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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Fire Continues: Journal of a New Counter

Using His Patterns: One More?

I have been watching my two-year-old son explore counting. I am amazed at his ability to line blocks up in a row and point to each thing as he counts. He still does not have the correct number words for each thing, but he is starting to make sense of counting. He is much more aware of counting all of this "stuff" than his older brother was at this age. I think this is partly due to the influence of his brother. His big brother counts everything to see who has more; whether it be more cookies, more stuffed animals or more presents under the Christmas tree.

Recently, I have tried to tie my son's interest in counting to something meaningful for him. Like most toddlers, he loves snacking. When he wants more crackers I ask, "Show me on your fingers how many more crackers you would like." He holds one finger and announces, "One more please mommy." Little did I know that "one more" would turn into a question and pattern he uses for what seems to be every part of his life. He asks for one more book, toy, song, and just about anything else. This little counter is making it evident that he understands the meaning of one and more.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Starting the Fire: Journal of a New Counter

One of my first memories after bringing my older son home from the hospital is reading to him. I picked out a book, snuggled him in a blanket and read Goodnight Gorilla. The book became a favorite. We took it everywhere and went through several copies. He still loves that book and now has it memorized and "reads" it to his little brother.

Math can have this same effect on children if we start at a young age and include math in everyday life just as we do with reading. This is not hard or something we should feel pressured to do. A little bit goes a long way and just like reading a favorite book, children begin to notice different things about counting and want to share their knowledge with you.

Throughout this blog, I have written about my experiences with my older son learning finger patterns and counting. My younger son has been exposed to but not pushed in any way to use my "Fire Away" method at an even earlier age. I have been watching him through different eyes, seeing how much he has picked up from listening to his big brother count, talk about numbers, and seeing fingers used to show numbers. Over the next few months, I am going to keep a blog-journal about how I see my two-year-old son, who as you will see is not really talking but has a wonderful toddler vocabulary, exploring math. It should be interesting.

The Fire Has Started: Nap Time Journal Entry 1

November 21, 2009

Ahh…nap time: a parent’s little slice of sanity. I was preparing my two-year-old for nap, but he wanted a "few" more minutes to play. When I came back into his room, he had found a horde of rocks that he stashed in a truck. He had them all lined up in a nice row and was pointing to each rock. Before I scooped him up and put him in his bed, I stopped and listened to what he was saying. He was pointing to each rock and counting them. The first few counts I could really understand. He was so excited to be able to name the rocks with a number word attached to it. He started with, "Mama, one, two, deee!" He kept repeating the same sequence on all the rocks. I sat down with him and helped him count the rocks, drop them in his dump truck and finally put the rocks to sleep. I guess the rocks are a now a permanent fixture in the toy collection. I am glad that we invested in xeroscaping!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Game: Flash Fire

New Finger Pattern Game: Flash Fire™

My son and I are having a lot of fun with a new game that we invented. I have even started using it with my students. We like to call it "Flash Fire" because it sounds fun and you have to really flash your finger patterns fast.

This game helps him with patterns that are a little harder for him to remember. We use all different the combinations to make a number. For example I could flash a six as a three and three, four and two or five and one. He loves to Flash Fire me at any moment. He might Flash Fire while running through the house or while sitting at the dinner table.

How to Play Flash Fire:
Flash a finger pattern at your child as quick as you can.
2. Ask them "What pattern did you see?" and, "How did you see it?"
3. If they get it correct, then it is their turn to Flash Fire and you tell them what you saw (the total number of fingers) and how you saw it (the two numbers that make the total).
4. If they get it wrong, hold out the pattern you made and have them count your fingers to see the correct answer or they can make the pattern on their own fingers and count it.

Video: Game of Flash Fire

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Last Days of Summer

Count and Jump for all Ages
This was a big summer for everyone at the pool. My five year old really learned how to swim. He loves to practice his strokes, dive in the water and jump from the side of the pool. My two year old spent a lot of time on the steps and going for rides with mom or dad around the big pool.

One day my two year old looked around and noticed that his big brother would count (forwards or backwards) and then jump in the pool. He wanted to count and jump just like his brother. No more being the little guy in the pool. I realized that older siblings leave a big impression on their younger siblings. Sometimes without even knowing it.

Video: Count and Jump

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Different Ways to Build a Number

My Son, The Transformer:

Last night while I was making dinner my son asked, "How many more minutes until it will be ready?" I said, "About five." and continued cooking not noticing what he was doing with his fingers. He came over and said, "So this many?" and held up a two on one hand and a three on the other hand. I stopped what I was doing and said, "Wow, that is one way to make a five do you know another way?" I watched him move his little fingers making the three into a four and the two into a one. Not only did he come up with this idea on his own, but he made his own sound affects, like one of his Transformer(R) action figures changing from one position to another.

