My daughter found this little rock on one of our nature walks. She liked its pointy shape and brought it home. Then one day when she was having trouble keeping track of where she was on her number chart as she switched back and forth between it and her worksheet, she asked me, “Mom, can I get my rock to use as a pointer?”
What a great idea! And the rock, now officially named Pointer Rock, has lived in her pencil box and assisted with math and more ever since. Here are some of the many wonderful things Pointer Rock does:
It keeps her place on the number chart
For instance, when finding which number is 4 before 122, she locates 122. Then she counts back four spaces. Then she marks that number with the rock while she writes the answer. Little ones need to look back and forth, sometimes several times, to check and recheck their work. And it’s easy to lose your place in that sea of numbers. This has solved the frustration of having to find each answer multiple times.
It acts as a counting aid on the number line
Using number lines to add and subtract can also be tricky to get the hang of. Pointer rock has helped my daughter with this one perhaps more than anything else. When adding 5 + 3, kiddos might know that they begin on 5 and are supposed to count up the line 3 more numbers. But, frequently, they will begin by counting “one” on the 5 instead of “hopping” to the 6 first. The rock has helped by providing a tactile and visual aid for this. Pointer Rock begins on the appropriate number. Then my daughter hops him to the next number while counting. I give the reminder that, “You’re counting the hops so he must hop before you count ‘one.'”
And, the same as with the number chart, the rock keeps her place on the line as she writes her answer and checks herself.
It is a visual reminder of which column she is adding or subtracting
When you reach adding and subtracting multi-digit numbers, you must instill the habit of beginning with the ones column for later, more advanced work. This was a difficult point to drive home for us at first because her natural inclination is to begin on the left and work right.
So I begin the first problem by prompting with the question of, “Which column do we start with?” Then she places the rock above the ones column and moves it over as she works to the tens and then hundreds. When it’s time to move to the next problem, she has much greater success with the rock remembering, on her own, to begin on the ones column. There are usually no more reminders necessary.
It serves as a tool to refocus when she gets distracted
Now, I’m sure nobody else has ever had the problem of their kids getting distracted, right? Rather it’s from asking when snack time is, making an off-topic remark, looking at what a sibling is doing, or daydreaming, there is a constant need for little ones to practice refocusing.
For adults, it’s usually easy to look back at a page after a distraction and quickly find where they left off. For little ones, all of the information on a math worksheet can be overwhelming. And trying to master the actual work is enough without the added frustration of constantly losing your place every time you look up or have a wandering thought, which, let’s face it, at this age it happens a lot.
For my daughter, the rock acts like the giant “You Are Here” circle on the map at the mall.
BONUS: A spacer when writing
And Pointer Rock is not just useful in math! He also just happens to be the perfect size to act as a space-maker between words when writing. For some reason, she remembers to use this tool more than the trick of using her finger to mark the space.
Now I’m no psychologist and I have no idea how exactly this tool works so well for her–but I know it does. There is something about the visual and tactile aid that does more than just help her keep her place. It helps her actually remember the processes she is supposed to use.
I love it because it was her own idea. She knew what she needed to help her be successful. Which is a great lesson for us all in letting your children have some input into the learning process.
If you try this, or are already doing something similar, please let me know how it works for your little ones. I would love to know what different kinds of “pointers” you use. Monopoly pieces? Legos? Barbie shoes? And what other types of situations do you use them for?