Build A Magna-Tiles® Adding Machine

Support for hands-on learning is one of the many reasons parents and teachers love Magna-Tiles® as much as kids do. You’ll find so many ways to incorporate our magnetic shapes in learning activities that it just might surprise you! Using hands-on learning for math can be especially effective since it makes numeric concepts easy to see and understand. To add a fun, creative, hands-on counting activity to your roster of learning activities, try building this cool Magna-Tiles® adding machine with your children or students.

The Magna-Tiles® Super Adding Machine

You’ll only need about 10 minutes to create a bright, colorful adding machine with magnetic shapes, but there’s no limit to how long kids will want to enjoy this project. To get started, gather the following supplies:

Be sure to set up your adding machine in a well-lit space. Near a window that gets plenty of natural light is a great location, as you’ll be able to see the pom-poms move through the machine.

Begin the activity by explaining the concept of an adding machine. The machine should have two chambers at the top that join in the middle at the bottom of the machine. When pom-poms are dropped inside, they will travel down the chambers to collect at the bottom. Next, follow these simple steps:

  1. Draw out your ideas together, providing guidance as needed. Younger children may need more help to understand how the machine works.
  2. Using your plan as a guide, build the structure using magnetic shapes. It can be extremely simple, using open chutes to let the pom-poms drop, or more complex with ramps that create a basic maze.
  3. Be sure to test out the machine as you work. Drop a pom-pom down each side and observe any errors. Some questions to ask include:
    • How can we change the structure to make it work more smoothly?
    • Do we need additional tiles? Where should they go?
    • Why do you think problems are arising?
  4. Once the adding machine is complete, use toy numbers or write out numbers to add together on paper or a dry-erase board.
  5. Drop the correct number of pom-poms to match each side of the arithmetic problem into the respective chambers. For example, if the problem is 2 + 3, you’ll drop two pom-poms into the right side and three into the left.
  6. Observe the number of pom-poms that collect at the bottom of the machine. It should match the solution to the problem.

This simple project is a great way to encourage hands-on math learning, as well as introduce young learners to pre-engineering skills. Plus, kids love seeing their creations work!

Take a Freestyle Approach

A great alternative to the Magna-Tiles® Super Adding Machine is making a similar creation out of a Magna-Tiles® Freestyle 40-Piece Set! This set’s pieces, including X and T shapes, squares, and triangles, contain nine free-moving magnets that allow magnetic numbers and letters to stick to the center of the tiles, making for a beneficial learning activity by following these steps:

  1. Referring to the directions above, build three chambers out of the small squares and triangles in this set, leaving the tops and bottoms of the chutes open and arranging the chambers side-by-side.
  2. Place an X-shaped tile on the outside of each chamber.
  3. Stick magnetic numbers on the outer two chambers.
  4. Use a dry-erase marker to draw a plus sign on a small square and stick it on the X shape attached to the middle chamber.
  5. Place the corresponding number of pom-poms in the outer two chambers.
  6. After the pom-poms have fallen, have the children count them.
  7. When they’ve figured out the correct answer, lay an X shape flat on the ground and place the magnetic number that represents how many pom-poms there are.

You can also take a similar approach to make an adding machine for spelling. Simply swap out the magnetic numbers and plus sign for letters and watch as your kids form simple two- and three-letter words.

The Benefits of Hands-On Learning

Why is hands-on learning so important? We all learn in different ways, from visuals to hearing information spoken aloud. Hands-on learning combines a variety of learning styles, allowing children to see important concepts like counting in action.

Beyond fundamental skills, hands-on learning makes kids active participants. This helps spark excitement about new ideas and improves retention, building a strong foundation of important concepts. What’s more, hands-on learning supports problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity in ways that passive learning simply can’t.

Find More Hands-On Counting and Math Activities

With Magna-Tiles® magnetic shapes, it’s easy to create hands-on learning activities that get kids interested in science, math, reading, technology, and other important topics. If you’re ready to build an adding machine and countless other cool projects, explore Magna-Tiles® magnetic construction sets, and check out our activity downloads for even more ways to make learning fun. If you have questions, feel free to contact us today.