Saturday, 30 August 2014

The First Addition to Master

As I discover Montessori Math for the first time with my daughter, things are clicking in my anti-math brain.  Left to my traditional-school upbringing, I would have started addition with 1+1, 1+2, 1+3...
you know, like flashcards?

But in Montessori (and Singapore Math), the 'number bonds' to ten are the first things taught.  
1+9, 2+8, 3+7, 4+6, 5+5.  I love this simple game to help preschoolers master them.

These are the actually the most important ones to master because our number system is based on 10s.  When I read this, a memory clicked: as a student I had been so ashamed how slow I was in adding mentally, that I discovered by myself that the easiest way to calculate was to make tens first and then add what's left. Before that I would literally 'count on' like toddlers do.  I was grade five, people.

So getting preschoolers familiar with number bonds of ten as a foundation is simply brilliant.  Now how to make it click for my math-shy daughter?  Play!

If you know the game "Go Fish" this is basically the only thing we played and my daughter is now a pro at remembering facts to ten.  I adapted this from Education Unboxed here.  

You may already know that we use number sticks, also called Cuisenaire rods.  With all my gradual discoveries on its wonders, I've put together a handy archive here.  You only need these sticks and a deck of cards - only the ones from one (ace) to nine.

I didn't have one, so I improvised and made nines with a sticker label.

The first thing we do is to make our "cheat sheet" of all the number bonds that can make ten:
"How can you make a ten?  Any other ways?"
I even talk in song to make it an auditory trigger "seven and three!  they make tennnn!"  Do whatever works.
She likes stories so sometimes I say "who is the best friend of seven to make ten?"

 Distribute four cards each.  To make this super easy (and fun when they first win), we don't hide the cards.  Now she has to see whether she has any two cards that can already make a ten:
She looks at the guide on her left if she needs prompting.

Then she can "ask" for a card that she needs to match one of hers to make a ten:
Of course she's really scanning my open-faced cards at this point.
Set all the number bond pairs made off to one side for tally later.

If she can't get any more pairs, then the other player says "go to the dump" or whatever fun thing. 
She picks cards to replenish her row of four cards again:

You can make keeping a running tally of scores fun too, if you like:
Here she stuck label stickers to the table representing the number of pairs she's made.  And couldn't resist drawing a happy face on each sticker.
Here we used the unit cubes to keep score.

When all the cards are gone, there's more number practice to be made in tallying the scores:
Here she learned the concept of "a pair" by laying out the cards to tally this way.  "How many pairs did you make?"
I got five (the yellow stick in the middle), and she's counting hers...  
... and showing me that she made a lot more than my 5 - she made 13!
"How much more pairs do you have?  What fits in the space?"
Here she is counting the sticker scoreboard and making the number 15

Within a month of playing this game fairly regularly, she's memorised the facts to ten.  We've since gone on to applying them in problem solving games like these four to six months later:

"Close your eyes!  How many units are these... open!  Haha!"
Surprise there's a whole pile of them!
Prompt how they would solve it first.  And then help if needed by teaching the trick to first make tens.

We do this without the number sticks also to test mastery:

"Circle the number bonds that pair up to make 10s first.   How many tens did you make?  The answer is 30!"

Once the number bonds to ten are mastered, you can use the game to learn number bonds from 9 below.  Here we are doing the eights:

5 and 3 make 8!

It's pretty easy to dial the difficulty up or down on this game.  For perspective, Ladybug Girl just turned five when we started working on addition this way.  It's almost been a year and this game is still going strong and is lots of fun!

Math.  Fun.  Wow.  That actually clicks.

Visit the number sticks archive on the sidebar of the blog:

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Saturday, 23 August 2014

Child-Made Scrapbook: 2 Ways

Kids today are so lucky that travel is much cheaper for their parents.  I didn't travel to another country until I was in high school, nor did I visit Boracay until I was a yuppie!  Nowadays Boracay is a teenage rite of passage, and Cebu Pacific has actually told my husband we are one of their frequent flyers.  

I do worry that children won't even remember the places they go to.  Worse, I'm not much of a photographer when we're on vacation.  Here's a fun way to get preschoolers more appreciative of their travels and a great introduction to journaling:

There's a little spot in her room which I reserve as a memory board of sorts:

Later on I'd like to use this as a geography corner as well - just haven't gotten around to it!

