New Year, New Circle!

This week was the first ever meeting of our younger son’s Math Circle! He has been waiting for a circle for 2 years (ever since sister’s circle started), and he was so excited to have 4 other kids from his preschool over today for circle.  We’re doing his circle at the same time as sister’s circle, but we’ve moved hers upstairs.  We have 5 kids in his circle, because 6 4-year-olds is just a bit too much.

The Activities

1. Topic: Addition, Counting: Book: Let’s Add to Ten, Again and Again, by Miller. This a cute little book showing 10 kids in silly situations, demonstrating all the ways to make 10 out of  two numbers.

2. Topic: Measurement: Measure various part of the kids bodies (ears, wrist, foot, hand, height) with ribbon, and then glue the ribbons onto a sheet (available here).  Discuss who is tallest? shortest? biggest ears? smallest feet?

My son with his body measurements.

3. Topic: Logic: Given a set of 4 pictures, which one doesn’t belong, and why? For this, we used Fairytale Bingo cards we had, and made up groups of 4. There are often more than one correct answer. The important thing is to think of *why* something doesn’t fit.

A few of the fairytale sets we discussed.

4. Topic: Shapes, Attribute Blocks, Differences: Introduce the attribute blocks to the kids. Ask them to identify similarities and differences between pairs of shapes.

A few of the attribute blocks.

How did it go?

All the kids were extremely well-behaved this week, and quite focused for 4 and 5 year olds 🙂  I bet as the kids get more comfortable, circle will get wilder.  All the kids seemed pretty engaged with the activities, though I had to switch between activities much faster than with the older circle.  It’s fun to go back an re-do the early activities from our first circle.

Book: Add To Ten, Again and Again

The book had silly pictures of 10 kids, illustrating the different ways to add 2 numbers to get 10.  All the kids enjoyed counting the kids in the picture and saying together: 8 + 2 = 10!

Body Measurement

This went really quickly because I had 3 other parents helping with the measuring. The kids were all paid attention and worked hard to glue the ribbons in the right places.  They were interested in who was biggest/smallest/medium.

Odd One Out

Set #1: Princess, Pied Piper, King, Sword – The kids all enjoyed the pictures, though they weren’t familiar with the Pied Piper.  I asked if there was one that did not belong? Kid A suggested the sword, but she couldn’t explain why.  I asked the other kids for their ideas.  Eventually Kid B explained that the sword didn’t have a person in it.

Set #2: Crown, Glass Slipper, Castle, Wolf – Kid A said right away that the Crown didn’t fit because there was no person.  But then I pointed out that the Glass Slipper also had no person.  Kid C kept saying that the glass slipper was Cinderella’s, and I thought maybe that was a reasonable answer, you could say the Crown, Glass Slipper, and Castle went together because they were in the Cinderella story. But the kids were adamant that the castle and crown were not from Cinderella.  No one really came up with any ideas for what didn’t fit here, so we moved on.

Set #3: Three Blind Mice, Three Bears, Three Little Pigs, Puss in Boots – The kids first answer was that Puss in Boots didn’t fit because it was too silly because cats don’t wear boots. Then Kid A suggested Puss in Boots didn’t fit because there was no movie of it, but I pointed out that there’s no Three Blind Mice movie either.  Kid B eventually said that Puss didn’t fit because there was only one animal there…he wasn’t too firm on it, but I was able to extend it to show the kids there were 3 animals in each other picture.

Set #4: Frog Prince, Dragon, Turtle, Hare – The first 3 are green, the last is brown.  The kids all giggled because they thought the Hare was really silly looking. After awhile I asked them which color each animal was and they figured out the Hare didn’t fit.

Set #5: Fairy Godmother, Fairy, Genie, Ogre – Only my son had seen a genie before. Kid D especially thought the genie was funny because its bottom was shrivelled up looking.  The difference I was looking for was that the Ogre didn’t fly, but no one came up with much here.

Set #6: Unicorn, Pinocchio, Cinderella’s Carriage w/ Horse, Knight  – I was expecting them to notice that 3 of them have horses in them.  But instead they noticed that all except the unicorn had a person in it.

Set #7: Goose, Duckling, Mermaid, Gingerbread Man – All the kids were excited to see a mermaid that looked like Ariel, but they were all clear that it was not *really* Ariel. Someone answered that the gingerbread man didn’t fit because it was food and the others weren’t.  I said “Don’t you eat mermaids?” and they all laughed.  After awhile I asked them where each item lived, and then they noticed that the gingerbread man didn’t go in the water.

