Monday, September 23, 2013

Low stress math fact review for kids who hate to write

"Mom, I hate this!" Writing is a chore for my child, and I've always been worried that his hate of writing might bleed over into his feelings about math. Review math facts is one of those dry areas. He needs automaticity. He needs to identify the correct written numeral, but I was afraid the frustration of writing it would cause a hatred of math at this impressionable stage.
This has been my son's favorite kindergarten activity so far.   I think this particular method works well for us because it uses manipulatives, and requires little writing.  It's an easy set up, that he can do independently.

We use clothespins with magnets attached to post flash cards on the refrigerator.  He answers the equation by placing the correct number magnet at the bottom of the equation.  If he knows the answer from memory, he can skip to checking his work.

If he does not know the answer, he works the equation on his abacus. He will count out the top number on the first row, then count out the bottom number on the second row.  Then he counts all the beads that he has chosen from both rows to find his answer.

Once he has completed a row of cards, or whenever it occurs to his five-year-old brain, my son checks his own work by comparing his answer to the answer given in small print on the back of the flash card.  If he is correct, he can add the card to his "got it right pile".  If he is wrong, he is required to rework the problem on his abacus.

Sometimes he insists on setting up his own problem to explore.

 Over the past three weeks, I have seen progress in my son's ability to recall addition facts from memory, his counting skills, and his ability to use an abacus more cleverly.  He is also becoming more and more independent with the nature of the activity.  Hopefully, one of these days I will be able to say, "Go do your math," and he will be able to fulfill the day's activities on his own.

Addition at the fridge addresses four areas of the Common Core Kindergarten Math Standards nicely.
  • CCSS.Math.Content.K.OA.A.1 Represent addition and subtraction with objects, fingers, mental images, drawings1, sounds (e.g., claps), acting out situations, verbal explanations, expressions, or equations.
  • CCSS.Math.Content.K.OA.A.2 Solve addition and subtraction word problems, and add and subtract within 10, e.g., by using objects or drawings to represent the problem.
  • CCSS.Math.Content.K.OA.A.4 For any number from 1 to 9, find the number that makes 10 when added to the given number, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record the answer with a drawing or equation.
  • CCSS.Math.Content.K.OA.A.5 Fluently add and subtract within 5

This activity is a little heavy in the set up department.  However, now that the set up is done, we can progress all the way through division with the same materials.  We have used it for three weeks, and he is still happy to jump right in, so I feel that the investment is worth it. 

If you would like to set up this activity, here is your shopping list.   You will probably find the best prices at a local store, but sometimes Amazon is easier, so I have included the links.  Some of these are to the exact product I purchased, but others are not.

beading organizer, to hold the magnetic numbers
magnets to glue to the clothespins

Happy Adding!


  1. Great ideas, Christy! I love the flashcard on the fridge. We will have to try that.

  2. Thanks! Let me know how it goes. I'm always curious how the same activity works out for different kids.


I can't wait to hear what you have to say! Thanks for sharing.