Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Colorful Shape Mobile

So we are taking a break from number sense in math and working on geometry for a little. First Sprout is a very visual learner, so geometry comes naturally in a way that numbers do not. The break has two purposes. First, it allows First Sprout to feel more confident and competent in math. For the first time since school started, math is exciting and fun. Second, it gives me the opportunity to step back and figure out some new strategies for helping her to feel that same sense of confidence and competence in other areas of math as well. I think that part of the challenge is developmental-- conservation still hasn't clicked. So while First Sprout can perform most grade-level math operations, it still requires lots of concrete objects and manipulatives. She still needs proof that 3 + 4 and 4+3 equal the same amount. She still needs reminders on one-to-one correspondence. As a result, organization and carefulness are a huge challenge for us with math.

Thankfully, I have time and flexibility at my disposal. I have the luxury of giving her individual attention and gentle reminders. First Sprout has been working really hard at math, but switching to geometry gives her a break from all of that hard work. It just comes more naturally!

So we have been busy playing with tangrams and pattern blocks, counting sides and angles. Today, we read the perennial teacher favorite, The Greedy Triangle by Marilyn Burns and did a really fun art project. We made a colorful shape mobile.

Here's how the mobile looks hanging from the light over our dining room table.


- 1 or 2 clean, clear milk jugs
- scissors
- permanent markers
- work mat, table cloth, or cookie sheet (to protect your table from the markers... use something that's dedicated or will be dedicated to crafting!)
- single hole punch
- twine, yarn, or string for hanging

Fun for the whole family; however, I highly recommend protecting your work surface!


1. Once your milk jug is clean, use scissors to cut shapes. I cut a variety of circles, triangles, and quadrilaterals (even an octagon or two), but you could cut out whatever shapes suit you. I made a variety of sizes ranging from 1-4" so that we could compare the essential attributes of each shapes.

2. This step is optional, but I had First Sprout sort the shapes before we started. She chose to begin by separating the round shapes from the polygons. Then she sorted the polygons into triangles, quadrilaterals, and octagons. Then she sorted the quadrilaterals even further into trapezoids, parallelograms, rectangles, and squares. It was a math vocabulary workout for both of us!

3. Use an old cookie sheet or table cloth to protect your work surface. Color the shapes using permanent markers. All three sprouts and I got involved in this step. It's a great opportunity to reinforce color and patterns with littler ones.

4. Punch a hole into the colorful shapes, string with yarn or twine, and display any way you choose. We made a mobile, but it could easily be a garland as well. Enjoy your math-tastic work of art!

So pretty with the light shining through. I think we'll enjoy looking at this for a long time.

We are all really happy with the results, and it is adding to the string of successes (seewhatIdidthere) we've had with geometry. I am looking forward to posting more ideas pairing books and activities for learning about shapes. If you have any requests, let me know in the comments!

Happy Learning!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

My Holiday Wish List For Us All

Body Love

May we stop criticizing how we look (especially in front of children). There are so many ways to be beautiful and so many ways to be healthy. Let's quit the body shaming and show love for all levels of ability and sizes and types of bodies.

Hard Emotions 

May we all have a friendly ear and a shoulder to cry on for those hard days, so that we can in turn be that friendly ear or that warm shoulder. Feeling anger, sadness, and frustration do not make you a bad person. Let's all be a little more gentle with ourselves and each other.


May we all give and receive respect. Sometimes it's hard to respect someone when we may not agree with or understand their choices. We all make mistakes. But we are all human, and we all deserve basic human dignity and access to safe, clean, loving spaces to exist.


May we all have the courage to ask hard questions and stand up to defend others. Maybe you choose to share links on social media or maybe you join in with a protest or maybe you write to your local congress person. Maybe you just do the best you can to make it through each day with the challenges you face. Courage has many forms.


May we all have the opportunity to exercise empathy every day. Take a few moments and put yourself in someone else's position-- with compassion rather than judgement. Read stories from the first person point of view, seeking authors who have different lives and perspectives than yours. It's hard to find narratives from people of color or people who practice non- Judeo Christian religions or people of different body sizes or ability levels, but it's worth it.

Happy Holidays (whatever you may choose to celebrate) from our family to yours!