As much as I enjoy family projects there does come a time when I need focused
time with my third grader. Getting an hour of time, uninterrupted, can
often be difficult.
One way I get around this is to be sure that my younger child has worthwhile
things to keep her occupied when I need her to be quiet. It occurred to me
that when preschoolers interrupt lessons it is really because they want to join
I set up a math box for her inside of a clear plastic shoebox. When I need
some time with my son I can pull that down and know that my daughter will be
working quietly, at her own level, and still feel a part of the family.
So what's inside this math box that never fails to amuse and amaze?
Preschool Cuisenaire Rods
I bought a set of these at a yard sale for $2. I just knew I could work
with them even though I hadn't a clue what they were :) Later, when I
bought a set for my son I was delighted to see that the colors are the same.
This made me even MORE excited to see her enjoy them. She'll transition to
the smaller rods easily when it's time.
You can buy a set or simply make your own. A friend made me some extra
pieces to complete our used set and I painted them. A unit of one is 2 cm.
square. To create a unit of 2 you simply increase the length, keeping all
other dimensions constant. The largest unit you will need is a unit of 10 which
is 20 cm. long.
These are very fun to build with and prove to be excellent manipulatives for the
concepts of addition and subtraction. I highly recommend them.
Homemade Attribute Blocks
I've been calling our other manipulatives Attribute Blocks for lack of a better
name. They are made out of craft foam. The above picture show 2
squares and 2 triangles. All of our squares are blue. There are 4
sizes. Our triangles are red, rectangles are orange and our circles are
We've gotten a lot of mileage out of these. You can discuss size as well
as position. For example you can ask your child to help you make a
picture. You can ask them to place the LARGEST square next to the SMALLEST
circle. Working with patterns has been very fun too. The possibilities are
too numerous to mention here.
A Tape Measure
I tossed in a child size tape measure. It measures 3 feet. A variety of
objects to measure can keep my daughter happy for 30 min. or more. I still
giggle that she measures in pounds :) I just think it's great for her to
I have sturdy, foam circles that are really mini puzzles. They are about 4
inches in diameter. Each circle has 3 cutout shapes that can be easily
popped out. I keep the pieces OUT of the puzzles and she loves to put the
pieces back in. I think she enjoys mixing up the colors.
I'm also working on some self checking counting games to add to the box.
So how do we use our box?
I pull it down for her and remind her that she is welcome in the schoolroom
if she is quiet. She is free to make noise in her room or the living room.
She will play with her things making a comment to me now and again.
Usually "look what I built." AFTER I'm done with her brother I'll sit
with her and she'll tell me everything she discovered. This time together
lets me know what she is curious about, what's she's ready for. She
"explores and discovers" and then I provide the needed reinforcement.
We've been using the math box for a month or two now and it has made a big
difference in our homeschool. Now SHE has big things to tell dad at
dinner. She loves having "school" things of her own and I love having
some quiet time when I need it.