## Fall Themed Math

With Halloween past, it was time to change our math manipulatives over to celebrate the fall harvest. Large apples, small green and red apples, gold and brown acorns, pumpkins, multi-colored leaves, and some skulls and candy corn (the spirit of Halloween lives on!).

The boys immediately took to sorting and counting and collaborated on finishing the ABAB pattern I began. Without prompting, Anthony made his own ABAB pattern and John did an AAB pattern.
<–Counting to 40 all by himself.

I began a “number pattern” for John, adding one more to a row of three leaves. He continued the pattern up to ten and down to zero on his own.

After going over “greater than” and “less than” with the manipulatives in the morning, I introduced “>” and “<” in the afternoon while Anthony napped. John copied about three dozen “>”s until he got it right.

After going over simple 6>3, 5<9 statements, we played “get out of the pumpkin patch!”. I set up X<Y<Z, with “Y” as the “mystery number” and gave John two choices. The number that didn’t fit the statement had to “Get out of the pumpkin patch!” (complete with yell and vigorous brushing aside of the offending number). After his initial choice of two, John would pick through the remaining stack to see which other numbers fit the problem.

After about ten or twelve problems, he began making up problems for me and trying to be “tricky” by giving me two choices that both fit, or two choices that did not fit (“that one was super tricky, Mom!”).
(Math in Focus 1A, Chapter 1: Lesson 2-3.)

It’s not all hard math work around here! The boys made sticky trees with Dollar Tree leaves and spider cut-outs.
<–John made sure his had the same number of spiders as Anthony’s (but wanted more leaves).
I’m pretty sure more candy was eaten than made it onto the Spooky Halloween gingerbread houses, but everyone had a great time doing it.

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## Fizzing Halloween Bugs

More messy Halloween fun in our mad scientist lab: fizzing bugs, skulls, and spiders.

This lab day had two parts: frozen fizzing skulls and pumpkins and “fossils”. For the first, I  filled silicone ice cube trays with a mix of colored water and baking soda and hid plastic skulls and pumpkins inside some and let harden overnight.

After the boys oohed over the frozen skulls, I offered them salt, vinegar, and warm water to melt the skulls and reveal the treasure. After a few squirts with the medicine dropper, John just dropped his skulls into the bowls of water and vinegar. He’s nothing if not efficient.

After melting the skulls and pumpkins, I brought out the fossilized bugs. The night before, I covered some plastic bugs and spiders in a thick paste of baking soda and water and left them on a cookie sheet to dry.

If I were to do this again, I would make the baking soda covering much thinner–mine were very thick rocks and the boys got tired of using the dropper to reveal the bug underneath. To speed things along, I filled my dollar spot test tubes with colored vinegar, which worked like a charm to bring out the creepy crawlies.

After all the icky bugs were uncovered, the boys practiced their pouring skills to refill the ice trays for more frozen fun. It was interesting to watch the differences between the boys–Anthony was very precise with his pouring and his use of the medicine dropper, while John wanted to “get ‘er done” as fast as possible to get to the “point” of the exercise.

## Halloween Slime Play

Halloween Slime–what could be more fun for two messy little boys? And three ingredient slime? Even better! How easy could this be?

Hah. Apparently Mom failed Slime 101. Twice. The first recipe was as easy as pie: squirt out glue. Add food coloring and a bit of water. Add borax. Voila! Slime.  Or was it “add borax to water. Stir glue and food coloring, then add borax solution”? Well…I couldn’t remember, and it turns out that if you add borax directly to the glue/water mixture, it immediately turns into a lumpy, sticky wad of goo that lacks stretchiness. Take two: add borax solution to glue turned out a bit better.

Fast forward a few weeks and this recipe for Halloween glitter slime looked super fun. Alas, Walmart had exactly two bottles of glue–although the blue glitter wasn’t exactly screaming “Halloween”, blue turned out to be the perfect color. The boys squeezed, mixed, and kneaded, but weren’t able to incorporate nearly the 1 cup of water/borax solution per  glue bottle. The slime turned out a bit more solid than I would have liked (next time I might mix more plain water in before adding the borax solution), but they still thought it was pretty cool.

The blue slime was a perfect addition to their Octonauts sensory table setup, becoming a coral reef, a slime monster, and more, keeping them busy outside for an hour and prompting them to come out for another hour the following day. Not the perfect slime, but a perfect afternoon enjoying the gorgeous fall weather.

## De-Spooking Math: Book work turned fun

Now that John is about to turn 5, we are beginning to work a bit more “formally” with math and phonics…but he doesn’t even know it yet!

