I'm Bon Crowder and the photos above are both of me - in 1989 and today. I'm a Generation X mom of Generation Z kids.

I began peer tutoring in high school in 1984. MathFour.com is the 2015 version of me helping peers be comfortable in math.

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Tag Archives: math toys

Melissa & Doug’s Animal Pattern Blocks Set

What did the hexagon say to the trapezoid?
“I’m twice the shape you’ll ever be!”

Corny – right?

I made that joke up while playing with Melissa & Doug’s Animal Pattern Blocks.

It has ten different animals (on five two-sided boards) and over 50 plastic shapes in tons of colors to complete the pictures.

Use it to teach more than just shapes.

Of course you can talk to your toddler about hexagons, triangles, parallelograms (which are also rhombuses in this math toy) and trapezoids. But you can do even more!

All the shapes can make the bigger ones. So it’s not just a bunch of shapes that may or may not work – this toy is designed with some serious thought.

Here are some questions you can ask while playing:

How many of each shape can squeeze into a hexagon?

Pick a shape and cram them into the hexagons!

How many triangles fit in each shape?

This is huge in math. Since all shapes can be made of triangles, answering this questions preps your little one for some big geometry stuff.

And after you play with those a while, you might notice how the number of sides of a shape compare to the number of smaller shapes that can fit in it.

Get a set of Animal Pattern Blocks and have fun!

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2 Responses to Cuisenaire Rods

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6 Responses to Teaching Subtraction Using a Balance

  1. I like your idea of using of the balance – it’s beautifully visual, but I would hesitate to call what you’ve done subtraction. Of course, it’s formally equivalent to subtraction, but this to me looks more like the “missing number”, or complementary addition flavour of the operation, which is not necessarily understood as the same thing by a young learner. i.e. To me, you’ve demonstrated the formal equation 5 + ? = 12, rather than the concept of 12 – 5 = ?.

    • Thank you for your thoughts, Stacey.

      As you’ve pointed out, 5 + ? = 12 is the same thing as 12 – 5 = ?. If we tell a young learner that they can’t understand this, then they will believe us.

      They can understand this. Actually, they are much better at understanding this than we are. They have not been socialized out of understanding what is inherent to them.

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5 Responses to Two Reasons to Memorize Math Facts

  1. I fully agree that memorization of math facts is so important. In my combined first and second grade, I fully believed that understanding math does not replace memorization. Timed tests? Never, I thought, for these young and eager math students! Then I heard of a method and decided to try it. I ended up using this method for many years. Children loved taking timed tests. I believe the reason was, they kept track of their scores each day on a bar graph. This method could be for older children also. See my entry about The Joy of Timed Tests:


    • Thanks for your comments, Peggy.

      I’m a firm believer in whatever works for the child is the best way to go. And group excitement goes a long way. Some kids who wouldn’t do well with one type of timed test might do very well in a peer supported and fun way like you describe in your article.

      Thanks for sharing!

  2. I agree with both reasons. Some teachers are averse to memorization because of this big deal about “understanding”. In one such discussion, I argued that kids often do understand how adding and multiplying etc. work so exercises for comprehension do not add value – exercises for memorisation do as per above.

    Quick accurate recall add to confidence and prevent frustration.

  3. I should add that memorization should supplement efforts for understanding concepts. I do not mean to belittle the other but rather that the two – memorization and conceptual understanding – complement each other. It’s not either-or.

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4 Responses to Using Toys as Curriculum Tools to Teach Arithmetic

  1. Bon,

    I think it’s a good opportunity to introduce fraction ideas and names from the get-go. For example, 9 divided by 6 is one and one-half rather than one and three left over.
    The 3 left over need to be seen, IMO, in relation to the unit container of 6.

    • I agree, Gary. The trouble I’m having is with the words “divided by” and “goes into.” When you pour sand from one cup to the other, there is another “go into” idea there.

      I’m going to need to think on that one some more.

      But you are right – the language here would be good to include. Thanks for the comment!

    • Buy them online at http://www.tinyurl.com/dtedtoys2 – that’s an official site of mine through Discovery Toys (they don’t have an affiliate program so I became a “dealer”). Totally legit – company’s been around for >30 years.

      I hope you enjoy them, Makenna – and remember, they are guaranteed for LIFE! (that’s really the best part about them)

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