Crafts for Kids · Home School

Teaching Number Bonds through Playing with Conker Mites

Is anyone else home schooling because of coronavirus lockdowns at the moment? Last week I was revising number bonds to ten and number bonds to twenty with my five year old and we were both ready to tear our hair out. She’s pretty good at maths, but when you combine tiredness with the idea of needing to “know” number bonds to be able to answer questions without a number line then she got a little fed up.

So I had an idea to make a game of it with the crafter’s secret weapon…. goggly eyes.

The conker mite, a secret maths teacher

We had loads of conkers left from the children’s Autumn foraging, so I painted their white marks (I think of these as being a bit like the conkers’ belly buttons from where they were joined to the shell) completely white with acrylic paint, let this dry and then wrote the numbers 0-10 on them with coloured sharpies (I made two fives, as five and five make ten so I needed them for the number bonds). I used matching colours for the numbers which bond to make ten, so zero and ten, nine and one, eight and two…. you get the picture. Then I hot glue gunned some goggly eyes onto each one, and introduced my daughter to her class of conker mites.

Number bonds to ten on the conker mites, with colours coordinated for the various number bonds

Being five, my daughter is really interested in ideas about friendships and school routines, so I told her that her class of conkers needed to be put with the correct partners, their best friends who helped them add up to the number ten. She thought the conkers were adorable so was chatting very nicely to them as she quickly made up the number bonds to ten, we then popped them in a container and picked them at random to practice general addition which sometimes involved number bonds to twenty, but always allowed us to consider different way to approach addition and subtraction problems. She found this activity a really fun way to practise her number bonds without the pressure of formal learning.

Conker mites lined up ready to help out in any maths lessons, just in case a number bond was needed

I was really surprised how popular the conker mites were with my children. As soon as my two year old came home from nursery, she wanted to play with the conker mites as well, and while she’s too young to worry about number bonds, they were a great way to introduce her to numbers and sequencing while practising her counting.