Hands-On Math

One thing our Pre-Kindergartner loves is to sort. I used to wonder if she was “too old” for this type of activity, but then I reminded myself her finger muscles are still developing strength and sorting is a form of recognizing differences and similarities. Recently I’ve begun to make the sorting more challenging for her, and she asks to do this again and again. I also realized that I can tailor this easy-to-implement activity to her own unique level.

Here she is sorting objects by color. She asked for the various manipulatives and then decided on her own the best way to sort them would be by color. While it wasn’t challenging for her, she had fun and it kept her busy and using that brain and those fingers for a good half an hour while I worked with her bigger siblings. After she finished, we talked about which muffin tin had the most and which had the least items, and we worked in some adding and subtracting until she was done.




This little muffin tin was something I drug out of a large bin at the local Good*Will outlet and it cost me a whopping 3 cents! It did NOT look like this when I brought it home though. It was greasy and tarnished, so I asked my Dad to spray paint it black for me. I love it and so does our Li’l Bit!

After we did all we could with these sorting objects, she wanted MORE so I decided to make it more challenging. I gave her a big pile of various types of beans and a few seeds too. She doesn’t put things in her mouth, but I wouldn’t advise this for a child who does as the beans and seeds are hard and could be a potential choking hazard and/or cause problems if stuck in noses or ears! I was too slow to snap photos of her big pile of beans and seeds, but she came to me wanting to count them after she sorted.


At first I thought there are way too many. Then I recalled how recently she has loved counting to 100 with her big sister’s assistance. She gets counting up and we’ve worked a lot on that as she loves to add. I know she is ready for more than single-digit adding but I refuse to give her worksheets and I just haven’t found the time or energy to do a “lesson” with her. Today was the day where the clouds parted, a rainbow appeared and I could hear a chorus singing “Hallelujah” … well, not really, but some days us homeschooling Mommas just love it when an impromptu thought precipitated by a child’s love of learning leads to a lesson in math!


I grabbed the magnetic numbers and some more sorting cups and right away Li’l Bit, 5, and I were counting by 2s and 10s! She is SO PROUD of her new counting abilities and I am too. She sometimes gets the last of Momma, but on this day and this morning when we finished all but one cup of bean counting, she got me first thing in the morning which his how I’d like it to be. We counted aloud together at first and then she took over saying 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 … 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 …  over and over.



Once we would finish counting a set of beans into cups of 10, we would then count by 10s … 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100  until we had them all counted. Imagine her surprise as she realized she could count PAST 100. Some of our beans were less than 100, and she would easily find the two numbers she needed to represent the total. This lesson was so full of great math terminology as we talked about totals, tens, ones, adding, greater than, less than, and even hundreds!

We were all surprised by just how many beans could fit into one little muffin tin cup! She cannot WAIT to show her Daddy when he gets home tonight. This lesson taught me too or at least reminded me that one of the reasons I homeschool is to follow the delight of a child and pursue a love of learning! For the beans with totals in the hundreds, we counted by tens until we reached 100 combining the cups as we counted. She often counted by 10s all by herself, and sometimes she asked me to count along with her. After we made cups of 100 beans, we then talked about counting by 100s, and she easily caught on to the pattern of this as well. Each time she would work to figure out which magnetic numbers she needed to form the number she had named. I was so proud of her using her noodles to figure these 3-digit numbers out all by herself! I know she’s very smart, but even this surprised Momma!




Finally, here she is showing our almost-finished muffin tin full of COUNTED beans and seeds. We aren’t sure if we want to tackle those tiny lentils or not! Maybe another day, but for now we know which cup has the least amount and which one has the greatest amount. I asked her and she thought about it and told me correctly: 9 is the least and 239 is the greatest! Yes, that’s right sweet girl! Her smile is one of genuine joy in her big accomplishment to count almost all of these beans! I highly recommend this simple yet effective lesson, which you can adjust according to your child’s own ability level.






7 thoughts on “Hands-On Math

  1. Cate

    I love your homeschooling posts! My daughter is enrolled in a wonderful Christian school but I so worry about her love of learning being squelched. Your posts make me want to pull her out tomorrow and get busy learning at home.

    And, oh, how Little Bit has grown! Can we please tell our littles to slow down. There will be plenty of time for them to be big.

    1. Leslie

      Cate thank you so much for your comment. I have so many more posts to write. I really have missed it. Just trying to find a balance! Homeschooling is so hard and so rewarding. I’m thankful for the opportunity and exhausted most days too. 🙂 Leslie

  2. Kara M

    Oh my goodness!! She sure has changed! I was a junior high math teacher. Not to give unsolicited advice, but sorting which leads to patterning is the basis of algebraic concepts. two reds + one blue = 2x + y. Seeing self-driven math activities makes my heart happy 🙂

    1. Leslie Post author

      Kara, I LOVE you advice. Math is NOT my strong suit, so I love any and all advice and thoughts on it. I never thought of the algebraic connection with her being so young but you’re right! I’m glad to make your heart happy too with the math. 😉 Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  3. Nancy

    Oh my goodness – she has gotten SO BIG! And she looks like she is thoroughly enjoying her sorting project!!!


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