Attribute Blocks

I got out all the large blocks and told the kids they could touch them, but the blocks had to stay on the table.  They all started grabbing blocks and making stacks or pictures.  After a minute or so, I asked the kids the name of several shapes…they knew them all.

Then I had the kids pick up various types of shapes: a circle, a blue shape, a hexagon. They were all very good at this.

Next I showed them that some shapes are thick and some are thin.  At first this was a little tricky, but they quickly caught on.  I asked for combinations of 2 attributes: a thin circle.  A yellow triangle, etc.  This was all quite easy for them, but they were very engaged.

Next I showed them two shapes and asked them to tell me something the same about them, and then something different. They were all quite good at this.  I had them all pick up two shapes of their choice and go around saying a similarity and a difference…no problems at all here.

I had forgotten how quickly 4 year olds go through activities, so I ended our circle about 5 minutes early.  I had them pick up the attribute blocks, giving each kid one type of shape to pick up: circles, triangles, rectangles, blue shapes, red shapes. They all enjoyed this. I didn’t notice any conflicts between two kids wanting to pick up the same shapes.  In the end there were a bunch of yellow hexagons, etc left, and I went around the circle asking each kid why they didn’t pick it up.  Then I gave one to each kid to put away, and ended circle.

After circle, all the families stayed and had a potluck dinner at our house.  This was really fun, and really loud, and really wild.  None of the kids wanted to go home, but eventually they all left, and the house felt strangely quiet 🙂


Feeling Colors

The Activities

  1. Topic: Counting:  Book: Eggs and Legs: Counting by Twos by Michael Dahl and Todd Ouren.
  2. Topic: Counting:  First we counted to 30 taking turns saying numbers, then tried counting by twos and threes.  We explained this as the “secret number game”, where (for counting by two) you said one number to yourself, and then the next number out loud.
  3. Topic: Charts:  I gave each kid about 15 random colored goldfish, and a goldfish graph to count them on.  They first put the goldfish on the chart, and then colored each box with a goldfish.  Finally, they ate the goldfish and I asked them some questions about who had had the most green ones, etc.  This activity was suggested by one of the parents of our first circle who is now leading a circle for their younger daughter.IMG_1179
  4. Topic: Counting:  Conservation of quantity a la Piaget.  I lined up two parallel lines of 12 colored glass beads, and asked them which had more.  Then I spread out one of them and asked again; then removed some stones from the longer one so they were the same length, asked again, etc.
  5. Topic: Shapes:  I put part of our attribute blocks set into a cloth bag, making sure to have one of each combination of size/shape/thickness.  Then, I gave the bag to a kid and asked them to, say, find a triangle, or find a thick circle, etc., just by touch.  I also asked them to find a red shape to see what they would do.
  6. Topic: Story Sequences: I introduced them to one of the sets of story sequence cards, and I had them put a couple of sets in order as a group.

How Did It Go?

All five kids were here.  They started to get restless 35-40 minutes in, so we only went for 45 minutes.

Eggs and Legs

The kids took turns counting the eggs and/or legs on each page.  We did a lot of counting activities in this circle; there was lots of skipping and double counting, so the results were frequently off by one or two.

Counting by Twos

Not surprisingly, there was a range of counting ability in the group.  All could count to ten easily, but some started to get shaky in the teens, and most started to have trouble after twenty.  One kid could count to at least a thousand.  Counting by twos was quite a bit harder, both the idea of counting by twos and because it got to bigger numbers faster.  Counting by threes was even harder.

Goldfish Charts

This was easier for them than I expected.  They all quickly figured how to arrange their goldfish and how to color underneath each goldfish.  There was a variety of speeds of coloring based on how carefully they colored.  One kid colored the highest box for each color first and then filled in the ones below it, the others all went upwards from 1.  They were pretty good at answering questions about the charts after they had devoured the goldfish.

Conservation of Quantity

This one was very interesting.  I think all the kids initially said “blue” when I spread out the blue stones, but very soon after that one of the kids decided to count each side, and from then on, two of the kids always got it right because they were thinking about counting the stones.  Two of the other kids said there were more blue for quite a while, until the number of blue stones got really low.  The final kid switched back and forth.  So our group is right in the critical period for conservation of quantity.

