Last week I observed a couple of three-year olds working very intently at a table. They were playing so hard that they didn’t even notice me walking over to them. You know the kind of play I mean; head down, completely focused, and entirely engrossed. When I saw what they were playing with, I was a bit surprised. There was a bucket of simple letter blocks and another tub of small plastic manipulatives; nothing special, the kind you see every day.
In retrospect, I don’t think either of these manipulatives would be very interesting on their own, but TOGETHER they created an opportunity for these children to explore new dimensions and possibilities that alone were unavailable.
Think about the manipulatives in your room. Which ones might be interesting to mix up? What materials have the children grown tired of? How can you present those so they reinvigorate the children’s interests? Needless to say, the math explorations above fascinated me.