Category Archives: math manipulatives

Flower Power Patterns

The second day we were using 
to conquer
Multiplication Facts,
we discovered another benefit.
Notice the amazing patterning of numbers!
While counting by 4’s, the ones digits will follow this pattern.
By understanding patterns of numbers,
you also can recognize if your answer is correct.
The flower s were fun to make,
‘cuz you know I love me some cut and paste,
but I knew they were successful when Beka asked today,
“Mom, can I work on my 4’s multiplication?”
Yea, sweet.

Flower Power

When you look back to your childhood memories,
is learning your
multiplication facts
one of your favorite memories?
Yea, me neither.
When Rebekah had to start learning the facts
in second grade,
I fussed a little.
“It’s too early!
I didn’t learn them until the end of third grade!”
At the beginning of third grade, Beka and I were back to the
multiplication tables.
I used flashcards.
I used speed drills.
I used the chalk board.
I used the marker board.
It still wasn’t working.
I had to pull out all the stops.
I didn’t major in Cut and Paste for no reason,
I love me some cutting and pasting.
While Rebekah was working on the math worksheet,
I began crafting.
Thirteen little claypots were fitted with a green flower  foam.
Since I found a shoebox full of these beauties for $2
at a thrift store, it made the idea affordable.
 I love a good deal!
The flowers could also be tucked into wooden spools,
paper flower pots glued into a file folder
or just lined up on the floor.
Do what’s easiest, fastest and/or cheapest for you.
If you’re starting out homeschooling,
you might want to make them super fancy.
If you’re on your last child, like I am,
you might want to tone the project down.

These bags of flowers and circles were in my scrap drawer.
Recognize them?
I used them to decorate for Grace’s graduation last May.
First I cut them,
then I glued them on little Chinese take-out boxes.
Because I waste not, want not,
I had extra flowers I didn’t waste, and I wanted,
so I was able to make a quick craft out of them.
 These flat wooden picks were bought two years ago,
when I first birthed the idea of flower manipulatives.
I just never got around to doing anything with them.
Better late than never.
A commercial break to show you my dirty dining room floor.
That stuff will most likely be there tomorrow.
Except for the M&M.
I heard someone cry out in delight with the find
and they promptly ate it.
The guilty shall remain nameless because I know you’re totally grossed out.
Your family might have the 5 second rule,
we have about a 5 hour rule.
OK, I’ll be honest, it’s a 5 day rule.
Yea, yer’ right, it’s really like 5 months.
Hey, candy is candy!

The first set of flowers are for counting by 4’s.
Remember how Skipper helped us skip count?
This is a skill crucial to learning multiplication facts.

Another set of flowers became the math facts.
I didn’t use a particular color pattern,
kids can pick up on stuff like that and match answers
according to patterns, not the answers.
If you’re an OCD Type A person,
it might drive you crazy to not have the pattern
yellow, purple, red, yellow, purple, red.
C’mon, loosen your rubber bands, girlfriend!
It’s about learning.
Calligraphy pens work great when I really don’t have time
to fuss with fancy lettering,
or the money to buy many packages of number stickers.

As soon as I had them glued together,
Rebekah started matching flowers in the little flower pots.

Lined up along the buffet in the dining room,
they made a bright spot in math class.
There are a lot of improvements that could be done:
-bright trim along the top edge of the flower pot
-spanish moss to cover up the foam
-paint the wooden stems green
-add leaves to the stalks
Flowers can be made for each number family.
Flowers can be made to show all the math facts with the same product.
Number flowers could be used to separate
even from odd
I have a feeling this project could impact our math class.
just maybe,
she’ll learn her
multiplication facts
by heart.
And maybe,
just maybe,
someday learning her
multiplication facts
will be one of her fondest memories.

