Hands-On Math for Children

Often, in the flow of our day, there are unplanned learning opportunities.  Typically, this is when some of the best learning and the most fun happens.  Recently we were playing with Squigz, a toy with multiple sized rubber pieces of various colors that have suction cups for building and attaching.  When it was time to clean up, we collected all the pieces, fifty to be exact.  In order to make sure we had all fifty, we began lining up and counting the pieces by color.
Next, we lined up the pieces by rows of ten, counting out loud one to ten, in each row.  We did that five times.
“That’s fifty.  Five rows of ten is fifty.”  We then counted by tens, multiple times, pointing to each row.
“Let’s see how five rows of ten is actually 50.”  We pulled out the iPad and found the calculator.  We typed in 10.  Then, we added another 10, and three more 10s.  Children watched and counted along as they saw the numbers 20, 30, 40, and finally 50 appear on the screen.  They now had numerals to correspond to the Squigz pieces.
This was a math lesson that included multiple ways of learning – visual, auditory, and tactile.  And, we used technology in an age appropriate way to reinforce what we learned.
Learning can be fun!

About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
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75 Responses to Hands-On Math for Children

  1. Darlene says:

    A great way to take advantage of a teachable moment. You are an awesome teacher.

  2. Opher says:

    Fabulous Jennie!!

  3. beetleypete says:

    I started out at school with an old Abacus that had wooden balls that slid along. Perhaps if you had been teaching me, I wouldn’t have ended up being so bad at Maths! 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Pete. I remember that old Abacus. I never understood it as a child. It had no context for me. Then one day my teacher brought in a wooden apple split into quarters. I immediately understood fractions. It just has to be something children like. Now, if I had your toy soldiers, I could have taught you math. 🙂 Best to you, Pete.

  4. A wonderful way of making math fun and easy, Jennie!

  5. Those are marvelous ideas, Jennie! Hugs!

  6. Great hands-on fun and learning at the same time. The counting and number size will have much more meaning after they have been involved in touching the pieces, and what a great idea to sort by colour while you’re at it!

  7. cindy knoke says:

    You are an gifted teacher!

  8. This is like Franklin’s “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn”! 🙂

  9. kevin cooper says:

    Wish my teachers would have made maths fun. Lol

  10. Dan Antion says:

    Every example of practical ways to use math and the benefits you get is very important.

  11. “Manipulatives” I believe is the technical term, right?
    In this age of virtual everything – hands-on is sorely underrated.
    Just sayin’…

  12. petespringerauthor says:

    This is one of the reasons I would have loved to teach with you, Jennie. Teachers look for any opportunity to teach, and unplanned lessons are some of the most fun.

    • Jennie says:

      Oh, we would have been an awesome team, Pete!! That’s for sure. I dearly wish teachers understood that it’s not about them and how they teach, but about the children and how they learn.

      We’re learning about eagles. The bald eagle weighs 15 pounds. So, how do I help children understand 15 pounds? Today I brought in my scales. We weighed the children, and then we weighed objects in the room. We took a basket and had each child add an object, repeatedly weighing on the scales until it got to 15. Then we passed the basket around for children to hold and carry… like they were carrying an eagle. It was great. Well, learning is great. 🙂

      • petespringerauthor says:

        Perfect! I can picture their eyes getting bigger each time another child added an object. Yep, it’s always about the kids. I remember the beautiful story you shared earlier this year about your grown-up students returning to say good-bye before they moved on. Thank you for what you do each day, touching kids’ lives.

      • Jennie says:

        Thanks so much, Pete. 😊

  13. Way to go, Jennie! Wonderful… 🙂

  14. As someone who still hasn’t recovered from the trauma of New Math in 1962, I would have much preferred your method!

  15. What a sly teacher you are. Sliding that lesson if without them knowing they are learning something. Kudos to you. Having fun is really the best way. Had to take thirds grade twice because I could not understand multiplication or much of anything to do with numbers. Numbers still dance in my head. Guess that’s why I love words so much. They sit still. 😉

    • Jennie says:

      I guess it was sly. He-he! I think my terrible math abilities are directly attributed to being taught by flash cards and by a teacher writing numbers on the chalkboard. That was pretty much it. I always struggled, too. Interestingly, fellow blogger,
      Norah did a series of interviews with writers about their school memories and experiences. When asked what they liked least about school, the majority said math. There must be a link between poor at math and good at writing. I love words, too! Yes, they sit still. 😀 Best to you, Marlene.

  16. Kekee says:

    Our youngest son and his wife went to a parent teacher conference for their kindergarten son and were told he is a very unusual child. He could count and multiply by 3’s and 7’s but not 5’s which should be so much easier. Our son looked at the teacher very seriously and asked, “How do you score 5 points?” You see, when there are no football games on TV, our grandson watches reruns. He knows defensive formations and pass patterns. He can count touchdowns and field goals all day long. It’s amazing what they can learn when they are able to visualize what the number means. That’s what you did with the building pieces. Great job! Too bad we didn’t have you instead of Mr. Trent!

    • Jennie says:

      What a great story!! 3’s and 7’s, football of course! Children have a great capacity to learn, they just need to be interested. I am blanking out on Mr. Trent. I remember Mr. Ianello. He was a great math teacher. Thanks so much, Kekee! 😀

      • Kekee says:

        Mr. Trent was 5th grade at Miller. That was the worst school year of my life. Transferring to Marshall was the best thing to happen to me. I visited Mr. Ianello several times until his death about 5 years ago. He was my favorite teacher and sparkled a love in mathematics for me.

      • Jennie says:

        Yes, I remember! I was thinking Marshall, not Miller. Do you remember Miss Pinson and all of her singing? How wonderful that you visited Mr. Ianello. He was a great teacher and a kind man. He really tried to help me with math….

  17. dolphinwrite says:

    Fantastic ideas. Something I used to do, which I taught my older students, was using math daily, in one form or another. I used to, just to occupy time at the grocery store, add up the item prices in my head, then see how close to the actual tally at the checkout. In many things, we tried to figure things out in our minds. With time, it’s like having a calculator in our heads. At stores, we try to figure which sale is the best (i.e. $25.00 @ 25% off, or $22.00 @ 15% off). In this way, on bigger ticket items, like cars or trucks, we know which dealer has the better deals.

  18. A fantastic teaching opportunity Jennie.. and I bet they loved it.. xx

  19. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – Friday November 15th 2019 -#Xmas Carol Taylor #Maths Jennie Fitzkee – #Interview Colleen M. Chesebro with Darlene Foster | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  20. CarolCooks2 says:

    What lucky children and what fun to have an interactive math lesson …I wish you had been my teacher, Jennie but I suppose it couldn’t have been all bad I ended up in banking…Have a great weekend, Jennie 🙂 x

  21. Lovely ideas for teaching maths, Jennie. I used to use baking to teach maths with my boys.

    • Jennie says:

      That’s a great idea. When we make play doh at school we have a big recipe chart with the correct measurements drawn, such as a sketch of 4 Tablespoons. Then we count as we add the ingredients. Cooking and baking are true hands-on math activities.

  22. dgkaye says:

    Best learning methods – tactile, eye-catching and practical. I still learn better that way. 🙂

  23. Jim Borden says:

    turning clean-up time into a teachable moment – how wonderful, and clever!

  24. What a wonderful idea, Jennie! Love it, how you are motivatng the children getting knowledge with fun. Michael

  25. Learning math is fun when the lessons are tailored for the learners abilities.

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