Get a Grip! On Math & Science Skills

As much as we separate the two subjects, math and science are impossibly intertwined. After all, to observe and record observations about our world, we rely heavily on numbers and manipulations of numbers. Perhaps this is why failure to understand basic math concepts holds students back from doing well in some areas of science as well. If you asked the makers of TOPS about this issue, they would likely respond that part of the problem is that children aren't usually allowed much time to "experience" numbers and what they mean. In this spirit, they have put together this program to help children understand the meaning of numbers, mathematical operations, estimating, ordering, and even algebra! The program is designed around the "workstation," which includes a large job box which holds four pounds of lentils. Why lentils? Well, they're easy for kids to measure, easy to replace, and are clean and non-dusty. A collection of 10 bottles are the primary number manipulatives here, each labeled with a simple, easy-to-draw symbol such as a heart, star, fish, triangle, or circle, instead of numbers. The bottles (recycled pill bottles and glass jars) have been chosen because their different, graduating volumes mirror number values. For instance, the child will find that two "star" containers full of lentils exactly equal one "square" container, and can use this information to solve all kinds of puzzles. There are 8 booklets of puzzles for the student, or 128 total puzzles. These involve using the jars and lentils to determine which jars hold more, how many jars of one kind it takes to fill up another, which jar will hold the volumes from two or more other filled jars, which container will hold multiple fillings from smaller ones, which container can only fit a fraction of a bigger one, and so on. Because there are no numbers printed on the containers, children will think about amounts in more abstract terms, but will be able to "see" them more concretely. After working through the puzzles, I think that children would have the ability to think about numbers much more flexibly than after learning them the "traditional" way. Much of the information required is found in the teacher's guide, which offers help in getting the workstation up and running, provides answers and commentary for each of the children's puzzles, and includes reproducible answer sheets. The Complete Workstation contains everything you need to get started, including the lentils, workstation, bottles, funnels, scoop, clothespin, jars, and print materials (student and teacher books). The Workstation without lentils contains all of the above with no lentils.

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