Editor's note: This blog post was originally published October 14, 2014.
In my first classroom, I was gifted with buckets of dominoes from the previous teacher. The students loved to line them up, create intricate designs, and watch them fall! It would bring lots of laughs and screams during indoor recess or free time. But besides that I had no interest or ideas for including them in our learning. Boy was I wrong!!!
As I started developing math centers and creating stations to develop number sense and numeracy, I realized the importance of varying manipulatives. I always used cards and dice but wanted to find more. That's when I turned to dominoes! Below are some ideas to increase number sense using dominoes:
1. Number Recognition: Subitizing is an important skill for young children to develop. When students subitize, they are seeing a number visually (for example: a dot representation) and connecting it to the numerical value. Dominoes are a great way for young children to "see" numbers. It can be as simple as showing one side of a domino, having children count the dots, recreate the dot representation on paper and write the numerical value. Focusing on how they know the dots represent a 3 without counting each dot is important. Having them see patterns as numbers get bigger makes the math fun and develops a deep understanding of what numbers are.
2. Place Value: Turn one domino over to represent a 2-digit number. Children decide which number they want to create. For example; a domino that has a 3 and 7 could either be 37 or 73 depending on which way you hold the domino. Ask place-value questions about either number, such as How many tens are in 73? or How many ones? They can practice writing the number in different ways: word form, standard form, and expanded form. As children get older, line dominoes up end to end to create 4- or 6-digit numbers to increase place-value understanding.
3. Comparing: Building on the number sense theme, children can compare numbers using just 1 domino. Turn over a domino and have your child compare 2 numbers verbally or in written form. So if the domino is a 4 and 1, a child could compare saying "41 is greater than 14" or "14 is less than 41." To push your children even more, ask them to prove their answer: " I know 41 is greater than 14 because 41 has 4 tens and 14 has only 1 ten." Encouraging "math talk" is very important!
4. Ordering Numbers: The age of your child will depend on the number of dominoes that is appropriate for him or her to order. I would start with 3 dominoes and increase gradually from there. Have your child pick 3 dominoes and determine which numbers they will be (refer to the place value section), then have him or her order the numbers verbally, in writing or physically with lining the dominoes up. Alternate between ordering the numbers from least to greatest, or greatest to least.