It’s been so good to hear from so many of you over the past few days letting me know how you’re doing and what is and is not working for you in your homes. Thanks for reaching out with your stories, thoughts and questions- it reminds me how fortunate I am to be part of a community that is determined to stay connected.

We’ve been having a lot of fun playing with math at our house over this week, so I thought that I would skip ahead to sharing some ideas from our Reading/Writing/Math time over the next few days. Here’s one of the mathematical activities we’ve designed using the random stuff that’s in our house! (User warning: this one is kind of explain-y and detailed because Math is my favorite subject to teach and I just love to get into it! Feel free to skim: I promise there won’t be a quiz at the end.)

Math: How Many in a Handful?

This is a fun game that teaches estimation, counting, and number recognition/formation that you can play using just about any smallish supplies you have in your house. I took four cereal bowls and filled one with letter beads, one with glue sticks, one with acrylic jewels and one with cotton balls. The important thing isn’t what object you use- it’s that the objects vary in size and shape (I’ll explain why in a little bit).

In this game, you are going to be asking your child to estimate how many of each type of small object they can hold in their hand at once, then let them grab a handful of the supply and have them count it to see how close they were! First explain to your child what the word estimate means. For the purpose of this game, I defined it as “a thoughtful guess about how many there are.” Remind them that it’s okay if an estimate turns out to be different from the real amount, it’s just about making a thoughtful guess.

I created a chart (see image below) for us to record our estimates and the actual amount of each supply we counted. Depending on your child’s age, fine-motor skill level and temperament, you might try:

  • Having your child write the numbers independently
  • Showing them an image of the number for them to copy
  • Drawing dot-to-dot numbers on their paper for them to trace
  • Writing the numbers “hand-over-hand”
  • Recording the numbers for them while they observe

Any of these strategies are a great way to expose your child to number recognition/formation. (Songs to sing that teach number formation are listed at the bottom of this email for the auditory learners amongst us).

After they’ve made their estimate about the first supply, let them grab a handful of it. If your kids tend to knock things off the counter like mine do, give them a special “counting bowl” to put their handful of supplies in. Now it’s time to count! I had my children move one object at a time out of their counting bowl and into a new pile as they said each number. This helps kids avoid recounting an object and builds their ability to say one number word for each object (one-to-one correspondence). You can also modify by:

  • counting the objects yourself as your child watches
  • saying the counting words together as your child moves one object at a time into the pile
  • saying the counting words together while you move one object at a time into the pile… it’s all good.

Now go onto the next supply! The reason I asked you to choose objects that differ in size and shape is that now you are going to ask your child to engage in relational thinking (for those children who are ready for it). You can say things such as, “You could hold four legos at once, which were pretty big. These beans look a lot smaller… I wonder if you’ll be able to hold more or less of them?” “You were able to hold 10 marbles and 3 race cars. Which number is greater, which number is more?”

We’ve played this game every day at our Math Time so far, using different materials each day. Aaron and I have played along and the kids have loved seeing how different the quantities are for each member of our family based on our hand size. I’ve seen the progress of my children’s ability to reason mathematically about number and volume grow already through this practice; I hope your kids enjoy it as much as mine did!

With all my best wishes for you and your kiddos.

In solidarity,


Songs to sing with numeral formation: (to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle)

0: Draw an oval nice and slow, that’s how you make a zero.

1: Straight line down to make a one, I am having lots of fun.

2: Curve around that’s what you do, straight line out- you’ve made a two.

3: Bump to the right, bump to the right, threes are fun day and night.

4: Little “L”, lift, straight line down. Make four now and don’t you frown. (kids love to frown at this point)

5: Line to the left, straight line down, five has the yummiest tummy in town.

6: Curve around to make a six, that is one of my best tricks.

7: Line to the left, slant line down, seven slides down to the ground.

8: Make an “S” to start your eight then curve around as you skate.

9: Curve around, close the circle tight. Straight line down makes nine just right