Don’t Skip Skip Counting, Let Skipper Skip

Skip Counting
 is a long, lost skill.
When modern educators thought rote drills were too monotonous, 
boring and unproductive,
they stopped having the kids chant in class,
The multiplication tables weren’t chanted, either.
They even came up for a name for it…
“Drill and Kill.”
You can research all the arguments. 
They use a lotta’ big words and catch phrases I didn’t understand,
but I know this,
some things have to be repeated over and over to be learned.
How many times have you told your kids to flush the toilet?
How many times do you go in a find a toilet full of…
well…um….ah… you find the toilet is unflushed?
My point exactly.
Repetition is good.
Anything valuable has to  repeated over and over  to get through their
knuckleheads, peabrains, noggins,
their precious little minds.
Skip counting is valuable in addition and multiplication.
Jolanthe from Homeschool Creations
is an amazing teaching mommy.
Generous, too.
She offers many, many free printables and ideas to make your
teaching rock.
She inspires me so much I think I wanna’ be her when I grow up.
Start by printing out her
If you do this, drop a comment and thank her.
Did I tell you how amazing she is?
2,700 followers think so.
I put mine in clear page protectors in a binder,
but they could also be laminated.
Thanks to Jolanthe blogging about a great deal on a laminator,
I got one for Christmas.
Back to Skip Counting.
Here’s where my little touch comes in.
Remember how I love toys?
I really, really, really love toys.
Just like a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down,
toys make any lesson better.
I thought we needed Skipper to help us Skip Count.
Since we’re trying to learn the 3’s in multiplication,
we hopped through the list a few times,
counting out loud.
Then, we began working on the facts,  beginning with Skipper on zero.
If I said,
2 x 3
Skipper hopped twice up to the six.
I made Rebekah repeat the problem and the product,
yea, that would be the answer in multiplication.

Skipper landed on 27. 
what math fact did I call out?
Yea, yer’ so smart, 3 x 9.

3 x 4 = 12
Yea!  Got another one right.
Then you introduce the commutative property.
If 3×4 = 12
It’s a two ‘fer one kinda’ deal.
You memorize a lot less facts when you understand this concept.
Then, just when I was really patting myself on the back about
our amazing math lesson I had presented and the blog I was gunna’ write
Skip Counting With Skipper
Rebekah said,
“But, Mom, this doll’s name is Stacie.”

Bear Necessities of Rounding

Counting Bears have been a bear necessity for our home school.
I remember eyeing them in Wal-mart,
waiting for the day I could afford them.

When I found another set at a garage sale,
I was ecstatic. 
It felt better than that dream
of picking up money in the streets,
cuz this was real.
Doesn’t take much to make the
Momma of home-teached kids happy,
does it?

I said that on purpose – remember the name of my blog?

Any-hoo, we were trying to learn the
concept of rounding to the nearest ten.
As always, the first time a concept can be introduced,
it can be confusing.

First time mastery brings confidence and enjoyment to any subject.

I pulled out my pile of tricks from overstuffed and underorganized shelves and got to work.

We started with the laminated number line that goes from 1-100.

A small bear was placed on the number 18,
the number we needed to round.

Rebekah had to tell me the two tens her number was between,
in this case 10 and 20.

Large bears were placed on the tens.
If your items aren’t different sizes, you could differentiate with colors.

At a glance, she could tell the 18 was closer to the 20.
(double-click to enlarge and print)
We repeated with different numbers,
emphasizing the rule~
numbers ending in 1-4
are rounded down,
numbers ending in 5-9
are rounded up.
Yep, counting bears
are the bear necessities
of a hOme tEaChEd life.


Playing In Math Class

Beka and I love to play together.
We play dolls, store, raft, school, restaurant, store and servant.
She always lets me be the boss and she’s the servant, isn’t she sweet?
It’s hard to do school when you wanna’ play,
so we like to play during school.
It greatly improves math skills.
So does scratching your head, we learned.
In 2nd grade, Beka is learning money skills.
The worksheet introduced the concept of counting back change.
Having a cash register with a calculator and a change drawer that
“dings” when you open it, is a must for math class.
The worksheet was  kinda’ confusing.
It was kinda’ boring, too.
If Teacher Momma Mindy is bored,
I know my student is bored.
When the head scratchin’ didn’t help enough,
We opened a store.
While Beka priced her toys, I scribbled quick cards for each item.
The box on the left is the price, the bill used to pay is in the middle.
She had to use $5, $10 and $20 bills.
First, she had to figure out change, using the lease amount of each coins.
 Then, I came into her store many times, in character,
buying gifts for nieces, spoiled children, brats, and kids having birthdays.
She recommended an item, took my money, and counted back my change.
After I bought out the store, she had nailed the concept.
We went back to the boring worksheet, and finished it in a few minutes.
I’m thinkin’ boring doesn’t always mean just boring.
Confusion can bring on boredom.
When you are confident and understand,
math isn’t boring, it’s exciting.
Then, we played, because that’s what we like to do.
We play.