Shapes in a Bag

They didn’t really try to cheat, which was not true when we did this with our daughter’s circle.  It may be because we had a better bag (I think we used a pillow case last time).  The were pretty good at this, but they were starting to get restless when it wasn’t their turn (we had two bags, but that’s still 3 unoccupied kids at any given time).  I also asked them to, say, find a red shape, but they simply pulled something out, and tried again if it was wrong.  They happened to be lucky a good fraction of the time, so they didn’t really realize they were just guessing.  I asked how they were finding things by color but they didn’t have an answer.

Story Sequences

We only did a couple.  They were able to solve a couple pretty quickly.  They had trouble on one which had a picture of snow falling, then someone shoveling the driveway, then the right sidewalk, then the left one — they didn’t realize the snow should be disappearing.

Two Dice that Add up to Thirteen

The Activities

1. Topic: Counting. Book: From the Garden: A Counting Book About Growing Food, by Dahl.

2. Topic: Indirect Counting. I told the kids a story about Princes and Princesses at a party. The Princes were blue poker chips, and the Princesses were orange poker chips. The King and Queen want to know whether there are more princes or princesses. However, the kids won’t stop moving around so it is hard to dance. The queen calls for a dance, and each prince and princess pair up.  There is one prince left over.  Which are there more of?

Next the cook hands out plates for each kid, blue plates for the princes, and orange plates for the princesses. But then the cook realizes that dessert is not ready yet, and sends the princes and princesses out to play.  But how can the cook know how many ice creams (for the princes), and pies (for the princesses) to make?


A Prince and Princess Ready to Eat


3. Topic: Probability, Charts, Counting. Give the kids 2 dice, and have them roll the dice, add the total, and fill out a probability chart to see which number is rolled 5 times first.


4. Topic: Conservation of Quantity. Show the kids a stack of 12 Keva blocks.  Ask them how many are there.  Now rearrange the blocks in a different shape, and ask them how many there are now. Keep doing this until the kids protest that the number of blocks is always the same.


A tricky structure to count.


5. Topic: Sequences. Have the kids arrange story sequence cards in order, and then read the stories.

How did it go?

Counting in the Garden

This is a simple book that just shows different quantities of vegetables, from 1 to 12. The kids enjoyed taking turns counting the vegetables.

Princes and Princesses at a Party

The kids wanted to count the # of princes and princesses.  As soon as they’d start, I’d move the princes and princesses (poker chips) around, and say they were playing.  The math kids were very willing to keep counting even though there was no way to tell which chips they had already counted.  One kid counted 12 princesses, one counted 17 before I stopped him.

After the prince and princesses lined up to dance, all the kids quickly realized that there were more princes since one was left over.  After the princess and princesses left to go outside, one kid immediately said the cook could count the plates.  The kids enjoyed counting each color of plate.

Probability Race

I showed the kids the dice, and how to fill out the chart. Sum up the two dice, and then fill in the proper box.  We did part of a race as a large group, and then I broke them into a groups 3 and 2.  The kids all enjoyed throwing the dice (sometimes too hard), and counting the dots. They quickly caught on to how to use the chart, though several kids colored in the bottom square where the number was written, instead of starting on the square above.

The funniest interaction was when Kid A rolled two 6s and counted the dots to get 13.  He filled in the ’13’ box on the chart.  Later, Kid B (A’s partner), rolled two 6s, and immediately said “That’s 13!”.  I suggested he should check, and he figured out it was twelve.

We finished one race this time before the kids got too antsy. 7 won.  We’ll do this again in the future, and collect a group of charts to see if the kids notice any patterns.

Conservation of Quantity

I brought out a stack of 12 Keva blocks. First I asked a the kids to count the stack. Kid A got 11, but Kid B and Kid C both got 12, so we decided it must be 12.  Then I took the stack of blocks are rearranged them into a sun shape.  I asked “NOW how many are there?”  Kid D immediately said that there would still be 12, because I didn’t take any away.  However, the other kids were very happy to count them, and got 12.

Next I arranged the blocks into a stacked tower.  Kid D again said there were still 12, but the other kids wanted to check.  The blocks were much harder to count in this configuration.  Kid A got 8, and Kid B got 13.  Kid B started to explain loudly that Kid A must be wrong because he hadn’t counted all the blocks.  We check the number by all counting together while taking apart the structure, and we got 12.

