Math Lesson: Unpack it & Graph it !

I love online shopping. With a handful of small children, you have to love online shopping (because browsing in the stores will make you insane). I never knew what to do with the packing peanuts.

Did you know that when packing peanuts get wet they “melt”?

Here is a fun way to use them to teach your child math. They make quite a perfect fit for counting and graphing. You just need a piece of paper, small bowl with water, a marker, packing peanuts, and glue (not in the picture).

Draw a space and then write the numbers you wish to use. I used 1-5, but this can be a great way to introduce counting by two’s (or anything else).

Have your child dip the ends of the packing peanuts in water. Press the ends together. They will “melt” and fuse to each other. Don’t use too much water or the peanuts will dissolve too much and become mush. You can have your child count out the peanuts as he fuses them together.

Place some glue on the paper and attach the coordinating stack of packing peanuts to the numbers.

The end result is a neat graph that clearly shows which numbers are greater. It is a fun way for children to learn number recognition, counting, graphing, and whatever else you can think of. :-)

The stack in #4 really does have 4 peanuts, but a little too much water was used and one of the peanuts melted down into almost nothing. We still had a great time and learned a lot.

Halloween Math Activities

This month will be filled with Fall and Halloween crafts and themed activities . I had to post this one now so that all of you Target shoppers can get to the dollar spot to buy these Halloween erasers before they are gobbled up. I love using themed mini erasers for learning activities especially as  math manipulatives.

Halloween Graphing


Using manipulatives is a great way to introduce children to graphing. Explain that graphs help us see the answers to questions  . Also take the time to make predictions before graphing , such as which row will have the most , which will have the least?Ask them why? I am always fascinated by the reasons why my son makes certain predictions.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need a large piece of white paper, a ruler, markers, some fun Halloween manipulatives, and a plastic jack-o-lantern container.  I think when you try to make everything themed kids get more excited and learn more.
  2. Start by making an easy graph. I used pictures and words to represent our manipulatives, my son is interested in the words but not yet ready to rely only on them.
  3. Grab the manipulatives you are using . I made sure to have 3 different amounts . Pop them in your jack-0-lantern.
  4. Invite your child(costume optional) to the table to start. My son dumped the erasers but taking them out one at a time is great too!
  5. Ask your child to make a prediction – which of the three designs do they think will have the most? Least? Why?
  6. Place them on the graph. 
  7. Keep going!
  8. Just by looking at them which has the most? Least?
  9. Count them to check.

Halloween Patterns


Patterning was one of my favorite preschool math activities to teach. I have found that if you sing song the pattern children have an easier time recognizing the pattern and start using that device themselves when encountered with a pattern they need to continue.

  1. Gather your materials. 2-3 different manipulatives like these Halloween themed erasers in a container, some sentence strips are optional but I like them because they give my son a frame for the pattern. When I simply place the erasers on the table it looks like I expect him to keep the pattern going to the edge of the table and the task seems much more daunting.
  2. Make some simple patterns .
  3. Provide a container and ask your child to keep the pattern going.
  4. If they need help try labeling the pattern out loud . For example saying ” Pumpkin, Bat, Pumpkin, Bat… what comes next?
  5. Keep going, if they are frustrated with the more difficult patterns scrap them and make multiple simpler ones. The goal is success and if it’s too challenging for them they will get frustrated and learning will be minimal.

Spider Craft and Math Game

My backyard is covered in spiders, which has led to my son and I trying to identify the ones we find using the internet . Have you ever googled “Spiders” , I never used to be afraid of spiders, super close up pictures of various spiders changed that for good. So if your little one is into these arachnids instead of googling and risking nightmares, make this fun spider craft, play this game and save yourself the grief !

