3-6 Math Album – Spindle Boxes



To give the idea that symbols also represent a quantity of separate objects whereas in the exercise with the number rods the quantity was fixed and the symbols were loose. To clarify the meaning of ‘zero’ by having an empty compartment.


Two plainly varnished wooden boxes with ten compartments. The first compartment has the symbol for ‘zero’ printed on the back, the second compartment has the numeral ‘one’ and so on up to nine. Forty five spindles in a basket or box. Eight green pipe cleaners (optional).


The child works with the materials as shown.


Correct number of spindles.


4 – 5 years


Invite the child to help you carry the spindle boxes, then the basket of spindles and the pipe cleaners to the table. Ask the child to identify the printed numerals 1-9 in non sequential order. Say to the child that you are going to read the numerals on the back of the compartments and that you will count the correct number of spindles into your hand before you place them in the particular compartment. He may bind them with the pipe cleaners before placing them in the compartments if he wishes. When all the forty-five spindles have been used, draw the child’s attention to the empty compartment and say, “This is ‘zero’. Zero means ‘nothing’.”