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Lacing DIY Geometric Shapes (Montessori Sensorial ๐Ÿ–๏ธ๐Ÿ‘€๐Ÿ‘‚๐Ÿ‘…๐Ÿ‘ƒ Activities 101 ๐ŸŽฅ Series ๐ŸŽ‡)

Lacing wooden geometric shapes (buy here or similar here) is a classic Montessori Sensorial activity. This is also an easy DIY activity to make at home with colored heavy-cardstock (buy here), scissors and a hole puncher. You can match the shoelace to the shape or use complimentary (opposite) lace color for a color-pop.   DSC_0069Our wooden shapes (buy here) include a circle, triangle, octagon, hexagon, pentagon, and a square. You would use a geometric shape template to trace it on the paper. You can also laminate the cut-out paper shapes before punching a whole to add durability and thickness to your template. 

As a child works with her/his hands, indirectly developing fine-motor control, s/he is learning the lacing stitch while threading the laces through the pre-punched holes again and again. 

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On the left is a paper-template hexagone and on the right is the wooden one.

DSC_0069This material can also be useful for teaching color and shape recognition. 

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As a result of this activity, a child learns geometry (shapes of various geometric objects) while developing fine-motor skills in a practical life activity, which is sensorial in nature. 

p.s. Adrian started lacing since he was two-and-a-half. (See here  a post "Lacing Wooden Geometric Shapes Activity.")


Learning Fractions with LEGO

Today, we are exploring fractions. My children love LEGO. They are always either working on building LEGO or enjoy playing with it, so we have it out most of the time. Fractions are an abstract mathematical concept, and even Julia at seven-and-a-half is still not grasping it entirely. Making abstract representations concrete is a cornerstone of Montessori education, and using toys as a concrete hands-on illustrations always worked best since children can relate more to their toys rather than to an unfamiliar material, even if concrete in nature.

We started with really large pieces (from this set) in three primary colors: red, yellow, and blue, and I illustrated to Adrian how the whole can be made up of pieces/fractions. I am using a dry erase double-sided board (buy here), and these washable dry-erase markers.

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1/2 has a special name - "a half" and 1/4 has a nick-name too - "a quarter."


DSC_0002 Illustrating a fraction in a different color.

DSC_0002Adrian enjoys playing with Captain Jake's Pirate Ship LEGO DUPLO set (buy here), and today, Pirate Jake is cutting a half into two: ending up with two quarters: one for him and one for his parrot, while greedy โš”๏ธCaptain Hook is keeping the entire half for himself. (We pretended that they are dividing a treasure chest, which I also illustrated as a square divided into four quarters to broaden the concept that not only a circle is fractionable.)

DSC_0002Through this invitation to play, Adrian learned hands-on that the fraction is a piece that is smaller than a whole and that a half has two quarters. 

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Capturing Adrian shooting a ๐Ÿ’ฃcanon in motion!

Taking fractions a step further ... 

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 Adrian is fascinated with firefighters and firetrucks. So we incorporated a burning "2/3" fraction and a firemen to the rescue!

DSC_0007See the LEGO CITY Fire Truck set here.


DSC_0007Using LEGO DUPLO (follow the red piece), I made simple fractions for Adrian (3.5 yrs). He is used to fractioning a circle (a pizza and distributing pieces to his animal friends/see post here), but fractioning a rectangle added a new twist to an activity.
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These fractions I made for Julia (7.5 yrs) using LEGO Friends set. I was hoping to illustrate that fractions can be written using different numerators and denominators, while still representing the same numerical value.

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For more on Fractions, see our original post "Fractions - Montessori Math" post here.

For more on LEGO, see here "LEGO Juniors Demolition Site Building Kit" post. Also see here a post "Julia's 7th Birthday Gifts: LEGO Friends" and here "Julia's Christmas Gift: LEGO Creator Expert Santa's Workshop" post. 


