With this entry begins another category here at Serendipity. While we diverge from the Gnomes and Gnumbers story during Katherine's absence, I will chronicle my Katie's adventures with the gnomes (and her brothers). Katie is five, but several of the activities she will do can be adapted up for older children. We will take rabbit trails from the Gnomes and Gnumbers activities and scamper off down more learning trails. As I mentioned, we like to have friends along when we play with the gnomes and fairies, so feel free to email me if you have ideas to add. This week's story is a happy collision of Colleen's imagination and a game the Foss family has played for years, now translated into Gnomese:-).
Mining for Gemstones with Grumpy Gnomes
Sometime the gnomes can become rather grumpy and awfully unwilling to do a job cheerfully and well. These gnomes need careful supervision and not a little encouragement to mine and count the gemstones. King Equals noticed that the gnomes weren't working very hard so he hired a Very Smart Gnomes to encourage the others and to track their productivity. The Very Smart Gnome wore all the colors of the rainbow and he showed the other gnomes how to use the rainbow colors to track their gems. The Very Smart Gnome thought about the poor work habits situation and decided to keep track of how many strikes it took for the gnomes to collect their gems. He tallied each one and then made poster of the results to hang for everyone to see. The gnomes who met their production goals would receive a special star.
The Rainbow Trading Game
The gnomes' first assignment is to master the number three. So, all the gems they mine will be counted in sets of three. As they "mine" the gnomes initially, they sort them into baskets according to color. When they are all sorted, you are ready to begin the game. Two children can play at a time, with the rainbow tray between them. The first child will roll a die. Let's say she rolls a 2. She takes 2 red gemstones and puts them in the red column. Then the next child has a turn (we'll call him "he" for clarity's sake). He rolls and places his gemstones in the red column as well. We'll pretend he rolled a "1". On her next turn, the first player rolls a 5. she would place 5 more red gems in the red column. Now, she has a total of 7. We're playing "3 Land" today, so she gathers up her first group of three and trades them for 1 orange gem and places it in the orange column. She still has 4 red gems, so she gather another set of 3 and trades it for an orange. She ends her turn with 2 orange and 1 red. She continues to roll the die on her turn and add red gemstones, always trading up when she has three. When she gets three orange, she can trade up for a yellow, and then three yellows can be traded for a green, and so on until she reaches indigo. The two players alternate taking turns. [You have a choice here: the first one to indigo wins or they can both play until they reach indigo]. Once a child has really mastered "3 Land, " The Very Smart Gnome can give her a star to put on her Main Lesson Page where she has drawn her "3" Number Ladder and her "3" Number Study pages.
There are lots and lots of variation on this game. Once a child masters 3, move on to 4 and then 5, all the way to ten. At some point introduce two dice. Children will learn trading up and counting skills. They'll learn combinations of 3 (and then the other numbers). They will begin to combine in their heads and naturally eliminate steps. When you move to 2 die, they will learn to convert say, a 3 and a 4 to a 5 and a 2. Playing this game in various forms for a year is not overkill. And my children really do enjoy it! Once they master going forward, then the game is played backwards. Also, when teaching multiplication, it is helpful to play it again.The entire game gives a solid foundation for non base-ten math.
Incidentally, gnomes are fun but not required, neither are gemstones or rainbow trays. You can substitute poker chips and open a legal sized manila folder and color the columns in the poker chip colors. Worked very well for my older children;-). many thanks to Nicholas' godmother, Linda, who introduced us to this game in its "Chip Trading" form many years ago.
In big families:
Bury your gemstones in a big baking dish filled with sand. Let your little people sift them out with a small colander. Once sifted, they must be sorted into cups or baskets before the game can be played.
Assign an older child to be the "Very Smart Gnome." He tracks the number of times each child rolls using tally marks. Then, he can transfer the data to a bar graph to use as a "production" incentive. Eventually, introduce predictions and probability.
This game is addictive. Be sure to show Dad how to play!
And some serendipitous copywork to go with our mining gnomes. It could go in the Math Main Lesson Book with a nice illustration of the rainbow colored Very Smart Gnome:
"The Aesir changed these into gnomes and gave them tools to mine the precious metals. Soon the caves rang with the sound of hammers and chisels. The gnomes were not friendly. They were grumpy and tricky little men who hobbled along and spoke with shrill, echoing voices. Their faces were pale as mushrooms, for they lived underground and the sun never shone upon them. But they were marvelous miners and smiths, and they kept the Aesir well supplied with gold, silver, and iron."
From D'Aulaire's Book of Norse Myths, p. 24: