Description of Materials:
- Ten pink wooden cubes varying in size from one cubic centimetre to one cubic decimetre
- A floor mat
- To develop the child’s visual and muscular perception of dimension in judging sizes
- To develop the child’s co-ordination of movement and fine motor control
- To prepare the child, indirectly, for mathematics by giving the child experiences in comparison, grading and seriation with the cube
- To give the child basic language- important in mathematics
Control of Error
- If the tower is incorrectly built it may fall down and this will act as control of error. However, if the child makes only a slight error, the teacher should not intervene, but wait for the child to correct his error. It may be necessary for the teacher to present the material again at a later stage.
- Large, small
- Large, larger, largest
- Small, smaller, smallest
- Larger than, smaller than
- As large as, as small as
- Big, little,etc.
- From 2 ½ years onwards.
This is an individual exercise which is done on the floor on a floor mat. (Note : Work cycle to be observed)
The teacher first shows the child how to carry the cubes to the floor mat :
For the first four cubes starting from the smallest, we use the first 3 fingers to grasp each cube over the top and place it randomly on the floor mat.
From the 4th cube to the 7th cube, we may use one whole hand to bring each cube to the mat.
As for the last three cubes, if it is too big for the child to hold with one whole hand, then they may use both hands to carry it to the mat, by balancing the bottom of the cube with the palm of the other hand.
All the cubes are placed at random on the floor mat.
Teacher then shows how to build a tower :
- Starts with the largest cube and place the next largest cube centrally on the previous one. Teacher may show how to build the first 3 cubes and then select the next largest cube and invites the child to place that cube on the previous one.
- Allow the child to do the last piece of cube by himself.
- When the tower is completed, invites the child to view it from the top.
- When the presentation is completed, teacher then shows how to remove the cubes, starting from the cube at the top and placing it on the mat.
- Teacher shows for the first two cubes and then invites the child to remove the rest.
- To place the cubes back to its shelves, we begin by taking the largest cube.
The child may choose to build the Pink Tower
The cubes have the advantage that any two successive cubes vary in three dimensions, length, width and height, thus making their difference in size reasonably obvious to children. Easy beginnings are never a waste of time when they help to establish basic ideas and here it may be useful to build a tower from :
- The three or four smallest cubes.
- The three largest cubes.
- The three successive cubes from the middle.
- With slow or special needs children, five cubes can be used, made up of every other cube.
- The most difficult of the blocks to place in position is the smallest, which is 3/8" on each side. The child’s arm has to be quite steady to place this small object on the center of the next largest block and requires close attention and obvious efforts in performing this task
- By holding the first few cubes with the thumb, index and middle fingers , i.e. the ‘pincer grip’ will prepare the child for holding the pencil later when learning how to write.
- After making repeated use of the cubes, a child’s hand finally adopts automatically the precise position necessary to cover the top dimension of the cube. In other words, a child develops a muscular memory for define graduations of space.
When the child is ready, i.e. the child is competent at building the complete tower by placing one cube centrally on another, we then tells the child, "We are going to build the tower in a slightly different way"
- Teacher shows how to build the complete tower which has two flat walls all the way up.
- When the tower is completed, teacher takes the smallest piece of cube and says, "Now we are going to slide the smallest cube along the side". Teacher then slides the smallest cube along the steps of the tower from the bottom to the top and finally placing that piece of cube on the top.
- Teacher may do the Three Period Lesson with the biggest and smallest cube - "This is big" ; "This is small"
By building the tower in the way shown in the second presentation allows the child to see that the smallest cube has some relationship to the others as it will "fit" anywhere on any of the steps of the tower when we slide the cube along the steps of the tower from the bottom to the top.
Another aspect of the material is that the smallest cube is the centimeter cube, or cubic centimeter, and the largest contains a thousand of these (the litre). The child will meet these ideas very much later, but handling the cubes at this present stage should contribute to a most useful experimental foundation.
- Instead of building it vertically up, we may build it horizontally, laying the cubes on the floor mat. Teacher may show how to build the first 3 cubes and then allow the child to proceed with the rest of the cubes.
- Play a game with the children. This can be done in a group. Select 3 different sized cubes and lay them on the table. Teacher make a request, for e.g. ‘Bring me the largest cube’, ‘Bring me the smallest cube’ or the teacher selects a cube and then says ‘Bring me a larger cube than this’,…etc. The child will have to bring the cube required to the teacher.
- May also be built as a spiral.
- Invite the child to make a two dimensional representations of the tower. Firstly, prepare some ready cut squares from pink paper or card which matches the dimension of the cubes. Place these in a basket. Invite the child to first build the pink tower and then make a picture of the tower by gluing the squares onto a piece of paper.