  1. Gather your materials. You will need a plastic container, we used the plastic part of a light bulb package but any clear plastic would work. Some paint, a hole punch, googley eyes, glue and 4 pipe cleaners.
  2. Start by punching the holes in the plastic.
  3. Next paint the container from the inside. My son loved this part of the craft, he thought it was so cool to watch the paint from under the plastic. Let dry. On a sunny day I put this in the window and it dried (mostly) in 45 minutes.
  4. Cut the pipe cleaners in half
  5. Thread the pipe cleaners through the holes and twist the ends in place.
  6. Add the eyes with glue. Let dry.
  7. Play

Bug Math

I was lucky enough to get gifted these bug counters from a neighbor whose kids have out grown them. I wasted no time using them to teach some math. The goal of this game is to find the matching types of bugs, count them up and then find the number that matches the total in the tray and place them in.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some counters ( erasers in fun shapes, poker chips.. or plastic toys work well too), a divided tray, some paper , tape and marker.
  2. Write out the number totals on your paper, cut and tape into your tray.
  3. Time to play ( and learn).Group the similar bugs.
  4. Count them
  5. Pop them in the right section!
  6. Don’t forget to dance when you are done ! Watch out , those are some mean jazz hands.

Music & Math Activity

This was a fast easy activity I wanted to do to work on my son’s one to one correspondence but using a theme he is head over heels for . This also allowed me to work on the concept of zero.  Since doing this we have been noticing that there are “zero” dinosaurs in the backyard, “zero” boys eating their broccoli at lunch and “zero” children napping! I love it when I stumble on a concept that is new to him and we can work on it in a fun way.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need 2 sheets of paper , some yarn, a marker, scissors and glue.
  2. Start by drawing the outline of a guitar on your brown paper . Don’t get hung up on it being perfect, as long as your child can tell it’s a guitar – you are fine!
  3. Cut out. You could also do this whole activity just with paper as a work sheet, but I find that even though the difference isn’t great to us between using a pen or the yarn , I think it is for children. Manipulating the objects really creates an experience.
  4. Next add the details and numbers .
  5. Cut your yarn into short pieces for the strings.
  6. Time to glue! This is the step my son joined me at. Depending on your child’s interest and age you could have them join in whenever. Glue the guitars on.
  7. Identify the numbers and add that many pieces of yarn.

Songs!

I posted this on my facebook page ) but if you missed it. All my song videos that were originally on my blogger site are frozen so you can see them all here !

Book

Sunny by Robin Mitchell and Judith Steedman  is a great book about finding sounds all around and making music with anything and everything you find. Sunny hears music from the animals around town, the vehicles and of course his friends playing at the playground.  My son loved when they had a “Hootenanny” and everyone together makes music in their own way. This book reminded me of the broadway show “Stomp” from the 90s, and is a great lesson for kids about how accessible making music really is.

DIY Geoboard

by Kim

My son had these in his preschool class. I thought they were really neat and wanted to have one at home. Have you seen the prices of these? I know they are worth it, but if I can make one inexpensively…why not?

All you need are colored rubber bands, black paint (helps the rubber bands show up better), ruler, rounded tip nails, hammer, and a wood plaque. You can use any piece of wood, but the store bought plaques are already have smooth routed edges.

I bought the rubber bands, plaque, and nails at Walmart and spent only $5.50. Your prices may vary, but it should be close. Here are the exact nails I bought. I had a hard time finding adequate ones at the home improvement store.

I had my son paint the plaque black with a small roller. This provides a nice even coat with quick drying time.

While he was painting I marked the nails with a red marker. This way I could keep the height of the nails even. I just lined a bunch up and made one mark across then at once. It was very easy.

Once the paint dried I made a grid on the board of 1 inch squares. [When I make another one I will make 1.5 inch squares, to give a little more space.]

Then I hammered the nails until the red line was in the wood. This is what it looked like all done.

It looks a like a medieval torture device, but it isn’t sharp at all. It could still hurt someone if not properly supervised, though.

This is definitely for preschoolers and not toddlers. I would suggest supervising, at least the first few times it is played with.

My son had a great time with it. He was so excited and recognized this from his classroom. What a great way to practice fine motor skills and experiment with shapes.

We plan on making a few more for friends. They were such a hit.

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Kim is a contributing writer for No Time For Flash Cards, a mom to a toddler, a preschooler, and a foster parent, too. She juggles her day by trying out fun activities and crafts with the kids. After all, she is just a big kid herself. See what she has been up to over at Mom Tried It.