Thursday, December 01, 2016

Daily Math Time

In addition to daily Reading Time and Writing/Drawing Time, parents should spend a small amount of structured fun time each day with each child on math.

From the earliest age, children can be taught to say "one, two, three" as they're lifted into the air or as they touch their index finger to each of three similar objects. Counting objects to ten, twenty, and more naturally follows, as the child gains facility and understanding.

Math has been called the science of pattern, and patterns are everywhere we look. Simple binary patterns like on and off, sitting and standing, quiet and noisy are all easy to point out and ask your child about. Later on, more complex patters like colors in kitchen tiles or lines on the floor can be explored.

Geometry is everywhere also. Various shapes from dots to lines to triangles to circles can be identified in the surrounding environment ("Can you find a green rectangle on the road up ahead?"A red octagon?"

Comparative relationships such as "more than," "less than," and "equal to" can be introduced to young children and reinforced in a number of different ways (short, shorter, long, longest, etc.).

Eventually, the two basic algebraic operations – addition and subtraction – can be explained as putting things together to form one larger group or separating large groups into smaller ones.

Once basic math facts are memorized, simple story problems can be created and solved on the fly, and positive/negative numbers (and operations with them) can be introduced.

Math manipulatives can play a central role is making Daily Math Time interesting, engaging, and productive for all concerned.

As always, the focus is on fun, lots of hugs and high-fives, taking things slowly and at the child's own pace, and quitting structured time early to keep them wanting more.

Additional resources and ideas follow:

Math is Everywhere ... and it's Fun!

Math Fact Cards, Apps, Calculation Training Sites

Scratch Coding Resources

Early Math Toys, Aids, and Activities

Early Puzzles, Problem Solving, Math Games

Math Exploration Station

Math Worksheets and Drills

Children's Books for Teaching Math


Copyright © 2006-present: Christopher R. Borland. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Daily Writing Time

The three essential academic skills are: reading, writing, and basic mathematics. Without firm command of these domains, students will find it difficult to achieve success and take pleasure in learning.

The importance of reading to children on a daily basis is widely understood. Less well appreciated is that small amounts of structured daily time at home devoted to developing number sense ("numeracy") and writing skills can have similarly profound positive effects and confer equally powerful academic advantages on children.

As soon as a child shows interest in scribbling, Daily Writing Time can be inaugurated as Daily Drawing Time. Learning to correctly grip crayons, pencils, and pens (like holding a Chop Stick) is the first order of business.

Next is the creation of basic shapes as part of the child's improvised artistic creations: dots, straight lines, crosses, angles, corners, boxes, triangles, circles, hooks, human figures, etc.

Once basic shapes are mastered, learning to read and write ABC's comes next. Following this, children can be encouraged to write and illustrate short stories containing one to several sentences (parents can model the fun of authorship by creating and reading to their son or daughter short, simple, hand-illustrated books featuring that child in the starring role).

Finally, learning to use the computer keyboard to speed the writing process and compose multi-paragraph essays occupies Daily Writing Time.

"But won't my child learn all this in school?"

Yes, of course.

Nevertheless, the head start you provide by teaching your child very basic academic skills at an early age, well ahead of time, will promote success, engender confidence, and develop powerful associations within your child's mind between academic learning and close, happy times with Mom and Dad.

The benefits of regular academic play time at home (always emphasizing fun and commensurate with a child's natural inclinations and abilities) are many and profound, and the value of engaging, daily learning time with Tutor Mom or Dad is inestimable.

Below are helpful resources to enhance Daily Writing Time:

Reusable Dry Erase Pockets and Educational Templates


Copyright © 2006-present: Christopher R. Borland. All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Daily Reading Time

Reading is the foremost, fundamental academic skill, and the importance of parents taking the time each day to read books with each of their children is well known.

Daily Reading Time is an opportunity for parents to connect individually with each child, and share with them a love of books and imagination. Reading periods needn't be overly long, but should be a regular, daily activity from the earliest possible age, conducted at the same time each day, if at all possible.

Mom and Dad can read to their children the books they most loved when they, themselves, were so young and impressionable. This is one of the thrills and joys of parenthood not to be lost among the rush of personal and family busyness that can easily overtake life with young kids.

Multitudes of fantastic story books are available to grace your children's early lives, but don't forget great kid-oriented nonfiction titles, too. Reading carefully selected early nonfiction nurtures a child's innate curiosity about the world and fosters a questioning mind that will be a valuable asset in later years.

