Sunday, May 5, 2013

Simple Water Bead Math


"The essence of mathematics is not to make simple things complicated, but to make complicated things simple."
-S. Gudder

Q: How do we make something complicated, such as math, simple for children?  A: Create an easy opportunity for play.  By offering familiar objects in new ways to children, and making those items accessible for kids to use independently at their convenience, it can help ease the complicated nature of deciphering numbers in an interesting and inviting way.  


My five year old can't keep his hands out of a container full of water beads, a simple, concrete object to capture his attention for potential math play.


Most of the time we use a large bowl or tray for water beads.  An egg carton is perfect for sorting purposes, so I simply labeled a sheet of white paper with numbers and slid it underneath to match up with the cups of the carton.  A cardboard or Styrofoam carton can simply be labeled right on the bottom of the openings, but I like the see through carton.  A clear carton can be used over and over in different ways by changing what I write on the paper underneath.

Measuring spoons and plastic tweezers that open wide enough to pick up water beads are great options as tools for fine motor practice, and are available for children with varying abilities to choose from.

These items can be used for simple games of:

  • Number recognition
  • Guessing how many can fit in a cup
  • Using the carton as an opportunity to teach the term "dozen."
By adding a mixture of different colored water beads, there is opportunity for:
  • Color matching and sorting
  • Letter and sound recognition (such as the example below)



The Imagination Tree has other great ideas related to egg carton math, as well as Learn With Play At Home in their playful math series.

Do you use egg cartons with your kids as a simple way to play with math?  What games have you tried?

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