Ramen Noodles and Roman Numerals

I know Ramen Noodles are for eating
 and Roman Numerals are for counting,
but sometimes my kids get mixed up.
My older kids, who were allowed to eat Ramen Noodles on occasion,
used to get frustrated when learning their Ramen Numerals,
but wanted Roman Noodles  for lunch.
 Due to dietary decisions, we have nixed the Ramen Noodles
and kept the Roman Numerals,
although we still get them mixed up on occasion.
A visual person, I’ve learned I teach better according to my style. 
When the kids were having a hard time grasping  Roman Numerals,
a concept  we don’t often use except in math class,
I needed to land the learning so they would have success for a lifetime.

I invented Roman Numeral Tiles.

 One inch squares of Fun Foam were labeled with a permanent marker. 
This lesson we were just learning to count from 1-30.

The patterning makes it very easy to understand the rules of
adding consecutive numbers together,
subtracting a lower number when placed before a larger number,
and not using a number more than three times in a row.

When set out in numerical order the beautiful number patterns
also remind us of a God who created in pattern and order.
To test her skill, I quickly made number cards,
and had her use the tiles to show the Roman Numeral equivalent.

When she stumbled with 19, I reminded her it’s 10 + 9,
then she quickly found the correct tiles.
It takes a little extra time to pull out the manipulatives to enforce a lesson,
but it’s time that usually won’t need to be repeated.
A longer introduction to a concept,
followed by a few short reminders,
is more successful than a short introduction,
and a lot of lengthy reminders.
I found a  few free Roman Numeral worksheets from abcteach.
Your kids can enjoy a cute computer interactive game by Tullie House,
playing Snakes and Ladders with Roman Numerals.

I gave up trying to find a free bingo game,
they all wanted me to buy or subscribe to something,
so I made my own.
Yea, right in the middle of trying to blog, finish up school,
prepare for a meeting, and eat dinner,
I had to make a bingo game.
Stay tuned. I have another fun way to learn Ramen Numerals.

Heart Flashcards

At the beginning of the year, I wanted to make triangle flashcards for Rebekah.
I just used index cards, my paper cutter and a Sharpie.
Simple, easy, kinda ugly.
But, they worked.
Introducing math facts in this form shows the relationship between the numbers.
You can make two addition facts and two subtraction facts.
I introduce addition using the algebraic term “Commutative Property.”
Remember a+b=b+a from 9th grade Algebra class?
It doesn’t matter what order you add the numbers in addition,
the answer is the same.
If they remember the term, you’re eight years ahead. 
If they don’t, no biggie.
They can say the facts out loud, or write them down.
You can hold the cards up, covering one corner and ask them to fill in the missing number.
You can have them sort through all the cards and find all the other cards in the 9’s Family –
5+4, 7+2, 9+0, 1+8
Then, the inspiration bug bit me.
I love hearts.
They’re like a triangle.
I think children learn better when color and touching are involved.
I like to cut and paste.
That was my major, didja’ know?
The larger heart is aobut 1 3/4 inches across.
The smaller one is 1 inch across.
I poked a hole through the hearts, pushed in a heart brad.
Used my sharpie to fill in the numbers.
You don’t see the answer….
…now you do.
You can write neater.
I have had to give up my perfectionist ways for reality.
If I am a perfectionist, they won’t get done.
Then we can’t use them.
Then Beka ain’t gunna get smarter.
Beka at the IKEA easle writing four math facts for the flashcard.
I found an adorable heart tin at the thrift store for $.99.
Life is good.
I wish I could promise you that she LOVES to use them,
but I am always real and honest.
They are prettier,
they are funner, (it’s a word today)
and I had a blast making them.
She doesn’t love using them,
 because she doesn’t love math.
But, I’m doing what I can to make the journey more pleasant.
Maybe, with a few more bites from the inspiration bug,
she may learn to love math.
It’s a goal I am shooting for.

Until then, I’m happy trying to find ways to
cut and paste those facts into her brain.

Any ideas for improving? 
For other skills you can teach with the hearts?
I’d love to hear your ideas.

(For other inspirational ideas from homeschooling mommies,
pop over to the blog carnival at Preschool Corner.)