Math seems to require the most concentration for my littles. Even with the struggle (or because of it), this is good exercise for their brain. But, you know training and exercise is hard work. Sometimes you just want to have fun without realizing you’re “working out.” For these moments, here are some fun ways we’ve discovered to practice math:
1. Grocery shop: One of my sons recently accompanied me on a grocery trip to a new store we hadn’t visited yet. He was so enthused by all the digital scales in the produce department that he busily weighed each of the items we selected. I took that opportunity to reinforce ounces, pounds, and the decimal. I also taught him about understanding unit prices to get the best deal. He was having fun, so he was eating all my teaching up. In the process, we learned that the pre-bagged apples and carrots we were buying actually weighed nearly half a pound more than what the bag indicated. Our “free” carrots and apples made the pre-bagged produce an even better deal!
2. Cook together: I’ve noticed for my guys sometimes simply paying attention to the details of a math question is the struggle. When I prod them to notice the details, they suddenly realize they do know how to do it and find the answer quickly. Following a recipe involves paying close attention to details like measurements, order, and methods, so it is a good way to practice this muscle. And when they cook with me, they’re always pleased with the results and love sharing with the family.
3. Build a puzzle: Building a puzzle is another way to encourage littles to pay attention to detail and make connections. There’s even some methodology involved. Maybe you do the edges first? or separate by color? Through practice they’ll create their own preferred way to logically approach the puzzle and building together allows you to teach them without testing or stress. There may be more than one way to find the answer, but the answer is the same.
4. Make a paper airplane: We were gifted a paper airplane book a while back, which my boys have found very exciting. We have this one now, which my boys have really enjoyed using. They’ve each needed my or their dad’s help with some parts of creating these planes. Through it, we’ve learned how important precision is in design and building. If the angles are not right, the plane will not work as designed! You can find free plans for paper airplanes online.
5. Build with legos: We recently updated our lego storage to make it easier for our guys to play with and clean up their legos. I can tell it’s working, because every morning for the last two weeks this is the first place they land every morning. Building, creating, and imagining. For the most part, their creations are originating from their own minds. In some cases, they are still pulling out their instruction guides and building based on those. In both cases, they are learning about space, balance, proportion, and size. I have yet to see an unbalanced vehicle created by them! They haven’t employed this much, but I do have this free LEGO building app on my iPad if they want to create something specific that we don’t have plans for. If you’re interested in employing LEGOs for even more direct math teaching, check out these great resources: printable worksheets, teaching a LEGO math class, and 70+ learning activities with LEGOs.
If you’re curious, we followed this tutorial for our Lego storage re-do with a few minor changes: a) We used 2 Ikea Lack tables side by side for additional building and storage space. After all, we have four littles with a fifth on the way! b) We used green building plates instead of road plates, because they were $5.00 less per plate. c) We gave each color lego, including transparent, its own bin. We tried more than one color in a bin before and it was unsuccessful. The sorting always got muddled. So far, so good with this system. d) The bins we’re using we purchased at Home Depot, not Target. They fit perfectly with four on and below each shelf.
I know there are a ton more ideas out there from you creative moms and dads! So, share your secrets! How do you have fun with math?