Math Manipulatives

About a month ago, there was a moment in our school day when frustrations began to rise. By the time we opened the math book, it was evident my first grader was no longer in a positive mental frame for learning. She refused to take a recess and play outside.

In that moment I decided, if she wouldn’t take a break I would! 

I stepped outside to jump on the trampoline. 

A few minutes later, not to my surprise, she joined me outside. While playing on the trampoline together the inspiration came, “Use lego manipulatives to help her work through the math problems.” Math manipulatives are a no brainer! However, I am far from perfect and manipulatives weren’t on my radar that day. I am grateful for moments of inspiration! 

Math manipulatives are used to physically represent and work through a math problem.

Using Lego ‘dots’ to subtract (ex. 92 – 4 = 88)

With a handful of legos before her, my daughter whipped through each problem. The math practice became a game. 

Using legos to solve 34 – 8 = 26

Beautiful things to remember: 

Using M&Ms to divide 36 into 6 equal groups

#1 – Don’t be afraid to use manipulatives to make math fun and tangible. Use legos, pompoms, M&Ms, gold fish, match box cars, smarties, small toys, etc. Anything easy to count and uniform in size works beautifully as math manipulatives.

Using pompoms to solve 9÷2= 4 Remainder 1

#2 – A ‘reset break’ works wonders! If math needs to wait for fifteen minutes or an hour, it can wait. If completing a writing prompt works better on a full stomach, take a break and eat a snack! (In most cases, I highly suggest not putting a lesson off until the next day. It is easy to fall into the “we’ll do it tomorrow” mindset.)

#3 – I heard once that an emotion lasts for only 90 seconds. Breathe through it. Let it run its course. Give thanks that this child is in a safe place where negative and positive emotions can be released as they arise. 

I LOVE our homeschool setting that gives me freedom to tailor each lesson to fit individual needs. Adjustments can be made minute to minute, subject to subject, and day to day. Learning, at any age, is not simple. It’s natural for moments of frustration to occur. I have to remind myself and my children that each effort is making a difference. I try to stop and say, “Look at what you have accomplished because of your effort and hard work! You CAN do this! You can do hard things! You can do anything you set your mind to!”

💕 Terynn

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