Back-to-School--Math Resources #STEM

Disclosure: Oriental Trading sent me this products in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Are your kids back at school yet? My Facebook feed is filled with first day pictures and it isn't quite time for the Northeast where the majority of my Facebook friends live. Hazel does not start until after Labor Day, but I know plenty who start earlier. To help those who are starting or who homeschool I thought I would use my teaching skills and review some mathematics resources for you today. Did you know that Oriental Trading has a whole curriculum section? Yes, Oriental Trading, my go-to for party and craft supplies has school curriculum! I figured I might as well use my math teaching experience to check some of this out. I focused on three areas--geometry, fractions and multiplication. Hazel is just learning her multiplication facts so I figured something to help her with that would be good. I found Learning Resources tri-FACT-a Multiplication and Division Game. (There is an addition and subtraction version as well.)

The game is rather simple. It can have up to four players. Each player takes six tiles and the goal is to get rid of your tiles. The person with the highest multiplication fact can go first. The product goes in the top triangle and the multipliers go in the bottom two (see photo below). Of course it can also work for division since it is the inverse operation. 

The next person can add two cards or three cards to make a true statement. If someone does not have a move he or she picks up a card. If he or she can then make a move he or she does if not the play moves to the next person. There are some wildcards as well. They can represent any number between 1 and 99. What moves does this person have to begin the game?

Last year Hazel worked a bit on fractions. She does not have the best understanding of them though so I looked for things to help build her fraction skills. As one of the teachers I worked with when I student taught always said, "You must be friends with fractions." I found two fraction products we didn't have and I thought would be useful. The first is the Fraction Set or what we call the fraction discs. 
I love that you can see how the smaller fractions can make a bigger fraction. For example in the photo below, 2/8 = 1/4.

They can also help with addition of fractions and knowing if the denominators are multiples of one another. For example the photo below has 1/8 + 1/8 + 1/4 + 1/2 = 1 (whole circle).

Or this one 1/6 + 1/3 + 1/2 = 1.

You can do some simple adding with fractions and show reducing as well. In this example we see that 1/10 + 1/10 = 2/10 and then we can see that 2/10 = 1/5 since the pieces are equal in size.

You can also show the denominators that do match up. For example 3/5 is greater than 1/2 and 2/5 is less than 1/2 so the fifths cannot make 1/2. 
You can also compare fractions with this set. For example which is bigger 1/4 or 1/5?

Take this a step further by looking at more of the fractions and see what happens as the denominator gets larger.

The other fraction item is Fractions Premium Bingo. I don't know a kid who doesn't like bingo.

On the game cards are pictures either has pie charts or rectangles of the various fractions. The pictures are color-coded. The quarters are light green, the sixths are pink, etc.  There are pizza slices as bingo chips. The calling cards have the fraction in them. They are not necessarily simplified.
This game gives the kids a way of picturing each fraction and it definitely helps them work on some subtraction. For example instead of counting 7 pieces one might count the 3 white pieces for 7/10. At first the game seems a bit simple and like a child will outgrow it. However there is more you can do. Since the cards are not simplified you could pull the ones that are not and only use the simplified fractions and let the kids figure out if they have that fraction (or have it multiple times). I pulled a few that are equivalent to give you the example.
Then of course there are the different ways of winning bingo. Whether it is the normal way of any line or a total black out or four corners, etc. There is a lot you can do with this game. The only downside I found was it was sometimes hard to see the pizza chips because all the color blends in to the busy boards. Hazel's fault with them was they had pepperoni on them.

I also got Dive Into Shapes Sea and Build Geometry Set.This is a great set for building shapes and especially 3D ones. It sure beats the marshmallow and toothpick models I did with my students back when I taught geometry.

When Hazel saw the pieces she could not wait to start building. They do have cards to show shapes and that ask questions to expand on each shape.

There are even cards about dividing the shapes (the purple ones) and combining shapes (the orange ones). The shapes are very easy to build. There are two types of balls that work as the vertices and connectors. The balls have the holes in different spots to create different shapes.

The orange connectors make the rectangular shapes and the red ones work well for hexagonal shapes. There are three sizes of straight rods for the sides and then a set of curved ones for circles and spheres. Hazel did this sphere by herself.

These are great for lessons on perimeter, area and volume. I also could see how to explain volume with these. For example if the student understands the idea of area of a rectangle (or any shape for the base), the student can see the height added on to the shape as if the rectangles (or base shape) are being stacked up to make the height.

Thus the volume is the area of the base times the height. With the image of the stacked bases it makes sense visually. I did the Hexagonal Prism card including the challenge to make it different heights. 

While exploring I tried to make a pyramid, but that is the one place this set falls short. The holes do not line up to make a pyramid (or a cone).

But there is quite a bit of exploring of shapes in 2 and 3 dimensions that can be done with this set. 

Our final item for today's review is the Geometry Peg Boards. These boards can be used with different age groups and I even used them in my high school classroom. They are great for exploring shapes. Challenge kids to make as many different triangles as they can (or other shape). You can also teach area with these boards. Since the pegs form a grid even young children can count the number of peg squares in the shape. Do these shapes have the same area? Which ones do?

Or give them a set area and have them make shapes with that area. Who can make the most?

Another great lesson is the visual of the Pythagorean Theorem. Make a right triangle on the board and then have kids make squares of the three sides. Then have the count the areas of the squares and see if the theorem works. 

Or have them work in groups with different right triangles to find the pattern. Talk about hands-on discovery learning. There are many different lessons using geometry peg boards including these at here and here

So if you are looking for fun ways to teach or reinforce math lessons, be sure to check out these and the other great ideas over at Oriental Trading and remember they have all different subjects!