Move it! Make It! Manipulate It!


Finally, I am able to see a project through to the end this week. It seems like I've been constantly playing catch-up these last few weeks. I am very excited to share this post, as I was in some serious need of motivation, and I found it with the help of an amazing presenter and math enthusiast: Mrs. Eliza Sorte-Thomas. I had the extreme pleasure of attending my 3rd math workshop she has presented at. She has so many wonderful strategies and tools, but I am just going to share a few, 3 of which that have been great for my 3rd graders learning area and perimeter and fractions. So if you are teaching area, perimeter, multiplication and fractions here are some great tools for you!

 My 3rd grade students are finishing up perimeter and area and moving onto (big pause) fractions. The first three lessons focus on fractions and perimeter and area, with some multiplication and additon thrown in. While the last lesson focuses on place value and number sense. Take what you need or just store these strategies away for future use. 


"Coyote Steals the Blanket"


Objective: Students will understand how various fractions compare to the whole. 


  • Two 8 in. squares (neutral color, different color)
  • Scissors and glue stick
  • Children's Book Coyote Steals the Blanket by, Janet Stevens


  1. Read Coyote Steal the Blanket to your students. A cute little Native American tale about a coyote who steals quilts-causing bad things to happen. A great way to incoporate Indian Education for All for Montana teachers. 
  2. Start with your neutral color (I used black). This is your whole, label it as your whole. Nothing will happen to this piece. It is used for students to compare their fractions to.IMG 11301
  3. Then take your colored piece of paper and cover your whole.
  4. Discuss with students what you know about your colored whole. It may depend on your grade level, but some ideas we came up with were side length, area and perimeter,  shape, and angle degrees. The goal is for students to be able to discuss using math vocabulary and terms. We want them to start seeing and thinking math.
  5. fractionquilt                                                  
  6. Next, fold your colored piece of paper in half and and cut along the line. We did triangles, but you could do rectangles as well. 
  7. Again discuss what you now know about your triangle; lengths, type of triangle, perimeter and area again if they need the practice. Label one of your new triangles as 1/2.                      fractionquilt4
  8. Take the other triangle and fold in half again. Cut along the fold creating fourths. 
  9. Label one new triangle as a 1/4 and discuss this new triangle.                              Fractionquilt5
  10. Take the other 1/4 triangle and fold and cut in half.
  11. Label new triangles as 1/8 and discuss with students.                                        Fractionquilt6
  12. Next the part that was hard for teachers and will be for students too, but trade your fraction pieces with other students. Try to get as many different colors as you can as to make a colorful quilt just like the quilts in Coyote Steals the Blanket. 
  13. Students then glue their fraction triangles onto the whole to make a quilt. See what fun decorations and patterns they can make on their quilts. 
  14. Then put quilts onto a bulletin board to make an interactive math bulletin board. Post a sign asking others to ask the students math questions about the quilts. Use the board to challenge students to find and notice different math concepts or ideas.


Cheeze-It Area and Perimeter

For this lesson I took an idea Eliza presented that went along with Coyote Steals the Blanket and turned it into its own lesson. I did this because the Cheeze-Its leave oil marks behind and we don't want to ruin our beautiful fraction quilts. I did not use Cheese-Its with my 3rd graders, however. We used square blocks instead. This was a great way for my 3rd graders to actually visualize what area and perimeter are and move from concrete to more abstract learning. 

Objective: Students will visualize how square units are used to find perimeter and area. Students will create the perimeter and area of a figure. 


  • Square shape (I used 8 and 9 in squares)
  • Cheeze-Its ( 1 in. square tiles could be used too)


  1. Pass out square manipulatives, paper squares and recoring sheets, we recorded just on our squares. Make sure to let the students know if your using Cheeze-Its that they can have other Cheeze-Its for eating later, as we do not want to be eating the ones we are handling. If you have allergies or other health issues in your class squre tiles will work just fine. 
  2. Introduce the shape to be used. Discuss what we know about it. lengths, sides, angles; again whatever applies to you and your students.
  3. Begin with perimeter. I have been big on math vocabulary so I make sure to post the perimeter definition: the distance around a close figure using a certain unit. Our unit for this lesson: 1 in squares. 
  4. Stuents then begin putting squares around their figure to find the perimeter.perimeter
  5. Students then count and record the number of squares. 
  6. I would then have my students create various number sentences of how they could find the perimeter. 
  7. Students discuss with each other their findings and then as a whole group.
  8. Next move onto Area. Post Area defintion: the amount of square units inside a closed figure.
  9. Students then begin filling in the inside of their square with squares.area
  10. Students then count and record the number of squares used to make the area.
  11. Again I would have my students show various number sentences they see that they could use to find the area. Once they have all the squares on the square it will be easier for them to notice the arrays and then the multiplication sentences. 
  12. Students discuss with each other and then as a whole group. 


Block It!

A great game 2 students can play to practice perimeter and area, or multiplication with arrays. This game is just one of the many of engaging math games Eliza has. You can find the others in her book Math Play. A fantastic resource for any teacher or parent. My 3rd graders love this game! They have kept the same game board to use during the week. It's getting to be a pretty intense game as there is getting less and less room for them to play.


Objective: Cover the most total area on the game board. 


  • 1 CM Grid Paper
  • 2 different color pencils
  • 2 dice


  1. The students each choose different colored pencils to use.
  2. The students roll to see who goes first. Highest number goes first in my classroom.
  3. The first student rolls two dice and decices how to use the numbers for length and width to create a closed figure on the game board, or grid paper. (Or array if you want to use the game for multiplication)
  4. They then draw their figure.
  5. The first student then writes the math fact and colors in the figure. They ten write the total area and perimeter under their name.                                                                    blockit2
  6. The second student then rolls the dice, draws their figure anywhere on the same paper, finds the area, colors in the figure and then writes their answer under their name. 
  7. As the game goes on less and less space is available. Students must begin having to plan strategically. 
  8. If a student does not have enough space to create their figure on the game board, it become the other student's turn. 
  9. When both students cannot move each player totals their area value. (Easier if they total as they go)
  10. The student with the most total area wins. 


Place Value House


Objective: Students create houses made from place value blocks. Students count their houses' worth and order on a number line. 


  • Construction paper to build house on
  • Paper place value blocks: hundreds, tens and ones-depending on what grades you teach. You could also use them as hundreths, tenths and a whole
  • Scissors and glue sticks
  • Painters tape or ribbon
  • paper clips 


  1. Students, or you, choose the color of background paper to be used.
  2. Give student their paper place value blocks. *Just a hint for younger kiddos you may want to have these already cut out. Or cut on a different day as it may take them a while to get their blocks cut out.
  3. Give students instructions to create a place value house. They can create houses, playgrounds, people and pets to go along with their houses.
  4. Next students find the total value of their houses. 
  5. Students write their total value on index cards.
  6. Create a number line for students.
  7. Students must put their houses' values in order on the number line. 


These are justa few games and lessons I thought were too great not too share.  Thanks Eliza Sorte-Thomas check her out at

Tags: Math