Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Math Manipulatives

The more I work with math and my children, the more I "get" why manipulatives work as well as they do. G just added 4332 and 2464 without even having the slightest idea when she sat down that she could do that. She sort of resisted at first, because although I presented the place value stampers as a game, she saw bigantous numbers and knew I was up to mischief. I am sure me telling her she was going to tell me the sum of those numbers didn't help, but I was going for the shock value of her success. Well, mischief managed. She swiftly took over the stamping and told me the sum. Then she smiled.

I've read about children in Montessori environments doing advanced calculations swiftly and accurately, but I never really understood how that works-- they're just beads-- until I began to show my own kids how it works. It's a little unnerving to go into the unknown, but so satisfying when it works. And oh, how it works! I've not wanted to make / purchase the beads because I have felt that storing them in a home situation would be too unwieldy. Today, working with stamps of a similar design, I changed my mind. This was fabulous, and fast.

I didn't spend a lot of time with manipulatives when I was a child, and math became a source of extreme difficulty for me. If you miss one small kernel of understanding, you lose the option of understanding most of what comes after. It makes me happy to see my kids not only just soak it up, but hold "math" in a sort of cavalier regard.

Edited to add links for BBB:
Base Mathematic Lesson Plans (this is not what I used for this post, we were working with a Montessori three-part lesson)

You can purchase stamps here

but one of my favorite math / science equipment purveyors is here.

I did a quick google search and found this for you, to better explain how we began what we were doing. We have the actual bead materials shown in her initial photograph, but instead of the beads described for the lesson, we were using the stampers. The current lesson, which is related today, is based on this presentation.


  1. I am so going to check lakeshore for those - I just got the catalog - although Holly will not let me even see it. She and the neighbor girl have been spending days planning our own classroom.

  2. OK I went searching for these in Lakeshore's catalog and no dice... err... stamps... no manipulatives for the base 10 stuff...

    Was your link where you bought them?

    Did it come with a lesson plan? If not, can you share your plan?

    How does G do with the basic math facts? Are they second nature to her?

    Ummm... ok no more questions right now

  3. I teach seventh grade math to a girl who had Montessori for the first half of her school experience. As we work with the algebra and pre algebra skills, she often comments on how she remembers learning "insert higher level math here" when she was in her primary grades. She grasps concepts quickly but only after she's had time really process them in her head. I have a deep appreciation for Montessori math because I've seen it in action. Waldorf does similar work with higher processing in math, too, but I find it has fewer cool toys than Montessori :)

  4. That's exciting news, Jesse. We've been dabbling with a math curriculum this year (Right Start) which is presented in the same matter-of-fact way as Montessori, but the cool toys we already have are so elegant and so very effective. I really love watching them Get It.

    Linda I updated the original post for you. Are you planning to bring her home?

  5. No, I am not planning on bring her home, but we do so much work at home. Hold on - I am just going to do a blog entry - you'll see why in a minute or two -

    you were probably wondering with my recent purchases of hundreds of leveled readers and the ed helper site....

    it would seem so - but no

  6. Thank you for posting the lesson plans and the other links - it will really help me.

    This is my current response your question - it is where I am today on the subject.

    I constantly reevaluate and if at any point I decide she would be better off at home - home she will come.

  7. That blog link was amazing. I feel like that teacher - researching, trying to understand, again and again and again.

  8. shall I be quiet now and let the rest of your friends in cyberworld and IRL - say something :-)