I began to wonder how else I could expand my son's knowledge of numbers from one to ten without pushing him to level of understanding that he was not ready for. I have written a lot on my blog about finding math in your child's everyday life to encourage counting and their development in math. Those moments might come when you least expect them and when your hands are full. Take just a few minutes to stop everything and see math through your child's eyes.

Video: Different ways to make a number

Friday, July 31, 2009

Finger Patterns in a Tree

Rewind: Why do finger patterns?

My four year old is turning five next week. I can't believe it. He is ready to start preschool and while I am still in denial that he will be in kindergarten next year, I have a feeling is going to enjoy it. He will meet new friends and learn new things. He will also be going to school with the confidence that he understands numbers.

Working with my son on finger patterns has provided more conversations about numbers, counting and math than I ever imagined. More importantly, finger patterns have engaged us as a family while we play, work or even get ready for bed.

The video below is over a year old. My son is dressed up in a bear costume, wearing a bike helmet, climbing a tree and firing away his finger patterns. I speak and write a lot about making numbers part of your child's world and as you can see here, the day that I filmed this video, we were definitely in my son's world!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Rhyme Time with Finger Patterns

Using Finger Patterns with Rhymes for Counting

My busy boys love to dance, sing, jump and rhyme.  I started looking for preschool rhymes that we could incorporate with finger patterns.  Below are just a few of our favorite rhymes that can be used with finger patterns to encourage memory, visualization and counting forwards.

Finger Pattern Rhymes for Counting Forwards

Five Fat Peas
This is a great one to use fire away. Start with all fingers in a fist, the thumb holding the other fingers in place. Count from one to five with just one hand then count one to five with both hands at the same time. 

Five fat peas in a pea pod pressed 
(children hold hand in a fist) 
One grew, two grew, so did all the rest. 
(put fingers up one by one starting with pointer finger ending with thumb) 
They grew and grew 
 (raise all five fingers in the air very slowly) 
And did not stop, 
Until one day 
The pod went POP! 
(clap hands together)

My two year old loves this rhyme because you can make all the motions while you make the finger pattern.  When we say, "Two baby turtles crawl to the sea." we make the number two on our fingers and the two "crawls."  
One baby turtle alone and new. 
Finds a friend, and then there are two. 
Two baby turtles crawl down to the sea. 
They find another, and then there are three. 
Three baby turtles crawl along the shore. 
They find another, and then there are four. 
Four baby turtles go for a dive. 
Up swims another, and then there are five.

For more rhymes:

Monday, June 22, 2009

Summer Fun with Numbers

Make counting fun. We went tractor "hunting," counted the tractors and pretended to drive them. 

Summer is the perfect time to notice numbers.  Whether you are on a road trip, at the pool or just shopping at the grocery store, point out numbers to your child.  We just went on a road trip and I couldn't believe how many numbers my son found or the things we counted. Even if they can't read the number, just pointing out the number encourages young children to begin identifying numerals.  

Vacation Counting:
1.  Numbers at the pool:  My four-year-old loves to jump off the edge of the pool, so I asked him to jump from the number 3 (marked for 3 feet deep).  Once he found the 3, he wanted to jump from the 5. 
2.  Numbers at a hotel:  When taking the elevator I asked him to push the number 1 or any floor that we needed.  He noticed there was a number outside our room and matched it with the room key. 
3.  Numbers on the road:  We looked for speed limit signs.  Even though some of the two-digit numbers were hard for him to say, he could find one number he knew.  
4.  Things to count:  We counted trains and trucks at a construction site.   Anything that had multiples, we tried to count. 
5.  Numbers at the store:  We went to buy souvenirs and I asked my son to find the price tag on the train he wanted. He asked, "What does it look like?"  I said, "Little numbers on a sticker.  Can you find it?" He surprised me when he read, "It says 12, mom."

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Only Way Back is Forwards

Only Way Back is Forwards
I am totally amazed at the amount of counting/math that is involved with finger patterns.  It begins on their fingers going forwards, then isolating a finger pattern to name the number, linking finger patterns to an actual quantity, instantly recognizing a finger pattern that is flashed and linking finger patterns to real life scenarios such as counting wheels on a car. 

Lately I have noticed my four year old using his fingers to help keep track of "things" such as presents at a birthday party.  I have noticed a confidence build inside him as he notices numbers everywhere.  Now that he has an underlying confidence and really understands forwards counting, I have been talking to him about counting backwards.  

