# Polyhedra in the Meantime

Here’s another post that languished without me getting around to posting it for a couple of weeks.  But hey, now it gets to have a pretty picture of some geometry adorning our Christmas tree, so it’s more festive now anyway.

BalletBoy has hit a bit of a math wall.  He’s been slowly trudging his way through Math Mammoth Blue.  He made it through nearly all of the parts of the various special topic books, like Clocks and Measurement, and through both the Place Value 3 and Multiplication 1 books, which are the heart of the third grade sequence, along with Division.

Then we hit a snag.  He knows his facts, but memorization has never been his strong suit.  He can run through the whole multiplication table with the flash cards in about six minutes.  But it’s not good enough to get him through division, which is so slow it’s at frustration level for him.  He’s only made it through half of the book and the second half will be even slower going.  Thus the the need for some breaks.

In the meantime, while we run drills and practiced things, we’ve had more of a chance to look at some of our other resources.  For one thing, we revisited geometry and make a little booklet of the polygons with cute smiley faces.  Then we did a shape scavenger hunt and made a little picture of them all outlined.  The tiles in the Metro are all hexagons, you know.  We also found areas and perimeters and played around with graph paper.  Some of the popular Sir Cumference books have been read recently here for this, though we’ve also been reading The Number Devil aloud as well, so math read alouds have abounded.

Also for geometry, we made the polyhedra models we’d skipped in Math Mammoth earlier.  I went to Worksheet Works to print out a bunch.  The kids made cubes, tetrahedrons and octahedons.  I made a truncated icosahedron, otherwise known as a buckyball.  When we colored them, they came out so pretty that the Husband said they should be Christmas ornaments, so we made some more for the tree.  That’s an icosahedron decorating the tree there.

We played around with measuring a little more and have especially enjoyed doing a few of the measuring dot to dot puzzles found at Math Pickle.

We’ve also finally started doing Ed Zaccaro’s Primary Challenge Math.  I saw Ed Zaccaro speak at a conference last year and just loved all the things he had to say about math and problem solving.  I had been concerned that some of the stuff in Primary Challenge Math might be too challenging, but it has turned out to be the opposite.  It’s perfect fun math for my kids.  As we’ve gone back to the Singapore Challenging Word Problems a little more, I’ve found that one of Zaccaro’s strategies, to plug in easier numbers for more challenging ones, has worked really well for BalletBoy.

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# Collective Fractal

RightStart is so not the right math program for me as a teacher, but sometimes its cool that our friends do it.  Check out our Cotters Ten Fractal, made collectively.

# Mobius Strip Math Book

We read Zachary Zormer, Shape Transformer by Joanne Reisberg the other day and really liked it.  It’s from the same imprint that does the much better known Sir Cumference books.  This book dealt with mobius strips, as well as length, perimeter and area.  Zach keeps forgetting his show and tell math homework, only to turn scraps of papers and a small penlight into fabulous tricks for his classmates, upstaging his rival each time.

Of course, we immediately had to make our own paper tricks like the ones in the book.  This is one of the things I love about homeschooling.  I saw the book in the library and, being a lover of math picture books, I took it out.  We sat down to read it on the sofa for school and an impromptu lesson was born.  No prep work.  Just school fun.

Math picture books for kids are some of my favorite things.  I was glad to discover that Charlesbridge Publishing has so many more that I haven’t even read.  Of course, there are many other good “living” math books, such as MathStart books, Greg Tang’s books, Loreen Leedy’s math books, Mitsumasa Anno‘s math books and many more.  I’m also especially fond of the old Young Math Books, which go into a pretty high level of depth.  So here’s to real books instead of textbooks teaching about math.  Not that there’s anything wrong with textbooks, we like those too, just that I love these gentler approaches for kids who like to learn by curling up to hear a story on the sofa.

# Make Your Own Geoboards

I wanted the kids to have geoboards, but the plastic ones sort of seemed cheap.  I remembered that the first time I saw a geoboard was my first year teaching in the Quaker school where I worked for many years.  The math teacher had the kids make them with wood and nails.  I asked the kids’ most handy grandfather (he built their entire screen porch himself!) if he would make them with the kids.

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Here he is with some amazing machine that drilled a bajillion holes in a matter of minutes.

Here are the kids hammering the nails.

At first, I was worried they would give up on the hammering after doing a row or two.

Boy, was I wrong.  When they finished, BalletBoy told me sadly that he wanted more things to hammer.

Here’s the finished product.  They immediately went to put rubber bands on them and make shapes.  Also, a rubber band based picture of Appa from Avatar: the Last Airbender.  I don’t know why I didn’t take a picture of that.

In case you aren’t familiar with geoboards, they’re useful for geometric concepts like area and perimeter as well as basic shape creation.  They also can be used for a tactile way to explore bar graphs, multiplication and a number of other concepts in math.