Let’s Celebrate Math in April

April 16, 2012 at 13:56 | Posted in ALEX Toys, Little Hands | Leave a comment
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By Margaret R. Sáraco

Good news! April is Mathematics Education Month and there is no better time to begin engaging your child’s or children’s imaginations with math concepts and games. I often have to help children battle their math anxiety away. Even in my middle school classroom we create math art and play math games to support their confidence in math. Research has found that reading to your children insures success in school.  My belief is that playing math games with your children will also help them be successful in mathematics and, above all, enjoy it—and learn not to fear it. Children are natural scientists and will explore if given the opportunity. Give them the chance.

ALEX® offers three products in their Little Hands preschool line – Ready, Set, Write, 123 Flashcards and Match & Stack that I think will help young children explore math while having fun. Besides being entertaining, all three products, are colorful and visually pleasing.

I really appreciate the Ready, Set, Write Activity Book because it encourages children to copy letters and numbers on wipe away pages from A-to-Z and up to twelve.  While it is important to understand basic counting young children need to know how to count beyond ten.

The 123 Flashcards have a similar focus. This time the children are asked questions about what they see and feel on the cards.  Contextualizing an idea helps ideas stick for everyone. Some toy companies may have directed the children to  see the one cat on the card, which is not as good as what ALEX® poses, “How many cats do you see? Can you pet the cat one time? Does the cat feel hard or soft?” which engages the child while exploring the number one. And finally, their trademark ALEX monkey poses a question on each card. “Can you hold up one finger?” he asks, extending their knowledge to make an association between one finger and one cat, a very important skill.

The Match & Stack item, is a wonderful math manipulative.  Mathematics is the science of patterns, not numbers.  Numbers fit a particular pattern.  With Match & Stack, children can create all kinds of patterns with the blocks. A child can create three-dimensional sculptures or purposely mix it up–zebra, lion, zebra, lion, for example. There are numbers on every cube, which increase in size as their numbers increase, emphasizing how numbers and size compare. On every stacking cube there is a picture with the number of items that correspond to the number cube–another pattern to be explored.

My favorite part of this toy is that it teaches children about the volume of an object because the largest cube is filled  with the stacking cubes.  Children might go so far to figure out how many of the little cubes fit inside the big cube. Observing a child’s play with this product provides parents with insights into how your child is beginning to understand their world. Whether they create different stacking creations, hide boxes within boxes, or creating a train of boxes, you will find yourself wanting to play with them.

Most importantly, don’t leave these toys home in the toy chest, take them on the road with you.  Whether you are going in the car or on an airplane, engaging your child’s mind will make the trip entertaining. Math is fun!

Bio: Margaret R. Sáraco is an award winning middle school mathematics teacher, adjunct professor and a published writer for over twenty years.  She and her husband live in Montclair, New Jersey,  and are the parents of two children, ages 13 and 21.

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