Little House on the Co-Op Day Two

Are You A Visual-Spacial Learner?

After Rainbow Looming, the kids at Little House on the Co-Op gradually split off into groups: upstairs story-playing with Play Mobile or Lego, running around outside, and so on. K and L had been talking about Minecraft and computer sharing, and had noticed I had a tablet, so I decided to come up with this activity, which I drew up on a large poster taped to a window.   My hope was primarily to capture K’s attention as she is the most visual-spacial / move to think / big impact kid of the lot.  She was happy to help me paint the large block letters, and then was off.   I didn’t invite anyone else to pay attention at all, but just left the poster there to see if anyone would notice it.  This method of home learning is sometimes called ‘strewing’, as  redhead mum writes here:

leaving things you hope might engage your children around the house.


Sure enough, one of the girls noticed K helping and asked if she could help colour too.    Then another asked what it was, and I suggested reading the title.  Not everyone in my group likes reading, but a couple tried, and then looked at me questioningly, “What does that mean?”  Well, I said, what do those letters look like?  “Bubble letters!” said one, “No, block letters!” said another…and then they were off, gone again.   H. came over and asked if she could try it.   I said sure, just go through the questions and ask me if you don’t understand.   Soon enough, each of the kids was interested, some copying the questions, some wanting one-on-one attention, others preferring to help another.  Everyone was engaged.    To answer the first question, I suggested H.  Use the book pictured here to help:


When she figured it out, she chose to colour the three parts in, and then went on to helping the others.

Each of the four girls had a totally different approach, but each was happy to complete the exercise.  The fact that part of it was building on Minecraft was a definite incentive.    10648922_10152259799120957_2643290416815371532_o

When it came to actually figuring out the math at the end, it made sense to use Lego: manipulatives, and we all talked about whether it was easier and/or more enjoyable to do this using a mathematical equation:  3X3X3=? or 9+9+9 =?, drawings, as in the pictures above, Minecraft to build in virtual 3D or Lego.  D joined in last minute for the Lego!  What? touch and grab?!  Move in space?!  So did k!


Everyone agreed that using Minecraft was fun, but using Lego was the best!   They all agreed that they were Visual-Spacial learners, and that using Manipulatives or as C said, “using a toy that I am familiar with really helped.”

Not everyone really wanted to complete the arithmetic part of this activity, but neither did they reject it, or feel over-whelmed, going through this process of looking and feeling what a cube is, allowed them to access the abstract math in a way that they wouldn’t have, if I had simply said, “Ok, folks, today we are going to learn what 3 to the power of 3 mean, or three cubed!!  Ya know what i mean?

This lesson would have been perfect if I could have added another two components: 1) Large chalk drawings on the street or a wall, and 2) Moving huge blocks in a gym / big muscle room.  Both of these whole body activities would have engaged the shakers, movers, and high impact kids that benefit most from moving in space even more!

I never did “finish off”  with the teaching component as I would if I’d been doing this in a school setting:   Ok, kids, this is acute right?  It’s three across, three high, and three deep. It’s 3D, right?  it has three dimensions.  We can draw it like this.  we can say it like this.  The math equation is this:  3x3x3, or Three cubed, or Three to the power of Three!!!

Why didn’t I?  Hhhm? laziness?  They were off doing something else..?  they aren’t ready for that info?  They don’t really care?  I mean they’re only grade 2,3,4 kids!    Well, frankly, because there’s no need.  My goal was to ignite the notion that there’s more than one way to look at math, that using visuals and manipulatives help, that creating relationships between things they love and know, like Lego and Minecraft and math is the most important.  And, that finally giving them the chance to see, look, feel, touch, and make cubeness is the beginning and should be common knowledge long before learning the actual abstract math.

What do you think?   I’d love to hear from you.   Do let me know in the comments below if you try this with your kids.


Little House on the Co-Op Day One

Rain Bow Loom:  The Power of Hand Work

Hi everyone,

I apologize for not posting more often.  As many of you know the strike is now over, and regular school will resume on Monday.  While I am happy that teachers and students can get back to business and parents need no longer worry, a part of me is sad to say good-bye to my Strike Days’ adventures in home learning.   From now on it’ll just be weekend and sick days adventures in home learning….;)

Still, I have lots of posts waiting to be published.   I haven’t been here blogging in part because I was busy hanging with a small group of kids over at Little House on the Co-Op.  It was so much fun, the closest so far to my fantasy of home schooling with a small group of kids!   H, one of the oldest said it best: “Belinda, I love doing this, it’s almost like school but even better.  You’re teaching us stuff all the time, there are so many activities to do, but we don’t have to do them if we don’t want to!”

Well, day one started with an intense Rainbow Loom skills trade:

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I knew Rainbow Loom would be a great thing to start with as it’s something most kids have in common these days.   Everyone has something to teach, everyone has something to learn.  it’s hands on and suits many learning styles.  I was right.  The kids spent a good two hours working, creating gifts, comparing projects, peer-teaching and negotiating use of the computer, as well as peer-teaching computer skills.

For those who are new to the idea of children learning at home, or even project-based learning at school, this is a fantastic example of the many lessons of socialization: listening, patience, turn-taking, honouring each other’s process, wrangling hands-off and hands-on learning, trading knowledge, observing reasons for making / doing / creating.  Some make to give, others make to teach, others make because they just can’t help fiddling.

