Exploring 100
22 Feb, 2015. 2 Comments. . Posted By: Kristen Smith

hands on math

Children are naturally inquisitive. As they grow, they, without prompting, seek out learning. As many of my friends who have toddlers would attest to, they ask incredible amounts of questions. They want to know how and why and where and when. They have a natural love of discovery.

I have been doing a lot of research on how children learn. In some of my research, I came across this WEALTH of knowledge. Check this out:

Sensitive Learning Periods {Source: Montessori En Casa}

Sensitive Learning Periods {Source: Montessori En Casa}

“Sensitive periods” is a term developed by the Dutch geneticist Hugo de Vries and later used by the Italian educator Maria Montessori. The term refers to several overlapping periods of development where a child is sensitive to a particular stimuli or type of interaction.*{ Source: Study.com}

Montessori noted that from birth until age 6, children very easily acquire certain abilities. She noted that during the sensitive periods it was very easy and natural for a child to gain certain skills. However, once the sensitive period had passed, it was more difficult for the child to master that same skill. An example of this would be learning a new language. It has been scientifically proven that if you learn a new language while your LAD (language acquisition device) is developing, it will be exponentially easier to learn the new language. As many of us know from trying to learn a foreign language in middle school, it was not necessarily very easy to learn that new language.

Using The Sensitive Period For Numbers To Teach Math

By reading the graph, you’ll notice that the sensitive period for numbers is between 4 to 6.  More so, Maria Montessori believed that children have an innately Mathematical Mind.

“The results we obtain with our little ones contrast oddly with the fact that mathematics is so often held to be a scourge rather than a pleasure in school programs. Most people have developed ‘mental barriers’ against it. Yet all is easy if only its roots can be planted in the absorbent mind” (The Absorbent Mind, 17, p. 170).

We can use this knowledge to truly help our students develop a mathematical mind. Through incorporating hands-on materials during the sensitive period, students have the ability to learn complex math at very early ages.

I noticed when I taught first grade that my students could very easily rote count. 1,2,3,4,5,… However, when we began to dive into number concepts and more difficult math concepts, I realized they were lacking a solid foundation of number sense. Therefore, this year, I wanted to help my kindergarteners really develop a solid grasp of number sense.

Especially with the 100th day quickly approaching (thanks to snow days), I wanted my students to know much more than just how to count to 100. To do this, I used a variety of hands-on activities.

The first game we called, “Trade up to make 100.

I kind of tricked my students when we started this game. I took out a bag full of units (ones cubes) and asked the group of students working with me to count out 100 units. They began to work… 1,2,3,4,5 and they got pretty far. However, I could hear in their counting that they were starting to need some support. So, I took out the tens towers (that were also on the table inside our base ten bin) and asked them what they were? They eagerly responded with, “a ten!” I suggested they start trading in their units (ones) for ten towers. They eagerly counted out ten, then took out a ten tower and took away the 10 units.

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Slowly but surely, they started getting more and more tens and enthusiastically counted by tens to see where they were.digraph readers-20 digraph readers-18

They matched their tens to our hundreds square to see how many more tens they needed.digraph readers-21 And they eventually made it to 100. (with LARGE smiles on their faces)digraph readers-22They LOVED this activity and asked if they could play it again. I said sure and they took the game to a whole new level. The second time they played it they had one person be the counter and one person be the banker. The counter would bring ten units to the banker and the banker carefully counted them again to make sure they were correct and eagerly handed their friend a ten saying, “here’s your ten!” It was so sweet and a game that they played over and over again throughout the month.

In playing games like this, my students truly began to understand how many 100 is.

In addition to this game, my students have also been working on our 100s board. I bought this board knowing that it would be a great resource but I wasn’t sure exactly how  my students would take to it. However, this became one of their favorite math bins last month. They returned to it again and again and felt so accomplished when they completed the board!

The materials include wooden numbers from 1-100 and a wooden case for the numbers and a board.

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My students loved making sure they were putting their numbers in the correct order and I loved the math connections they were making with this hands-on 100s chart.

digraph readers-17This also helped solidify their concept of 100 and their numbers from 1-100!
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Another exploratory center that we have been loving is our block set of 100. Oh how my students love the beautiful colors of this set!

hands on math

The girls above were working on making a “100 spiral.”

The last center that I wanted to show you was an extension that I did with some of my high flying boys. These boys have fantastic math minds and I wanted to challenge them. Therefore, I took out my BIG wooden numbers and we worked on adding LARGE numbers. (Yes, these are kindergarteners)

My students created 3 large numbers using the wooden numbers and then made them with our base ten blocks. (In the picture below, the child is fixing the number “92” and taking away some tens to make sure it is correct before they count up the final number!)

digraph readers-40 They then added the numbers together to see what SUPER number they had made. These boys were SO beyond excited with this work that they took it out again and again.

By using hands-on materials and really letting my students explore with our numbers, their number sense is getting better and better. They truly understand numbers and how they work together. I truly agree with what Montessori said with using the “sensitive period” and really letting our young learners shine. My students LOVED this work and it was very engaging for them. They felt a huge sense of accomplishment in using and completing the work. I couldn’t be happier with the outcomes I am seeing.

If you are interested in any of these materials, here is a widget that will take you to Amazon.com, where I purchased them from:

  1. Hello, I just discovered your site today and I am thrilled! I was hoping you could share where to purchase wooden number squares like in the photo above. Please and thank you, Marcy-aka: NanaT


  • Hello, I just discovered your site today and I am thrilled! I was hoping you could share where to purchase wooden number squares like in the photo above. Please and thank you, Marcy-aka: NanaT

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