Thursday, August 23, 2012

Math Monsters ... er Munchers. Whatever.

Tubs of paint make me happy. 

So I was giddy to pull O's out this week when it was time to make a little craft for our upcoming lessons about "greater and less" in math. Who knew math could be such fun? Bleh.

In grade school, I remember making the < > marks, then drawing my own teeth on them. Sometimes, I even added 3/4 of a circle to make the signs look like Pacman. I'm sure I wasn't original in doing so.

It made sense because Pacman would always want to eat the bigger of two numbers, right?!

So would Math Munchers, of course. 

So I took a little of one extra degree's Math Munchers idea and, well, added some teeth. 

Using jumbo popsicle sticks, paint, glue, "googly" eyes and white construction paper (oh, and shipping tape - I'll explain that shortly), O and I set out to make some Math Monsters.

O chose the color schemes and decided to make one red with green polka dots. He said he made it for his baby sister because poppies are red with green stems.

A time-saving tip: Use the eraser-end of a pencil to make polka dots.
For even tinier dots, use the "butt"-end of a small paintbrush
or even the tip of a pencil - just wipe it off if you want to use the pencil again.

I love how O's Math Monsters turned out: 

I cut triangles out of white construction paper for teeth. But knowing everything has to be durable around here, I needed to strengthen them up a little. Flouride wouldn't work. And I don't have laminating sheets on hand. I avoid contact paper whenever possible. Clear shipping tape to the rescue. It's simple: Just lay one piece down, sticky side up, lay down whatever small item you're wanting to protect, then lay another piece of the shipping tape, sticky side down, on top. Smash and rub together, and the tape serves as an instant protector and strengthener. (Is that even a word?) 

The "Equals-to" sign is connected by both halves of a smaller popsicle stick, which O painted white. We glued them to the back and then hid them from the front with (now strong and protected) teeth.

I had to stop for a moment and question if my son is a genius when he insisted on placing the googly eye on the corner of his < and > monsters. I had envisioned the eye a little more toward the center of the top stick, which is the reason we needed two symbols - one for "greater" and one for "less." But his decision to put the eye where the sticks meet means we only needed one because < can flip to >. If you think about it, the way I had envisioned it would not have worked that way. 

Apparently, I'm not smarter than a first-grader. 

Now armed with an extra Math Monster, O gave his poppy-inspired monster to Poppi. She didn't want it. She just wanted her mom. 

I told y'all. I wasn't exaggerating. 

(But please note, for the record, she is wearing clothes.)


  1. I love this!!!I was thinking of you, O and Poppi the other day..I'm just trying to teach Calee letters and writing and Lanee is all over us...Enjoying your ideas!!

  2. These June girls!!! Hahaha.

    Awwww, I miss your energy here!! Hopefully I'll come up with more ideas to entertain Poppi soon ... but I'm afraid that a good ol', patient dose of Father Time will have to be our best, most dependable friend. ;)

    If you happen upon anything that works for Lanee, let me know! We'll walk this road together!! Hope you guys are wonderful. Think of you so often ...

  3. I love this! I just introduced my kids to greater than and less than, but they still don't quite get it. I am going to try it out. I know they will be a hit, especially because they love to sing the "5 Little Monkeys Sitting in a Tree, Teasing Mr. Crocodile, You Can't Catch Me" song. Any tips on keeping the paint manageable with a group of 1st graders?

  4. Oh mercy, Marci. I do not envy you. I homeschool my son, so I only have ONE first grader to deal with. You are my hero!!! If I were you, though, I'd let them either "paint" the sticks with markers/colored pencils ... or you could always ask parents to send in big shirts for the kids to wear (send a note home about the paint) over their clothes. Give each child a paper plate with a dollop of a few different colors of paint, and let them dig in! Give each table a cup of water for the paint-covered brushes ... or give each child his/her own cup of water to put the brushes in once covered with paint. I've worked with classrooms full of kids before and have been amazed at how paint projects seem to hold their attention. Maybe just cover the work surfaces with newspaper. And, of course, use water-based paints. ;) Good luck! I'm absolutely sure the kids will LOVE this project - and my son is like a pro at greater-than and less-than now! These monsters rock! :)

  5. Found your blog from pinterest. I love this idea we will use it next week in our study of greater than, less than. Thanks for the inspiration!

  6. My pleasure!!! Thank you so much for your comment; I hope you all found it useful!!

  7. Hello! I am going to be doing a round-up of monster math posts on my blog, The Measured Mom. I'd love to include one of your pictures (with the craft stick monsters) and of course a link to your blog. Would it be okay with you if I include the picture? I hope to hear from you! You can email me directly at Thanks so much!