Manipulatives have started making in roads in math education, but 20 years later base 10 blocks are still woefully under utilized for teaching much more than addition, subtraction and place value.
I spent a lot of time showing you how to use base 10 manipulatives this page shows a couple examples of square roots but the entire website shows you how to do much much more. Please. Poke around.
Base 10 Blocks are great for teaching algebra, and because algebra is generic math, it is great for teaching other basic operations too. I use algebra right away even with very young students to start teaching math concepts instead of hammering them with math facts they need to memorize.
The best part about base 10 blocks is they show any student what the symbols mean...they can literally get their hands on a concept and this makes it much easier for them to wrap their minds around the mathematics.
You always start in the concrete, that is the base 10 blocks when teaching a subject like math to little kids. Using math terms like "lowest common denominator" just serve to confuse the situation when teaching fractions to little kids who may make up a meaning for that term in their minds that has precious little to do with making fractions the same before we add them. (My fractions page is a bit of an embarrassment at the moment.)
Remember no concept is beyond the grasp of a child if it is presented at the child's level. Same is easy to grasp and show using manipulatives while "lowest common denominator" is not as easy for a 6 year old to understand...not that they can't and you want to increase their understanding of this concept and the name for it as time passes. Might not be best to start with it. Maybe after a few lessons of making same THEN the name for making the denominators alike can be introduced.
Same with square roots and radicals...make a square and count one side is easy to understand and see when you have base 10 blocks...not so easy when all you get is symbols. Taking the next step from making squares to finding square roots to expressing numbers as radicals is not only easy but natural and greatly simplified with manipulatives.
The question often arises with home schoolers especially home school moms "how do I teach my kid algebra when I didn't understand it myself and still don't get it?" Fair question. The answer at Crewton Ramone's House Of Math is you learn it right along with them and start them early. You have a lot more experience with math than your 5 year old, you will pick it up quickly and often the little kids get it faster than their parents and will explain it to you in terms you understand. Put your child in a math rich environment and they will learn math. Here is a four year old playing math.
If your child is in high school it doesn't matter you can still learn together using the videos and webpages and blog I have created. Here is a mom who claims she is "just a mom" with a high school education doing a very fine job teaching her kids math using somewhat inferior and cheaper base ten blocks called Cuisenaire Rods. I made a few commets on her videos, and will make more as time permits. Her idea is that you can use what you have to teach math and I think part of the reason she makes her vids is to show you that you CAN teach your kids math...so stop making excuses and get started. If you think you can't afford Mortensen Math blocks and you already have Cuisenaire Rods then use those. Eventually you will figure out you can't afford NOT to use Mortensen Math blocks. But I'm biased.
This was always the gripe with people in the 90's when all we had was a few VHS tapes: they needed more training and didn't know what to do and didn't know how to get started. The point of this endeavor is to remove your excuses and get you teaching your kids math. JUST GET STARTED.
Where? Anywhere. What do you do first? Whatever you want...just as long as they can count to nine recognize a rectangle and tell if something is same or different. If they can't count to nine I have pages for that too...base 10 blocks make it easy and fun. Did I mention when you use base ten blocks you automatically add an element of fun into the lesson? You do.
If you are looking for base 10 blocks you can get them here and with me you get a password which gains you access to MANY hours of vids and lots of PDF's to help you make the best use of your blocks. There are nows hundreds of hours of videos and reading for you to go through that are ABSOLUTELY FREE. Not free if you give your email and phone number, not free with a purchase but just plain FREE.
When you go through a lot of that THEN you might want to get a password. If you get a set of blocks through me you get an annual password. That's a $24.00 dollar value. Here is a book I wrote that introduces several concepts to young children you can down load it with you password. Stuff gets added to the password protected pages all the time and I am told it takes a few weeks to get through it all if you spend a lot of time at it. Months if you just do a little each week. This is the recommended way and I highly recommend you have your blocks out and play along as you do so. Just watching won't cut it you need to be hands on.
I can't stress this enough. Over the years and through my travels I found that having your hands on the base 10 blocks made all the difference between a crowd that 100% got it from grandma to the kids and a crowd that didn't. If you think that you can learn math without DOING math: you're going to have a bad time. Just watching the vids isn't enough.
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