The Miracle of Combination Dot Cards

We’ve definitely had our struggles with math this year, among other things. And though I nearly switched math curriculums mid-year, I discovered that what I really needed was not so much a new approach as a few added resources.

The journey

After a few hours on the internet one afternoon (following a particularly frustrating morning of math), lots of research and reading, and a phone call to a classical education curriculum representative, I finally concluded that the answer was not as “simple” as switching curriculums. I believed in the method of memorizing over “learn by doing” when it came to math, and rather than switch to another curriculum that stressed drill and repetition, I decided I’d stick with what was hailed as the ultimate in drill and repetition (i.e. A Beka Book).

But I knew that I did need something to make my A Beka math work better. My epiphany—flashcards. As in, the ones the curriculum recommends but that I was too cheap to buy. But I will say, that even after my epiphany I was too cheap to buy them new. Instead, I scoured Amazon and eBay. And prayed.

The search

I lost out on several eBay bids (I hate bidding on eBay) before resorting to a “buy it now” item and a couple of Amazon deals. Overall, I still saved nearly $50 buying used flashcards. And—oh!—what a worthy investment.

My favorite have been the Combination Dot Cards, the ones I thought would be a definite “over-spend” at the beginning of the year. These cards are ingenious, even bordering on the miraculous. The cards themselves are akin to giant dominoes with dots on each half of the card. The student reads the card as an addition problem based on how you are holding it.

For instance, if you have three dots on top and 2 on bottom, the child says “3+2=5.”  Then, you turn the card so that the 2 dots are now on top and the three dots are on bottom, and the child says “2+3=5.” You can also do the same thing by holding the cards horizontally and reading left to right. The cards can be used for subtraction as well, but we’re not there yet.



The success

The cards address the exact problems that my son was encountering. First, just learning the addition families was giving him some trouble. But even more difficult for him was reversing the numbers in a combination. Once he learned 1+2 he would still be utterly stumped at 2+1.

My son’s reaction to his new cards— all smiles. (As well as a possessive “that’s mine” when his sister came to take a look; which of course resulted in Sister’s rebuttal of “no, it’s mine,”and Mommy intervening with “Actually, they’re mine.”) And I’m so thankful I get to share.

Published by Tracy
Our life is creative chaos, and our homeschool is loud and busy and distracted and challenging and lovely. My name is Tracy, and I homeschool my crew of three kids with ADHD/dyslexia, finding creative ways to use their strengths to teach their weaknesses. As a homeschooled homeschooler, I love customizing curriculum and making adjustments to incorporate fun, hands-on projects for out-of-the-box learners. Stop by to find grace for the messes and mistakes, and knowledge to pick up the pieces and make something special. Let’s grow together!

5 thoughts on “The Miracle of Combination Dot Cards

  1. Those look great! I may try making my own (mostly because I LOVE making our materials). Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this. My son has been struggling with the ABeka math and I think these would be very helpful for him also. I to considered them an extra expense, but now am reconsidering!
    I found your post via a google search. 🙂

    • Post Author Tracy

      I’m so glad you found this helpful! Two other things that really helped us through this last year were worksheets and If you visit Math Mammoth and sign up for her emails, she will send over 300 free worksheets. I used many of these to supplement A Beka, and my son responded very well to them. Also, Reflex is a math game that has helped him so much that we actually spent the money to get him a subscription this year, but you can try it out for free for 14 days to see if it will help your son. I have been extremely impressed with the results of this program. And after all the struggles through kindergarten, first grade is going much better so far! Feel free to email me if you have any other questions, Rosa. And thanks for stopping by!

  3. Hello,

    I will be teaching 1st and 2nd grade this fall, as a brand new teacher. I just received my A Beka curriculum yesterday and desire to be as prepared as possible. While looking over the math lessons, I noticed the combination dot cards. I do not believe that the school vurrently has them. I too am not wanting to spend money on aids that may not work.

    However, upon reading your blog {which I found via Google!}, I am now thinking that it is worth the investment. Should I just make the purchase? Any other advice for this new, naïve teacher?

    Thank you for your posts!!

    • Post Author Tracy

      The idea is to teach that no matter how you arrange the numbers (3+2 or 2+3), you have still have the same total. So you could obviously teach the concept with any manipulative. I did find it helpful for my kids to see that five is five, even when I turned the combination card upside down. But another helpful method is to have five manipulatives (or whatever you are teaching) and let them arrange into two groups of different numbers. Or hide a set and have them guess how many you took away from the original grouping. Bottom line, there are ways to teach this without the cards, depending on your confidence and ability with math. However, I did find these these cards to be helpful, especially just starting out.

      You might be all right to start the year and see what your students need, knowing that you could always pick these up if you found the need. Enjoy your first year and all your precious little ones!

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