Sumblox – Wooden Blocks for Maths
“Look Mum, I’m trying to make 10. A 9 and 1 makes 10. And now I have a 5 and a 2 but they don’t reach yet. I think I need to find a 3!”
When I’m choosing resources for my kids, I want something like me! That sounds odd. Let me explain. I want something that facilitates their learning, not forces their learning. I want something open-ended, that can be used in multiple ways. Something that they can use however suits them best, whatever stage of learning they’re at. Something that lends itself to creativity. Something fun! I don’t want something too ‘activityish’ (is that a word?) that can only be used in one way, designed to get them to learn a specific thing in isolation. We do things our own way here! I’m sure you know that already.
Recently I was lucky enough to be gifted a set of Sumblox from the lovely Krystal at Sweet Elephants, to see what I thought, and I’d love to tell you a little more about them.
What are Sumblox?
As you can see from the photo above, Sumblox are a set of wooden blocks which are shaped like the digits 1-10. What’s really cool about them is that they increase in size relative to the number represented.
So, a 6 block is the same size as two 3 blocks, which is also the same as three 2 blocks. That sentence is confusing. Maybe just look at the picture, ha! We’ve used the old Cuisenaire rods a lot and Miss 7 in particular really likes them. These use the same principle, but you can also easily see what number is represented and they’re much easier for little hands to use.
Even Miss 2 has fun stacking them.
When I first gave the blocks to the girls, I didn’t give them any instructions. This is how I always present anything new. I wanted to see their take on them, and how they would be used. If they had any questions, they would ask! They instantly recognized that they were numbers and first sorted them into groups, counting how many of each digit there were. They soon realised that the size varied according to the number and started stacking blocks up to match the biggest block (the 10).
Math Games With Sumblox
Pretty soon they were asking for me to give them ‘challenges’. This is something they often ask me to do with other math materials we have. Usually, they want me to give them a number to make, or a problem to solve. With the Sumblox, we have been having challenges to make 10. They will have the 10 block (or a 9 and a 1), and then I will hand them another block and they will find the ‘missing piece’ to make the two stacks match and add up to 10. Miss 5 loves this challenge, but Miss 7 was soon asking for something harder!
For her, we modified the game so that I would tell her how many blocks she had to find to add up to 10. So in the above photo, she had to find 3 different blocks to make 10. Still, she wanted more!
Our next challenge involved some multiplication/division. Now I would give her a block, and she would see how many times she could make the number using a tower of only the same sized blocks. So here she has found an 8 can be made with four 2’s, and also with two 4’s.
She likes this one and this is where we are at now. I’ll have to think up some more challenges before next time!
What Else Can You Do With Them?
The girls have also been using Sumblox in their various building creations, with or without other blocks. There was also an activity card that came in the box with a couple of building game suggestions which we haven’t explored yet. They’ve been too busy doing their own thing! I also want to set them up next to the mirror book and see what that inspires.
What Do I Think?
We all like them! The only cons I have is that a- the 1 and 4 blocks lay on their sides instead of upright, which I thought was a bit confusing, but which didn’t bother the kids; and b- there is only one 10 block which causes some problems here with multiple children, I would have liked at least two. I also think that my 7-year-old will outgrow the blocks as a mathematical learning tool soon. Again, having more of each block would extend the age range as we could explore multiplication and division with bigger numbers.
Overall though I’m happy with them! They are very good quality and having four children aged 7 and under means they are going to get a lot of use in the future. They are open-ended, allowing the kids to play and learn in multiple ways, which is always what I am looking for. The biggest factor though is that the girls keep coming back to them. I can tell that they find them engaging as they get them off the shelf of their own accord to use.
If you’d like to read more about Sumblox, or if you want some for yourself, you can find them HERE at Sweet Elephants.
As someone who loves a good challenge, I’ve tried to think of some SUPER CHALLENGES that Miss 7 and Miss 5 may like!
1. One person can only use 3s. Someone else can only use 4s. Can you both build the same number and what number is it? Is there more than one? (If you’ve finished that one, there are so many other combinations of numbers to try!)
2. Dump out two RANDOM piles of numbers. How can you guess VERY QUICKLY which pile would make the highest tower? Try to find faster and faster ways to guess correctly! Try beating your own score with a stopwatch 😀
3. How many possible ways are there to make an 4? How about a 5? How about a 6?
4. So you know how if you take three 2s it makes a 6? And so does two 3s? And six 1s? And OF COURSE one 6? How many ways can you make an 8 with the same number? How about a 15? 24? What are some numbers that are really hard to make with the same number?
P.S. I found it a very fun challenge to come up with more challenges 🙂 I hope you like them!
I love those ideas!! Thank you!!
Awesome challenges! So thrilled you love them Sara. Next stop fractions? 🙂
Is this something you leave out all the time for them to play with or do you only take them out on certain days? Or only if they ask? Just curious. I love this blog. Thank you!
Hi Jaime 🙂
Yep, they’re out on the shelf in the play room for them to use whenever they like.