Next I put all the blocks in a line.  The kids counted and saw there were 12. Then I showed them that I was taking 1 away.  Kid B and Kid D shouted that there were 11 left now, but some of the other kids counted to be sure.  I took away another 1, and they all guessed 10 now.  Then I took away 2, and that stumped them. Eventually Kid B guessed there would be 6 left, but we counted and got 8.  I kept taking away more blocks…once we got down to 4, the kids didn’t need to count anymore.  When we got to 0, the kids all laughed.  I asked Kid A to count the 0 blocks and he paused and then laughed.

Story Sequences

We have a box of story cards with 4 cards in each story. The stories are about things like carving a pumpkin or scooping ice cream.  The kids each got 2 turns to make a story, and then I read the story to each of them.  4 of the kids got their stories right every time (though it took some thinking for some of them).  The 5th kid had a bit more trouble, and both times mixed up two of the cards.  Kid D immediately saw the problem both times, and helped correct the stories.

At this point the kids were getting restless and were ready to play, so we ended circle 10 minutes early.




How Many Kittens?

The Activities

  1. Topic: Even and Odd: Book: Even or Odd? by J. Mattern.
  2. Topic: Even and Odd: Using one color of glass beads, I took out various numbers of beads between 1 and 10, asked them how many there were, and then asked one of the kids to say whether it was odd or even, and prove it (by grouping it into pairs).
  3. Topic: Venn Diagrams: I selected some random attribute blocks and cut out two large posterboard rings.  I started using only one ring, and said “Put all the blue shapes inside the ring.”  Then I cleared everything, and said “Put all the thin shapes inside.”  After a few of those, I asked more complicated ones, like “Put all the red triangles inside.”  I also asked what was left over outside the ring for each one.  Then, I added a second ring (NOT overlapping the first), and had instructions for both rings.  I started with disjoint things (one ring is thick, one is thin), but the final few they overlapped (e.g., one ring is red, the other is triangles).  I didn’t point out they might need to overlap the rings, they had to figure that out themselves.IMG_1197
  4. Topic: Combinations: I gave each kid a sheet with 12 uncolored kittens; each kitten has a large bow (download here).  I gave them each 6 crayons, 3 for the body (black, brown, yellow) and 3 for the bow (red, green, blue).  I asked them to color as many different kittens as they could.  After they had been going a while, I cut out unique cats from each kid and taped them to the wall until we had all of them.IMG_1196
  5. Topics: Place Values, Counting, Numbers: I first introduced the kids to Base Ten Blocks. We went through ones, tens, and a hundreds, I showed them that 10 ones = 1 ten bar, 10 ten bars = 1 hundred square, 10 hundred squares = 1 thousand cube.  We also practiced counting by tens and hundreds.  After that, I had each kid choose up to 9 each of ones, tens, and hundreds, and then as a group we looked at each one and figured out how much it was.
  6. Topic: Ordering: Book: Henry the Fourth by S. Murphy and S. Nash.
  7. Topic: Sorting: First, I gave each kid a tile with a number from 1-5 on it and had them sort themselves in a line against the wall by their numbers.  Next, I took the 2 and 4 and replaced them with 8 and 11.  After that, I had them sort themselves by height, number of letters in their name, age, hair color (lightest to darkest), and hand size.

How Did It Go?

All five kids attended.  It was a good circle, all the kids concentrated most of the time.

Even or Odd?

A very simple book, it explains clearly what even and odd mean and then has examples.  None of the kids knew what even and odd meant, but they picked it up quickly.

Even or Odd, pt. 2

I gave each kid one chance to say whether some number of beads was odd or even.  Almost everything was easy for them, except 1.  The definition in the book was that even means you can group into pairs, and odd was that if you grouped into pairs, you’d have one left over.  Since 1 involves having zero pairs, it’s rather tricky.

Venn Diagrams

All the kids helped put things in the circles.  One tricky question was “What’s left?” in the case where you had multiple attributes, e.g. “All blue thin shapes in the ring.”  When we got to overlapping attributes, we had the nice interaction where kids put things back and forth between the two circles.  After a little while one of the kids suggested putting it in the middle so it overlapped both circles; I then moved the circles so there was an overlap.  The kids got the concept of the overlapping circles pretty quickly.

Cat Combinations

Two of the kids got 4 unique kittens fairly quickly.  One kid colored the same combination three times in a row, then got a new one.  Another kid was distracted watching the other kids and only finished one.  The last kid didn’t finish any.  Between the kids, they got all 9 pretty quickly.

