Here are some homemade math manipulatives I created for L and E (30 months old).
I've decided to use the RightStart Math curriculum for the girls. It is based on hands-on learning using lots of math manipulatives (and an abacus, too!). I'm really excited about this curriculum, but I'll talk more about that in another post. Level A is supposed to be for Kindergarteners, but we've already done the first 3 lessons and the girls are really enjoying it and are grasping the concepts just fine. A big part of the curriculum is to condition the brain to identify groups of objects instead of always count them. I wanted to create some of my own manipulatives to help reinforce grouping and sorting concepts.
These little hearts are made from Crayola Model Magic. It's an air-dry 'clay' that has the feel of foam when it is dry (and doesn't break if dropped). We used the same technique to make Christmas ornaments a couple months ago. I rolled the modeling compound out with a rolling pin and punched out shapes with a cookie cutter. Then I pressed different numbers of 'gems' into each one:
The girls didn't help me with this project, but they had a good time making their own creations out of the modeling material:
Back to the Math Hearts. There's no correct way to play this 'game', but here are a couple things we did. First I'd show them one heart and ask them how many jewels it has (without counting). The girls are really good at identifying groups of 1-3, but still working on groups of 4 and 5 (with the RightStart Math program, everything is based on 5s and 10s, which is how Asians are taught to do math, so once we can identify groups up to 5, we can do all types of operations fairly quickly). Then I put all the hearts down on the table and we sorted them in different ways - by heart color, by gem color, by gem shape, and by the number of gems. After sorting them into groups I asked questions about which group had the most and least, how many are left if we take one away, etc.. In future play, we'll do some ordering and sequencing activities with these manipulative as well. They are so versatile! I have a feeling that the girls (especially E) will want to pretend they are cookies as well and feed them to their stuffed animals - which is fun too!
UPDATE: I was so inspired by how much my kids enjoyed playing "IQ games" that I created the La La Logic Critical Thinking Curriculum for 3-6 year olds, which includes online brain challenge games, printable worksheets, enrichment activities and more!