I only found out about Geoboards last year. Maybe I used them in school long ago but I certainly don’t remember. If you haven’t seen them before let me tell you, they sure are cool for playing around with math concepts, particularly geometry which happens to be one of my favorites.  Here’s what they look like:
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Each board has a grid of small pegs, and you connect rubber bands around the pegs to form different shapes. The boards come in different sizes; the ones shown here are 5X5 grids.

One benefit of geoboards is that all ages can have fun and learn with them. A preschooler can make simple shapes: triangle, square, rectangle, etc. They can make big shapes, small shapes, and crazy shapes – let them use their imagination!
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For younger elementary students, show them a shape/pattern and ask them to re-create it on the geoboard.  They can get a little complicated believe it or not. Here are some example patterns we tried:
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For older elementary students, geoboards can be used to explain perimeter and area. Don’t be surpised if geoboards make future appearances here on mathmeup! Rather than bore you with more pictures of my kids, here’s one of several available videos to show how geoboards can be used:
So where can you find these wonderful boards? I ordered mine from Amazon, and have seen them at Becker’s teacher-supply store as well. They are not expensive, and you can really get mileage out of these things for years to come. π 
 
Thanks to everyone who checked out this site! I got a lot of hits yesterday and love the comments too. I hope you'll come back frequently. I'm getting the hang of this now, so feel free to spread the word if you like it. Also I welcome any ideas -- I want to hear what others are doing to encourage math learning at home!  Now on to this activity from a few days ago...
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On swim practice nights the dinner table dynamics are always unpredictable. The kids’ moods can range from quiet-easygoing-zen to utterly exhausted-maniacal-crying-breakdown mode.  I find the evening meal is more manageable if there’s some sort of distraction. For example, tonight there was a pile of chopsticks and rubber bands on the table, which piqued their curiosity enough to divert the typical whines of “What is this? I’m not going to eat it!” 

Before I go on, I must give credit where it is due. The following fun activity comes from Math Cats. They call it a ‘triangle stand’ and their pictures and description are way better than mine!  Anyway, here are the building blocks we used tonight:
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“What are those for?” the kids immediately asked.

“We’re going to build something!” I answered. “Tetrahedra,” I added enthusiastically.

Let me tell you, they were all over it! They had no idea what tetrahedra are but they readily grabbed at the chopsticks and rubber bands.  The first step is to tie 3 chopsticks together in a triangle:
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Then you take 3 more chopsticks, attach them at each vertex, and tie the 3 loose ends together at the top. Voilà, a tetrahedron! The kids each made one (I helped Mona with hers):
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Then Wanda asked the obvious question, “Mommy, what IS a tetrahedron?” Good question!  A tetrahedron is a three-dimensional shape where each of its 4 faces is a triangle. The kind we made could also be called a triangular pyramid

“Oooh just like the pyramids in Egypt!”

Well, sort of… the Egyptian pyramids (the ones we always see pictures of at least) have a 4-sided base. So, we decided to make an Egyptian style pyramid for comparison. First the base:
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See the difference?
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By this time we were ready to move on to dessert. We made it through the meal with minimal conflict and managed to learn something in the process. If only it were that easy every night! Π
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Preschool “math” activities are super easy to integrate into everyday life. My 3-year old daughter is always eager to point out numbers (and letters) on signs, boxes, school buses, buildings, t-shirts, you name it. She is also game to identify and create shapes, which is what prompted our recent lunchtime activity which allowed us to simultaneously practice a little geometry and play with our food.

I set out a bowl of dry cereal next to our lunch plates. In case you are curious it was Cracklin’ Oat Bran, a tasty choice if you can get past its strong resemblance to cat food. The C.O.B. became our tool for making shapes (and more, as you’ll see) as the two of us enjoyed a leisurely lunch while the ‘big kids’ were at school. 

I first wanted to see if she could complete a shape that I started. For example, I started the first two lines of this shape for her:
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And voilà! Here’s how she finished it:
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We tried again with this one:
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So far so good, so I continued along this theme of basic shapes. Here we go, complete this shape:
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At this point I walked away for a few minutes to do something (probably checking my email, I admit) and came back to find this masterpiece:
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I totally wasn’t expecting that!  Isn’t he cute? I absolutely loved the little alien and she was so proud of herself. The funny thing is, I have no idea if she didn’t know it was supposed to be a circle or if she just thought the circle was too boring and decided to get creative. What do you think?

By the way, my little girl loved this! We went on to create different shapes then letters, we spelled her name, and we counted pieces of cereal. She didn’t even realize I was shoveling mouthfuls of food into her mouth as we “played” so she really ate a good hearty lunch and nibbled a bit of dry cereal in the process (she would have eaten much more cereal if it had been sticky and brightly colored, believe me).

She even ate the rest of the C.O.B. for snack later that day. I personally am not keen on food that’s been handled that much, but as you know a 3-year-old couldn’t care less and honestly I think she enjoyed the cereal even more, knowing those were the same pieces we played with for an hour before she put it in her mouth. A little gross maybe, but the girl knows her shapes pretty well so I can’t complain. π