Fractions (Montessori Math Lesson)

Understanding fractions is an incredibly important concept as it forms a basis for later higher math, chemistry, physics, and many practical life activities. When Adrian turned two, we started talking about fractions in the kitchen while cutting an orange in halves, or cutting a pizza into quarters. Such real life models aid a child in visualization of a complex mathematical concept, such as fractions. Over time, once the terminology and visual modeling is mastered, you can move into simple fraction math and fraction reduction or simplification. Fraction exploration is best started with fractioning a circle, and tactile Montessori materials will help develop a firm understanding of fractions.

Today, we are learning fractions by using a beautiful hand-made fractions material (buy here), which is laser cut for precision and can be made to order from sustainable alder wood or maple. Each set is coated with an acrylic laquer for durability and wipe-clean use. Each fraction slice on one side is engraved with the value of the fraction. A frame allows a child to build a circle and then pop it up and build an equivalent fraction for comparison.

DSC_0018We pretend that the circle we are fractioning is a ๐Ÿ•pizza pie. Place all fractions mixed up in a basket. After showing a child "one whole pizzaโ€ pick a ยฝ slice and say:

โ€œThis says one- half or ยฝ or 1 cut into two. How many pieces do we need to make one whole pizza?" โ€“ โ€œWe need two pieces to make a whole - we need two one-halves.โ€ Have the child find the other one-half.

DSC_0018Pick a 1/3 slice: โ€œThis says 1 cut into 3 pieces or one-third - 1/3." Have the child find the other two pieces that say 1/3. 
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1 whole (top number/numerator) is "cut" into 3 pieces (bottom number/denominator which tells us how many pieces was the whole divided).

DSC_0018Have the child place the whole non-cut pizza/circle on top of any fractioned circle. 
DSC_0018Now we have four animal friends - we need four slices (one for each).

 "Let's find a piece that says 1 cut into 4 or 1/4 or a quarter. How many pieces do we need? The bottom number indicates the number of equal parts into which the unit/our pizza is divided." Have the child find all four quarters or 1/4.  "Is the pizza made out of quarters the same as a non-cut whole pizza?"  Have the child again place the whole pizza/circle on top of four-quartered pizza.

DSC_0018Now, we have five friends hungry for pizza. Adrian noticed that the larger the bottom number, the smaller the pizza slice each friend is getting.
DSC_0018You can also present a 3๐Ÿ…ฟ๏ธ๐ŸŒ  Three Period Lesson (see details here):

(P1) This is 1/3; (P2) Show me 1/3;  (P3) What is this? 

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As an extension, ask the child to build a "whole" from different fraction combinations.

Using fraction models, while demonstrating the written form next to it, visually illustrates the meaning of numerator and denominator. For example โ€œ 1 over Xโ€  or 1/X:

                                            1 WHOLE (Pizza)/numerator

                                                        "over"/divide/cut pizza intoโ€ฆ

                                            X BOTTOM Number (denominator) tell us how many pieces the pizza is divided

Also, it is important to explain that any shape can be fractioned, not just a circle. 

DSC_0018Besides pizza, fractioning a "chocolate bar" which can be a rectangle or a square.
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This Montessori wooden Shape Fraction Sorter teaches a child shape, color and size recognition as well as early geometry by developing an understanding of geometric fractions.

Similar Montessori Wooden Shape Board/ Fraction Sorter (is available here), which fractions a circle, a triangle and a square. I also like this Geometric Puzzle, which introduces a child to shapes and fractions by having a written representation of fractions -whole, half and quarter - engraved onto the puzzle tray.

DSC_0057Fractions in a pentagon shape were tricky, as pieces had to be rotated exactly to fit in.

Fraction models (whether cards or Montessori materials) can be used as a visual and tactile aid as the child moves into comparing and ordering fractions, adding and subtracting, as well as multiplying and dividing fractions. Through concrete representations, preferably while utilizing familiar objects such as animals figurines, a child will perceive learning as desirable and enjoyable. This was a fun learning through play experience, as Adrian really enjoyed cutting a pizza and feeding his animal friends!

