Using bear counters and other manipulatives is one of the best ways to teach a variety of math concepts to preschoolers and elementary-aged kids in a hands-on way. Counters are great because you can use them in and out of the classroom for summer learning. Here are 5 ways to play and learn with bear counters.
Addition and Subtraction
Have students use the bear counters to count out each number to be added, and then combine the amounts. They can use different-colored bear counters to represent the different numbers. Students could also use different-sized bears for the different amounts. Bears can also be used to practice the concept of subtraction in a similar manner. Students can do the problems on paper first and then use the bears to check their arithmetic.
Weights and Measures
Students can practice measuring weight with the bear counters and a balance scale. Two small bears equal the weight of one medium bear, and one small and one medium bear equal the weight of one big bear. Three small bears also equal the weight of one big bear.
Pass out small bear counters and have students group them into piles of ten. Tell them that 10 small bears is equal to one medium bear. Ten medium bears is equal to one medium bear. Ten medium bears is equal to one large bear. Have them practice trading up with you. Then they can practice making numbers using the different-sized bears. For example, have students use the bears to create the number 128. They should show you one large bear, two medium bears, and eight small bears.
Multiplication and Division
If multiplying, students should pre-group their bears. For example, if they are working on multiplying by 3, have each student organize their bear counters into several groups of 3. If dividing, they should separate the number into groups the size of the number being divided. For example, if dividing 12 by 4, they should separate the 12 bears into groups of four.
Put some bear counters of different colors in a group. Have students record how many bears are used in total and how many are of each color. Explain that the total number of bears represents the denominator while the bears of one color represent the numerator. Have the students practice writing the numbers in fraction form.