Tactile Math

Saturday, June 23, 2018


This year we homeschooled for the second half of first grade. When we started homeschooling, I knew that an area that needed work was math. My son's school work showed that he did not have a real understanding of math concepts. Talking through things, drawing things... neither kept his interest and neither moved him forward. What would hold his attention were manipulatives.

Manipulatives are objects designed to help a learner understand a concept by being about to touch and play with an object that represents that concept.

How many ways can you show 23?

We started with Montessori Golden Beads, and moved on to ten frames, tiles, interlocking cubes and then finally an abacus. The Golden Beads were essential, to begin with, to reinforce that idea of base ten. The day he asked me, "Why is ten such an important number?" I knew that we were doing well and that he was gaining a real understanding of how our number system worked.

Now, months later, we are at a place in the math journey where he has moved on to abstraction and is doing many of the calculations in his head with no manipulatives. When he realized he could do math in his head, he was very excited. He moved on to abstraction naturally when he was ready. (He's welcome to go back to manipulatives at any time and sometimes does.)

I'm a big fan of manipulatives for math. Before bringing in manipulatives, my son was just was not understanding math. He didn't like it. There was no way to connect him to it. There was no way to hold his attention. 

If your little one tries to avoid math work, try reaching their inner math wiz with some math manipulatives. Montessori suppliers and Singapore Math (they have a cheaper, plastic version of the Golden Beads) both offer a wide selection of manipulatives for purchase.

My son working with a Montessori abacus.



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