Base Ten Blocks

Most of the kids didn’t know how to count by tens or hundreds, but once I started doing it they were able to recognize the pattern and join in.  Figuring out what 3-digit number corresponded to some number of 1’s, 10’s, and 100’s was pretty hard, only one of them was able to do it consistently.

Henry the Fourth

Very simple book about ordinal numbers, but I had the kids to the actions the dogs were doing, which was fun.

Kid Sorting

They were better than I expected at the first two activities, partly because one of the kids took charge and helped people find the right places to stand.  They did pretty well on the heights as well.  For ages, they sorted by year without problems, but two of them didn’t know their birthdays, and had to go ask their parents.  Some of the kids understood that an earlier birthday meant you were older, others didn’t.  Hair color (lightest to darkest) was pretty funny, they had no idea.  One of them said right away “My hair is dark” and stood on the dark side; but he probably had the lightest hair. And the one with the darkest hair was in the place that should have been lightest.  Hand size was also hard but they did ok.

Is the Gingerbread Boy a person?

I hosted the younger circle this week.  All 5 kids attended, despite the holiday weekend.

The Activities

  1. Topic: Counting by 5s: Book: Leaping Lizards, by Murphy
  2. Topic: Counting by 5s: The 5s and 10s game (suggested by Murphy at the end of the book): Combine two decks of cards, removing all face cards and aces. The players take turns flipping over cards. If the card is a 5 or a 10, you keep the card. At the end you add each player’s 5s and 10s and the player with the highest sum wins.
  3. Topic: Venn diagrams: Venn diagrams with fairytale cards.
    1. Put People in one circle, and Animals in the other
    2. Put Monsters in one circle and Girls in the other.
    3. Put Animals in one circle and Flying things in the other.

      Monsters in the left circle, Girls in the right circle.  The Wicked Witch is a girl monster.

      Monsters in the left circle, Girls in the right circle. The Wicked Witch is a girl monster.

  4. Topic: Logic: Some people are crossing a river.  The boat can hold two things.
    1. How can 4 people get across the river?
    2. What about 2 parents and 2 kids? The kids can’t drive the boat.
    3. What about 2 people, a cow, and a carrot?  The cow will eat the carrot if there is no person to stop her.
    4. IMG_1204

      The blue person is taking the carrot across the paper towel river in the boat. The green person and the cow are waiting on the other side.

  5. Topic: Sorting: Book: Sorting by Size by Marks
  6. Topic: Sorting: Give each kid cards with the numbers 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10.  Put them in sorted order.  Then give them 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90,100.  Then 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50.


    The sorted number cards.

How did it go?

The 5s and 10s Game

The kids enjoyed flipping over the cards, and seeing if they got a 5 or a 10.  Everyone was rooting for the two kids who hadn’t found any 5s or 10s yet, which was nice. No one got upset about the number of cards they got.  At the end, we added up everyone’s numbers. The kids were pretty good at adding 5 + 5 = 10, and 10 + 10 = 20, but bigger than that was tough. One kid was able to add all the totals.

Venn Diagrams with Fairy Tale Cards

Everyone was excited to see the fairy tale cards again.  They jumped right in when I asked the first problem: people in one circle, animals in the other.  There was an interesting debate about whether the Gingerbread Boy is a person or not.  The kids voted 3 to 2 that he is not a person, he is a food.  One kid noticed that the Cinderella carriage had a person (the coachman) and an animal (the horse). Another kid immediately suggested overlapping the circles and putting the carriage there. After the cards were all sorted, I asked questions like: How many people did we find? How many animals?

Next we did monsters and girls. The only girl monster was the Wicked Witch.

Finally we did Animals and Flying things. This is the first one where they put some things in the wrong section. We found several flying animals in the ‘Animals’ section, and some flying animals in the ‘Flying’ section.

Crossing the River

We had a boat with 2 seatbelts that can carry two people at a time. How do we get 3 people across the river?  Immediately one of the kids started moving the boat. She took two people across first, and then started the send the boat back across, empty.  I said the boat would float down the river if there was no one to drive it.  She quickly suggested sending one of the people back with the boat, to pick up the third person. Another kid was able to replicate this solution.

Next I changed the problem so we had to get 2 parents and 2 kids across the river. The same girl started working on this problem. She understood right away that babies can’t drive the boat. She and another kid were able to both solve this problem.

