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How to Teach Six Basic Math Concepts with Transformers

In Educational Strategies & Tips, Educators, Fun Ideas, Math, Math Strategies, Parents, Study Skills by Rachel Wise

Teaching kids concepts using something they love is a great way to get them motivated. You can take any favorite kids’ toy or food that you have multiples of (e.g., Transformers, Doc McStuffins Characters, Legos, Hot Wheels, Matchbox Cars, Cheerios, Gummy Bears) and use them to create a math lesson (let your child choose what he/she wants to use). To make it really motivating allow your child to play with the toy he/she chooses or eat the food after each lesson. If you are doing a few lessons in a row, allow a timed break in between for your child to play with the toys.

FYI: The methods in the article are based on the premise of multi-sensory instruction. Research indicates the benefits of using multi-sensory instruction to teach math. Multi-sensory instruction allows children to learn using multiple senses (e.g, hearing, seeing, touching). This is important because not all children learn one way, or thrive from the same type of learning.

Below you will see how to teach six basic math concepts using transformers. The lessons below are shown with images, but imagine doing these with real transformers (or any object of your child’s choice) on a table in your home. I have done these lessons with a child with a learning disability, using favorite items from around his house and he has made great improvements in his understanding of basic concepts.

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(remove the 2 transformers from the table or have your child remove them to help him/her understand the concept of taking away/subtracting)

Have your child create two rows of transformers with the same number in each row. For example, start with 10 transformers and have him/her put one on the left side of the table and another one the right. Have your child keep doing this until she/he has created two equal rows of five. This helps your child learn the concepts of basic division and multiplication.
10 ÷ 2 = 5 (taking ten objects and splitting them into two equal rows will give you five on each side).

Once you have the five objects on each side you can point out how 5 X 2 = 10. Five in each row times two rows gives you ten transformers or (5 two times gives you 10).

Pretend the square below is your table top. Start with 10 transformers and have your child split them into two equal groups by moving one transformer to each side one at a time. Then count how many are in each group.
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The next two concepts are frequently taught in the Common Core Math Curriculum developed in 2009.

1. Demonstrate how 10 can be split into two numbers.
For instance:
10 = 3 and 7
10 = 6 and 4
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2. Teach mental math strategies by demonstrating that 5 + 6 is one higher than 5 + 5, (i.e., 5 + 5 = 10 and 5 + 6 = 11) or that 5 + 7 is two higher than 5 + 5 (i.e., 5 + 5 = 10 and 5 + 7 = 12). You can teach this concept using any set of doubles (e.g., 4 + 4 = 8 and 4 + 5 = 9).
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