Sneaky Math

cloud diagramWant a side of math with that story time? From simple to semi-sophisticated, here are some ways I’ve worked math into my library programs!

COUNTING SUPPLIES

There are multiple steps in my story time projects, and some of those steps involve selecting certain amounts of art supplies. So we’ll count together. For example, if the kids need 2 pipe cleaners for their project, I’ll hold out a bunch of pipe cleaners and count aloud as each kids selects them, “One…two! Great!”

NUMBERED SUPPLY CONTAINERS

During projects, I’ll often put  a line of supplies on the windowsill, and kids walk down the line and select certain amounts of supplies from each container. I used to use post it notes to mark the number needed on each container…

post it notesBut then I found these little babies!

holder with numberThese are 8″ table card holders. I purchased mine from an online restaurant supply company (The Web Restaurant Store). Don’t they look snazzy?

card holdersDIAGRAMS

Sometimes, I’ll have a project that requires a diagram to demonstrates how much of something is needed. For example, this rainbow cloud project needed to be covered in cotton balls, so I drew a diagram showing how many balls needed to be attached, and how many cotton balls you’d need in total. Numbers, beautiful numbers.

cloud diagramI’ve also been known to sneak math into story time projects, like this lemonade stand that involves counting, sorting, and sequential thinking.

Now who’s up for something a little more…elaborate?

In 2012, my library hosted a large-scale Robin Hood event. I knew we just had to do something on taxes. But how were we going to design something that involved taxes, math, Medieval history, but was also simple enough for kids of various ages to grasp quickly? The answer came from my brilliant event assistant Katie. We would design a tax wheel game based on Hi Ho Cherry-O.  We called it “Your Tax Dollars at Work.”

tax wheelHi Ho Cherry-O is a classic early math game involving counting and numbers. The game is driven by a spinner that dictates whether you add or remove cherries from your basket during game play. But what if the spinner for our version pointed to various Medieval taxes, the game pieces were coins? We could even throw some Robin Hood characters on the wheel. Perfect.

We knew needed to go big and durable at such a large, crowded event. So I ordered a 36″ blank roulette wheel from Spinning Designs Incorporated. The company was very tickled by the novel use of the wheel. Perhaps that’s why they gave me a fantastic (and much appreciated) deal on a wheel that had “minor surface imperfections” (which I honestly could never find).

Then Katie and I researched the different types of taxes from Robin Hood’s day. There were a lot (honestly, who taxes you for churning your butter?). We also had to find a way to gain coins back during the game.

Ultimately, we came up with the following “Lose” and “Gain” categories.

Lose Coin

  • Travel tax
  • Churn your butter tax
  • Bake your bread tax
  • Pay your lord
  • Grind your grain tax
  • Sheriff steals
  • Prince John takes all
  • Land tax

Gain (or at least not lose) Coin

  • Harvest time
  • May Day
  • Good day at market
  • Robin Hood gives you coins

As you can see, there were more ways to lose your money than gain it. We intentionally designed the game that way. There were going to be so many people at the event (3,500 actually) we wanted the game play to average 3 minutes so lots of kids could have multiple turns. If you’re interested, here are the complete game instructions.

group of kidsIn addition to the wheel, there were game boards designed to look like Medieval money bags. You placed 5 coins in your “bag” at the start of the game, then added or removed coins as the wheel dictated. We used metal replicas of Medieval coins. Because we’re nerds like that.

game boardsWhen all your coins were gone, the game was over! As a “consolation” prize, kids got a chocolate foil-wrapped coin. Kids with food allergies or dietary restrictions got to take home one of the metal replica coins.

The “Your Tax Dollars at Work” wheel and game boards were drawn by Kemi Lin, an amazing Princeton University student artist. She did it all. By hand. With packs of Sharpies. After the event, the game was donated to the Somerset County library system. Long may it live!

Projects, Projects, Everywhere

project bookIt’s the age-old question. What, oh what, am I going to do all of my kid’s artwork? The fridge door is full, the closets are stuffed, the space under the bed is crammed, and that cabinet in the entertainment center is approaching alarming.

This question is especially relevant for patrons who come to my Tiger Tales weekly story time. The program is year round and we always make a project. Sometimes a rather large and involved project. We definitely have regulars who attend every session, so…that’s one project a week over the span of a year. Give or take some holidays, sick days, and vacation days, that could be 40 projects to store in your abode.

No fear! I have a solution. I spotted it in FamilyFun magazine a few years ago and it works a treat. It’s an art project brag book.

brag bookBrag books are basically small, 4″ x 6″ photo albums. Typically, they hold 36 – 40 photos and retail for $6 – $8. I snagged this one from a discount bin at Bed, Bath, & Beyond for $1.99 (and then I shamelessly used a 20% off coupon on it).

The next time an art project has run its course in your home, simply snap a photo of it, print the photo, and add the photo to the brag book. That way, the artist still has a record of his/her work. A “pint-sized portfolio” if you will. You can even customize the cover!

customized coverYou could also include the child in the photo with his/her artwork and gain a sweet little timeline of the artist. Later, when he/she has their first show at the Met, you can bust it out at the opening reception whilst warbling “Sunrise, Sunset.”

Want to know more about the two projects pictured in the brag book that started this post? You’ll find the answers here and here!

Worth the Splurge IV

scissor standDo you like reaching into bins of pointy metal things? Neither do I. That’s where this little baby comes in. No risk of getting skewered here!

This wooden scissor rack holds 24 pairs of scissors. The scissors are stored blade down, one pair to each hole. Not only does the rack store scissors safely, it has a built-in visual alert mechanism when a pair go missing. If I’m cleaning up after a program and notice that a hole in the rack is empty, I immediately know that:

  1. The scissors are on the floor somewhere, about to be discovered by a toddler.
  2. The scissors are being carried out of the craft area by an adventurous youth.
  3. The scissors are being used to give an impromptu haircut to oneself or others.

Before you scoff at my paranoia, let me assure you that all three things have been narrowly avoided, thanks to this fabulous scissor stand. I’ve used metal and plastic scissor stands, but this wooden one is by far my favorite. Eight years of use, and it’s still going strong! I purchased mine at Discount School Supply, where it currently retails for $20.

scissors top