Category Archives: math

DIY Light Box and Teaching Ideas

Oh, the wonder and magic of playing with light! I have wanted to make a light box for awhile, and I finally set the goal and got it done. I had no idea that there was SO many different (and educational!) things you could do with light!

Light Box Materials:
Clear plastic under-the-bed Rubbermaid container
2 fluorescent lights

To make the light box, I just turned the Rubbermaid container upside down with the 2 lights inside. It isn’t anything fancy- but it was SO easy!!

Light Box Manipulatives:
Colored accent gems, transparencies (teaching manipulatives I used with an overhead projector), dry erase marker & sheet protector, geometry mirror, microscope slides & magnifying glass

There are tons of different ways to play with a light box. I am going to list some of our ideas- enjoy!

Pull out your old microscope slides! A light box is a perfect way to view ’em! It’s also a great way to view x-rays.

Looking at a fruit fly with a magnifying glass and our new light box

We made lots of designs with pattern blocks. Boo and I also played and sorted money, made shapes with our geoboard, spun the colored spinner, and created symmetrical patterns with our geometry mirror. With the exception of the mirror, the rest of our math light box manipulatives are old overhead projector teaching materials. And since overhead projectors are on their way out in lots of schools, I bet you could snatch some of these up for a great price.

Geoboard designs and colorful spinners
Geometry mirrors- they are such a fun math manipulative! It’s a great tool for teaching symmetry!
Playing and sorting dollars and coins
We used our pattern blocks to make colors. It was a fast way to show that yellow and blue make green! 
I grabbed a dry erase marker and a sheet protector and Boo and I had fun reading words! We played a simple game where a predator was trying to get Boo’s stuffed animal and so we had to read the clues to figure out who he was and what he intended to do if he caught us. 
Reading and writing words
And of course, we did a LOT of free play.

Boo playing with 2 geometry mirrors and accent gems

A big source of light-play inspiration goes to Play at Home Mom– she has some “bright” ideas on her blog! 🙂
I would love to hear about your light play! Now to figure out how to make a “Lite-Brite” with our new box….
Happy Teaching!

Montessori Jar: Cleaning Pennies

Boo and I have been a slacking in doing our Montessori Jar since we moved in December (OK, truth be told we had been slacking WAY before our move, and most of the activities that were in her jar mysteriously disappeared only to be found smushed in her plastic vanity drawer where they are at this very moment). Needless to say, I am excited to be back in the Montessori activity game!
I found the cleaning penny idea at The Science Explorer. We set to work gathering the materials- 20 dull and dirty pennies, 1/4 cup vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt, clear shallow bowl, and 2 paper towels labeled “Rinsed” and “Not Rinsed” (the website suggests doing activities with nails and bolts- we just stuck to the pennies).

Gather your materials. I just love the little Rudolph face in the background! She was our little cheerleader during the activity:)
Stir salt in the vinegar until its dissolved. This was a great time to discuss with Boo what “dissolves” means.

Take a penny and dip it halfway into the vinegar and salt mixture. Count to 10 and…

Half of your penny is clean! So cool!!

After doing this a couple times (since it was super exciting for both of us), dump all your pennies into the vinegar/salt mixture.

After 5 minutes, take half your pennies and put them on the “Not Rinsed” paper towel.

 Take the other half of your pennies and rinse them well. Place these on the “Rinsed” paper towel. And now it’s time to wait.

After one hour, the “Not Rinsed” pennies will have a nice blue tint to them! The reason is that the copper atoms are joining with oxygen atoms and chlorine atoms from the salt.

This was a super easy science experiment that Boo and I both enjoyed. We just love science around here!!:)
Happy Teaching!

DIY Montessori Number Beads

A couple of days ago, my daughter dumped an entire bag of plastic pony beads all over the craft room floor. Normally I would have been eager to clean them up quickly and put them away, but I was in a good teachery mood and turned this mess into a learning experience! Boo wanted to know how many beads we had. A lesson objective was planned- organize beads in groups of 10 and then count by 10s to see how many beads we had all together.

After my daughter used tongs to place beads on a picture frame we had lying around, we started making number bead sticks. I grabbed some pipe cleaners, cut them in half, and added 10 beads to each pipe cleaner. SO EASY! To tie of the end, just twist the wire until the beads can’t come off. We had a great time adding beads and tried our hand at simple patterns. This was also a great fine motor skills activity.

