Mathematics for the Fun of It
 
Children are curious and want to learn anything and everything about the world around them. Parents and teachers can use this resouce to explore math concepts with children using everyday surroundings. Almost any moment offers caring adults a chance to take advantage of children's built-in motivation. The following is an excerpt from Helping Your Child Learn Mathematics.

A Tower of Numbers
Count it Out
Guess What I'm Thinking
Card Smarts
Calculated Answers

Young children can easily confuse letters and numbers. Throughout the day, have them notice and name both, or ask questions such as, "See the sign on that bus. Does it say 5 or E?"

 

A Tower of Numbers
Preschool

Playing with blocks is fun, but it also can teach basic math skills such as number recognition, counting, identifying patterns, recognizing symmetry and sorting.

What You Need

  • Sets of blocks that show both numbers (1-10) and letters (at least A through J)

What to Do

  • Give your child the blocks and tell her to sort them so that one sets shows numbers and one set shows letters.

  • Tell your child to look at the number blocks and choose the block with the number 1. Then have her build a tower by choosing and placing the remaining number blocks in the correct order. Have her say the name of each number as she places the block.

  • Ask your child to build a second tower beside the first using only the letter blocks (beginning with "A") and placing them in order. Have her say the name of each letter as she places the block.

  • Let her knock over the towers and scatter the blocks in front of her. Then tell her to use all the blocks to build a really big tower. When it's finished, have her find and point to numbers and letters as you say the names.

  • Ask your child to use the blocks to make the following patterns:

    • one number, two letters
    • one letter, one number, two letters
    • A, 5, B, 4, C, 3
    • 1, 2, E,
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Count It Out
Preschool-Kindergarten

Counting games make developing number sense easy and fun.

Be sure to use counters that are small enough for small hands to move but large enough not to pose a choking hazard.

What You Need

  • A group of 20-25 counters (beads, blocks, plastic eggs, coins), with three or four counters different from the others in some way (for example, red beads in a group of blue beads; dimes in a group of pennies)
  • A die

What to Do

  • Sit on the floor with your child and arrange the counters in a circle between you. Have her toss the die and say the number that comes up. Tell her to start at any point in the circle—except for one of the counters that is "different"—and count to that number, touching each counter as she goes.

  • If she stops on a "regular" counter (a blue bead), she gets to take the counter and have another turn. If she stops on the different counter (the red bead), you get a turn. Leave the different counter in the circle.

  • The winner is the player with the most counters when only the different counters remain. Involve the family and expand the game!

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Guess What I'm Thinking
Kindergarten-Grade 2

What to Do

  • Let your child think of a number between a range of numbers. Try to guess the number by asking him questions. Here's a sample:

    It is important to help children develop an understanding of the characteristics of numbers—such as odd and even—and meanings of terms such as "more than" and "less than."

    (For Kindergarten Children)
    Child: I am thinking of a number between 1 and 10.
    Parent: Is it more than 6?
    Child: No.
    Parent: Is it less than 3?
    Child: No.
    (The child could be thinking of 4 or 5.)

    (For First- and Second-Graders)
    Child: I am thinking of a number between 1 and 100.
    Parent: Is it more than 50?
    Child: No.
    Parent: Is it an even number?
    Child: No.
    Parent: Is it more than 20 but less than 40?
    Child: Yes.
    Parent: Can you reach it by starting at 20 and counting by 5s?
    Child: Yes.
    (The child could be thinking of 25, 30, or 35.)

  • After you've guessed your child's number, let him guess a number that you're thinking of by asking similar questions.

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Learning to use calculators is important for children—they're part of everyday life. However, they are no replacement for strong arithmetic skills. Children should not be encouraged to rely too heavily on calculators.

 

Card Smarts
Variations for All Grades

Games with number cards can help children develop strategies for using numbers in different combinations by adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing.

What You Need

  • Sets of number cards, 1-10 (you can make your own using heavy paper or index cards)
  • Pencil and paper
  • Coin

What to Do

Here are some games that you and your child can play with number cards:

  • Number Sandwich With your younger child, review the numbers 1 through 10. Make sure that he knows the correct order of the numbers. Sit with him and shuffle and place two sets of number cards in a pile between you. Have him draw two cards from the pile and arrange them in order in front of him, for example 3 and 6, leaving a space between. Then have him draw a third card. Ask him where the card should be placed to be in the right order—in the middle? before the 3? after the 6?

  • More or less? Sit with your younger child and place a shuffled set of number cards between you. Flip the coin and have your child call "heads" or "tails" to see if the winner of each round will be the person with a greater value card (heads) or a smaller value card (tails). Then each of you will draw a card. Compare the cards to see who wins that round. Continue through all the cards. When your child is comfortable with this game, change it just a bit. Divide the cards evenly between the two of you. Each of you places the cards face down and turns over one card at the same time. Have your child compare the cards to see if his card is more or less than yours. If his card is more than yours, ask him how much more. If it is less, ask how much less. The player with the greater or smaller value card (depending on whether heads or tails was tossed) takes both cards. The winner of the game is the player with more cards when the cards have all been used.

  • Make a number This game is for your older child, and can be played with family and friends. Give each player a piece of paper and a pencil. Deal each player four number cards with the numbers showing. Explain that, using all four cards and a choice of any combination of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, the player must make as many different numbers as possible in two minutes. The player gets one point for each answer.

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Asking children to explain in their own words how they arrive at a solution to a problem—including how they used a calculator—encourages them to get into the habit of thinking and reasoning mathematically.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Calculated Answers
Variations for All Grades

Learning to use the special functions of calculators can expand children's knowledge of many arithmetic operations, help them to recognize number patterns and increase their ability to reason mathematically.

What You Need

  • Calculator with counting function

What to Do

  • Give your child a calculator that is appropriate for his age (one with large, easy-to-read keys is especially helpful). Show him how he can make the calculator "count" in sequence for him. (For most calculators, this is done by pushing a number button, then the + sign, then the button for the number to be added, then the = sign: for example: 1 + 1 =. To make the calculator count in sequence by adding 1, keep pushing the = button: 1 + 1 = 2 . . . 3. . . 4 . . . 5 and so on). Give the calculator to your child and have him try this, starting with 1 + 1.

  • When your child is comfortable with this function, have him explore number patterns such as 2 + 2 =, 5 + 5 =, 50 + 50 = and so forth.

  • Next, show your child that he can use the same procedure to subtract by substituting the - sign for the + sign: 50 - 1 =, or 100 - 5 = . Encourage him to explore other patterns.

  • Let your older child learn about negative numbers by seeing what the calculator when they count down from 0 (for example, 0 - 2 = ).

  • Create number pattern puzzles for your child to solve. Try the following:

    • Write a sequence of numbers that follows a pattern, such as 3, 6, 9, 12. Ask your child what number comes next. Have him explain what the pattern is (counting by 3s).
    • Have your older child fill in missing numbers in patterns, such as 43, 38, ____, , ____, 23, ____, 13. Ask him what the pattern is. (subtracting by 5s)
    • Have your child create number patterns for you to identify.

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"Mathematics for the Fun of It." Helping Your Child Learn Mathematics. ED/OIIA. 2004. English.


Last Reviewed: July 2013

Last Updated: October 1, 2013