Before you think I'm great at crafts, let me tell you that this is just washi tape:

cover a cork board in wash tape frame: completely doable in fifteen minutes

I let her cut up the brochures I saved on the trip.  It's tempting to take over the choice of memories, but I let her have complete freedom in choosing which ones were dear to her:

We used our stash of hole fasteners here to pin them to the cork.  
She's not too sturdy with her fine motor yet, otherwise pushpins are still the easiest.   

Bring a single-hole puncher in case the fasteners won't pop through thicker paper, like tickets.

Her memories of Thailand: 

clockwise: Siam Ocean World, Kidzania, Siam Niramit show, the Snake Farm

Keep it free-flowing and follow your child's lead completely.  

Afterwards she wanted to do more with the brochures so she decorated the kiddie hat from Siam Ocean World with a glue stick.  She wore this and pretended to be a tour guide of the Snake Farm:

After doing one together as our weekend play bonding, I tried to adapt it as a (what else) leave-behind play activity!  

I have a whole gallery, a talk, and social media accounts dedicated for easy leave-behind play ideas for working moms to keep play going even while we're at the office.  These are basically just invitations to play that are very easy for your little one to understand.

Since we've done one together, this needed no further prompts more than this simple setup:

Find contact paper at the wallpaper and blinds section of Ace, True Value or Handyman

I usually set out the play invitations at night for her to discover and do at her own pace.  But when she saw this one, she couldn't wait to do it.  That's why I have these pictures:

She finished cutting the brochures by herself, stuck the tickets, and started decorating the empty spaces with sequins.  

If you don't have contact paper around, you can use stickers to use as "tape" instead - just make sure your child gets what to do.
But contact paper makes it really easy for even 2-3 year olds to make collages though!

Her memories of her Singapore birthday trip:

Clockwise: Flower Dome, River Safari, Sampan Ride, The Mummy Secrets of the Tomb Exhibit, Cable Car Ride

After I let this work stay up for a few weeks, I snap a picture and throw them away so I don't keep paper clutter.  They'll find their way to the travel photo book soon.  Which really means 'eventually'.

As is most play at the toddler and preschool age, it's about the process rather than the finished result.  Doing this together, or talking about what she chose at the end of the day sparked a nice little conversation, gave me more insights into her, and relived memories of being happy.

Notice it's "memories of being happy" not "happy memories"?  After all, memories fade but the feelings of a happy childhood you always remember.  

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Sunday, 10 August 2014

Overheard Parenting

I get a lot of parenting dos-and-don'ts while observing strangers in toy stores, restaurants, the bookstore and church.  
This pretty much sums up why:   
At restaurants I'm drawn towards parents who include their kids in a meal's togetherness.  You can kind of tell someone's parenting style by the way kids are ignored or included.  One lovely couple was having adult conversation but when their kids would overhear and interrupt with questions, they would patiently answer.  They managed to explain "what is cancer?" without dumbing down the information. Nice, I'll do that too.

At church, I love family-watching.  I love watching how parents handle their kids in a place that's not child-friendly.  I love watching how parents are with each other.  I'm drawn towards husbands and wives who sit together rather than have their kids between them.  But it's hard pala when you're holding the pamaypay and you're in the middle!

At the bookstore, I don't know why this is where I see the most inspiring parents.  I smiled at the grandpa who happily played a loud game of 'hide and seek' with his two year old son (I didn't mind the noise).  I marveled at the calm, confident mom who let her crawling baby go everywhere and teethe at everything.  I love hanging around there.  

By far, the toy store is the most hilarious place to eavesdrop.  I think it's because toy lust and parenting are in eternal conflict:
"Oh no, we stay away from princesses" - Mom of a 2 year old toddling towards Princess Sophia.  
Yeah, good luck there, momma.  
I was a smug toddler-mom too, until we hit five years old.
"That's for boys" - Grandma to her toddler daughter who grabbed a Teenage Mutant Turtle toy.
That's unfortunate.  Very unfortunate.
"O ha, birthday and Christmas only" - Dad's warning to his preschooler upon entering.
That was a reminder to me to start thinking of my own rules about toy-buying.  
I copied that dad shamelessly.
"For important toys, go ask your mom." - Dad to his 8 year old who wanted a big Lego set
Consistency in parenting rules!  And deference to mom.
Mmmm, I'm liking that too much. 

What are your overheard parenting stories?  I'd love to know.