Aside from the obvious benefits of making learning fun and developing critical academic skills at an early age, Daily Reading Time often remains a cherished, life-long memory of childhood, of loving time each day with Mom and Dad, of scintilating exploration of worlds both imagined and real.


Copyright © 2006-present: Christopher R. Borland. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Scratch Coding Resources

Scratch is a fantastic way to learn algorithmic thinking and develop basic coding and program design skills.

Simple enough for young children to master (rudimentary reading skills are required), a Visual Programming Language (VPL) like Scratch is all you need at first and will take early learners a long way before they'll want or need to start writing their own code in a traditional language like Python or Java.

Books and online resources abound for those interested in using Scratch to get started on the path toward learning to code. Below are some I recommend:

Monday, August 01, 2016

Balancing Algebraic Equations

The metaphor of a pan-balance is often used to illustrate the definition of "equation:"

A declaration that two things have the same value (i.e. A = B).

It's an apt analogy, and a multitude of virtual pan-balances exist online to model solving simple algebraic equations.

The idea is that treating both sides of the pan-balance equally (i.e. doing exactly the same thing to both sides) maintains balance while allowing users to isolate unknown numbers on one side and known numbers on the other, from which the value of the unknown can be easily obtained.

It's a lot of fun to play around with balancing equations using a virtual pan-balance manipulative. In doing so, students develop an instinctive sense of how "=" works, a requisite component of intuitive "number sense" required for successful mathematical study.

After learning to balance simple equations using a virtual balance, students can progress to recording the balancing steps on paper – using algebraic notation – rather than carrying out the steps online. Eventually, they can do the steps mentally, using their working memory in place of pencil and paper.

Voila! Mastery!

Following are sites and apps I recommend for practicing balancing simple equations:



Math Is Fun: Balance When Adding and Subtracting

Hoodah Math: Algebra – Balance Equations

Math Playground: Model Algebra



The Fun Way to Learn Algebra: Hands-On Equations (iOS)

The Fun Way to Learn Algebra: Hands-On Equations (Android)


Copyright © 2006-present: Christopher R. Borland. All rights reserved.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Early Math Toys, Aids, Activities

Math is all around, and the number of ways to enjoy and explore early math with your child are virtually endless.

Math is everywhere ... and it's fun!

Babies can be lifted by smiling parents high, higher, and highest on the count of three.

Infants who can sit can be taught how to count, patiently touching their index finger to each one of small set of objects while counting out loud for them, with a big silly grin on your face to make it fun.

Suddenly an entire countable universe opens up, and when kids begin to talk, counting objects first to three, then ten, then all the way to 20 and beyond becomes a cause for celebration and elation.

After learning to scribble, toddlers can be shown how do draw basic shapes, integrating dots, lines, crosses, circles, triangles, squares, and rectangles into art time.

Patterns can be illustrated, too (big elephant, small elephant, big elephant, etc.). Specialty graph paper can be used to assist young children in creating geometric designs of their own.

Stories drawn by kids and parents can be used to introduce addition, subtraction, and even simple problem solving and work with unknown numbers.

Manipulatives can be utilized to make "sense" of key ideas, clarify important processes, and make learning math a fun, engaging experience.

Eventually, puzzles can be tackled and thinking games played.

A few ideas to get things going:

Self-Correcting Wooden Number Puzzles

Figuro Math Cards

EAI Education Snap Math

XY Axis Board: Centimeter Grid

Dry-Erase Board: Centimeter Grid

Reusable Dry Erase Pockets and Educational Templates


Copyright © 2006-present: Christopher R. Borland. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Read Nonfiction to Kids, Too

The importance of parents reading to their young children is well known.

What isn't as well appreciated is the importance of reading non-fiction to kids as well as the usual fanciful, imaginative, well-illustrated fictional story books.

Kids love to learn about the real world around them, and will generally find carefully selected non-fiction books appropriate for their age level just as engrossing as Dr. Zuess, Where the Wild Things Are, Corduroy, Charlotte's Web, or Goodnight Moon.

Regularly reading fun, accessible nonfiction books (with great pictures, colorful engrossing diagrams, etc.) to young children will stimulate a faculty complementary to, and just as important as, imagination: that of curiosity.

Be prepared to admit your ignorance.

Once their natural curiosity has been sparked you may find your children asking interesting questions about the natural world (Why do clouds fly?), other societies (Why are some people so poor?), and different historical periods (What was it like before cars?).

