Does it bug you that math isn’t more fun? Teachers have been using flannel boards for years to make stories sing. Now, you can make your own version of the flannel board, and help bring math to life! This project will give your child hands-on practice with addition and subtraction in a fun format.
What You Do:
- Wrap the flannel around the plywood or cardboard. Use a stapler or duct tape to secure the flannel to the back of the board.
- Cut two large leaf shapes out of felt. Then cut out ten ladybugs that are small enough to fit within each leaf shape.
- Let your child explore and play with the cut-out shapes for a few minutes, discussing what you can do with these little critters and leaves. The way that these boards work is that felt naturally “sticks” to flannel. There’s no need to attach it with Velcro or glue.
- If he’d like, allow your child some time to decorate the felt pieces with fabric paint. Personalizing makes things more interesting!
- Ready for action? Let your child know that you’re going to tell him a story called The Hungry Ladybugs, and that while you’re telling the story, you’d like for him to act it out, using the felt pieces. You can create all sorts of stories to help kids get tactile practice with math. But here’s one to get you started: “One day, 3 very hungry ladybugs were looking for a snack. They spotted a leaf and decided that it would be a great place to get some food. Can you help the ladybugs climb onto the leaf to get a snack?”
- Pause while your child places 3 ladybugs on the first leaf. Then continue, “The rest of the ladybugs were not feeling hungry and wanted to take a nap, so they spotted another leaf that looked like a good resting spot."
- Make sure the remaining 7 get to their napping leaf and then ask your child: “How many ladybugs are hungry and napping on two leaves?” Your child should be able to count up the ladybugs and answer 10. Show him with paper and pencil the addition fact that goes with this word problem for reinforcement: 7 + 3 = 10
- Looking for other ideas to use with your ladybug storyboard? Here are a few more prompts for short stories that will help your child practice simple addition and subtraction:
- If there are 5 ladybugs that are hungry and 5 more come along to eat, how many are hungry in all?
- 6 ladybugs are having a party on a leaf and decide to invite their remaining 4 friends to join them. How many are at the party in all?
- 10 ladybugs are having a tea party on a leaf. Unfortunately, 2 have to go home to the second leaf for dinner. How many stay at the party?
- 9 ladybugs are sitting on a leaf planning a surprise party for 1 ladybug friend that is sitting on the second leaf. How many ladybugs are there in all once the friend arrives?
- 10 ladybugs sit on a leaf, waiting for the school bus. All of a sudden, 1 ladybug realizes that she forgot her homework and must go home to the second leaf to pick it up. How many ladybugs are left at the leafstop?
You can reuse your flannel board for more math play, or save it for storytime. Keep a bunch of felt on hand so you can get creative whenever the mood strikes—and stick each story or activity in a zip-top bag for later use. Whether it’s ladybug math, or Goldilocks and the Three Bears, flannel boards are a nice way to add a hands-on approach to learning. And they’re a great thing to stick in the backseat for a long car trip, too!
Alicia Danyali, BS Elementary Education, taught primary-level students for four years at the International School of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The last four years of her teaching career, she taught at the Washington International School in Washington, D.C. She recently completed writing a series of children's picture books and is a mother of one young son.