SumBlox Review and Mini Blocks
2022 Update – there are now SumBlox mini blocks. They are available at a cheaper price point and perfect for home and classroom work.
When purchasing SumBlox activity cards can come in various languages so do check it’s the language you want.
I’m Lisa, a full time Mum, who before having my little one was an Early Years/ Primary teacher, Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo) and Post Graduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) Academic Tutor.
When training as a teacher I took a mathematics specialism route and thoroughly enjoyed my role as maths subject leader in schools before becoming a SENCo.
SumBlox is a product I’d seen on social media and had got me very excited. I’m always interested in new ways to help children to discover, enjoy, learn and master maths, so you can imagine I jumped at the chance to review the product for three weeks.
The review will focus on the Educational Set of SumBlox, who would benefit from them, what they are, what purposes you’d use them for, how they compare to other similar resources and ultimately – would I purchase them for a school or other educational setting?
I’d thought my little one (Floss, 22 months old – at the time) was maybe a little young for SumBlox, I could not have been more wrong.
When the box arrived she was so excited to touch and play with the numbers. We’ve had a couple of weeks to explore the product, both with my toddler and her peers as well as analysing how I would use SumBlox when teaching.
I’ve looked at both my early years planning and assessment as well as my Key Stage 1 planning and the 2018-19 assessment framework to inform my views and recommendations.
Who are SumBlox for?
The age range on the box states from 2 years old, but academically best suited for 2-12 year olds. I would agree that 2 is a great age to introduce children to SumBlox.
Children are naturally inquisitive and playful, and I found that the numeral blocks have been used in small world play and for stacking towers and knocking them down by my little one and her friends initially.
I very much believe in introducing concepts such as number when a child shows an interest and readiness. However, many mathematical resources can be used in other areas of play – construction, small world, creative play.
Using these materials even before a child shows a ‘mathematical’ interest can help to develop a familiarity with them that benefits children when they are ready to use these for the purpose of mathematical knowledge acquisition.
Go With Their Interests
My daughter’s interest in numbers had started a couple of weeks before the SumBlox arrived as she began to understand the idea of having one and more and had started to say when she had 2 of objects.
One thing has been clear, children have been very interested in the blocks and want to use them in isolation, but also with other toys in their play.
There’s a set of SumBlox Early Childhood Activity Cards which give some excellent ideas on how to introduce SumBlox to young children. The cards give ideas for solitary explorations, partner and group work with clear instructions. The cards have assessment links to the American school system, but the statements are very clear (not just acronyms) and easily aligned with the UK system.
I see SumBlox as having five distinct uses in educational settings:
- Early exploration through play – this could be through construction, small world play, expressive arts and design, discovering and making patterns, developing fine and gross motor skills, acquisition of language and communication of ideas.
- Direct whole class teaching in the early years and infants.
- Small guided group work in the early years and infants. Could be used in KS2 for small group work on fractions.
- One to one or small group intervention.
- Special educational needs play and discrete teaching.
What are SumBlox?
There is an increasing trend in natural, wooden resources. Their warmth and beauty being very appealing to children and adults alike. Each SumBlox numeral is made of solid, hardwood beech.
The numeral represents the magnitude/ value of the number in relation to other numbers in the set – a truly brilliant idea as it can be so hard for children to understand such an abstract concept as what a numeral represents.
SumBlox look attractive and are incredibly tactile. In my time in nurseries and schools it has become apparent how important it is how things look and feel.
Children (and adults) often have a dominant way of learning, either auditory, visual or kinaesthetic. However, even with a lead style, they still use all their senses to learn. SumBlox supports visual and kinaesthetic learning perfectly.
If you’d like to find out a little more about the creator of SumBlox click here.
What do you get in an Educational Set?
Do check carefully what the set you are purchasing comes with as each set has varying amounts of each numeral.
- 1 – thirty
- 2 – twelve
- 3 – eight
- 4 – eight
- 5 – eight
- 6 – eight
- 7 – eight
- 8 – eight
- 9 – eight
- 10 – two
Four teaching manuals
Here’s a link Yes Bebe, a UK supplier of SumBlox (if it is the first time you have shopped with them you will get 15% off using the pink link) where you can see the educational pack and other sets available. I love the fact that you can buy individual numbers to get you started, as a top up or if one gets lost!
How can SumBlox be used?
From my own Early Years and Key Stage 1 planning and the assessment frameworks I’ve identified the following areas where I would use SumBlox to support teaching the curriculum.
As with many resources, the more you use them the more ideas you get for how you could incorporate them to enhance play and learning. While I’ve been writing this review the list has continued to grow.
