Math + Manipulatives = Happy Students

I’m old, therefore, I can’t remember back 30 some odd years ago to when I had a good math lesson in elementary school. But, I spent a few days observing math lessons at the kindergarten where I work earlier this month, and I loved what I saw. Ms. Fox had lessons that were engaging and full of manipulatives for the students, and I loved her style of classroom management. In a class of 20, she has them broken down into 4 groups of four to five. She sets up the 4 tables in the classroom with different math activities, and the students rotate around the room. I want to steal her management style for telling students when it’s time to rotate; she says, “Macaroni and cheese,” and they respond, “Everybody freeze.”

Filling in the number of dots based on the number below

At the different tables, there were worksheets along with a variety of manipulatives. One table had a 10-frame page with dots in each frame and unifix cubes. Students were told to count the dots on their worksheets and then build a tower out of the cubes with that number of dots. It was cool to see how tall some of the towers got. There was another table that had cups of beans. They were instructed to flip them and count how many beans landed on the blue side; once they knew that number, they had to color in that number of beans on their worksheet.


Coloring the number of blue beans that flipped out of their cups

On the first day I was there, Ms. Fox told me about the Starboard in her room. She said, “It’s really cool, when it works.” On the third day, I got to see a major Starboard fail. She had a digital spinner ready to go, but the Starboard wouldn’t work. So, thinking on her feet, she made a spinner in class with a piece of cardboard, a pushpin, and a paper clip. I was impressed with how quickly she transitioned into a new plan and how she kept student interest with the use of creative problem solving. When the paper clip would land on a number, she would ask students what number was before or after the number they had landed on. The students couldn’t wait for their turns!

The impromtu spinner that was made in class


6 thoughts on “Math + Manipulatives = Happy Students

  1. I have seen this activity in one of the classrooms that I used to work in and the students engaged and stayed focused. They are exited to see how many beans will land on blue and therefore, they need to count in order to color in the sheet. This is a great math lesson to do with students.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m old too! Even though we can’t think back that many years ago, it’s nice to share a current, relevant experience in math. Manipulatives are fun and engaging, and visually help many students! I’m sure it was nice to see how teachers can be flexible when things don’t go according to plan.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Anonymous

    Lets hear for the old people in our class!! 🙂 I like that you used a current lesson and can see how it worked. It was tough to remember so far back to a math lesson from when were kids. The lesson seems to work and you see the kids interested in learning to count. Very nice.


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