Midway through the year, we switched to Math Mammoth’s Blue Series and as of a couple of weeks ago, we finished up what constitutes their “first grade” books, which are Addition, Subtraction, Place Value 1.  I didn’t love all the methods in the place value book.  We switched pretty quickly to using our abacuses, which the notes in the book vaguely suggest you can do.  We also sped ahead somewhat and added much bigger numbers than they suggested, in part because the Math Mammoth drawing out the number method really limits how big your numbers can be while the abacus does not.

We could move on to what Math Mammoth deems the second grade material, which is mainly addition and subtraction with larger numbers.  However, I’d rather play around with some other topics and let the really basic numbers keep sinking in for Mushroom and BalletBoy by playing games and letting them do real world math as it arises.  We covered enough measurement to last us for years, but we could stand to do a little more with geometry and money, so I’ll take us on a little detour with those in the coming weeks.  Plus, they have specifically asked to do more logic, having flown through Lollipop Logic very quickly.

The last couple pages of the Math Mammoth place value book introduce the idea of reading and making simple bar graphs.  So we made that our first detour.  I took a few books about graphs out of the library for the kids, but the best, by far, was The Great Graph Contest by Loreen Leedy.  The more we use her books, the more I adore them.  This one is a lot like Measuring Penny in that it takes a concept and explores it in a bunch of different ways.  The kids (well, animals, really) in the story get into a contest of making ever more elaborate graphs.

We started with the Math Mammoth basic bar graphs and I asked the kids to come up with something to record.  They both decided to record how many servings of each food group they ate in a day.  I’m posting a picture even though I feel like it doesn’t make me look like I provided the most healthy food day, honestly.

We then took that idea further and the kids dreamed up a survey to ask and record an even bigger bar graph about.  They had a good time polling.

But drawing from the Loreen Leedy book, we also ran around the house making graphs out of real objects, like the characters in the book do.  We made a stacked graph of all the board games (Lego games, card games, puzzles, solo games and other games).  Then we made a Venn diagram of them (games with cards, games with cards and other pieces, games with just other pieces).  Then the kids ran around the house making graphs of other items.  Here’s the one BalletBoy made of books he’s reading currently (there are five of them) and books Mushroom is reading currently (also five!).

And here’s the bar graph of all the shoes in the house and who they belong to (yes, it was made on my bed, which just made me scratch my head, but whatever).  That long bar in the middle is mine (and he didn’t even go into my closet to find my lesser used shoes!).  After this, we rearranged them into a different graph of sandals, shoes and boots.

Overall, this was a fun topic for us.  I’m hoping geometry is similarly enjoyable yet mathy.  We already broke out the geoboards we made with the kids’ grandfather at the end of last summer.

9 thoughts on “Graph-o-mania

  1. I would love to start some logic activities with my boys. I was looking at Lollipop Logic on Amazon but couldn’t really tell if it would be the right level for them. Do you think that it would be a good starting place for boys working that their traditional grade levels (1st and 2nd) or to easy? I have check out many of you recommendations and loved them. So, what would you recommend?

    1. Lollipop Logic is pretty simple, but I feel like even if it’s easy for a first grader, it wouldn’t be boring – and for some it would be slightly challenging. After all, I think it’s introducing some things that kids aren’t asked to do exactly in other things. It’s cheap since it’s just one consumable workbook, so that’s a plus if it turns out to be not the best thing, you know? I’ve heard from others that the various things from the Critical Thinking Company are really good – but most of them are a slightly bigger investment, so I haven’t done any of them yet, though we may in the near future.

  2. Very cool projects!
    We started with Blue as well, but I quickly ended up moving to the Light Blue b/c I felt we were jumping around a bit too much with the Blue. At this point we’re doing Light Blue and Teaching Textbooks (except the 1st grader). My 1st grader loves making graphs of everything under the sun! She had one with pages of books, one with eyelashes (don’t ask me how accurate that one is), and more.

  3. Oh, that looks like so much fun! We’ll have to get that book and see if it inspires Alex as well.

    Which of your boys is reading The Secrets of Droon? Alex LOVES those books. We keep having to listen to very lengthy and confusing descriptions of the plot.

    1. BalletBoy is reading them (they’d be too hard for Mushroom as yet). He’s only on book 3, I think, though I have also had to listen to some confusing plot descriptions. He’s not the fastest reader (about two or three chapter books a week at most) and he gets picky about books. I don’t know if he’ll really sustain his interest in them, but we’ll see. Stink and Judy Moody are his perennial favorites so far.

  4. I shall look for this book this weekend! We just started the section on graphs in MM, so this is perfect timing! Thanks!

  5. I love all your ideas for class bar graphs! Your class must be a great place to be. I’m retired now but taught for many years. Here is my blog about a class graph children really enjoyed:

    My combined first and second grade children had an enjoyable time making bar graphs using a class list. Graphing allowed children to organize and classify data to be shared with the class.

    After an initial explanation about the graphs, we brainstormed all the data that could be used about our class, such as: birthdays, brothers and sisters, favorite school lunches, favorite TV programs, etc. Then, when children had a good idea, each would be given a class list and a graph. The graphs had ½”squares with spaces at the bottom for the data and numbers on the left hand side. They would write, or have help writing, the data before canvassing their classmates and coloring in the appropriate squares.

    One time Ruth, a first grader, wrote down different types of underwear. The other first graders answered without batting an eye, but the second graders looked mortified and exchanged the strangest looks with each other, but they each chose what type they wore and didn’t say anything unpleasant to Ruth.

    After sharing their graphs with the class, they were displayed for all to see the variations of class data.

    See more about the math program in my book, Early Childhood Programs: Opportunities for Academic, Cognitive, and Personal Success. Included is a web site where a bar graph can be downloaded for a class. Also, see 7 reviews on

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