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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

3 Beginner Games With Number Sticks

Math-Hater-Mom here again, folks - trying to make some preschool love for Math so that future work won't be such a future pain.  (Struggling with profit-and-loss statements takes all the fun out of my job, if you ask me)

So far I've tried-and-junked being all 'teacher' at home and decided to be a 'playmate' instead.  Apparently I was such a drag before that she ended up refusing to work on numbers in school!  As her math 'playmate' today there's less pressure and more fun for both of us.  So I'll leave the teaching for school, but the basics of playing math at home are always Montessori-inspired:

Number sticks, you ask?  If you do so ask, here is the quickest overview ever:
The modern version of Montessori number beads (left) and golden beads (right) are small plastic cubes.
Basically these give children a hands-on way to learn everything from counting to higher math.
These are also called Cuisenaire Rods or Number Sticks (shown).  Cuisenaire Rods have different colours.

My first post (left) about discovering and starting number sticks is here.  Must read first!
A second one  (right) about two ways to use them with a timer is here.
We've been playing with them for the last 13 months and they make me wish I learned math this way!
Remember these games only work once your child can identify each colour stick by heart.  I highly recommend going to Education Unboxed for her video tutorials.  Although her kids are math whizzes and she has more of a teacher vibe, I've adapted her fantastic ideas for my less-inclined younger-age daughter.  
Keeping it playful has always worked in Ladybug Girl's case.

Game 1 - Score Tracker
We use the sticks to keep track of score.  It can be any silly game, your special game that only you two know the made-up rules.  But you'll find the number sticks can help practice a number of sneaky skills - for example:
I left this play for her to do while I was at work (it's my thing).  It was untouched for a week.
So I reached for it one night to play together and I found out her fingers weren't strong enough yet.

I decided to make it into a game.  Whoever could clip the most would win.  To work in some number practice, I got out the dice and the number sticks.  We each throw the die, count the dots, and clip the same number of clothespins to the box.  
Apparently she needed two hands.
This is a great way to build finger strength needed for writing.
Now it's fun when you play!
Counting to see who was the winner.
Two ways where the number sticks come in:  after rolling the die and counting the dots, we each get the corresponding number stick.  Then when the game is done and we counted all the clothespins, I asked her to make the number she got using the sticks.

Using the sticks builds number sense!

Game 2 - Race to the Finish
We use the number sticks as the game board itself - players move by putting down number sticks until they reach the end.

For addition practice, add up the two numbers you get after throwing the dice:

For younger children, just use one die
Here she is using the number sticks to solve the equation: 

We had trouble with 'dynamic' addition (when the answer crosses over ten).  When we'd get a sum of eleven or twelve, I'd try to teach but I could tell she hadn't grasped the concept yet.

The best part of this game is that daddy gets to join in.

The tokens move along with the number sticks (just for fun)
This is by far the game we keep coming back to, and it's easy to make things harder along the way for math practice.  Another post on that in the next weeks!  Last game for now:

Game 3 - Make Me The Number
This one is a simple game that practices math sense.  Montessori Math is sensory learning in itself because it makes math real through materials.  It makes the concept of higher numbers a real picture of amounts in their heads.  At some point, so much of math can easily become memorisation rather than real understanding, so having a good foundation helps!

Let me show the little DIY math toolbox we have in her shelves:

Print and laminate number cards from Montessori Printshop.

We use the number cards almost every time we play with the number sticks (or when whatever we're doing can become a practice for understanding numbers past ten).  

Only bring out the cards that can match the amounts of number sticks or base tens that you have.  Turn the cards over and ask her to pick one from each decimal place group.


She got '5' from the units (ones) place, and '10' from the tens place.  Here she is making that amount:

She's using the units this time instead of bringing out the five stick

Now for bigger numbers.  Turn it into a game by saying that whoever makes the bigger number wins!

You can compare the sizes of the piles to show that her '888' is obviously bigger than your '111'.

What are some sneaky ways you play math with your little ones?  Do workbooks work for you?  I tried sitting her down with a workbook at home and she immediately turned listless.  But at her school she's so much more game to do equations, even long ones.  

I remember my math teacher teaching the concept of 'carrying one' on the blackboard and I didn't get what she was doing.  I memorised the methods, and did a pretty good job at math throughout school life ... until I took an accounting class in college and flunked the damn thing.  I eventually passed when I stopped memorising math methods and started understanding why I was doing what.  But I developed a deep dislike of math.

That's pretty much the cycle we need to break for our kids today.  
Luckily there's always play.

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