Free Math Manipulatives...that Can Also be a Fall Decoration or Science Center

My girls are in Kindergarten and are very excited about numbers and math. I created some Thanksgiving themed math activities for them. These math centers focus on vocabulary and concepts such as numerals / digits, tallies, ten frames, subitizing, word form, shape identification, simple addition and subtraction. It’s so much fun to see them excited about learning.

I began by shuffling all the cards together and we sorted them using the category labels (dice, tallies, words, numerals/digits, ten frames). Next, they put the numeral cards in numeric order. Then I had them take the cards they had sorted and place each on top of the pile that showed it’s equal value. This activity allowed me to clarify any misconceptions and served as an informal assessment tool to guide future activities. These would be great for small group work with the teacher during guided math in Kindergarten of first grade.

Later we used the cards to play Go Fish with 4 sets and Memory Match with the ten frames and dice cards. Doing so gave me the opportunity to reinforce subitizing.

Since subtraction is new to them (and to keep with the seasonal theme) I gave them corn kernels to use as counting manipulatives. This gave me an idea…ACORNS!

I thought it was genius! Free…seasonal…festive. Best of all it tied in with my love of a Clutter-Free and organized classroom because when we were done we could toss them back outside into nature.

I scurried to the park and frantically gathered nuts like a crazed squirrel because when I get an idea in my head it needs to happen yesterday! 

While they were busy using them to solve equations on the turkey math center clip cards, I was glaring at my favorite candle holders. 

They are shown here filled with candy corn and my completely Pilgrim, Wampanoag and First Thanksgiving interactive notebook / lap book / learning portfolio. I mention it because it took me 2 full days to update it (new fonts, new clipart, new activities, easy to create foldable, less cutting and glueing, and links to resources for every lesson) and as you can see I slowly ate my way through a good portion of the decorative candy corn while working on it. 

That’s when I had my second genius idea of the day…replace the candy corn with acorns for the month of November! Free Thanksgiving decor.

So this morning I made my son head back to the park with me before school to gather more acorns. We came home and emptied our pockets into an empty bowl we had used to hold candy for trick or treaters and went about getting ready for the day. 
Not long after I was working at the table and kept getting distracted by a noise that sounded like scratching, popping and dripping. It wasn’t constant, but it was happening enough to drive me crazy. I checked the shower to see if it was dripping. I checked the thermostat to see if there was something wrong with the heat. I made my husband sit in silence to try to identify it. This went on all day.

I tried to distract myself with work. I was checking to make sure acorns wouldn’t cause a safety risk to students with tree nut allergies.  I had planned to put up Facebook and Instagram posts suggesting teachers use acorns as math manipulatives and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t giving a bad suggestion.

The good news is that no research has found them to be a danger to kids with tree nut allergies.

The bad news is I would’ve been giving a bad suggestion.

Luckily I did not send thousands of teachers scurrying off to gather millions of acorns to put in classrooms across the country because I finally realized the sound was coming from the bowl. A second Google search about acorns for the day alerted me to some interesting acorn facts.

Or should I say acorn grubs.

{photo source}

Ewww, right?

That was my initial reaction too. But, they are actually really interesting. 

This article about these acorn weevils is short and informative.

They are definitely not something you randomly want hatching out during math workshop or in your math manipulative bins…or in your decorative candle holders on the dining room table.

But, they are actually really fascinating and it would be very cool to bring a little science into the classroom. If you conducts animal research or teach about plant or tree life cycles during the school year this would be a neat addition to your yearlong curriculum.

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