What's in Your Junk Drawer?

by evelynsaenz

Everyone has a junk drawer. It is where we put the missing caps to the markers, tops to jelly jars, missing screws, the nob that fell off, stray buttons, missing puzzle pieces, etc

Spill out the contents of your junk drawer. Play with the contents. Sort the contents. Compare the numbers of items in each pile. Make a pattern with the sorted piles. Add groups of items together. Remove some to make patterns. Can you guess how many items you found in your junk drawer? Make groups of tens and skip count to see how many items you found there all together. You just covered about 8 math concepts. Hands-on math can be all about discovery and cleaning out the junk drawer...

Photo Credit: Math in the Junk Drawer by puuikibeach
Used under creative commons

A Drawer Full of Math!

Open the Junk Drawer and Imerse Yourself in Math!

Math in the junk drawer? And you thought it was just a junk drawer! Go over to your junk drawer, pull it out and begin to explore. I know you have one, everyone does. It is often the last place in a house that is cleaned out and organized but did you know it was a treasure chest of learning activities for young mathematicians?

Math is all about counting, sorting and creating patterns. A junk drawer is just begging for such organization and young mathematicians are just the ones to help.


Math in a Drawer!

Exploring the Junk Drawer
Math in the Junk Drawer
Math in the Junk Drawer
by puuikibeach

Time to Get Organized!

Math is Organized Chaos!

Junk drawers are organized chaos. As we explore the junk drawer we will be using math to organize the chaos by sorting, counting and grouping numbers of objects that will dig us out of the mess into organization.

Start by dumping out the contents of the junk draw. Sift through everything there. What pleasure there can be in sifting through all the treasures that at one time you might have though were lost forever.

Talk with your children about what they find in the drawer. As you sift through the draw, watch for opportunities to introduce the mathematical concept of sorting.Then begin to sort.

  • Let's put the pretty ones over here.
  • We can make a pile of broken ones over here.
  • Let's put the red ones in the basket and the blue ones in the bowl.

Once interest in sorting wains you can start making comparisons.

The Junk Drawer is filled with Math

Sorting is a Math Concept
Sorting the Junk
Sorting the Junk

Creating Patterns from the Junk

Mathematics is all about Patterns

Once you have spent time sorting, finding the most intriguing pieces, looking at textures, colors, shapes and sizes (geometry) it is time to make patterns. Patterns are the art of mathematics. Artistically speaking objects placed in groups of odd numbers of objects are more aesthetically pleasing than those placed in even numbered groups.

Notice how placing one or three beautiful objects on a mantle or table look elegant but two or four often looks cluttered.

  • Try creating a display on a window sill with one, three or five objects from the junk drawer.
  • On the center of the table place the tallest object and then the next two tallest on either side.
  • Finally create a wall hanging with an AAB pattern.

As you create patterns talk about the number of objects in the pattern, the number needed to complete the sequence or the number needed to reach all the way across the table.

These activities are the beginnings of addition and subtraction.

Teaching Mathematics

Understanding the Concepts of Mathematical Reasoning
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Hands-on Math, Gr. K-1, Second Edition

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Junk Drawer Necklaces

Beads in the Junk Drawer

/'One of the things I dump into my junk drawer are the beads from broken necklaces. You know the moment when your beloved necklace that you have been wearing for a few years catches on something and the string no longer holds. As you feel the tug and snap followed by the tinkling of tiny beads scattering all over the floor you think that one of these days you will put on a new string and your old necklace will be just like new.

If you are like me, however, that never happens. The beads just go into the junk drawer never to be seen again.

One day, we were looking in the junk drawer looking for inspiration for a new math activity when we spied the beads.

"Let's make necklaces!" proclaimed the kids.

So we sorted out our favorite colors, make a pattern and created new symmetrical necklaces from just the beads lying around in the junk drawer.

Have you ever made junk drawer necklaces? Did you realize that you were doing math when you did so?

Updated: 09/17/2013, evelynsaenz
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Junk Drawer Comments

selecteddee on 11/06/2012

I have a junk drawer, and things get stuck away in there all the time. I don't like having it TOO organized, because sometimes it is just fun to pull the drawer out and see what discoveries I can make. It might not be the best system in the world, but it does afford me some interesting finds on occasion. A junk drawer is great for all of those small items that you just cannot seem to find a logical place for otherwise!

BrendaReeves on 10/14/2012

This is great! I hate junk drawers, because I can't figure out what to do with all the junk. Now I know. I'll organize it.

sheilamarie on 10/13/2012

Love this use of junk! Great way to get young minds moving and to get help organizing ye ol' junk drawer at the same time.

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