I bought a dot-to-dot coloring book, which was much harder to find than I had anticipated (this one is from School Zone Publishing). Their pictures only used numbers from 1-25, so I dug out some small white stickers, grabbed my scissors and a black fine-point Sharpie, and went to work. I cut the stickers into pieces small enough to cover the numbers on the picture and re-numbered the drawing using skip-counting. Sometimes the pictures are complicated enough that it’s important to only do one number at a time (cover previous number with a sticker, write new number on the sticker, then move on to next number), just so you don’t lose your place and mess up the whole thing. With more complex drawings, my stickers sometimes overlapped the lines of the picture, so I just re-connected those lines, drawing right across the sticker.
I changed the directions at the bottom of the page to correspond to the new, improved numbering system: Count by 2’s; Count by 3’s; Count by 10’s; Count by 12’s; and so on. I made the skip-counting harder as the difficulty of the pictures progressed. To make things even more challenging, I changed some of the directions to say “Start at 3. Guess the rule?” so that the pictures didn’t always begin at 1 and the student would have to analyze the numbers to determine which one came next. I made some pictures start at 2, 3, 4, 5, 50, 55, 101, etc. and vary in increments. Some pages counted by 2’s on even numbers; some counted by 2’s on odd numbers. Some counted by 5’s, 10’s, or 100’s—a wide variety of skip-counting experiences.
Skip-counting is good practice for multiplication, and following the numbers of a dot-to-dot puzzle helps your students learn what interval comes next by connecting them in numerical order. The complexity of the numbering system quickly overtakes the simplicity of the picture, providing a worthy challenge to math students who might feel silly doing the simple dot-to-dot coloring page in its original version. Following the random order of the numbers on the page provides more interest and more challenge than if the student had just written out a skip-counting series, and the student can easily self-check his work by judging whether or not the picture has been completed correctly.
BONUS TIP: After you’ve gone to all the trouble of changing the numbers, wouldn’t it be nice to have this last longer than once-through-and-done by your little smarty-pants student? Cut the pages out of the book, slip a page into a plastic page protector, and let your child use a dry-erase marker on the plastic. Wet-erase markers (also called “transparency markers”) will work great, too, and they don’t rub off instantly whenever a stray sleeve crosses the page. A quick wipe with a wet tissue will clean up wet-erase markers and prepare the page for the next use. You could even use enough plastic page sleeves to hold all the pages from the entire coloring book and put them all into a 3-ring binder. Give your child the binder, some markers in assorted colors, and a couple of tissues, and you won’t hear from him for a very long time!