HANDS-ON COUNTING WITH MATH MATS

Tuesday, June 20, 2017 / Leave a Comment
At the beginning of every year in my classroom, well usually ALL year, I have students that are working one to one correspondence, identifying numbers and counting to 10. For my students that take a lot of practice to get this skill, doing the same counting activities over and over again can cause them to become burnt out on the idea of learning to count before they even master the skill. 



To keep things fun and engaging during our Math Rotations, I like to use a variety of different manipulatives. This year, I got a ton of stuff to use at my station during math, and it kept my students eager to come back to me everyday (hellllllo reinforcement).


My all time favorite supplies to use during math are dice and multicolored counters. I got the ones included in this post from Oriental Trading. Did y'all know they had school stuff?!

Students rarely do worksheets when they come to my station of our math rotations. I want them moving, engaged, and having fun, because that’s when they LEARN!  Of course, I have them practice their skills again independently at other stations through fun file folder activities, independent workbooks, and cut and paste activities, but when they are with me, WE HAVE FUN with math! Of course, all the other stations are still fun, too!

I love using math mats and number dice during instruction. I can gear them towards my students’ high interests to keep them motivated to work, and then I let them earn free time with the “toys,” or math manipulatives. Below are a few favorites of ours - you can grab them for free at the end of the post!



To start off, I use dice for literally every activity we do. Not only can I use the dice for my young babes still learning to count, but I can use them for my older kiddos that are working on place value, addition/subtraction, multiplication/division, money, time… AH SO MANY SKILLS. 


You guys… they honestly make every possible kind of dice on Oriental Trading's site. I have regular dice, number dice, number word dice, number sense dice… BIG DICE, little dice, and the list goes on and on (#diceobsessed)

Please note: While I did receive these item at no cost, all opinions in this post are 100% my own.

Back to the counting mats… here are a few of my favorites (and they are free downloads -woop woop!)

Download the printable below and grab those rubies from here.




My students are seriously obsessed with using the gems. 


They will do anything I ask to get to play with these guys. (PS - they make amazing sensory bins for shapes, colors, or just like… fun).

Download the printable below and grab the raceway erasers from here


This one is definitely a win for all my boys. I like that I can sneak in some math stories when doing this mat with students (i.e. There are 2 red cars and 3 blue cards on the race track. How many cars are there altogether?).

Download the printable below and grab the google eyes for super cheap here.

I mean, even I’m obsessed with google eyes. My students go nuts when they roll a higher number and the monster’s face is covered with eye balls! 

As with any of these mats, if you have more than one kiddo at a group or even if you are working one on one with a student, prep two copies of the mats and play war! It’s a perfect way to introduce more/less concepts!

Download the printable below and grab the colorful stacking chips from Oriental Trading here


This one is definitely my personal favorite. I’m obviously obsessed with rainbow colors, so the fact that I can use rainbow colored chips just makes me the happiest. 


This is another one that I like to sneak in some basic addition/subtraction. 


Side note: These stacking chips from Oriental Trading came in a box of something crazy, like 500 maybe, and could be used for so many different activities. For my more advanced students, I have been having them stack them into tens and doing place value practice. 



Click on the image above to grab your free MATH MATS! Be sure to tag me @teachingspecialthinkers to share how you use them!

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3 Easy STEM Centers Using Wacky Links

Wednesday, May 24, 2017 / 1 comment
My students love building. Legos, pattern blocks, playdoh... basically anything that is hands on. I love incorporating any type of manipulative into their learning, so I was super excited to give Wacky Links a try. 


In the past few weeks, we have done three different STEM activities using Wacky Links and they have been all the rage in our classroom.


Before I introduce any new manipulatives into our independent rotations, I let them explore them a bit. This way, when I actually want them to do a structured activity, they actually do it. 


Wacky Links are super easy to use and SUPER easy to take apart and reset, which is a big deal for this busy teacher. You can cut them, wash them, and reuse them over and over again, OR you can let students make their creations and take them home to show off!


The first center we completed was building 2D and 3D shapes. A few of my kindergarten students just finished up their Geometry unit, so it was great timing to see how their learning would transfer over. 


In this center, the students had flashcards to reference, and they had the challenge to try a 3D shape. You can grab these shape flashcards for free at the end of this post. 






I was SUPER impressed with their abilities!


I pulled out our 3D shapes and noticed some of the students using them to figure out how to assemble the 3D shapes. I get so excited when I see their determination and the wheels in their heads turning!

The second center was introduced during our reading rotations. The students had to make their names out of the Wacky Links


I loved seeing how they recreated the letters.

Sometimes when they got stuck on the letter it helped to write it down so they could visualize a plan for creating it. 


The most common center I've used is "Free Build."

Please note: While I did receive these sets at no cost, all opinions in this post are 100% my own.

During our math rotations, I have two centers that involve independent tasks. Students have a specific amount of work to do, and then they get to do a choice STEM activity. 


I'm sure you can guess which activity they like to choose.


If you want to grab the printable I used for the centers, click below.


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Butterfly Observation Journal Freebie

Monday, May 22, 2017 / Leave a Comment

Like most primary grades in the spring time, we are learning all things life cycle. Butterflies, ladybugs, plants, preying mantis..... ALL THE THINGS.


At our school, they set up an "observation station" in the multipurpose room, so students could look at the caterpillars daily to see the life cycle take place. We also have preying mantis eggs we are waiting to see hatch (eek!)


Watching my students so into the caterpillars is one of my favorite things about Spring. So many fun activities to teach!


I decided to incorporate their high interest into a writing opportunity. Every day, they go to the observation area and write about what they observe. My teacher assistant facilitates this process. 

On each journal entry, they circle the stage of the life cycle, describe what they observe, and draw a picture.


"I saw six caterpillars. I think they are gross yucky and terrible."

Kids are so truthful - I love it!



For my lovelies that aren't quite writing yet or on PECS, I made two versions. In the second version, they have pictures to choose from.




Click below to grab the freebie journal!

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Ladybug Length Measurement Creativity

Saturday, May 20, 2017 / Leave a Comment

I love doing crafts with my students as much as possible. I try to add some writing activity to each craft, but I also wanted to tie in math to some of our crafts as well. 


Right now, we have been working on measuring the length of objects. Some of my younger students are using blocks to do non-standard measurement.


My older students are working on measuring to the nearest inch. Our vocabulary story the past few weeks involved ladybugs, and we had been talking about the life cycle of ladybugs, so I decided a ladybug craft was necessary.



With this activity, I was able to tie in our math lesson with the craft. I love how they turned out! They look awesome outside our classroom. 

Scroll to end to download the freebie! 






Click on the picture to download the freebie measurement activity!




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