As the popularity of SumBlox increases and the communities who use it find new ways to incorporate it in play and learning – its versatility will only grow.
- Number recognition
- Number naming
- One to one correspondence
- Reciting numbers in order
- Comparing numbers
- Comparing two groups of objects
- Showing an interest in numerals
- Matching numeral and quantity
- Representing numbers through marks
- Place value
- Number sequences
- Counting a range of objects or actions
- Use language of more and fewer
- Finding one more/ less
- Addition and subtraction
- Identifying mathematical problems
- Understand big and small
- Using blocks to make simple structures and arrangements
- Making and following patterns
- Describe objects using language of size and shape
- Using positional language
- Understanding 2D and 3D
- Ordering by height and length
- Measuring by height and length
- Solving problems related to measure
Key Stage 1 (in addition to early years)
- Reading and writing numerals
- Place value including partitioning
- Addition and subtraction
- Number bonds to 10 and associated facts
- Counting in 2s, 5s and 10s and related multiplication and
- division facts
- Identifying fractions
- Measuring, ordering and problem solving in length and height problems
- Finding factors of whole numbers
- Multiplication and division
- Understanding fractions as part of a whole
- Further fraction work including addition (KS2)
What challenges do SumBlox have?
For some time now, the expectation in early years teaching is that children will leave reception with a good grasp of mathematical concepts such as accurate counting, identifying one more than and one fewer than, adding, subtracting and problem solving, to include doubling, halving and sharing with numbers up to 20.
In line with this, the Key stage 1 National Curriculum expectations have also been raised and a new assessment framework is in place from 2018/19.
With this in mind, I think it would be beneficial to have extra numerals in addition to what comes in the Educational Set. Recalling multiplication and division facts for 2, 5 and 10 would benefit from having a couple of extra 5s and an extra pack of 10s, in addition to the Educational Set.
Place value work in Key Stage 1 includes working with any two-digit number and so again I see the benefit in ensuring that there are more tens available. What’s great is that numeral blocks are available to purchase separately to enhance the Educational Set; a smaller Home Set is also available.
Would I purchase SumBlox to use in nursery and school?
Yes, SumBlox is an incredibly well thought out resource to support children in beginning their mathematical journey and taking them deeper into solving problems and mastering this subject.
SumBlox compliment other mathematical resources very well and I believe would enhance materials that you already have rather than overlap. Products such as Numicon, Cuisenaire rods, Unifix and other manipulatives can give a size comparable between numbers, but do not help to demystify the abstract numerical code that we are surrounded by and that we need to learn and use to represent our mathematical thinking.
The addition of SumBlox alongside these resources could only help to enhance the mathematical learning further and allow children more quickly to grasp the relationship between number and numeral.
Did I purchase them?
Yes, I have. I’ve purchased them for use at home with my daughter. She really loves playing with them and she has learnt the names of many of the blocks just as she would characters from a story.
Now, when she sees numerals in the home or out and about she will often correctly identify which numeral she has seen and is beginning to see the relationship between the numeral and how many in different circumstances.
My reasons for purchasing include:
- Show the value of a numeral – something other resources do not do
- Brings number numerals to life
- Flexible uses in play
- Visually, very appealing
- Smooth and tactile
- Chunky to help little hands grasp them
- Natural material – hardwood beech
- Support a wide range of mathematical concepts
- A resource that will last well and be used for several years.
How much SumBlox would I recommend?
- For nursery school age children and childminder groups an Educational Set would give a great range of learning through play opportunities, but you may find that the Home Set would still be a good introduction to the range initially.
- For one reception class I’d recommend at least one Educational Set for exploring through play and another for whole group direct teaching and small group work. Purchasing additional 5s and 10s would be highly beneficial.
- For one Key Stage 1 class I’d recommend 1-2 Educational Sets as well as additional 5s and 10s. This will ensure that you have resources for whole class teaching and small group work. Two packs would help to ensure enough challenge for children who are more able in maths and working towards mastery level.
- For one to one, intervention work and special educational needs work it will depend upon the level of maths they are working on to what pack size would be more beneficial, but the reasoning above could act as a guide to what might be most suitable.
For home use
- It really depends up on the number of children and what mathematical stage of development your children are at.
- You can purchase a set of the numerals 1 to 10 here that can be a great start for number recognition and ordering.
- If you love them already you could go for the Home Set or Educational set depending upon the size of your brood!
Although this review was originally for educational settings you should still find ideas for use at home with SumBlox too. Following #sumbloxuk will also give you further ideas and feel free to message me directly with any questions either through Instagram DM or email@example.com.