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.

If you're a Gen-X parent, you're in the right place!

Tag Archives: toys

Graphing with the Lite-Brite

It’s not just for playtime anymore!

Drag out the old one, pick up a used Lite-Brite or grab a brand new Hasbro Lite-Brite.

Or… click to get the online Lite-Brite simulator (the technology these days!). And get ready – because that old classic is about to become your child’s favorite graphing lesson!

1. Draw a picture on a Lite-Brite template.

Download the Lite-Brite Classic Template if you have the classic toy. If you’re using the new one or the simulator, get the Lite-Brite Square Template.

Draw a picture on it in pencil. Here’s mine:

2. Determine the best peg placement.

Rough sketches don’t quite work with the peg placement. So draw the peg holes on the template as close to your lines as possible. Start noticing patterns.

3. Use colors!

Pick some good colors you’ll want to use when you’re graphing your picture. Unless you and your kids know the exact number of Lite-Brite pegs you have, in which colors, you’ll probably have to tweak this in the next few steps.

4. Figure out where to start

Here’s where things get very interesting. The peg holes are not lined up in what you would call a Cartesian coordinate plane. They’re not really in any kind of coordinate plane system. At least not that I know of.

The crazy structure in the grid doesn’t really matter. The fact that you can still count over and up to get where you want to go is what matters.

You and your children get to devise the way you count over and up.

5. Count and push!

Your child can follow the pattern on the template and push the pegs in the Lite-Brite. This offers practice for the skills they’ll use when graphing and working with the slope of a line. This is the precursor of calculus!

Notice that when I was graphing my drawing, I had to change the door from solid to hollow. I ran out of pegs. #ARG

Try it!

Find your Lite-Brite and download the template: classic or square. Post a link to your finished work in the comments and tell me how it went!

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I use this for my health after doctor told me to do it. I am very surprised with the result. . The most professional care at the world-class pharmaceutical factories of India.

7 Responses to Graphing with the Lite-Brite

  1. Bon, this is terrific! I do have an old-style Lite-Brite cube and whenever my son has friends over, they love playing with it. I’m going to try this, but will need to simplify it a bit since the kids are very young.

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2 Responses to Rush Hour Traffic Jam Game

  1. I’ve been eyeing this game for a while now, contemplating playing it with my son. Now I want it for myself :) At the same time I’m very curious to see how my son approaches this game. So looks like we’ll be trying it out in the next few days.

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2 Responses to Cuisenaire Rods

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5 Responses to Union, Intersection and the Empty Set

  1. In the paragraph “What happens with the empty set?”. I like the idea that two cups, one empty and the other with some objects in it, have nothing in common, hence the empty set as intersection!

    What puzzled me a bit is what if we try to find the intersection of two cups with all different objects in them? The result is again an empty set. Moreover, if the question arises, what are the ALL subsets of a given set, it will be {T, S, R}, {T, S}, {T, R}, {R, S}, {T}, {R}, {S}, O (empty set). Here I used your example Square, Triangle, Rectangle as a shorthand. We can see that power of set (set of all subsets) is exactly 2^3 = 8 i.e. 2^(# of elements) and this includes empty set too!

    In other words it can also be said that empty set is common element for empty set and any other set, which looks like a different statement that empty set has nothing in common with a set of objects. Actually, empty set is a subset of any set. If we empty the cup we will see that there is an empty set right there as well and that it is common with the other (empty or emptied) cup, i.e. other empty set, on the left side of intersection sign.

    • Thanks, Nash! I love the power set – just can’t get enough of it (maybe because I’m so jealous, I wanna be the Power Bon).

      You write, “it can also be said that empty set is common element for empty set and any other set.” I think you might have mistyped. The empty set is a common subset of both the empty set and any other set, but not a common element. This was the point of the previous article on empty sets. There is not an empty set inside the empty cup – the empty cup IS the empty set.

      I think you might mean that the empty set is a common element of the power sets of the empty set and any other set.

      Power set of empty set = { {} } (the set containing the empty set)
      Power set of {T, S, R} = { {T, S, R}, {T, S}, {T, R}, {R, S}, {T}, {R}, {S}, {} } (what you wrote out)

      In which case the empty sets are elements of the bigger sets – and are the intersection of the two.

  2. Fantastic examples and graphics! A person could literally scroll through and learn about unions, intersections, and the empty set just through the pictures and reading the captions. Super brilliant.

    My suggestion? “Write” a math picture book just with labels, captions and titles. It will be like summarizing novels in 160 character tweets! (or is it 140?)

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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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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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