Preschool Math: PrairieFrog Style

From infancy through toddlerhood we use “Baby Math” to give exposure to number concepts with dot cards in an adapted Glen Doman style.  Through this we introduce numbers, but not numerals.  Keegan and Keianna have passed the baby math age and are ready to learn all their addition and subtraction facts up to sums of 10!  A few friends wanted to see how I teach this stage, so here goes! *

Session 1: I have them count the beads on every row of this little abacus, confirming that every row has ten.  If an abacus isn’t available this step could be skipped and go straight to some other manipulative like my magnetic marbles a few steps down.

Session 1: Abacus 10s

Session 2: Again with the abacus we begin dividing the “tens” in each row into “different kinds of tens” We count them, counting the two parts of each ten and then recounting that the whole row is indeed still ten.  When this has been verified, we then do a little chant as she touches the Session 2: Abacus 10sgroups of beads,





6, 4: 10;

5,5: 10;

5,5: 10;

4,6: 10;

3,7: 10;

2,8: 10;

1, 9: 10; 

Session 3:

Substituting magnetic marbles for the abacus we again make groups to match our chant.

Session 3: Marble 10s

Session 4: As a child points to each section of each ten, we do the chant again, going faster each time to make it a game.  Sometimes I say it and demonstrate, sometimes I have one of the children chant solo, and sometimes we go through the list in unison.

Session 4: Marble 10s Session 4B: More Marble 10s

 Session 5:  (The wee ones are feeling mathish so we have several sessions in a day.)   This time they help set up the groups.   I get out 9 and ask, “What does this need to be a 10?” Keianna (or maybe Keegan) answers, “1”.  Then they may get out a contrasting marble.

Once we’ve formed the tens by adding up, we will do our chant.  The chant changes this time though, and we add in addition termonology!   Instead of just saying, “9,1; 10” we change to “9 plus 1 equals 10″ and so on…

Session 5: Adding Marbles Session 5B: More Adding Marbles
Session 6:
Again I have them count to verify that each set is ten.  (Easier to count if break the circles into rows.)  They count, and then break the groups into the two parts.  They will now touch each part as they say the chant, touching the 9 marbles as they say, “nine” then touching the single marble and saying, “plus one”, then touching both togher and saying “ten”.  We continue through all the groups.

Session 6: Verifying sums of 10

Session 6: More Adding sums to 10 drill

Session 7: At this point I introduce numeral symbols instead of just the concrete numbers. I simply have them match up numerals to the dot values.  Somehow they knew the numerals already, so it was a short lesson.

Session 7: Introducing Numeral Symbols Session 8: Marble Subtraction

Session 8:Now it is time for subtraction.  we separate the contrasting marbles, but keep them near their partners and again do our chant, but this time saying, “10 minus 9 is one; 10 minus 8 is 2; 10 minus 7 is 3” and so on first with the larger number first, then back the other way touching (and saying) the smaller number first.

Session 9:  Now for the chalkboard!  I write a chart of our chant.  I tap the chart while we go through it backward and  forward.  Sometimes we just say the numbers (like the first chant), sometimes with “plus” for addition, sometimes with tapping the 10 on top first, and doing subtraction.  We go through it until it is firmly set, usually just 10 minutes or so because really it is the same thing we’d drilled with abacus and marbles already.

Session 9: Chalkboard

Session 10: Finally I begin erasing numerals and drilling the children on “what was here?” as I erase a single numeral.  Then we run the chart with that numeral missing.  When it is solid, I erase another, tapping all the empty  holes saying, “What goes here?”  Again, we then run the chant with my tapping the chart.  Then we erase another numeral and so on until the chart is a blank tree.  I then drill them tapping just the blank tree a few times a day for a week or two to make sure it is set.

Additonally, I’ll tap the chart as I call out the random facts, calling “10-8” and then tapping the place the “2” would go, I wait for a child to call out, “two!”.

Session 10: Erase Game

Children calling out the numbers erased.  Dad being part of the furniture.

After that, we move on and do the same thing for the 9 chart, 8 chart, 7 chart and on down to 2.  We go through the same steps–marbles and all. (Except after the 10 chart, we skip the abacus in steps 1& 2 and the numeral cards in step 7.).  Usually long before we get to the two chart the child has predicted, “I know what the 2 chart will be, Mommy!  One, One Two!”  They catch on to the pattern pretty quickly.

Once they know all the charts (hence all the addition and subtraction facts up through sums of 10), they are ready to zip through a first grade math text–mostly just doing the text to acquaint themselves with written math.


*Note: The abacus and marble adaptations are my own, but the chart idea came from the Professor B Math Curriculum.  I used Professor B with Kaira for several years, and retained a few aspects in my teaching for the youngers.


5 thoughts on “Preschool Math: PrairieFrog Style

  1. Where to buy the magnetic marbles: For a long time Oriental Trading Company had the best prices, and I bought most of mine there, but they don't have them now. Good news, though! has them inexpensively, as do several school suppliers such as Discount School Supply… We love these marbles. My very favorite math manipulative ever.

  2. Ooo, this all very interesting – I took a lot of notes 🙂

    But now I have another question – how do you do the "baby math?" Can you back track and explain? I searched your blog because I know you've mentioned it before, but didn't find an explaination (though maybe I missed it?) Do you really have 100 of those dot cards? How do you use them? How is what you do different from what Doman recommends? Just curious, I am always looking for new ideas for my kiddos! Blessings,. VeronicaEdited by MamaMahnken on Sunday, June 29, 2008 at 8:01 PM

  3. Doman's Baby Math: Yes, we have 100 of the dot cards, lol. How do we do it different than his book (which many libraries have, btw to anyone interested who doesn't want to spend the money)? Well, we do it a bit more relaxed–mostly by default because we have other priorities and get a bit lax. We don't switch out the cards as fast as he suggests, and sometimes, because we go too long in between switching to the next batch, we go back and review the first 25 cards to keep them fresh instead of always progressing forward as he suggests. (We'd do closer to his suggestions if we were more diligent and consistent.) Also we will sometimes, once we've introduced all 100 flash through the whole pack at once if the child is enjoying it and they have the attention span. Doman says not to do this–he says it should always be fewer and always random, never in order, but sometimes the short sessions just seem SO short, and I think they might catch the concept better if sometimes–just on rare occasion–the cards are shown in sequence. (What do I know though–I'm just putting my "hunch" against his research.)

    So basically, we do his system, but more "laid back" and lax. We basically view the dot cards as the math equivalent of reading aloud to a baby. We don't really expect the baby to be solving equations at the end (although for more diligent parents, this may be possible), just as we don't expect a baby to learn reading by age two simply from being read to… but, it is a lot of fun (our wee ones cheer when they see the cards, and "Math" is often among the first hundred words they say!), and it does seem to help them get a feel for the "language" of mathematics.

  4. hi, i'm doing 1st grade math with one of my sons this year and noticed ABEKA starts the patterns with 1 instead of 10. is there a reason you start at 10 instead of 1. seems i like your idea better. where did the magnetic beads come from? we've tried the unifix cubes….hate them. too hard to manipulate.
    i'd love to use the magnetic beads.
    oh, thanks in advance for the help.
    i'm struggling with all 3 boys home this year and feel a little overwhelmed with the ABEKA curriculum.

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