Beginning to Count Back
1.  Tie the counting back into something fun, such as jumping into the pool or racing your child around the house.  I say something like, "When I get to 1, go. Ready 3, 2, 1, go!"
2.  Depending on your child's age and ability level you can start with going back from 3 to 1 and then build from 5 to 1 and eventually from 10 to 1.
3.  Have fun while counting back.  We were watching the space shuttle take off and my son noticed the countdown so we now say, "blast off" after we get to 1. 

Video of Blast Off
This first clip is counting back from 5 to 1 without finger patterns.
The second clip is counting back from 5 to 1 with finger patterns.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Finger Patterns and Days of the Week

Finger Patterns Monday to Sunday

Have you ever noticed your child confusing the days of the week? Do they constantly ask you "What day is it today?" or "When will it be the weekend?" My four year old always wants to know when his soccer game is so we started keeping track of the days of the week on his fingers. This is a great skill to get your child ready for pre-school, kindergarten or even first grade.  

There is so much learning inside the math. With this simple skill, he has learned the vocabulary for the days of the week, the sequence the days go in by keeping track on his fingers and how each day corresponds to a finger pattern. This is not the traditional calendar model, but allows your child to see the week on two hands.  Start the week on Monday.  Monday through Friday are on one hand and correspond to finger patterns 1 to 5.  This helps him understand that the school/work days are on one hand.   Saturday and Sunday are on his other hand and correspond to the weekend (finger patterns 6 and 7).








(C) 2009 Kellie Merrill

Thursday, April 23, 2009

How old are you?

FAWFP: Fun with birthdays

My nearly-two-year old has an advantage over his big brother. He has been watching him count, do finger patterns and talk about math since he was a newborn. He is very busy, as most are at this age. He loves to count along with his brother and play the tickle game (see previous entry) as much as picking up his favorite book. Just a few weeks ago I started telling him he had a birthday coming up and showing him on his fingers how old he was going to be. Not long after that he started making two and showing me two when I asked him "How old are you?" 

Please watch the clip below to see him hold down all his other fingers to show me two. Now that he has it down he loves flashing his two!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

5 Reasons to Try Doubles

                                                                Double the Trouble

Finger Patterns/Doubles Review
A number of readers asked me to explain why doubles and finger patterns are important. Exposing your child to finger patterns and early counting is a crucial developmental step. Current research and theory suggests that "Children's number competence is supported by their daily experiences in the world." (Saxe, et all., 1997)  Doing these simple and fun activities with your child will encourage an early awareness to math that includes counting, finger patterns and a new vocabulary.

Doubles are a huge concept.  I don't expect my four year old to fully understand it but I am giving him the chance to practice, understand and have fun with doubles before he enters school.  Asking a child to fire away a double four can be confusing.  The correct response is to fire away a two and a two on each hand.  Remember the number you ask them to fire away is the TOTAL, not what they show on each hand.

Five Reasons to Try Doubles
1.  Doubles are everywhere.  We have doubles built into our bodies.  Why not show your child what a double looks like?  I have two feet, two sets of five fingers and two sets of five toes.
2.  Doubles open the door for more advanced strategies.  Doubles are the same as counting by twos. Counting by twos is groundwork for multiplying by two.
3.  Children of all ages can talk about doubles.  Young children can fire away a double from two to ten while older children can go past ten and do higher doubles mentally or on paper (6+6, 7+7, etc.)
4.  Kids love using the word double.  My son loves to say it when requesting his favorite food or treat!  
5.  Doubles encourage children to see numbers as a set or a group and move away from seeing numbers as going one by one.

Monday, February 9, 2009

2 Beds and 4 People

Seeing Double: Double Finger Patterns
This winter we went to Taos Ski Valley for a family snowboarding trip. When we walked into our hotel room, our 4-year old said, "Look there are two beds and four people so that means that two people will sleep in each bed." I was a little surprised, but excited to see how math had become part of his everyday. This was the perfect opportunity to talk to him about doubles. I showed him the doubles for two, one finger on my right hand and one finger on my left hand.

Finding Doubles
Point out a double to your child (two feet, two hands, two eyes) and challenge them to begin finding doubles. Once they understand the concept of doubles, you can show them the double patterns on their fingers. While getting into the car my son said. "Look there are two tires in the front and two tires in the back." I showed him how to make a double four on his fingers. It is important to use the word, "double" when you are making a double so your child knows to make the same number on both hands.

Below are pictures of the double finger patterns for two, four, six, and 10. Remember to tie real life surroundings in order for the "double" to make sense.

Double 2

Double 4                                  

Double 6

Double 8

Double 10