Teach Through Games: Monkey Math

Teach Through Games: Monkey Math

Age level: Preschool, Early Elementary

Description: This game is designed to teach early learners basic math skills using a scale, but instead of your regular old boring scale, this scale is a monkey. And instead of placing any old items on the scale, learners are able to place bananas on the monkey’s outstretched arms. If the arms are out of balance, not only does one arm raise higher than the other, but the monkey’s eyes cross. When I initially got this I had a student who was highly motivated by animals, so I thought it’d be a nice way to practice number skills. I have been continuously surprised by how almost all of my students have found the monkey to be humorous. It is one of my most-used games. The game includes the monkey scale, as well as 15 “banana-tokens” ranging from one to ten bananas. Each banana token has a big red number showing up how many bananas are on the token.

Skills & Modifications: The game comes with a set of instructions for four different activities which are detailed below. I have not modified the game in any other ways than described in the instructions, but have chosen the appropriate game for my student’s skill level. I appreciate that this toy company (LearningMates) considered the materials provided in the game and provided such a wide array of games to play with those materials.

  • Number recognition, counting, and number order – In the game Banana Line-Up, the monkey scale is not used. In this game the banana tokens are placed in a messy array in front of the learner, and the learner has to place them in order. I may request them to place them in order from biggest to smallest or smallest to biggest. After students have placed them we will count them forward and backward, then I frequently let them play with the banana tokens on the monkey scale. While early learners who are still practicing counting and number recognition may not fully understand the concept of the scale, it’s an excellent activity for exploration, and you may be pleasantly surprised by some of the conclusions the child comes to independently through such exploration.
  • Matching, Sorting, Number and Shape Identification – The games comes with 15 banana tokens. There are two of each of the tokens with 1-5 bananas. You can place these tokens upside down and have the students try to match them based on shape. When they flip over the token, they will see the number written on it. Just as described above, after this activity I frequently let students explore with the scale for a couple of minutes.
  • Greater Than-Less Than – This game is what I originally bought Monkey Math for. In the instructions included with the game, it suggests that you “hold up two different tokens and ask your child which number is greater and which number is less. Let your child check the answer by puttting the tokens on the scale to see which one ‘sinks’ and which one ‘rises.’” I vary this sometimes by placing one token on the scale, then having the student search an array of tokens to find one that is “greater than” or “less than.” For students who have started to use the math symbols < and >, I will have them write out their responses. I have found that my students do enjoy taking the banana tokens off the monkey scale, placing the tokens on a dry erase board, then writing the correct symbol (< or >) between the tokens.
  • Addition, Basic Algebra – In this game, you set out two banana tokens to show an equation (such as 6 = 4 + ?). The student has to find the correct banana token to complete the equation. They can check their work by placing the banana tokens on the monkey scale to see if the monkey balances. For some students I would place the 6 on one arm of the monkey and the 4 on the other, then ask him/her to find the banana token to balance the monkey. However, I have found that some students with autism spectrum disorders are more motivated to answer incorrectly to see the monkey’s arms swing the other way. Another consideration when using the monkey scale with students with autism spectrum disorders is to make sure that you are varying which side is higher or lower, as well as varying which side the student has to add bananas to.

Pros: This is a great visual activity for teaching a variety of math skills. Students are almost always motivated by the monkey scale. Something about it appeals to childhood humor and silliness.

Cons: Students with autism spectrum disorders will sometimes interact with this game inappropriately or will answer incorrectly on purpose so they can see the monkeys arms rise and fall. It is important to address this in instruction, be clear with expectations, and only use this if is an appropriate tool for introducing, maintaining, or generalizing a skill.

Cost: $13.99 Should I buy this?  I would recommend this to any teacher for preschool and early elementary students.  For parents, you have to use your judgment about whether or not this is a good fit for your particular child’s needs.

ABLLS: B3, R3, R9, R21, R22

VB-MAPP: Tact 13, VP-MTS 12, Math 11, Math 12, Math 14

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