Numbers, math, adding, subtracting to solve....but what's the purpose? I have bad childhood memories learning my addition facts...using flashcards...ugh. So when thinking about my own kids, I wondered what other methods of teaching early math were out there. And what I found was Singapore Math. And the reason I like it so much is that it focuses on conceptual concepts and making sure students attach meaning to numbers.
In addition to our Singapore textbook and workbook, I also bought "Building Number Sense: Games & Activities to Practice Combinations to 10" by Catherine Jones Kuhns. And this resource has really helped me understand the importance of my son understanding how the numbers up to 10 combine together. It is this basis that all math is based on. At first glance it all seemed so simple, and overkill to focus on these skills so long. But what I'm finding is the more ways we talk about these numbers the less my son has to think about the numbers, and he just "knows." That's what I want!
While there are TONS of great activities in this book, my favorite by far is called Number Bracelets. The idea is to focus on a single number and have students explore all the number combinations that can add up to that number.
How to Make Pipe Cleaner Numbers
So for example, if eight is your focus number, you make a pipe cleaner circle with 8 beads on it, and then label it with the number. Then you can have conversations with kids about all the possible combinations the beads can make. The simplicity is that the total (eight) doesn't change; yet several number combinations can be used to add up to the number. It takes kids a while to get it, and this manipulative is a great way to SEE it.
I made two, one for me and one for my son. If you are working with a full class, I suggest making one for each child. And to make life easier, construct all the "eights" with the same color pipe cleaner and beads. That way at a glance you can be sure everyone has the right number!
See How it Works with an Example of "Eight"
Below is my green and purple "eight" pipe cleaner. You can see that by pulling the beads apart you can show:
0 + 8 = 8
1 + 7 = 8
2 + 6 = 8
3 + 5 = 8
Flip the pipe cleaner to face the other direction, and it also shows:
5 + 3 = 8
6 + 2 = 8
7 + 1 = 8
8 + 0 = 8
And if you want to get more advanced, you can see what three numbers to add up to your focus numbers. Or what four numbers...such as;
2 + 2 + 3 + 1 = 8
The first few times I used the pipe cleaner numbers with my son, we just talked about them, manipulating the beads to the right and left, and getting the concept down, that the total number doesn't change.
Now I use number bond graphics and equations so the sounds of the numbers are also being seen as symbols.
Here is the cover of Kuhns' book! I highly recommend it. I'll share more activities from it in the future.