Saturday, May 28, 2011

Refrigerator Abacus

My math teacher heart has been happy lately as Eli has been showing a great interest in numbers.  He is frequently asking me things like:
  • What comes after 39?  49?  59?  (I love how is he is spotting the pattern of tens.)
  • What is 5 + 8?  (or any combination of numbers he comes up with)
  • What is between 8 and 9?
  • How much is 100?
As a former middle school math teacher, I can hardly contain myself when he asks these types of questions.  In fact, I have always been curious about how young a child can learn algebraic concepts.  Oh my poor, poor, guinea pig children.  One of our favorite driving-in-the-van games is "What is Bigger?"  I will ask Eli, "What is bigger...5 or 11?"  We will also play "What is Smaller?"  It is fun to see his grasp of number concepts growing.  To help Eli visualize the idea of addition, we made a Refrigerator Abacus.

Here's what it looks like:
So, I taped two green boxes onto the fridge, using painter's tape, with an addition sign taped in between.  Each box has the numbers 1 - 6 that can be put inside.  I then tied fishing line from the fridge handle to a magnetic hook, with 12 beads strung on it.  You want to make sure that you have enough beads to represent the largest sum that could be made.  The biggest we could do would be 6 + 6, hence 12 beads on our abacus.  I had wanted to be able to do 10 + 10, but when I strung 20 beads on the string, it covered most of the width of the fridge, not allowing much room for moving the beads around.
A closer look at the numbers and boxes:
Each set of numbers 1- 6 was done in a different color with a matching strip in each box.  That way, the kids would know to which side the numbers belonged. 
My vision for this was that I would call out numbers to Eli, he would put the numbers in the boxes, and then use the beads to find the sums.  We made a little video so you could see how we are using our abacus.  The video is a bit shaky because, as we were videoing, I realized that our full trash can was right out the open.  Oops and Sorry.  Also, thank you to Abby for her keyboard accompaniment. 

I had hoped that Eli would be playing with this a lot, excitedly working with and exploring number sums.  That has not been the case.  Apparently, he is not as nerdy as I am, prefering to play with his Legos than do math at the refrigerator.    But, if I catch him in the right moment, or if he asks me an addition question that we can work out on the fridge, he will cooperate.  Abby, however, might be as nerdy as me, becuase she loves to play with the numbers and move the beads.  That's my girl.

All in all, it's been fun.  What I might need, though, is a WALL Abacus so that we can work with bigger numbers.  We'll save that one for another day...

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