Math: Hands on Fun - Graphing and Free Exploration

Some students (and adults) have a fear of math. I did not see this fear when I taught kindergarten. Kinder kids come in with a love of exploring and excitement for learning.
Kinder kids love math because their math lessons are taught with a hands on approach. As students get older, it becomes more abstract and manipulatives are used less often. Sad, because those students can benefit from manipulatives also.

Many years ago I went through a Math Their Way week of training. One of the tips I learned from this workshop was students need free exploration with math manipulatives before you use them for direct instruction. I had been guilty of beginning the school year with students having access to some of the manipulatives, but not necessarily the ones I planned to use with my lessons. After implementing this, I found my students were much more engaged with my lesson because the novelty was out of their system.

Do you have to stop lesson because your students are "playing" rather than using the manipulatives the way you intend for them to be used? For your next math unit, let your students have free exploration with the manipulatives you plan to use the week before you need them.

Organize treasure boxes or junk boxes as Math Their Way calls them, for your math stations, math rotations, or math centers. Treasure boxes can be organized however you want. I used different sizes of ziploc boxes. The different colored lids can be part of how you manage who gets to use them on assigned days. See the first picture. You can decide what goes in the boxes. Suggestions:
  • toothpicks 
  • keys 
  • bottle caps 
  • buttons 
  • beans 
  • bread tags 
  • shells 
I would suggest putting a wish list on your weekly newsletter. Parents are great about helping with supplies for your treasure boxes if you ask for common supplies like the ones above. I found I got more supplies if I ask for only one or two supplies instead of a huge list. Wait a couple of weeks and then ask for one or two different objects to add to my treasure boxes. By the end of the first year of implementing this, I had a large collection of treasure boxes.
It is helpful if you give your students a tray, cloth napkin, or in the picture is a square piece of felt. This gives them defined space for the objects in their treasure boxes. Otherwise, you will have trouble with students combining objects from each other's boxes or not all of the objects being put back in the box at cleanup time.

Recycled wine cork is an Earth friendly thing and a useful thing to add to treasure boxes. Students can stack the cork to make patterns by height. I found the plastic fruit which is supposed to be frozen and used as ice cubes at Dollar Tree.

TOP PICTURE: Add Scrabble letters to a treasure box and add a alligator clip. You now have a treasure box with several different purposes. Students can:

Spell 2 words from word wall, math vocabulary words, seasonal words, spelling words, sight words, or other words that you decide.
Students add the value of each word.
Use the alligator to decide which word's value (add the numbers) is greater than or less than
Sort letters into 2 groups: odd numbers, even numbers

BOTTOM PICTURE: Sort letters by characteristic: straight lines, circles, etc.

I found these wooden shapes at Hobby Lobby. Students can sort them by size, make pictures, shapes, letters, or numbers. It is an open-ended type of activity.
The treasure boxes can also be used for graphing. I made a bunch of templates that students use based on how many different types of objects are in the box. This is an easy way to integrate language arts and science with math.
I like to use a class graph to show what real-aloud books or what books my students have read that are about the science topic. I also give them a personal graph to keep track of what they read. The graph works as their reading log.

I have found the more hands on and the more integrated I make my lessons, the more engaged my students are and the less discipline problems I have. Happy kids = happy teacher!

What do you use with your math stations?

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Deedee Wills said...

Thank you so much for linking up!

Oh my goodness! I love your bins! I could not agree more about making sure students have time to hang out with the manipulatives before you start trying to teach with them. Love! Love! Love! This post!

Thank you again!

Mrs. Wills Kindergarten

melba said...

how can you make a lot of different activities?

Unknown said...

I love the idea of the Treasure Box! Cute!

The Land of I Can

Michelle said...

Thank you! Deedee and Heather.

Melba, I make different activities with objects I find when I shopping or things that are donated.