SumBlox. Amazing hands-on maths tool for kids

Mar 1, 2016

Introducing, SumBlox! The beautifully designed and crafted wooden block set that allows children to explore and learn more about numbers and their relationships in a hands-on, concrete (and most importantly, fun) way.

It is safe to say that as a teacher, great resources that help and encourage children to learn through play, excite me greatly. When I first laid my eyes on SumBlox, (which have only recently been introduced to the Australian market) I was immediately drawn to the incredibly clever, yet simple concept, that combines children's love of building and physically manipulating materials, with a number of different mathematical concepts. What a fabulous maths teaching tool!

Included in the set, are 43 beautifully crafted hardwood blocks, featuring the numbers 1 to 10, that increase in size as the value of the number increases. The most wonderful thing about these blocks is that they have been designed specifically to be able to stack on top of one another and equal one another in both size and value exactly. So, the 5 block is exactly half the size of the 10 block and if you stacked a 2 block and a 3 block together, they equal the same height as the number 5 block. Clever!

As demonstrated above, 6 and 3 together are equal to (or, the same as) 9. This is where simple concepts of maths, from addition and subtraction, through to multiplication, division and even fractions can be explored in this both visual and tactile way.

Beginning with the basics for younger children. 

SumBlox are great for helping children with identifying and recognising numbers. The smooth, solid wooden blocks feel great to manipulate and hold and are perfect for grouping/sorting/classifying and ordering.

With my 4 year old, we explored which number block represented which value. He kept turning the 9 upside down and telling me it was a 6. This allowed us to take a better look at the size of the two similar shaped blocks and talk about one being a "bigger" number than the other (both in physical size in this sense and in terms of representing a larger amount). To further demonstrate this, we counted out 6 little lego squares and built a tower. We then did the same with 9 lego squares and talked about which was bigger. This helped us to identify which block represented which number (and value).

At this younger age, as well as number recognition, counting, sorting/classifying and informal measurement, I would focus more on building and general play with the blocks. Allow children to develop a natural curiosity about what the blocks symbolise and to start to make their own realisations such as, the bigger the block gets, the larger value it represents and combining certain blocks makes the size (and therefore value) equal to one another. eg. a 2 block stacked on a 3 block is the same size as a 5 block.

Further learning/teaching opportunities

Older children who are already familiar with and can recognise numbers can build upon their existing knowledge and test out what they know in a physical, hands-on way.
For addition, children can build and experiment with combinations and then record their findings. My 7 year old was all over this without any instruction!

Learning and understanding the combination of numbers that make up to 10 is important for children and the SumBlox are just brilliant for this. The skill to "make to ten" helps children to understand our Base 10 Decimal System and aids with mental addition, subtraction and further mathematical concepts down the track.

Exploring fact families. 8 + 1 = 9 , 4 + 5 = 9 , 6 + 3 = 9 , 9 - 3 = 6 , 9 - 6 = 3 , 9 - 4 = 5 and so on.
 Often our buildings ended up very symmetrical which was interesting to talk about.
Building Games: 
  • How tall can you build with them? 
  • Can you add up all the numbers to find the total value of your construction? 
  • What's the highest value tower you can build? 
  • What is the lowest/least value tower you can build that is equal to your height? etc.

  • Challenge children to build a tower of a certain value! (eg, a building that had a value of 30)
  • Or with every level equalling 10. etc.

For multiplication, the SumBlox are fabulous for demonstrating how groups of numbers work and how many of each number is required to make a certain value. You can quickly see that things like 2 groups of 3 (or 2 x 3 or two "3's") is equal in value (and height) to 3 groups of 2 (or 3 x 2 or three "2's") and that both are just repeated addition, equalling 6. This goes hand-in-hand with concepts of division where children can see that (in the above example) 6 divided by 3 is 2 and that 6 divided by 3 is 2.

We've not used the SumBlox for fractions yet (as we're not quite at that stage) and whilst I can see that they could be good for helping children to see what needs to be done in order to obtain a common denominator (which is needed in order to add fractions together), and to demonstrate that whatever you do to the bottom number (the denominator), you have to do the same to the top number (the numerator) in order to retain the same value, I'm not totally convinced (yet) that this is the best way to explore fractions. It feels a little clunky and potentially confusing, however, once children are at the stage of understanding fractions enough to start adding together fractions without a common denominator, then it's likely that this different approach to manipulating the numbers could well help some children with understanding the concept. I think it would go hand in hand with demonstrating how it's traditionally done on paper.

To see more of our adventures with SumBlox as well as other ways we play and learn, follow us on Instagram

To purchase your set of SumBlox, head to Finlee and Me. These really are an incredible resource for teachers and homeschoolers that allow children to truly play with and understand numbers and their relationships like never before.

Happy playing,
Debs :)

{Disclosure: I was sent a set of SumBlox by Finlee and Me in order to review them. I was not paid to write this post and all opinions are my own or my childrens'.}

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