Tuesday, April 5, 2011

School Day: Science

We couldn't be more excited about this new addition to our school room: a balance!
The boys worked in the school room for at least three hours today. I think 30 minutes of that were spent on the trinomial cube. The other 2.5 hours were spent working with our new balance. (Kal-El is checking for level.)

CSN stores asked me to choose and review one of the products that they sell. I am so grateful I had that opportunity because I was not finding what I was looking for elsewhere. CSN stores had a larger selection of balances to choose from which enabled me to find what I needed.

As you will see, we are finding no shortage of things to weigh and compare in the our Montessori environment.

There are several balances manufactured to be used with preschool-aged children. However, the reviews I read indicated that they were not terribly accurate. I didn't want to purchase a balance that could be used for only a short time and then have to buy another in the not-so-distant future. We chose the Learning Resources Precision School Balance (LER 2420). It is advertised as being intended for children aged 8 and up. However, my three yo has had no problems using this simple tool.

It came with a set of 10 brass cylinders that fit neatly into the little Montessori cylinder block-type storage you can see at the front of the balance.

How cool is that? Some are VERY small (which may account for the age range provided by the manufacturer) and they are designed for illustrating that something big can weigh less than something small. We weren't quite ready for that concept today, so I put them away for now. Instead, we found that our Montessori cylinder blocks fit the bill quite well.

Me Too likes to confirm simply which cylinder is the heaviest. Kal-El did some more advance work finding combinations of two smaller cylinders to equal one larger.

The boys were able to use it together in a kind of game in which I would ask each child to gather a different number of manipulatives (like numbers and counters) and we would see whose was the heaviest.

Later, I set out a tray of different objects that they can explore with the balance. Kal-El is starting to get an inkling that big things are not necessarily heavy thanks to the pom-pons.

I have a large collection of little things like this. Manipulative that started out in the practical life area (transferring, pouring, sweeping, etc.,) and found a second life in the math area (counters), are being called into service yet again.

I intentionally chose a bucket-style balance so that we would be able to use both solids and liquids. Unlike the primary bucket balance that is available, this precision balance is accurate within .5 of a gram and has a calibration slider to allow you to zero the balance (handy if one bucket contains something that has to be enclosed in its own container and the other does not). Otherwise the design is very similar which allows us to use this tool at the boys' young ages.

Kal-El is STILL in the school room right now working. He has decided that Bobo the bear needs some lessons as well.

It was Kal-El's idea to try the new balance out with the golden bead materials.

He compared 2 tens to 5 tens, 6 hundreds to 9 hundreds, etc., I don't recommend this because the construction of the bead materials was not designed for weight comparisons. The amount of wire used and the plates in the thousand cube throw things off. For some odd reason 9 hundred squares are heavier than the thousand cube. I can't think of why.

Kal-El is happy that there is a damping button (centered between the buckets). He gets impatient waiting for the buckets to stop swaying so he can check for level. The damping button steadies the swing arm and prevents the pans from rocking during measurement.

If I could change anything about the design I might tweak the calibration slider. It slides freely. It isn't a problem most of the time, but I have noticed that it is not in the zeroed after the boys have their typical tugging matches over the material. It might be nice if there were little notches it could fall into. I'm not positive though, the free slide allows for unlimited calibration that might not be available if there were notches.

All in all, my experience with CSN stores was great. I received my item within days of ordering and in excellent condition. Although I received this item free-of-charge in return for my review, the opinions expressed here are accurate and my own.


  1. That looks like a great scale. Wishing I'd gotten it instead of our version. It would have had more longevity. I like your idea of using all the manipulatives from PL. I should bring out our scale tomorrow.

  2. Wow! That is super cool! I should think about getting a scale! I bet my girls would love it!

  3. we got a scale for Christmas, and the boys love it! Have fun with it.