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.


Who has the biggest ears?

The Activities

  1. Topic: Measurement: Book: Magnus Maximus, A Marvelous Measurer, by Pelley.
  2. Topic: Measurement: Measure various body parts: wrist, ears, height, etc. Sort the kids by different attributes.
  3. Topic: Logic: Story sequences with missing pictures.


We bought some ribbon for the boy measurement activity. We also made charts for the kids to glue their ribbons to.  Here’s the PowerPoint of the chart.

How did it go?


First I had the kids sort themselves by various attributes: height, hand size, foot size, wrist circumference. It was funny watching them compare themselves. For example, for foot size, they decided to have both people sit on a chair facing each other and put their feet together, but they didn’t have a third person come look at the feet, and it’s hard to see your own feet that well.

Next I gave them each a sheet with centimeter spaced lines, space for each of the 4 things we measured, and a space for name and height.   Another parent and I helped cut ribbons that matched the kids hand, foot, etc.  I was surprised that some of the kids’ feet are longer than the width of a sheet of paper, so the ribbons hung off the end when glued down.

At the end I brought down a picture of my daughter as a newborn, with the cast of her foot, and we measured it.

Story Sequences

The kids have already mastered basic story sequences, where there are six picture cards telling a story, and they have to put them in the right order. We made it a bit harder by randomly removing one of the cards, and asking the kids to figure out what was missing.

The kids were quite good at this, and made good guesses about what card might be missing. Everyone seemed pretty engaged, except one kid who asked, “When is math circle over?”


Building a Watermelon

The Activities

  1. Topic: Evens and Odds, Division: Book: Splitting the Herd by Harris. The kids will act out the book with the wooden cows we have.
  2. Topic: Combinations: Given a chain of 5 circles, how many different ways can you color in zero circles? 1 circle? 2 circles? 4 circles? For example, OXOOX and XXOOO are two ways to color 2 circles out of 5.
  3. Topic: Probability: Kids will roll two dice, compute the sum and fill in a box in a chart.  We’ll end up with a 6×6 grid of all possible sums of two dice.
  4. Topic: Sequences: Kids arrange the story cards in order.

How did it go?

Splitting the Herd

This is a really fun book that involves Emma’s 10 cows getting into her neighbor Kirby’s pasture and mixing in with his 10 cows.  The two neighbors split the cows into two groups of 10.  The next night 2 cows run into the neighbor’s pasture, and they split them into two groups of 6, and send 6 back home. The kids saw no problem with this.  Then again two cows run over, and they split the 8 cows.  At this point one kid said “But Kirby only has 4 cows!” and the kids agreed this was unfair. Again 2 cows run over, and now there are 5 cows to split, which can’t be done so Kirby and Emma get married.  I didn’t know how to explain why the cow division ended up wrong, so I talked about how Kirby and Emma should have remembered that there were still some cows in Emma’s field.

Circle Coloring Combinations

Given a chain of 5 circles, how many ways can you color in zero circles? 1 circle? 2 circles?

3 of the kids had seen this activity at an earlier circle. One of them remembered she had been able to get 8 different colorings.

This was new to the other 2 kids. I started by coloring in one circle in the chain: XOOOO. I asked Kid #1 if he could make a different chain by coloring in one bead, but he colored in the same bead as me.  So I asked another kid, who found a new way: OOXOO. We continued taking turns until the kids had found 5 different ways to color in one circle.  Then I asked Kid #2 to find another, and after awhile she gave up, and I suggested maybe 5 was all of the ways.

Then I gave each kid a sheet with rows of 5 circles on it, and told them to color in two beads in each chain. One kid got 7 different ways, another found 6. One kid got 5 ways…she had trouble because she felt that reflections were the same, for example: XOXOO and OOXOX.

One kid was stuck so I stood by the kid and tried that each row was a chain and we should color two beads in each. The kid colored one in each row, and sometimes seemed to think the chains should be vertical.  The last kid was more interested in playing with puppets after circle and in telling me her plans to color all the circles in different colors when she got home.

Then I gave the kids a new paper and asked them to color 4 beads in each chain. 3 of the kids got 3 or more different colorings.

Probability Charts

By now, we’ve done probability race about 5 or 6 times. We decided the kids might be ready to learn *why* some rolls are more common than others (i.e. 7 is the most likely roll).  I made a chart like this:

1 2 3 4 5 6

The plan was to write the sum of the two dice in the appropriate box.

The kids all remembered probability race, and were happy to roll dice and count the dots.  I showed them how to fill in the chart, but only one kid seemed to understand. We filled in the results of 12 rolls, and then stopped because the kids got restless.

 Story Sequences

The kids all loved this activity. The only problem was a bit of restlessness during other people’s turns. Also, some of the kids wanted to tell the other kids how to arrange the cards.  For this circle, we used a bunch of story sequences that we found on the internet and printed out.