This brings me to my most important point: Children who often have a hard time sitting still and focussing on detailed work benefit enormously from Rainbow Loom or other finger work such as knitting, whittling, carving, weaving, beading, lego, rubiks’ cube and so on, where learners / makers sit for extended periods of time using only their hands and eyes.  In traditional school settings most of this kind of work is writing, drawing, math.  There is little art, crafts or making.  Now of course we have typing and gaming as well on computers.

What are the advantages to this kind of focused hand work or fine-motor skills?  How does this work fit in with the value of using manipulatives?  Moving objects in space, using your hands, your tactile sense to make sense of concepts that would otherwise perhaps be too abstract?

Stay tuned for more on this discussion..and absolutely feel free to join in – I’d love to hear your comments.

A Subject Kids Love: Math???? D’s Try

Here’s the up date: My son hates, hates, hates math.  Read on to find out what went wrong!

Do your kids love Math? I know my son has grown to hate it….see yesterday’s post below for the details.

I’m not sure if my son will want to do this one!! 😦 If your kid does, I’d be happy to post the results, so feel free to give it a whirl. Well, frankly, he did not at all. I offered to do it with him, but he preferred to sit alone at the computer. Here are his responses to yesterday’s questions and math challenges in italics:

– How do you feel about Math?

i really don’t like math.

– If you’re entering Grade Four this year (like my son), what do you remember from last years school math?

not much just a few things.

– Can you do addition with multi-digit numbers?


Let’s try this one: 536 + 398 = ?

i seriously can not do this

I’d like you to try a few techniques and tell me which ones work best for you.


1) Guess-timating

Round the numbers up or down: is it easier to add 550 to 400? What does that equal roughly? Will the exact answer be a little higher or lower?


2) Adding in columns / Carrying

I’m guessing this is the way most of us have been taught in school. Do you add the ones column first or the hundreds? Does it help to write the numbers in each column in a different colour? When you add the six and eight in the ones column, you get 14, which is more than 9, what do you do?

i start at the left and move to the right thats all.


3) Manipulatives / Using Your hands to Move Things around

Sort coloured paper squares and strips like these ones made from graph paper into ones-red, tens-blue, hundreds-green. Move them around so that they represent our numbers as shown. i don’t understand


5oo + 30 + 6 300 + 90 + 8

Then add the hundreds squares in green, how many hundreds do you have?

dont understand

When you count up all the tens strips in blue, what do you get?

dont understand


And the red ones, how many are there, what do you do now?

dont understand

4) Counting Money

For many, counting money is simply more fun because it’s more real! More useful!

Which bills and how many of each would you need to make $536?

5 hundreds 1twenty 1 ten 1 five 1 one

How many $500 bills? How many $20 dollar bills, $10s, $5s, loonies etc.

1 1 1 1 and 1

Now do the same with the $398. You could write up a list or draw pictures of the bills, or

use real money (if you have that much kicking around! ;))

3 hundreds 4 twentys 1 ten 1 five 3 loonies

5) Word Problems

Now lets look at it one last way for today. You’re saving up money to buy you own computer, and it’s taking forever. You $900 dollars. Your grandmother has given you $500, you got $30 for mowing the lawn next door, you found $6 in change on your bedroom floor – strange, you’ve been saving your weekly allowance of $10 for 9 weeks, and your little sister emptied her piggy bank for your birthday and gave you all she had – $8! Wasn’t that sweet?! Your dad has said he’s give you $300 for the cause. How much more money do you need to get before you can buy your computer?

the question is not how much money you need to get before you can get the computer the question is how much is the computer.

(This one made me happy, because at least I know he read the question properly and found the mistake I made! I should have written You need $900! So, of course, D’s answer was correct.)

6) Khan Academy Video lesson

Follow this link to watch the video. How does watching someone else’s instructions, hearing their voice help? Does it help to be able to pause and rewind?

Ok, so I left D to tackle this alone, and by the time he was done, he was miserable and super frustrated. I asked him if he’d tell me which ways worked best and he could hardly speak, and wanted to avoid me. This is often how he feels in school around math too, and when I ask him about Math at school or doing Arithmatic, Subtraction,Multiplication and so on, he often balks, freezes up, and sometimes just collapses. He HATES it! I let him calm down a bit, and then asked him if he’d do the manipulative part with me, as he hadn’t actually used the pieces of paper, he was still feeling blocked, but slowly moved into doing it with me, and obviously understood. he then admitted that using the manipulatives was the best way, and that he can do it in columns too. But then he simply wanted to get away and avoid any more discussion on math! My learning objective today wasn’t to make sure D could do this kind of addition, it was to remind myself how many approaches to teaching actually cause the wrong result. I’m not sure yet how to rekindle my son’s love of math. I mean he really gets into visual-spacial stuff, geometry, patterns and so on, but does not like doing equations! His block is so profound that he basically breaks down as soon as he hits a small wall, and is not willing to struggle through it. If he was an unschooling home learner, I’d simply drop the subject and focus on other forms f math for now. But he’s not he’s returning to school as soon as the strike ends.

If I could go back and redo this, i would do it with my son, at a table, where we’d discuss the choices, and he’d show me the way he needed. if you have acid that struggles with Math, i suggest you do this.

Later on, I asked D’s permission to post this here, and he agreed. I asked him what he’d learned and he said dimly that I don’t like Math. 😦

So, after trying these with your kid, or letting her/him try them themselves, I’d love to know which ways helped them the most? Do they use other techniques? which way is the most fun? Which was is the most clear? Which was is the most efficient?

I look forward to hearing from you.