There were a couple things I would have done differently during this activity. First- instead of just doing 10 sticks, I would have made 1-9 sticks as well.
And just like the Montessori number beads, I would have color coded each number stick. For example, all the 10 sticks would be blue beads, all the 9 sticks would be brown beads, etc.
Lucky for you, I quickly whipped up an example!

Happy Teaching!

I am linking up this post to Every Day Math Play at TeachPreschool

M&M Patterns

My daughter and I made some simple patterns today with our Valentine M&Ms. I was worried about them rolling all over the place when the idea came to me to put them in our corn on the cob dishes (from the Dollar Tree- I am addicted to that store and might need some intervention!) It’s a simple solution that I thought I would share!

And when the pattern is finished, the candy is already in a dish that holds just the right amount of chocolate that my little ball of energy should be eating.
Happy Teaching!

Bubbling Math Review

If you are looking for a good math facts app, this might just be the one for you!

Bubbling Math is an app designed to help kids practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts. It is great math practice, designed well, and there are lots of levels to unlock as the child wins trophies (cool, right?) But the thing I love most about this app is the parent section.

The cute answer bubbles change with each challenge- making it more motivating to complete just to see the changes!
Screenshot showing one of three levels. Each level has three challenges.

I LOVE that I can see how my daughter is doing with her math facts on this app. I can see the problems she missed- what a great way for me to see which facts I need to work on with her. As a former elementary school teacher, it is important for me to have my daughter not only playing educational games but to help me as her mom know how I can best help her.

My favorite feature: the parent section! Nice way to see the problems your child missed!

I also love that I can also decide the game speed. This was critical for me, since I still have to aid my daughter with manipulatives to answer the problems.

You also have the ability to decide on the operations (add/subtract/mulitply/divide) and difficulty level (easy/medium/hard/expert) you want your child to complete. There is a wide range of children (and even adults!) that can use this app.

It’s nice to be able to choose operations based on my daughter’s ability. Great feature!

I would rate this app 4 1/2 stars- I would love to see the ability to add multiple kids… for all those that want to use this app for your whole family. I just have one child now, so it works perfectly for us, but sometime down the road we might have another little one. I would also love to see the answers that my daughter got RIGHT. We could celebrate the accomplishments of her milestones as she masters specific math problems.

Boo really enjoyed playing this game! I thought it would be more of a struggle to get her to play a math game, but she was hooked right away. The feature that sold her was the fun answer bubbles. Small detail that garnished big results!

Overall, I am very impressed with the layout, design, and structure of this app. Although I received this app for free in order for me to write this review, I would spend the money to buy it!
Happy Teaching!

New Years Countdown Clocks for Kids

Ring in the New Year with your little ones by creating some fun countdown bags! I originally read about this idea here and fell in love! I love that this idea helps to teach kids about telling time!!!! Yay for fun math/party integration!

Each bag contains a simple surprise- it can be a treat (yes I will raid the old Halloween candy for this!), a game/puzzle to do together, even a familiar toy who snuck inside the bag to celebrate New Years with my Boo. I will have the bags all mixed up- every hour during the countdown I will tell her the time and she will have to locate the correct bag in order to get the surprise. But of course she will get it anyway!
There are some adorable clock bag printables (click here) but I wanted to make some kid-friendly ones. Feel free to just click on the pic, download, and use to celebrate New Years!

  I created some half hour clocks too- I was going to try them with my daughter, but thought that they might be a little too much this year.

FYI I was told by my husband that the hour hand on the clock is behind the minute hand. Oops 🙂
Happy Teaching!

Mission Addition (Free Printables!)


“Your mission, should you choose to accept it (um, there really is no choice) is to save all the animals in trouble!”

This is how our mission to addition began. Boo received a letter that her help was needed to save the distressed animals (while secretly soaking in some math skills).

And while she didn’t walk away quoting math facts, she had a BLAST. There is nothing wrong with a little academic immersion through play! (Feel free to download the Mission Addition PDF)

The destination to rescue the animals included three pit stops (you may notice a Diego-ish underlying tone):

1- Find the hidden “plus” and “equals” sign located in the dark and mysterious forest (aka living room). Great way to be introduced to those math symbols!