For more on fractions, read a post "Learning Fractions with LEGO" here.


Wooden Tangram Puzzle at 41 months

This Wooden Tangram Puzzle (buy similar here) is an ancient Chinese brain game known to prime children's brains for math. A child will have fun grasping mathematical concepts such as congruency, symmetry, area, perimeter and geometry, while learning geometrical shapes such as a triangle and a square and its sides and angles. A child will have to use visual-spatial intelligence and creativity to solve this puzzle which requires a child to rotate the geometrical shapes in mind's eye. 

DSC_0001This seven-piece tangram puzzle is the world's oldest and most well known silhouette puzzle. Different bright colors promote color and shape recognition, as well as concepts of big vs small. The child will be using reasoning, problem-solving and logical thinking skills to solve the puzzle as well developing patience and persistence.  

It took Adrian 21 seconds to assemble this Tangram Puzzle without a visual representation of a puzzle as assembled. We had misplaced the instructions somewhere ):

DSC_0004Adrian made a "boat" from the blocks and spelled the word with a Movable Alphabet. 

A child can also put blocks into different shapes, according to instructions, or s/he is free to use the imagination! For an older child, you can add a language aspect and ask the child to spell/read the word of the object/animal s/he made. (We are using this Montessori Small Wooden Movable Alphabet for spelling.)

I found a similar tangram puzzle here, and it says for "children between ages 6 to 10 years"This one is from non-toxic paint, and it says "from ages 3 to 105". I think regardless of age, if a child enjoys this puzzle while developing problem-solving and logical thinking skills, as well as enhancing visual perception ability, it is a toy well chosen!

Does your child have a Tangram Puzzle?


Exploring a Triangle (Montessori Geometric Metal Insets Presentation 1)

Today, we are exploring a triangular shape. All triangles have three sides, meaning that the shape is a polygon. If all three sides are of equal length, than it is called an "equilateral" triangle. We explored different textures and sizes and "made" various triangles, including non-equilateral ones since the sides need not be of equal length at all time.

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A  pizza ๐Ÿ• slice, an ice cream๐Ÿฆ cone, a wedge of ๐Ÿง€ cheese, a โ›บ๏ธ tent, clown's hat, a sail boat โ›ต๏ธ.

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You may read detailed instructions on Knobless Cylinders lesson presentation here

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As one of the Steps Towards Literacy in a Montessori Language curriculum (read here), the preparation of a child's hand for writing and drawing letters and shapes is accomplished with the use of geometry insets. Initially, you would simply ask your child to trace with a second and third fingers around the outline of the shape (its frame) so that the hand does not lose contact with the frame. Applying just the right amount of pressure prepares the hand for future writing.

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This post has an intro on Montessori Geometric Metal Insets, and this post "Tracing a Circle โšซ" has a ๐Ÿ“ฝ video of Adrian tracing a circle as well as detailed steps for Montessori Geometric Metal Insets Presentation 1.
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What we have been using to make a triangle:

  • Knobless cylinders (read a post here),
  • Haida painted sticks (read how children made the sticks here),
  • Spindles (read a post "Early Math with Numbers Rods, Sandpaper Numbers and Spindles" here; and a post "Spindle Box and Sandpaper Numbers Extensions - early Montessori Math activities for a toddler" here),
  • Small number rods (read a post "Early Math with Numbers Rods, Sandpaper Numbers and Spindles" here),
  • Pipe cleaners and green beads (read a post "Candy Canes Pipe Cleaner Craft for children" here),
  • Pom poms and play dough (read here a post "Tracing Alphabet Letters with markers, dot-stickers, play-dough, marbles and water/ the importance of the proper pencil grip"),
  • We also used different nature objects such as pine cones, stones and marbles, pine branches, sea shells, and others.

We had so much fun ๐Ÿ˜Šexploring triangular shapes! 

Stay tuned for the next shape:)