Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Invitation to Learn Multiplication

A Learning Lifestyle

My preschoolers are officially not preschoolers any more. As we step into Kindergarten and 2nd grade, and as a family new to "officially" homeschooling, I recently bought writing curriculum from BraveWriter and breathed a huge sigh of relief.

The guidance offered essentially advocates for 1) focusing on creating an environment filled with books, music, and experiences; and, 2) a language-rich lifestyle - one where you listen to your child, respond thoughtfully, and pursue ideas together. (This builds on what we know about how preschoolers learn, too. ) She, of course, weaves writing lessons into the day and provides structure so parents don't have to come up with everything on their own. (Whew!) 

Books, Music, and Experiences

Despite being regulars at the library, I often find myself scouring the catalog and shelves for books that might work to answer my child's question or delve deeper into the subject du jour. It is no wonder why lists are some of the most popular blogs in the world. You know the ones: "101 Books to Read Before Kindergarten," "10+ Children's Books to Inspire Kindness," and my own  "24 Books for Preschool Engineers."

A Smaller, More Approachable List

The problem is that sometimes we want a smaller, more approachable list. One with fewer books that includes other things. I just want a few good books, a CD, and a video, perhaps a toy. Something like a thoughtful little themed basket.

Invitation to Learn

It is in the spirit of having a small sampling of one topic that I am writing Invitations to Learn. Each invitation grows from our homeschool life and is a pint-sized unit of study for the DIY crowd. With this list, I am inviting you to learn alongside your child and giving you a small amount of guidance for creating a rich learning environment in your home or school.

Read a book one day; listen to an audiobook another day; watch a movie a different day; go on a field trip a different day. By offering one great thing at a time, you are inviting your child to learn with you and enjoy learning with you! Over time you and your child will consider the topic in several different ways, using different materials, have different but related conversations about it, and you will grow your knowledge in wonderfully robust ways.


These are things we found at our library. (We stream many audiobooks for free.) For your convenience, I will also include affiliate links to Amazon.

Multiplication and Our Bodies

The Three-Headed Monster
We have a trail near our house that we call "Coyote Trail" because of the wildlife that scurries around out there. With two young children exploring the wildnerness, it is common knowledge in our neighborhood that we need to educate them about how to be as safe as possible when sharing the space with snakes, coyotes, and other creatures. The simplest thing to do: look big.

Looking big is hard to do when you are three years old though and so the three of us decided it would be better to stick together so we look like a three-headed, six-legged monster. Staring at the shadow our three-headed, six-legged monster cast on the ground, we have the opportunity to see part of the 3s multiplication table:

  • 3 humans x 1 head per human = 3 heads, and 
  • 3 humans x 2 legs = 6 legs. 

I have said before that there is no need to do worksheet math with young children. But talking about math in these organic situations is invaluable.

Fingers & Toes 

Using fingers (and toes) to count presents a unique opportunity to learn preschool multiplication, too. With your child you can use just hands to learn the 2s times tables:

  • 2 hands x 1 finger per hand = 2 finger
  • 2 hands x 2 fingers per hand = 4 fingers
  • 2 hands x 3 fingers per hand = 6 fingers
  • 2 hands x 4 fingers per hand = 8 fingers
  • 2 hands x 5 fingers per hand = 10 fingers
Add toes and learn 4s!
  • 4  extremities x 1 digit per extremity = 4 digits
  • 4  extremities x 2 digits per extremity = 8 digits
  • 4  extremities x 3 digits per extremity = 12 digits
  • 4  extremities x 4 digits per extremity = 16 digits
  • 4  extremities x 5 digits per extremity = 20 digits
Ready to add some books and music to explore Multiplication? Read on...

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox, Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

"There was one little baby / who was born far away. / And another who was born / on the very next day. / And both of these babies, / as everyone knows, / had ten little fingers / and ten little toes." No matter which part of the world a baby comes from—born on the ice or in a tent—that baby has “ten little fingers / and ten little toes,” the pleasing refrain of this wonderful, rhyming tribute to the chubby, sweet universality of babies of all colors. Helen Oxenbury’s soft, rounded babies are captured perfectly in soft, rounded watercolors.

Recommended age: 3+

"Moose in a Treehouse" by Brent Holmes

Counting Cookies by 1s, 2s, 3s, and 4s. I can't imagine a more enticing way to bring times tables into the lives of our young people!

Moose Multiplication Video

My kiddo and I loved the Moose in a Treehouse song so much that I made a little video about it... Includes imagery to see how the multiplication tables stack up!

10 Little Rubber Ducks by Eric Carle

"Ducks overboard!" shouts the captain, as a giant wave washes a box of 10 little rubber ducks off his cargo ship and into the sea. The ducks are swept away in various directions. One drifts west, where a friendly dolphin jumps over it. A whale sings to another. But as the sun sets, the 10th little rubber duck is left all alone, bobbing helplessly on the big wide sea. Small readers and listeners will empathize with the little duck's plight—and will rejoice at the heartwarming surprise ending.
In this poignant and funny story, illustrated with strikingly designed collages, Eric Carle takes readers on an exciting voyage of discovery. Following the little ducks as they float to all parts of the globe, young explorers can see for themselves the meanings of directional words and learn simple math concepts, such as counting and the use of cardinal and ordinal numbers. Each creature the ducks meet is seen in its own habitat and behaves in a true-to-life manner, offering a very simple first view of biology and geography.
"A wonderful read-aloud for storytimes or one-on-one sharing. It's a definite 10," commented School Library Journal in a starred review. "Beautifully composed illustrations," said Booklist. "As sublimely simple and endearing as the playthings it portrays," agreed Publishers Weekly.
This board book edition with sturdy pages is perfect to share with toddlers. Note that this edition does not include a squeaker at the end.

Recommended for Preschool - Kindergarten

Lift-the-Flap Times Tables by Usborne

Lift-the-flaps to find tips, tricks and practice questions to help you learn all the times tables up to 12x12. You can discover why the tables are so helpful, use the number machine to answer any tables question, and test your knowledge with the times tables challenge.

Recommended age: 6+

LEGO and LEGO-like Bricks

The nature of LEGO bricks make them perfect for doing a lot of maths learning, including multiplication. I am a fan of just letting children build with them and letting them get a visceral understanding of quantity.

For our smallest learners there are MEGA Blocks:

Duplo is a LEGO brand and the bricks are smaller than MEGA Blocks but bigger than LEGO originals.

And, of course, LEGO. There are sets that build something specific or just boxes of bricks for free play...

So get playing with multiplication! I'd love to hear how it manifests in your life!

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