Math Sticks

A few days ago, I posted a picture of our math stick lesson on my Facebook page and had a lot of questions, so I decided to do a quick post explaining them. :)
A few years ago when our district first dived into common core, the biggest change we found ourselves faced with in kindergarten was the standard of decomposing numbers. Up until then, our math was {now that we can look back and cringe!} mostly hitting the surface and not really digging deep. We had to come up with some fresh, engaging, HANDS-ON lessons that would get kids understanding the concept of decomposing. Enter math sticks - a little idea my friend Deeanna came up with.

For each stick, we use a pipe cleaner {aka a fuzzy stick}, pony beads, and a clipart cut out {copied on cardstock}. To make the sticks, we hot glue the stick to the back of the picture, add the number of beads we need, and tie a knot in the end.
 As you may remember from earlier posts, we teach a number a week and really dig into each number. Starting with number 5, we start using math sticks. Each week, the stick looks different depending on our them that week. This past week, we were studying fire safety, so our math went along with that theme. Throughout the week and with our math stick, we used a little song Deeanna made up.

When we start this lesson each week, I have the kids sit in circle. They bring a pencil, crayon, and clipboard with their recording sheet with them. This is what works best for me. Other teachers at our school have the kids at their desks for this.

The paper/pencil element is to help the kids see the written equation for what we're doing. In this week's lesson, we started with all the beads {representing firemen} on the left {on the firetruck}. During the song, when one firemen left to get a hose, we would move a bead down to the other end {representing that he was no longer on the truck}. Then, we would draw red dots on the line on our paper so that it looked like our stick. Finally, we wrote the equation to match. Clear as mud?

Here are two other examples of math sticks we've used this year:

These lessons each week really do help my students with decomposing. Are they difficult in the beginning? Of course! But what in kindergarten is ever a breeze the first time??
I really encourage you to use math sticks or any other manipulative in helping your kids decompose and I also encourage you to start decomposing as quickly as possible! You'll be amazed at what your students can do!
And on a completely unrelated note, I just added a fun little freebie to practice beginning letters/sounds as well as fine motor. You can grab it by clicking the picture :)


  1. Totally awesome, I'm going to the nearest craft section to stock up!! Thanks for sharing!

    The Daily Alphabet

  2. Love the fuzzy sticks!! I've seen you post about them over thee last few years, but, I still haven't tried them (even though I frequently copy the pages, buy supplies, etc). I want to do these and am going to do one (if only one) this month!! Thanks for posting and keeping me on track :)


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