Teaching Addition Thru Stories and Play - Play Discover Learn 24/7

Teaching Addition Thru Stories and Play

Ever been drawn into doing something just because you watched a powerful movie or read an inspiring story. Let's look at teaching addition thru stories to captivate young children. .

You can watch the video or read the blog, which ever suits your learning needs. 

A couple of years ago I got sucked into homesteading just by watching a family vlog about their daily adventures on their homestead. Eight sheep, two cattle, two pigs, 12 chickens, 2 turkey, 2 ducks, an orchard and a messy veggie garden later, and you can see the power a good story can have on a person’s life.​

Science tells us that we are hard wired to remember stories and those stories can accelerate learning by creating stronger memories. 

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Science tells us that we are hard wired to remember stories and those stories can accelerate learning by creating stronger memories.  To teach addition using Cuisenaire rods, Caleb Gattegno introduces building trains to tap into that imagination that drives free play. But there is opportunity to really make this activity shine in young children’s hearts and that is thru story telling.

Making a Good Book Choice​

teaching addition thru stories

Picking a book on trains only makes sense, and I like “Where do Steam Trains Sleep at Night?” by Brianna Caplan Sayres. (affiliate link) This beautiful picture book is a delightful rhyming book and it is a quick read.

Attention is a scarce resource and we must chose carefully or we will lose that scarce resource.  So let's look quickly at why I like this book and it will help you later in choosing good books for transitional activities. 

Children have a natural inclination towards patterns and so rhyming really captures their attention. Plus, the shortness of the book also gives you plenty of time to jump into the train building activity without losing them.

The added bonus is that this is a bedtime themed story, so if you are just getting back from outdoor play, the quieting rhythm of the book will work like a charm to settle them down for math.

Growing Understanding thru Narration​

teach addition

After reading the book, pull out the Cuisenaire rods and as you place each rod end to end, tell the children you are building a train. Draw them into the story by saying you’re building a steam train being chased by robbers or a passenger train on their way to the high mountain tops.  

When you finish building your train of three or more rods, describe the train to the children. My train is a red plus a white plus a blue. Then invite the children to begin building trains.

Have each child describe their train in the same manner as you. Assist them as needed and encourage them to tell a story about their train, too. What kind of train is it? Where is it going?

Extending Activity thru Comparing​

building trains

Using a play mat from PDL’s Math Task Cards and Play Mats for Module one, we can extend this activity by comparing different trains. Students can build a train and compare it to smaller and larger trains.

This activity introduces the idea of organizing information to see different connections. Students can organize their trains in groups or individually. Have the students discuss what they see.

Extend the students’ awareness by asking them to look more closely. Are three car trains always the longest trains? What train is the shortest but has the most cars? Can a two car train be longer than a three car train? The discoveries are endless, but this will get you going.

Stop Before You Lose Them​

building trains

No matter how endless the discoveries are, be sure to put this activity away before they lose interest.  

There is a reason you wait patiently for season 2 of your favorite show to return.  They ended it before you lost interest leaving you hungry for more.   Implement this technique with children and you will learn the value of hunger. 

If you have already introduced the train activity and your children have lost their enthusiasm for trains, try pulling out different books on trains and pretending to build those trains.

If that doesn’t work, you may want to consider changing the activity up to PDL's Building Equation Paths for Cuisenaire Rods instead of trains. I will talk about building paths in an upcoming post.

Want more ideas? Be sure to follow me on Instagram where I give simple daily task activities with tips to help you lead your children into more math discoveries thru play.

Lacy | Play Discover Learn 24/7

Knowing the best kind of learning comes from a highly motivated internal drive, Lacy Coker cultivates tools and resources that help to make learning for young children playful and self-directed.

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