Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Math - Base Ten

We use Time4Learning for English Language Arts and love it.  My child really enjoys the games because they involve things he likes: a military sergeant, a football coach, an astronaut - perfect.  But the math sections have struck out for us.  They're way too number-oriented.  I realize that sounds weird considering it's math.  But if you don't understand the concepts behind math, throwing a bunch of numbers up won't help.  What do we need? Manipulatives! Content that's compelling!

I found Montessori and their golden beads first, but before I could get them, I heard about Base Ten blocks.  Perfect! Jack loves UPS.  He has a small distribution center set up (an Imaginext castle because it has offices AND a loading dock, formerly known as a drawbridge).  He also has a UPS cab with a double trailer.  But we have no packages!  Enter the Base Ten blocks.  And we need to know how many packages to be loaded or delivered or ordered.  Now we're talking.

Base Ten teaches place value, units, tens, hundreds, thousands, and the beginning of multiplication.  Here's a link to the Common Core standards explaining Base Ten operations.  Here's a quick visual.

I bought the Learning Resources Base Ten Starter Kit from Amazon for $26.  The kit includes the blocks and an activity book.


 And this is our highly successful, very busy UPS distribution center.  It is great to Jack so excited about math.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Math Ten Frames

Jack spent a year in private school and now we're back to homeschooling. It works for him.  It works for me.  And like our homeschooling before, I still like unschooling and following the child's lead.  I'm a believer.  I've drunk the kool-aid.  I'm firmly on board. But what it means to me might not be the same thing it means to you.  And what it looks like this time around might look different than last time.  It's not really.  When Jack gets interested in a topic, he doesn't wander unassisted amongst books or the computer or YouTube or toys.  When he finds a topic, I go into research mode and find everything I can on that topic - articles, games, books, videos, toys, models, objects. 

What's different this time around is that Jack is curious about traditional academic subjects like reading and math.  And I'm right on board with that.  We've been using Brainpop, Jr, a little of Brainpop, and Time4Learning.  Since these are story-based and involve topics that Jack is attracted to (like old stuff and dead people and their stories aka history), it's been a good tool.  We usually start with a video, then move back and forth between concrete objects and playing those out, books, and back again.  One subject he loves for instance is military - the base, the vehicles, the jobs, the vehicles, the guns, the uniforms, the code names, the missions, the vehicles.  The vehicles! So the method goes from abstract to concrete to imaginary to 3-D to 2-D to sensory - it's everything.  Jack is an experiential learner: he loves using concrete objects to explore topics.

When it comes to math, I realized that we haven't done more than abstract ideas.  Time to kick it into research gear.  I started with Montessori.  I am in love with Montessori objects - a concrete foundation for math. I'll share more on the Montessori tools later, because then I stumbled upon Ten Frames.  When I read about them, I was like OF COURSE!  It's a tool that allows you to visualize the number - to "sight read" or group them without counting. The Ten Frame theory emphasizes the base numbers of five and ten.  It allows you to get the concept of adding (five across the top and one on bottom = 5+1=6) without having to explain with a lot of words.  This is PERFECT!

Elementary school teachers everywhere are probably saying, "well, duh." I plead ignorance, BUT I am a great researcher.  I only wish I had learned math with Ten Frames and Montessori equipment.  I probably wouldn't need to count in my head so much.  *wink*  I do count in my head.  I'm just winking so you know I'm okay with that.

This article explains Ten Frames much better than I can.  I really like the part that explains how most children think "15" spells the number instead of the "1" being a ten and the "5" being five units above ten.  Here's the original source for the link: http://www.region10ct.org/math/region10mathsitefaq/What%20is%20a%20Ten%20Frame.pdf

This is the Ten Frame I bought. It's made by Learning Resources and I bought it on Amazon for $25. I chose it because the counters are thick enough to pick up easily, they are magnetic so the counters won't move easily around or off the ten frame and cause frustration, and they have handles for us to show our ten frame to each other.

I don't teach by rote or lecture or drills.  They just don't work for my child.  It has to be fun.  It has to be something he wants to do.  If it's a game or a topic he loves, all the better.  So I bought this book to go with the Ten Frames.

It's called Using Ten Frames to Teach Number Sense and I bought it on Amazon for $9.83.  The first game idea I used from the book was a huge hit.  You'll need playing cards, some kind of object to use as tokens - I used poker chips, you can use counters, rocks, whatever strikes your fancy, or the paper counters in the book.  I don't like to use the paper ones simply because they're difficult to pick up. And I do need a new deck of cards because this one uses a font that makes it difficult for Jack to read the numbers. 

Each player draws a card from the deck of playing cards.  Don't show your cards to each other. Mark out on your ten frame the number you have drawn using the magnetic counters.  When the counters are in place, show your ten frame to each other.  Ask your student to identify his number, your number, and the number that's larger.  Whoever has the larger number wins a token.  Whoever ends up with the largest number of tokens wins the game.  Hint: I let Jack win.  A lot.  It's okay.

We also used the Ten Frame when we made cookies.  I set up the Ten Frame for Jack to place the cookies in the same pattern.  However, I should have put counters in the Ten Frame because I realized afterwards that it is difficult for Jack to see the individual frames as individual squares.  Next time, I'll put the counters in the ten frame to show the pattern.  Or I could add lines to the cookie sheet (with spaghetti!) to set up a physical ten frame.

The cookies are Nestle's refrigerated pre-made Dark Chocolate Peppermint Bark and they are AMAZING.  Eat your math.  It's delicious.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Welcome Back

You'll have noticed I've been gone. 
You'll have noticed I've unpublished my old posts.
I still have them.  They aren't gone.
I hope to publish a book of them.
It's on my to-do list.
At number 12,138.

After a year in private school, Jack and I are homeschooling again. 
I'm really excited about the things I'm finding. 
So I want to share them with you.
I like talking about what we find.
And how excited we are about it.

Jack has named his homeschool Puffin Academy.
I realize there's an app by this name.
I'm sure they won't mind.

I'll try not to bombard you with sunshine.
I take that back.
I can't help it.
This child of mine IS sunshine.

Photo by Andreas Mulder