At those times, straightforward honesty about what you don't know is by far the best response and models humility and respect for truth. "I don't know ... let's look it up!" is an excellent reply to thorny questions.

World Book's Childcraft How and Why Library is a fantastic collection of early nonfiction material for beginning readers (older editions on eBay are just as good and far less expensive).

Basically, kids love doing whatever parents do with them, providing Mom and Dad show genuine enthusiasm, offer plenty of affection, and make it fun ... including reading nonfiction together.

Below are more ideas to get you started:

DK's Big Ideas Series

Five Books Guaranteed to Make Kids Love Science

The Truck Book

First 100 Board Book Set

The Golden Book Encyclopedia

Castle (David MacCaulay)

Goodreads Best Children's Nonfiction

DK Kids Nonfiction

Amazon's Best Selling Science Books for Children

There's No Place Like Space

Children's Books for Teaching Math

Ruth Spiro's Baby Loves Science Series

Chris Ferrie's Baby University Series

The Trojan Horse: How the Greeks Won the War

Great Science Books for the Little Ones

Larry Gonick's Cartoon History Series

Place Books by Miroslav Sasek

Jill McDonald's Hello World! Series

100 Best Science Books for Kids


Copyright © 2006-present: Christopher R. Borland. All rights reserved.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Robotics Toys, Aids, Activities

50 years ago, robots were menacing, man-like machines with starring roles in sci-fi movies and television shows.

Today, robotic machines are having a real impact on the world economy and are beginning to enter our homes and daily lives.

50 years from now, robots will likely do most of what we call "work" today.

As artificially intelligent machines begin to enter our daily lives, it's now possible for kids of all ages to design, build, program, and control their own simple robots.

Following are a few ideas to help get you started:

Sphero SPRK+

Ozobot Evo


Lego Mindstorms EV3

Lego Mindstorms EV3 on amazon

Lego Mindstorm EV3 Projects and Programming

Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi on amazon

Raspberry Pi Projects and Programming


Arduino on amazon

Arduino Projects and Programming


Copyright © 2006-present: Christopher R. Borland. All rights reserved.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Science Tools and Manipulatives

Like math manipulatives, science manipulatives enable students to learn and comprehend key early concepts viscerally through hands-on activities.

Basic scientific instruments extend the senses and allow further exploration and data collection.

The list below provides a starting point for parent-teachers interested in building a home science lab:



Bucket Balance

Precision School Balance

Metric Weight Set

Best Microscopes for Home Labs

The Miracle of Human Anatomy



Acrylic Prism Set

Magnet Set

Bar Magnets

Ceramic Bar Magnets

Density Blocks Set

Density Specimen Sets


Copyright © 2006-present: Christopher R. Borland. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Pentomino Toys, Aids, Activities

A polyomino is a geometric figure formed using edge-to-edge squares of the same size.

Pentominoes are polyominoes of order five, geometric figures comprised of five square units. 12 distinct pentominoes exist, 18 if you count reflections, as in Tetris.

All kinds of colorful 2D tilings can be created using pentominoes, and cubic pentominoes can be arranged in innumerable 3D combinations.

Recommendations below:

2D Colored Plastic Pentominoes

Tetris Puzzle

Shape Logic Board Game

Cube Tetris Puzzle

Square Pentomino Puzzle

Cross Pentomino Puzzle

Katamino Pocket Game


Copyright © 2006-present: Christopher R. Borland. All rights reserved.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Tangram Toys, Aids, Activities

Originating in China, seven-piece Tangram puzzles were brought to Europe and America in the early 18th century.

All seven pieces can be arranged to form a square, but that's just the beginning. Using the five right triangles, square, and parallelogram comprising the classic seven-piece Tangram set, a limitless number of creative alternative arrangements can be formed, as well,

Kids and adults alike enjoy solving puzzles and creating designs with Tangrams!

Recommended Tangram resources:

Plastic Tangrams

Tangram Blocks

Colored Wooden Tangram Puzzle

Classic Tangoes

Tangrams: 330 Puzzles

Magnetic Travel Tangram Puzzles Book

Travel Tangoes - Animals


Copyright © 2006-present: Christopher R. Borland. All rights reserved.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Best Educational Vendors

Of all the educational products companies providing math manipulates, classroom props, and other items to enhance learning at home or at school, those listed below are my favorites.

I recommend them highly to parents and others seeking tools to expand learning at home or at school.

ETA Hand2Mind

Learning Resources



Copyright © 2006-present: Christopher R. Borland. All rights reserved.