using pop-its for math centers

Use Pop-it’s to Add and Subtract with These Easy Steps

This past summer, I was scrolling on Instagram, and these Pop-It Bubble Poppers came up on my feed a lot. I was drawn to them because I’m that person who loves those packing bubbles and popping them. There’s just something relaxing about them. So, I found myself heading over to Five Below and bought a few Pop-it’s. I used them when I was reading writing (I’m using them now as I’m writing this blog), and then I started thinking about great ways to use them for math. So, I will share how Bubble Poppers help with math and six great ways to incorporate them into your math centers.

What Are Pop-its?

Pop-it’s or Bubble Poppers can come in many shapes or sizes but consist of bubbles in many rows. You simply press the bubbles down, making a slight popping sound. Once you have popped all of the bubbles, you can flip it over and start again. Pop-it’s were initially created as a fidget to relieve stress. Students (or anyone for that matter) can simply pop down the bubbles with their fingers to make a pattern or not. The best part about the Bubble Poppers is that they are compact, portable, washable, which is a bonus in this day and age! 

How do Pop-it’s Help with Math?

Bubble poppers have been used a lot for reading and phonemic awareness. However, Pop-it’s are a great tool to be used with math. Math is about hands-on learning and making those visual connections to numbers, adding, subtracting, you name it! The more students “see” numbers and how numbers can be represented, the more successful students will be. Bubble Poppers allow students to quickly visualize concepts such as which number is greater, what the missing addend is, adding and subtracting numbers, etc. The more tools we can give students to understand numbers, the better! This is just another great tool you can add to your arsenal for teaching math skills!

adding and subtracting math games

Pop-it Ideas for Math Centers

There are so many great ideas to try with your Pop-it’s! I previously talked about how to use pop-its with number sense. Below are three ways to use these pop-its for your math centers.

Pop-it Show Me 2 Ways

This is a classic game where my students use their fingers to show me ways to make a number. For example, I might give them the number 6. Then I would ask them to show me that number on their fingers. Then I ask them to show me another way to make six. Students may show 6 and 0 or 4 and 2. 

pop it's for showing 2 addition numbers

This can be applied with Pop-it’s as well. Students can draw a card from a pile and then show it by popping bubbles in a row to indicate the number. For example, students may draw the number 8. They may pop 4 in one row and 4 in another row. Then students would have to show another my to make 8, for example, 5 and 3.

You can even have students write down their combinations if you need documentation. 

Pop-it Roll and Pop To

This is another simple game. All you need is a Pop-it and dice. This is great for teaching counting. They start with rolling a die and popping the number they rolled, for example, 4. Then students roll the die again and say, for example, “I have 4. I rolled 3, now I have 7.” Students continue until they have popped all of the bubbles.

Once they have done this, they can start counting backward by rolling the dice and subtracting. For example, they can say, “I started with 24, took away 3, now I have 21.” 

You can differentiate this by having students use two or three dice and adding or subtracting using those dice. 

Pop- it War

The final idea for using Pop-it’s during math centers is Pop-it War. Students each draw a card with either an addition or subtraction problem. Then, they pop the answer and compare the answers. The higher solution keeps both cards and continues playing until all of the cards are in the hand of one student. 

This is great for students who need to visualize the answer to the problem and also helps them visualize the comparison of numbers. 

Pop-it Ideas for Guided Math

I also love using Pop-its with my students in small groups. It is a great way to have students use different manipulative and become engaged with finding the answer. Below are two ways I use Pop-its in my guided math groups. 

Word Problems

The first way to use Pop-its is with word problems. Word problems can be hard to visualize for students. Sometimes they need a manipulative to help them come to the solution. Pop-it’s are perfect for this. 

I start with reading the problem with the students first; then I ask what do we need to do with this problem, add or subtract? Once they decide on a course of action, we start popping the problem on our Pop-it. Once we have arrived at the answer, I have them write down the number sentence on their paper; dry erase board, you name it with the answer. These are perfect visuals for students to work with word problems.

Missing Addends

Missing Addends can be a challenging concept for students to understand. Pop-it’s are the perfect way to help grasp the idea. 

missing addends with pop-its

I first start with the problem, for example, 4+___ = 7. I have them begin by popping four bubbles on their Pop-it. Then I ask what number they need to get to, and they answer seven. Then they start on the following line and count on it until they get to the number 7. When they look at the row under the 4, they can see that the missing addend is 3. This makes the concept easy and visual for students to use in the classroom, and even when they are on their own, they can use pop-its to solve missing addend problems.

Pop-it’s are Fun and Engaging for Math Centers

Students need a visualization for numbers, and to do that, they need tools to help them strengthen their number sense. Bubble Poppers are the perfect tool to use for math activities. The more students “see” how numbers can be represented, the more successful they will be. Pop-it’s allows students to visualize concepts, such as adding, subtracting, and missing addends quickly. The more tools we can give students to understand numbers, the better! This is just another great tool that you can put in your arsenal for teaching math skills!

pop-its for adding and subtracting

So comment below with your favorite Bubble Popper activity or if you tried something different and want to share, place that in the comments as well!

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Hi, I'm Meg!

I have ben teaching in the classroom for over 15 years! I love teaching math and finding new and engaging ways to teach my students.

When I am not teaching you can find me at Target, at a baseball game (GO Nats!), binge watching fun shows, or snuggling with my cats!

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