Thursday, February 23, 2012

Balancing Bears

We are starting to learn about weight in our math curriculum. I was able to find a really neat weight kit at Smart Start that had bear counters of 3 different sizes (Papa, Mama, and Baby), a balance scale, and a book full of activities for grades K-3. It was PERFECT for learning about weight. I started by explaining how you can tell which side weighs more and how to tell if they weigh the same. We used the baby bears and put the same number on both sides, and then changed up how many on just one side. Then, I had Benjamin experiment with household objects. He held them in his hand and had to tell which one he thought was the heaviest and then use the scale to determine if he was correct.

After introducing the scale and talking about the terminology (heavier than, lighter than, and as heavy as or the same), I followed the lesson plan set forth in the book that came with the kit. The name of the book is Three Bear Family Math Activities: K-3 from Learning Resources. The name of the activity was "Bear Balance." What I liked about this activity is that we used the balancing learned earlier to fill out a chart (another math skill we have been working on) and then using the pattern set forth (using multiples of 2) to predict how many bears will balance out the other side. It's a real-world type comparison that involves more than one math skill. It also included a cute story that the kids had to listen to in order to complete the activity. Since listening comprehension is always something we need to work on with Ben, it was perfect.

We soon discovered that 2 Baby bears is the same weight as one Mama bear and that 3 Baby bears is the same weight at 1 Papa bear. By the time that we figured out the 3rd number on the chart, Benjamin realized that the pattern was skip counting by two's and was able to accurately predict how many bears we needed for the next number of Mama bears. He was so excited that he figured it out all on his own! Also new for today, Ben wrote the numbers on the chart by himself! He wanted to do it and now has enough confidence in his writing to do so! I am finally seeing an end in site to the number stamping we have been using for him to complete his math assignments.

The bears and scales are available on Learning Resources' website. I have never bought a set of counting manipulatives because I have found them to be expensive and I have been able to create or use everyday objects instead. However, I might just be convinced enough to buy these manipulatives or at the very least borrow them often. Having three sizes of manipulatives in lots of colors with the ratio between the weight and size being fixed makes them worth it in my mind. There were lots of good activities in the books, but I can already think of lots more that were not in there.

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