 7th, 5th, and 2nd Grades + Free Printables! by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

Math Resources and Programs for All Ages by Amanda H @ Hopkins Homeschool

Math (doesn’t) Stink! by Jennifer King @A Peace of Mind

When Math is NOT Your Thing by Michele@Family, Faith and Fridays

Math U See and All the Supplements by Laura H @ Four Little Penguins

Discovering Patterns in Our World: STEM Studies by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World

Junior High Math by Jennifer @ A Glimpse of Our Life

Science & Math for Struggling Learners by Yvie @ Gypsy Road

Maths: a subject in progress by Sarah @ Delivering Grace

Taking Mathematics out of the Textbook by Dana Hanley @ Roscommon Acre

Maths for a Very Maths-y Boy by Lizzy @ Peaches At Home

Practical Math by Annette @ A Net in Time

One of the greatest benefits of homeschooling by Kim @ Good Sweet Love

Math, How I Loathe Thee by Shecki @ Greatly Blessed

Math and Logic in Early Elementary and Preschool {virtual curriculum fair 2017} by Meghan W @ Quiet In The Chaos

Low Stress High School Science and Math by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool

When You Don’t Have a Math Plan by Brittney @ Mom’s Heart

Clear Horizons by Lori H @ At Home: where life happens

A Few Thoughts on Teacher Math by Kristen @ Sunrise to Sunset


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5 thoughts on “Are these toys or manipulatives? This is math?

  1. I’m the opposite. Math manipulatives were the one thing I invested in from the beginning, but those fraction cubes look really neat. We don’t have anything like that. I do have some fun LEGO fraction and division activities planned soon though!

  2. As with so many other things, the right tools can make a huge difference. We were blessed with a number of the right tools and have been able to acquire many others. They are a benefit. So glad you were able to get them eventually.

  3. Sometimes I think my kids like to play with our manipulatives as much as they play with other toys. Maybe that’s why they seem to have such good visual-spatial reasoning. 😉 Thank you for sharing how you use manipulatives in your homeschool. I agree that sometimes the ones you come up with from stuff you already have are great (my youngest can spend an hour playing with a little container full of pennies).

  4. I love your more fun, less scary approach! I have a feeling if we all had that philosophy from the beginning our kids would not struggle so much with math!

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