Counting Ball Track
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The Counting Ball Track is a great 'all-in-one' activity; aesthetically beautiful, cognitively engaging and physically challenging.
To make the balls jump and drop the child must use the fingers to carefully manipulate the lever and knob. The small lever on the side (shown in the photo on the far left) can be pushed with the thumb or fingertip(s) to make the ball 'pop' up to the second level. Once on the second level the child grasps the blue knob and carefully turns it one way to 'collect' the ball before turning it back in the opposite direction to make the ball drop down.
For younger children this can be a fun cause-and-effect activity, just learning to push the lever with just the right amount of pressure to make the balls jump or twisting the knob to let a ball slip back down. Once this is mastered the child can then start engaging in early tasks such as colour-identification and counting. The child can name the colour of the ball that has just jumped (or dropped) and can start counting out the balls on the different levels. The printed numerals on the perspex also inspire identification and naming of these number symbols!
For older children the Counting Ball Track offers an exploration of early mathematics. The top level is the 'addition' row. If the child starts with all the balls on the bottom then he/she can pop them up to add them together - 1 plus 1 plus 1 equals 3! Rolling the balls back down demonstrates a concrete example of subtraction - if there were five at the top and we roll one down then there are only four left (or "5 minus 1 equals 4"). At any given moment the child can also perform addition by comparing how many balls are at the top or the bottom - if there are 3 at the top and 2 at the bottom then there are five altogether (3 plus 2 equals 5).
A child can independently explore this concrete representation of the abstract concepts of addition and subtraction. With adult support the language of these equations (plus, minus, equals) can be introduced too.
One thing I really love about this material is that it is completely self-contained. The child can interact with the coloured balls but there is no way to lose them! The activity is fun, but there is no risk of ending up with a missing ball! This makes it perfect for busy classrooms or for children to use on-the-go (such as in the car or while in a Waiting Room).
The Counting Ball Track is approximately 22cm wide, with a height of around 18cm and a 'depth' (from front to back) of 7cm. The balls and frame are made of wood with clear perspex acting as the boundary for the balls.