2- Use addition mats (included in the free pdf download) to add up the silly fish in crocodile lake. I thought our second stop should include snacking on swedish fish. Boo counted the number of swedish fish in each yellow box first.  She then slid the fish over to the green box to add ’em up!

3- Climb the tallest mountain (aka was going to be her bed, but she made a last minute decision that we needed to climb down staircase mountain) to help the spiders (round magnets) solve addition problems using their sticky spiderweb (was going to be a magnetic white board, but I couldn’t find ours so we just used one of our dollar store cookie sheets)

After completing the three activities, we located the secret tupperware full of desperate animals waiting for our help. And then- and only then- was our mission complete.

Don’t these animals look like they need to be rescued?
I included the pdf so you can share this addition mission with your kiddos! The pdf also has some additional ideas in case your child is begging for more math! Ha!!

We also read Loreen Leedy’s book Mission Addition. It’s a cute book- although it is geared more for the elementary aged child.

I hope you and your child will have as much fun with your mission to addition as we did!
Happy Teaching!

Number Day Plans and Free Printables

In just two days is the start of a new month, and the perfect opportunity to start a new learning goal. A couple years ago I taught my daughter her alphabet with a month of special letter days and activities (read more about that here). We did the same for her colors. It is time to do it again- this time with numbers!
Each number will have it’s own day. On August 31, I will teach my Boo about the number 0. Why the 31st? Because September 1 marks the day we will learn about number 1… and I wanted to integrate learning numbers on a calendar. It just made more sense to me!
On my wiki I have a number book cover and number pages 0-30 that you are free to download and use. The activity page is simple- the number of the day is found on the top. There are 6 activities on each page. The first two activities are tracing and writing the number. The third activity is stamping… I have a bunch of number stamps my Boo will use. The next activity is self explanatory.. trace the number word. (We are doing a lot of tracing these days, can you tell?) The “show the number” activity is where my kiddo will show me the number using objects (stickers, stamps, squiggly lines, dots, etc) The last thing on the page is finding and circling the number of the day on the good ole number line!

click here to see all the number pages to download
I also made a blank calendar for September 2011 that my daughter will use to write or stamp the numbers in each day.
Some other ideas for number ideas might include:
– making up a silly song about the number
-writing the number with sidewalk chalk
-going on a number hunt- looking for objects or groups of objects that correspond with your number of the day
-pull out the Montessori math manipulatives (and ipad apps) or unifix blocks
-connect the dot pages- there is a lot available here for free!
-plus a million other great ideas at the Ideas for Preschoolers site… and tons of free downloads! This site is an incredible, thorough resource!!!!
My hope is to gear these number days to my kiddo-she is already a good little counter, our focus will be learning to write digits 2-9 and recognizing written numerals 11-30. And most importantly- to have a heck of a fun time with numbers!
Happy Teaching!

Number Recognition Activities

We recently played some number recognition games with our Education Cube inserts and had a blast! We have had SO much fun and are a definite must-have for any parent with an active (or easily distractible) learner. Why? They keep learning FUN and there is always an element of mystery when you roll that dice…
Anyway, here are some ideas you can use with numbered dice or your education cubes to learn those stinkin’ numbers:
  • Roll 4 dice. Which number is biggest? Smallest?
  • Roll 4 dice. Put numbers in order from least to greatest and/or greatest to least.
  • Roll one die (that just sounds so weird!) Divide the number in half.
  • Roll one die. Double that number.
  • Roll one die. What number is before/after the number you rolled?
  • Roll one die. Run around the table that many times (this activity is inspired and created for my little runner… remember to center your learning activities around your child’s interests!)
  • Integrate the numbers with your learning units. We recently learned about the weather. I used the number education cube inserts and I created my own weather inserts. First, we rolled the dice. We did different movements that corresponded with the type of weather we rolled. And we counted these movements to the number we rolled. For example, if we got the wind and a 20, we would run around the living room (like we were blowing away in the wind) twenty times. We do a lot of running around here. 🙂
Hope these are helpful! Happy Teaching!

20 Activities With Sidewalk Chalk

Sidewalk chalk is one of those basic necessities for outdoor play….right along with bubbles and jump ropes! We spent the greater part of an afternoon writing and drawing with the chalk and inspired me to write this post! Here it is… 20 activities you can do with your child using sidewalk chalk!