Finally, we had 2 parents, a cow and a carrot. The cow will eat the carrot if they are left alone.  Again, the kids easily solved this, first taking a cow across, then a person, then the carrot.  When the second kid tried to replicate this answer, I suggested taking the cow, then the carrot, but they saw that the cow would eat the carrot, and fixed the answer.

Number Sorting

First we read a book about sorting, then I spread the kids out, and gave each kid a set of cards with the numbers 1 – 10 on them.  I asked the kids to sort them. Several kids finished immediately, but a couple kids were initially confused about what it means to sort from ‘1 to 10’. They just found the 1 and the 10 card and thought they were done.  They quickly caught on.

Next I handed out cards with 10,20,30,40,50,60,70,80,90,100.  This was much harder for the kids since they are not as familiar with counting by tens. 3 of the kids were able to make progress on their own. The other 2 waited until friends had finished, who came over to give help.

At this point, one kid was begging for an even harder set, and another kid also wanted to try, so I handed out cards with 5,10,15,20,25,30,35,40,45,50. My son was able to sort these but the other kids were sure of the order when counting by 5s.

That was the end of circle, so the kids excited ran around the house screaming, especially when the big kids also had finished their circle. Maybe we can figure out some way to keep the after-circle wildness under control next time.

A Car is Faster than an Airplane?

The Activities

  1. Topic: Addition: Book: The Mission of Addition by B. Cleary.
  2. Topic: Addition: We used Base Ten Blocks to do some simple additions, such as 3 + 4.
  3. Topic: Numbers: We practiced making moderately large numbers, such as 17 and 51, using blue blocks rods and unit cubes.
  4. Topic: Counting: We played the “secret number game”, with one secret number — when it’s your turn, you say one number to yourself, and the next out loud (i.e., counting by twos).
  5. Topic: Probability: Each kid individually did one or two probability races (download chart here), where you roll the dice repeatedly, fill in a box for the appropriate outcome, and see which number gets to 5 first (or 6, if you color in the box containing the number, like some kids did).


    Obviously, they colored over the numbers in this one.

  6. Topic: Architecture: 13 Buildings Children Should Know by A. Roeder.
  7. Topic: Building: Each kid got 6 Keva blocks and had to build as tall a structure as possible.
    IMG_1217 IMG_1216
  8. Topic: Sorting: We had various sets of clip-arts, which you can download here.  For each set, I handed one out to each kid, and they had to sort themselves by their pictures.  The sets we did this week were:
    1. Worm, cardinal, goat, ant, spider, from fewest to most legs
    2. Bicycle, Boat, Car, Train, Airplane, from fastest to slowest

How Did It Go?

All five kids attended.  It was a good circle, there was some “when will it be over” at various points, but they stayed engaged and on-task for all but part of the last activity.

The Mission of Addition

The kids aren’t that familiar with addition — it was hard for them to explain what it was before we read the book.  But I think they were able to understand the book.

Base Ten Blocks Addition

We did about 4 problems.  For example, say we were doing 3 + 4.  I would say “make one pile of 3 and one pile of 4”.  Once they did that, “Now squish them together and count them”.  They were reasonably good at this, although they sometimes made errors both in making the initial piles, and in counting the combined result.

Base Ten Blocks Numbers

This is still pretty hard for most of them.  Understanding that a 10-rod counts as 10 and not 1 is tricky.  I had to give most of them help to be able to make 17.  Some of them started by grabbing about 5 10-rods; some started by getting one 10 rod and 10 unit cubes.  Only one kid could do it without help.  The second number we did was 52, which we all did together.

Counting by Twos

The kids were noticeably better at this than last time.  They’re getting better at counting to 30, and they’re better at the skipping part as well.

Probability Race

The kids sat scattered around on the floor of the kitchen, each with their own set of dice.  There was a wide variance in the speed that kids went; two kids finished one and a half charts; two kids finished one chart, and one kid finished half a chart.  This was partly due to how fast they counted the dice, and partly about how distracted they were by the other kids.  As I mentioned above, some of the kids colored the boxes with the numbers (so they needed to have 6 to win), others didn’t.

13 Buildings Kids Should Know

The kids only recognized the Eiffel Tower out of the 13 buildings, one of them had been there.  They were interested in some of the architectural features I pointed out, including the “circles” (columns) and “points” (spires).  One kid said the minarets on the Taj Mahal were like Rapunzel’s tower.  I said the Guggenheim looked like a layer cake and they thought that was very funny.

