Gardner First Graders Use Snacks as Manipulatives

Gardner First Graders Use Snacks as Manipulatives
Posted on 03/04/2019
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Could you handle counting out 100 of your favorite snacks, without eating a single one? First grade students in Mrs. Stacie Love’s class were champs at this, and even counted for over an hour as they used snacks as manipulatives to build math skills. Parents and partners donated various snacks for the lesson, so that students had multiple options. They chose snacks in groups of ten, and used ten groups of ten snacks to create concrete models for counting up to 100 and by multiples of ten, addition and subtraction by tens, comparison of numbers and quantities (10 vs. 30, 20 vs. 80, etc.), how many more, how many fewer, and more.


“We kept working beyond the exercises and questions that I asked of my 25 students because they started asking questions of me and of each other! That’s when you know it’s an assignment that they truly enjoy,” says first grade Gardner STEM teacher Mrs. Stacie Love. “We counted by 1s until we got to 10 and then by 10’s to 30 snacks. We moved on with multiples of 10 until we reached 100. Students had little spoons and walked around the snack table to accomplish each step in the assignment. They worked with their snack collection at each desk after we accumulated 100. I didn’t have a single child try to eat snacks before we finished. Using snacks instead of traditional manipulatives like blocks really engaged the kids because it was such a different experience from what they are used to. We will definitely use this strategy again.”


Snacks used for the activity were finger foods including small cookies, gummi bears, pretzels, goldfish, popcorn, chocolate chips, pretzel sticks, etc... A format board was used to repeat each step of the assignment, so that students could listen and then re-read each math challenge. Standards used to create the activity are:


  • 1.NBT.B.2 Understand that the two digits of a two-digit number represent amounts of tens and ones.

  • 1.NBT.C.3 Compare two two-digit numbers based on meanings of the tens and ones digits, recording the results of comparisons with the symbols >, =, and <.

  • 1.NBT.C.4 Add within 100 using concrete models or drawings, relate the strategy used to a written expression or equation, and be able to explain the reasoning. Strategies should be based on place-value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction.

  • 1.NBT.C.5 Mentally find 10 more or 10 less than a given two-digit number, without having to count. Students should be able to explain the reasoning used.

  • 1.NBT.C.6 Subtract multiples of 10 from multiples of 10 (both in the range of 10-90) using concrete models or drawings, relate the strategy to a written method, and explain the reasoning used. Strategies should be based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction. Note: Differences should be zero or positive.


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