  • Kid #1 had a boy throwing a ball for a dog.  At first she was intimidated because it had 6 cards, but she started organizing them and corrected herself where she was wrong.
  •  Kid #2 got a frog growing up from an egg.  She organized them all correctly, but she had the frog with a tail as the last card.  I told the story as she had arranged it and at the last card I said “then the frog grew a tail”.  All the kids said that sounded good, but then I said I would change something.  Kid #1 immediately swapped the adult and the tail frogs.
  • Kid #3 had pictures of building a snowman, and then a melted heap of snowman parts.  She put the melted heap first, and said that that was before the snowman was built.  Kid #4 said she’d arrange it differently: her story was: First there’s a snowman, then all it parts disappear, then it gets a face, then it melts (she was not joking).  Then I let Kid #2 have a turn and she organized them as expected with the melted picture last.
  • Kid #4 had one with 3 cards: A man with a watermelon, a man with watermelon in half, man and kids eating watermelon.  Kid #4’s story was: 1. watermelon in half. 2. man with whole watermelon 3. eating:  “A man builds a watermelon, then he cuts it and they eat it.”  Kid #1 reorganized in the expected order.
  • Kid #5 had: A: A girl with dog pulling her scarf.  B: Girl waving at dog with scarf. C: Boy chasing a dog with scarf. D: Boy giving scarf to girl.  Kid #5 arranged it as D A B C.  Everyone was tired so I ended circle here.

After circle, Kid #5 wanted to show dad the story cards and tell the story. Also several parents told me about their kids wanting to start math circles and playing pretend math circle at preschool.

Corey’s Pretend Party

The Activities

  1. Topic: Charts: Book: “What do you like?”  This book is about kids voting to plan a party, and using various types of graphs to find out what wins.
  2. Topic: Charts: Show the kids 6 different ways to vote on features for my pretend birthday party: Food, Drink, Ice Cream Flavor, (Party Favor), Location, Game. Each kids votes on each item, and then takes on of the charts around to the parents so they can vote too.  Afterward, we’ll figure out which item won each vote, and compare it to the kids in the book.

    Which game should we play?

    What food should we have?

  3. Topic: Probability: Probability Race. Which number will be the first to be rolled 5 times on two dice?  Kids roll two dice, and color in the square corresponding to the sum of the dice.

    Probability Race.

  4. Topic: Sequences, Logic: Story Sequence cards. Arrange story pictures in the order they happened.

How did it go?

Five kids attended circle this week.

My Pretend Party

I told the kids that we were going to plan a pretend birthday party for me.  I read a book called ‘What do you like?’ about kids planning a block party. Each time the kids in the book voted, I had our kids vote too.

 The first was to vote for the party location: park, house, or Pump It Up.  You voted by writing your name under the one you wanted. All the kids voted for Pump It Up.

 The next vote was for the snacks at the party: pretzels, popcorn, carrots, cheese, apples.  You voted by putting a tick mark next to the one you want.   

The next vote was for drinks: oj, lemonade, milk or water. You voted by drawing a circle in a horizontal line next to the thing you want. I picked water. The kids were split on milk or lemonade.  One kid seemed to be voting based on the color of the circle (milk was a pinkish circle).

The next vote was for the game at the party: tag, musical chairs, or treasure hunt.  You voted by coloring in a rectangle above the one you wanted, making a bar chart.  I voted for musical chairs, most kids voted for treasure hunt.  There was a lot of excited discussion about the various choices, for example Kid #1 said that they played musical chairs at Kid #2’s party, and Kid #3 said he had never done a treasure hunt before.

The final vote was for a kind of ice cream: mint, mango, chocolate, or vanilla. You voted by writing your name on a line and filling in a circle for the one you want, lined up with your name. Like a scan tron.  The kids had a hard time with this type of chart, they didn’t want to skip circles, so they would fill in circles that were on lines for other people’s names.

Next, I gave one chart to each kid and spread them out across two tables. Then I had the parents rotate through the stations and the kid explained how to vote to the parent.  The kids enjoyed this.

After everyone voted, we came together and looked at each kid’s chart to see what had won, counting up the votes.  Everyone was really engaged in this activity.

Probability Race

We reviewed the result of last week’s race (6 had won).  We started rolling, and the kids were pretty good about letting the person whose turn it was count the dots. We only had to roll about 12 times before 5 won the race.

Story Sequences 

One story showed: 1. bottle of bubbles,  2. a boy blowing one bubble, and  3. a boy with many bubbles in the air.  Kid #1 ordered them as 2,3,1, and I told the story: “Once a boy blew a bubble. The he blew more bubbles.” The kids filled in the last bit, saying the boy ran out of bubbles or the bubbles all popped.  Kid #2 said there was another way to do the story and ordered them 1,2,3, explaining that the boy hadn’t opened the bubbles yet.

The next pictures were: 1. chicken looking at egg, 2. egg hatching, 3. chick eating worms, 4. big chicken.  Kid #3 ordered them as 1, 2, 3, 4, and told the story herself.

The next pictures were: 1. person mixing batter 2. person rolling dough, 3. person cutting cookies, 4. plate of cookies.  Kid #4 was unsure at first, but then organized them 1,2,3,4 and told the story coherently.  I pretended to feed the cookies to the kids, which caused a moment of wildness as everyone insisted they must eat the heart cookie.  I said there were enough because they were pretend cookies, and eventually they calmed down.