The math book we are using this year will give him a solid foundation, but at the first few lessons seem deadly dull. Cutting out sock and shoe cut outs to graph? Pretending circles are chairs and children? We can do better than that!

S
ince the boys are having a blast using the Halloween table scatter for free play, I combined the bats, ghosts, and skulls with the concepts from the textbook. We made a “game” (thank goodness my boys have no idea of what makes a game “fun” in the traditional sense!) of graphing the spooky items. I gave each boy and myself a set of pumpkins, ghosts, or spiders and we raced to place them on the graph first. We used the graph to decide who had the most and the fewest and counted them to confirm our answer.

Anthony called me back all day to play this game with him and even made his own “graph”.

Instead of children and chairs, we had ghosts and bats looking for houses to haunt.

The boys had to decide if there were more houses than bats or bats than houses and what the difference was between the two numbers. They had a blast haunting the houses with bats, ghosts, pumpkins, skeletons, and skulls! A great math lesson without cracking a book or touching a worksheet.

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## Spooky Science: Potions Class

After our floating marshmallow experiment, our mad scientists got to use their new spooky test tubes for a special Halloween potions class.

The boys mixed up their marshmallow concoctions (milk, water, oil, and apple juice) and then we added our magic liquid (vinegar prettied up with food coloring).

This produced some interesting results, particularly in the cup of oil (left) and milk (right). We were able to observe the difference in density between vinegar and oil and the vinegar curdle the milk.

After we added our magic powder (baking soda, naturally), the results were explosive. John insisted on making the reactions big enough to push the marshmallows out of cups, which involved lots and lots of “magic” ingredient.

The curdled-milk mixture fizzed like the oil-vinegar mixture, but the bubbles were much larger and slower-moving. So creepy!
(milk/vinegar on top and oil/vinegar on bottom)

The little potions masters poured, mixed, and swirled like little star students at Hogwarts!

## Floating Marshmallow Science

Our mad scientist duo loved this squishy, sweet science class–it was ooey, gooey, messy, slimy, and best of all–edible!
<–Senior scientist doing a taste test.
Our experiment combined the classic sink/float with the added variable of density. John chose our four liquids–water, oil, apple juice, and milk–and we added a large marshmallow to each glass. The boys stirred them around and left them in the liquids for later observation. They enjoyed poking them and feeling the difference between the wet gooey marshmallows and the dry ones. John also noted that the water marshmallow had begun to dissolve.

After observing that the marshmallows floated in all of our liquids, I explained that marshmallows are squishy and fluffy because they are filled with air.

I asked the boys what we could do to make them sink and John came up with “Squish them under something heavy” and “Stab them”. Poking them with the popsicle sticks didn’t work, so I suggested squashing the air out them. After some unsuccessful mashing with their fingers, the boys brought out the big guns.

Anthony Hulk Smashed! those marshmallows with his elbow, then rolled them out (singing “roll it roll it, wheels so fat, roll it down to make it flat!” from his favorite Easy Street). Note: this experiment suggests using cornstarch. DO IT. I forgot this step and no matter how hard we smashed, mashed, and rolled, the sticky little buggers just wouldn’t sink. After we rolled them with some cornstarch, bingo! Immediate sinking marshmallow.
<–Ripping them up also helps.

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## Frugal Homeschool: Math Manipulatives

First thing this morning, Anthony picked a bowl of math manipulatives to bring downstairs for morning play (over all the other toys in his room and the school room). Homeschool mom self-five! To make the moment even sweeter, I realized that each of these items cost \$1 (excepting the dominoes, although both sets were gifts), making this quite the frugal DIY math manipulative kit.

• Target Dollar Spot: Set of numeral/dot matching cards, apple colander.
• Dollar Tree: Chip & dip bowl, clear glass gems, giant horseshoe magnets.
• Consignment Sales: plastic number magnets.

Use the giant horseshoe magnets to “fish” in the bowl for numbers. John picked two numbers and told me what number they “made” (ie, a 5 and a 0 “made” 50) and how much they “made” when added (ie, 5+0=5). Anthony focused on number recognition and matched the magnets to the cards, then used the gem counters to represent the correct amount.

The magnets are irresistible fun and can easily transition to additional math, science, and engineering activities. This morning, John chose a box of Magnetix, which he used to make people and tons of fanciful guns, houses, and creatures. Anthony went with Magformers to build towers and houses. Note to self: Why did I not put these on cookie sheets before? This makes it much easier to keep track of small magnetic parts and helps the boys steady the Magformers on their sides.

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