Today was a totally delightful 20 minutes of math play. It ended up being almost 40 minutes as we created our play situation.

I have to admit that sometimes pretending can be exhausting.  Maybe as I’ve gotten older I’ve lost that spontaneous creativity. So I was happy to find a way that I could “pretend” a real life situation…ordering food at a restaurant. Today, it was almost lunch time and my 5 year old and I decided we were going to make our own restaurant…PB & J. We built the menu, with her telling me the items and prices.  It was fun to think of the different categories and to put together the menu. We grabbed a notepad, marker and some cash and we were ready to go. (Notice some of her choices, “Soda is not very healthy so we can make it very expensive.”)

Right away she wanted to order a Hawaiian Punch juice box, and an appetizer of crackers.  That was when I asked her how much money she had.  She counted her cash, “I have 8 dollars.”  I asked her if she had enough money to buy a lunch.  This was one of those moments where I wish she would think out loud, because she immediately changed her drink order for milk. I bet all kinds of good mathematical thinking was going on there! Now, if I know my daughter, it’s because she wanted enough money for dessert!

Here she is counting her money after ordering her milk and crackers, to be sure she would have enough.

Sure enough, I took her order and it came out something like this:

She quickly realized that she was NOT going to have enough money for dessert, so she sprinted off to go and get her piggy bank, coming back with coins.  She asked me so innocently, “How many of these do I need for a dollar… one?” That was the perfect moment to tell her that a dollar is ten dimes, or four quarters…the perfect intro as to why she needs to know about coins and their values.

Which will lead to many more fun money play sessions!  We can use this same menu, but change up the ways to pay, the amounts and combinations of money.  All of which she will have a strong reason to want to know how to do it.

The best part? I told her that she needed to make sure to leave the server (me) a tip. As I left the room with her dirty plates, she secretly wrote this on a piece of paper and presented my “tip” to me when I came back:

I’ll take that tip over 20% any day!

# Concrete Number Lines Teach The Value of Numbers

During one of my recent 20 minutes of math play sessions with my 5 year old daughter, we played around with a number line.  A number line is a really abstract thing, and without something to connect it to, it is nearly impossible for a young learner to understand. So we built this fun thing:

The conversation afterward was awesome! She could see that the more legos we had, the longer the line got, which meant we could talk about the value of the numbers.

That got me thinking that maybe we could build one that didn’t use similar sized objects for a number line, to help her understand that a number’s value will still be the same even if the object is a different size. That was when we came up with this one:

All of this building led to talk about sizes of things, grouping things, ordering and reordering, the value of numbers and so much more.  It was a ton of fun to make both with the number representations and actual concrete objects!

# Bump and Wild to Three in a Row: A Math Play Activity

I have to say that social media has really opened me up to be a better parent and teacher. The amount of things I see on a daily basis make me a better thinker and person. I’ve been on a mission to do 20 minutes of math play with my daughter, and was inspired by these posts by Pre-K Pages and Scott’s Brick by Brick.

The ziploc quilt is extremely easy to make and the building of this game was an entire 20 minutes of math problem solving for one day alone! We made our quilt out of stuff that we already had around the house:

• colorful duct tape
• ziploc bags
• paper
• giant duplo blocks

All we had to do was make a simple array. While we were making it we talked about skip counting by three. I made mine with 12 ziplock bags and made a “quilt” by laying them onto the sticky side of the duct tape. Then we covered the sticky underside with masking tape so it wouldn’t stick to the floor.

The object of the game? Simply get three of your game pieces in a row horizontally, vertically or diagonally.

For our first game I made a deck of cards for the draw pile of three types to be played in the following way:

1. Numbers 1-12 in standard form: Find a matching representation of that number on the board.  (If your number is already taken due to a bump or wild card, you lose your turn.)
2. Bump card: bump someone’s piece off and replace it with your own.
3. Wild card: place your game piece on any open space.

Then I made 12 cards to slip into the ziplock bags for the game board.  I mixed the representations up and made tally marks, word form and dots to make the standard form cards. I wanted to make five and ten frames but I wasn’t sure I could draw them evenly enough (and our printer is out of ink!). I’ll probably try that next time.

Playing with three players made each game both quick and fun.  We were totally addicted.  I think the three of us played for an hour straight. The game wasn’t purely about matching, but included thinking about where to put a wild piece, as well as which piece would be the best to bump. My five year old began picking up strategies and we were amazed at her thinking!

The possibilities are endless for what can go in the quilt!

I think I am going to see if we can make these in my third grade classroom for the kindergarten mentors we work with!  Making them will mean that they’ll need to use their multiplication skills to make the quilt.

This is a great after school play activity!