You and your child may both dread math, and you probably feel as though there’s nothing you can do to help build your child’s math skills. Think again! You use math more frequently than you think because it has become an automatic skill for you.
The list below shares 10 math games for you to play with your children to incorporate math fun into their daily lives! These ideas came from my own experience, creative math teachers and this fun website.
- Keep score. Kids love sports and games, so play up the role of scorekeeper and “statistics manager.” Help them see the various ways to slice and dice the numbers of a game — most singles in a game since last month, fewest errors in a game against the Bluebirds, highest attendance ever, etc. Let the kids come up with categories.
- Use manipulatives. Manipulatives are objects that kids can, well, manipulate to visualize the numbers they’re working with. Use egg cartons and raw macaroni to count out arithmetic problems, for example, or make piles of paper clips, toy soldiers, checkers, marbles or gummy bears to visualize counting by five or ten.
- Learn to estimate. Show kids how important it is to learn to estimate. Estimate with them some fun concept — how many slices of pepperoni on the pizza, how many coins in a piggy bank, how many toys on the floor or how many steps to the second floor? Estimate, then count to check accuracy.
- Tell time. Telling time is math too. Make a game out of figuring out how long it will take to get somewhere in the family car. Ask questions such as, “What time should we leave to get to church at 10 if it takes us 15 minutes to get there? What time should we get up? Have breakfast?”
- Embrace your junk mail. Junk mail is good for something after all. “If we get 10 pieces of junk mail a week, about how much can we expect this month?” To learn sorting skills, categorize the junk mail into piles by senders’ ZIP codes, types of mail or the various states they come from. If you get lots of catalogs, use them to “pretend-shop” for stuff using a simple budget. “How many things from this catalog can I buy for $50?”
- Guess the number! Guess the number your child is thinking between, say, one and 20. Ask smart math questions so they will get the strategies for when it’s their turn. “Can I count the number by threes? Is it between three and 12? Is it higher than 15?”
- Use money. “I have three coins in my pocket that equal seven cents. What are they?” As he gets quicker, up the number of coins.
- Have a “number of the day.” Figure out how many ways you can get to your number of the day — how many ways can we add, subtract, multiply or divide other numbers to reach today’s number?
- Play store. Kids love to play grown-up. Save old boxes — cereal, cookies, pasta, whatever — and “stock” the shelves of a make-believe store. Have your child put prices on each one. Then, go shopping in his store. “How much for two of these, please? Oh, sir, I just discovered I don’t have enough money. Which box shall I put back to be within my budget?”
- Use a calculator. Yes, use a calculator. Learning how to use one is an important skill for kids. It’s best to wait, though, until basic skills in adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing are automatic or nearly so. If using a calculator motivates a youngster to learn math more quickly, why not use one?
This is just a short list of 10 math games to play with your children, but there are countless others! Ask your child’s math teacher for other ideas you can borrow to encourage your child’s interest in and spark their curiosity about math, and let them see the relevance of math in everyday life.
Share your own math games in the comments below!