A month BEFORE Easter, two days AFTER Easter, and still counting, my kids can’t stop carrying around a bazillion plastic eggs. They are everywhere! Obviously they love to hide and seek them, but they are also really fun to incorporate into learning. Today I want to share with you some fun and easy ways to add math to your day using plastic eggs and an egg carton.
To practice subitizing (the ability to “see” how many objects there are without counting) with your eggs, you will need up to 10 eggs in two or three different colors and an egg carton. This activity is great for preK-1st grade and can be easily differentiated.
For my preschooler, I only use up to 5 eggs. It’s important that preschoolers learn number sense with a very small amount of objects to start with. Once they understand how numbers are related and connected, they can explore with bigger amounts. While Little A closes her eyes, I choose any amount, up to 5, of the SAME colored eggs. She opens her eyes and has to quickly tell me how many eggs there are. We will do this for a few rounds, changing up the amount and the placement. It’s important to change the placement of the eggs so that they can see the number 5, for instance, represented in a variety of ways.
After a few rounds of that, I will change it up. This time I will choose any amount up to 5, but I will use 2 different colors. This helps your preschooler start to see and visualize addition with very few objects. Again, have fun changing up the placement of the eggs. You can choose up to 3 different colors, but again only use 5 eggs max. For these littles, they might “see” the number three using one egg in three different colors, or use three colors but really space them apart in your egg carton, and again no more than 5.
For students in kindergarten and up, you can use practice any amount up to 10. While kindergartens and 1st graders must work with numbers above 10 and up to 100, it is important that they have solid number sense of up to 10 objects. This is will give them the foundation and understanding to see how bigger numbers are related.
Remember, the idea is to practice “seeing” how many, rather than counting or taking the time to add. Using any more than 10 objects and your kiddo will have a hard time “seeing” as there will be too many for them to bring together. Again I start with a small amount, probably 4 or 5 and change the placement. Next, I will bring in a second color and we will play for a few more rounds. Finally, once I am confident that he is getting the idea, I will introduce an amount using 3 different colors. By using three colors, you can really work on counting by 2’s. Again be careful not to get too many colors everywhere or your kiddo will start not “seeing” how many and will rely more on counting. The idea is to use color grouping and spacing to practice the important skill of subitizing.
To practice skip counting
While working with my other kiddo, I have Little A practice some patterning using her eggs.
Addition and Subtraction or Composing and Decomposing
Here is another fun game that you can play. You will 10 eggs in ONLY two colors, not three. Again this activity can be differentiated. When using an egg carton, it is important only to use 10 of the spaces (5 on top, and 5 right below) so that this imitates the use of a ten-frame, see below. You can either cut on the two spaces on the end or block those out.
First, decomposing numbers means to break down numbers into their sub-parts. There are two ways to do this. First you can decompose numbers into their tens and ones if focusing on numbers 11 and up. The second is to show how any number 1 to 10 can be created using a variety of addends.
For my preschooler, I start off by saying we are going to play a game to see how many ways there are to make the number 5. You can write the number on paper, a dry erase board, or not at all if you prefer. I only use eggs, in two colors, up to 5 max. Since we are only using 5, you will only need to use the first 5 spaces on the top row of your egg carton. Don’t use the bottom row. Have your student close their eyes while you make some combination of 5. Once made, have your child open their eyes and tell you how many of each. They might say 3 and 2. You could further extend by saying, “You’re right, 3 purple and 2 pink make 5 altogether.” This will go pretty fast since they aren’t a lot of ways to make 5 but that is okay, preschoolers don’t need much time per activity.
Another game that might be a challenge for your preschooler is to put 5 eggs in carton, can use two colors but works just fine using all the same color, and say that you are going to take some out of the carton while they close their eyes. Take away any amount up to 5 out the carton and close the lid (best to have an solid lid on your egg carton so they can’t peek). Have them open their eyes and say to them, “Here are 2 eggs outside of the carton. How many eggs are inside the carton? Continue to play with any and all amounts up to 5.
For my kindergartener, I again start off by saying we are going to play a game to see how many ways there are to make 10. I have him close his eyes and I will create some combination of 10. He will open his eyes and tell me what he thinks.
To make it a paper-pencil activity, you can have your child write out the equations or fill in the blanks for a pre-written equation. You can also use a printed ten-frame template or number bond template if you would like your child to show their thinking.
After your child has played this game with you and is ready for independent practice, make some addition and subtraction cards on index cards. Have an addition pile that might have cards that show 5+4=___. Students are to add 5 eggs and then 4 (could be the same color or a different color). You can practice any addition problem, doesn’t necessarily have to make 10. Same with subtraction. Cards might say 10-3=___, 10-8=___.
You can also play the challenge game as mentioned above but this time using 10. Tell your student that there are 10 eggs in the carton and that you are going to take some out. Have them look to see how many you took out and decide how many are still in the carton.
We started with 10 eggs. Three eggs are outside. How many are inside?
Need even more of a challenge for your 1st or 2nd grader? Combine lots of egg cartons together. You can combine two egg cartons (don’t forget to cut off the two top and bottom spaces at the end) and work with numbers up to 20. And I mean who doesn’t want 10 egg cartons and 100 plastic eggs laying around their house?? If this is you, thinking it will be me, ask your friends if they have leftover eggs and egg cartons, grab a nice big bin and you have the ability to make a gigantic hands-on one hundred chart. Oh the possibilities are endless.
I hope these ideas will give your child a fun way to use all those plastic eggs as well as give you some quick and easy ways to practice these important math skills.
Always an EDventure!