Tallest Tower

Lots of interesting designs.  One of the first buildings to be completed was only about an inch high (almost all of the blocks were flat on the table).  The first round, the tallest building was slightly taller than one block-length tall.  I asked if they could do better; and the second time, the tallest was two block-lengths tall.  They definitely don’t have a great grasp of which blocks are useful and which aren’t.


This activity got a little out of control, with not all the kids concentrating on the activity.  Still, they did well on the number of legs, got the right answer without many difficulties.  However, the slowest to fastest was more problematic, partly because not all the kids were paying attention, partly because they didn’t work together well, and partly because they have very little clue about relative speeds.  They all were pretty convinced a car was faster than an airplane.  The airplane ended up slower than a boat, but mainly because they weren’t paying enough attention to make sure their final order made sense.

Clip-art Codes

The Activities

  1. Topic: Addition, Subtraction: Book: Teddy Bear Counting by McGrath.
  2. Topic: Shapes, Spatial Reasoning: Draw  and color pictures of one or two attribute blocks.

    My son drawing the shapes.

    My son drawing the shapes.

    One kid's drawing of the three circles.

    One kid’s drawing of the three circles.

  3. Topic: Number Order, Sorting: Give each kid 3 cards with numbers between 1 and 100 on them. Each kid puts their own cards in order. For example: 23, 59, 77.  If 3 cards is easy, give the kid more cards to sort.
  4. Topic: Addition, Counting: Book: Princess Chamomile Gets Her Way by Oram.
  5. Topic: Codes: Give the kids the key to a number-letter code (e.g. 1 = C, 2 = H), and some encoded words. The key and encoded words are here. The kids decode each number and then match the simple word with a clip art picture. For example, if the word is ‘FROG’, put it under a picture of a frog.

    My son decodes a word.

    My son decodes a word.

    Matching up the word with the clip-art pictures.

    Matching up the word with the clip-art pictures.

How did it go?

I led the younger circle this week. 4 kids attended. We had a great circle this time with lots of focused energy.

Teddy Bear Counting

In this book, 12 teddy bears come to play. Then they dance around in different groups, and then run away. The kids really enjoyed this book. They especially loved counting the bears when they were in groups of 3 or 4 to make sure there were really still 12.  We also practiced counting by 3s and 4s.  One kid cheered when the 11th and 12th bear came. He said he thought there would only be 10.  Another kid asked if we could read the book again at the end of circle.

Attribute Block Drawing

The kids have a lot of practice drawing still life and self-portrait in their pre-school, so this ended up being pretty easy for them.  A couple kids had trouble drawing triangles (they looked like squares).  Also some of the orientations were tricky.  For the picture above with 2 triangles with a square in the middle, some of the kids drew it as 3 non-touching shapes.

Number Sorting

Hand out three cards with random numbers on them to each kid.  The kid then tries to put the numbers in order from smallest to biggest.  My son is absolutely obsessed with these number cards, so he was able to sort 10 or more cards at a time.

The other kids did not have as much practice on number recognition and number order. One kid thought ’36’ was 16. and ’28’ was 18.  I think her pattern was that if it has 2 digits then you say the second number, followed by ‘teen’.  She watched very closely as I read her numbers and some other kids’ numbers, and seemed to really be thinking about how the naming worked.

Another kid was able to name all the numbers, but wasn’t sure of the order. The final kid didn’t recognize the numbers but was also interested in listening to me and the other friends name them.

Princess Chamomile

This is not really a math book…it’s about a princess mouse who is not allowed to eat sweets. She writes a letter and gets a piece of candy for every word she writes. We all counted the words together and got 31.  Then the book shows all the different types of candy she picked (“3 jelly mice, and 4 licorice twirls…”). We used the unit cubes to check that all those numbers actually add up to 31.

Letter/Number Codes

I gave each kid a key to a letter-number code.  Then I handed out a different short word to each kid.  They used the key to decode the word, then sounded it out (with help), and put the word next to a clip-art picture illustrating the word.

All the kids LOVED this activity. Each kid did 3 or 4 words and would have kept going if we hadn’t run out of time.  This activity also helps with number order and number recognition since the code has the numbers 1 – 26 in order.  Many kids did not yet notice that the key is sorted  by number, so they treated each number as new, random search.