  1. Practice writing letters and numbers. If you are teaching your child a letter or number a week, have them practice writing it outside! You can draw the “lined paper”, and write the letter or number using dotted lines for your child to trace. An older chid can practice writing their name and phone number, although you might not want that advertised on your driveway!
  2. Practice reading words and sentences. When teaching your little one to read, it is important to provide them with varied literacy experiences. Not only does this provide the practice needed to read, but it makes reading fun. It also shows your kiddo that reading is a skill you use all the time, not just in books.
  3. Hopscotch! This classic game can be drawn with sidewalk chalk. Not only is it fun, but it teaches children to count and recognize numbers.
  4. Giant number line- draw a big number line and let your kids hop to the numbers as they count, or use it to do simple addition and subtraction…. “Let’s solve 3+4. Stand on the 3. Now take 4 steps on the number line. What number are you standing on? 3+4=7!”
  5. 4 square- Another classic game- you can’t go wrong!
  6. Blue’s Clues- My daughter and I had a blast using the blue sidewalk chalk to draw paw prints on various items outside…. tree trunks, next to the mailbox, next to some leaves….. we kinda made this up as we were playing, but if you were to prepare in advance you could make this a great clue-solving activity! (if you haven’t seen the show Blue’s Clues, I apologize that this step doesn’t make sense!)
  7. Shape Hunt- draw various shapes on the driveway. Dance around until you call out a shape (circle, triangle, hexagon, and if you are an artist try the 3 dimensional shapes such as cube, pyramid, etc!) then everyone has to hurry and find one to stand on.
  8. Murals- Have fun letting the whole family draw a giant mural on your driveway! We have a little cement retaining wall that would also be the perfect place to showcase art!
  9. Body tracing- this could be a lot of fun- just be sure you don’t mind if your kiddo is covered in chalk! The child simply lays down on the cement while another child (or you) trace them! Then have fun coloring in the face, clothes, hair, etc!
  10. Shadow tracing- great science adaption idea…. go outside during various times of the day and trace your shadow while standing in the same spot (or the shadow of another object such as a can). Each time you trace the shadow, use a different color of sidewalk chalk. Talk with your kiddo about how the sun moves and causes our shadows to move as well!
  11. Little Love Notes- write love notes to Daddy to find when he comes home from work! Or choose another family member and while they are away (school, nap, play group, etc) cover the driveway in notes of appreciation, artwork and love!
  12. Line Tag- a classic game with a twist- you can draw your lines! And draw them any way you want- squiggly lines, straight lines, dead end lines….. try and make most of them connect though or the game won’t work too well!
  13. Sight Word Hunt- cover the driveway in sight words. Have your kiddo run around until you call out a word, and then your child has to find the word and stand on it!
  14. Maps- Tie in geography with your sidewalk chalk! Have your child draw a map of their backyard, neighborhood, city, county, state, or country. Make the map as detailed as you can! Little ones can do this too, but they might need some help from you!
  15. Car mats- If you don’t mind the little cars getting chalky, have your kids create their own car mat using sidewalk chalk. They can add streets, buildings, parks…. it is totally customizable! And it gets your kids playing outside!
  16. Opposite Rectangles- Draw a large rectangle. Divide the rectangle in half. In the first half of the rectangle, draw a happy face. Have your child draw the opposite (sad face) in the second half of the rectangle. Repeat this activity with more opposites!
  17. Analogy Rectangles- Similar to the game above, but divide the rectangle into fourths and use analogies instead. For example, ant:six legs as spider: _____. In the first section of the rectangle you would draw an ant, the second section would be six legs, the third section would be spider, and the fourth is where your child would draw the answer (which is 8 legs). Here is a link to more animal analogies.
  18. Draw a Nursery Rhyme- A great literacy experience is to have your child draw their favorite nursery rhyme! If your child is older, have them draw their favorite scene in a book they are reading instead.
  19. Addition Fun!- Math is a lot more fun when done on the driveway! Let your child try solving math problems outside!!
  20. Easy Fractions- Draw several shapes. Have your kiddo draw a line to cut the shapes in half/thirds/fourths/etc. Make sure you talk about fair shares (how each section should be the same size) when they are drawing the lines.
Hope this helps as we get our summer fun learning in gear! Happy Teaching!
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