Interviewer: Popsicle stick math is a way for me to work with a student who still doesn’t have a really solid sense of what 10 looks like. They have 10 popsicle sticks. They count them at the beginning to assure themselves that they do have 10. And they’re asked to put down sticks onto a table in what we refer to as sets, so show me a set of 5, show me a set of 9.
When a student initially begins, they will individually count the sticks each time. If I ask for 7 sticks, they’ll individually count 7 sticks. Then the next card’s pulled down, and they sort of grab them all up again and start over.
As you progress through this activity multiple times, they start to get the sense that if you want seven sticks on the table, you can just keep three in your hand. They’re getting that visual of 7 and 3 make 10. They’re also continually adding and subtracting from other numbers. It helps them to be able to calculate more quickly.