Ways to Make Math More Fun for Your Elementary-Aged Child

Math is actually one of the subjects parents inquire about most at Sylvan. Many times parents ask us how we can make math more fun and accessible for their little ones, so we thought we’d compile a list of games and resources to help parents make math fun for their kids.

1. Count. Just as you played the “let’s-find-as-many-B-letters-as-we-can” game in the car when she was just learning to read, you can do the same with numbers. Determine the number you’re going to be looking for today – on a walk, at the grocery, in the pediatrician’s office, in the car. Or, count whatever you see! The mere act of counting raises a child’s math awareness. Count seashells at the beach, bicycles in your neighborhood, dogs at the park, cereal boxes at the grocery store. You can start counting by twos, then on to fives, then on to tens. The more kids hear you doing it, the more it will stick. Celebrate with hugs and high fives when you reach a “big” number.

2. Estimate. When you’re playing the counting game, ask ahead of time for your child to “guess” how many you might count or how long something might take. Make a big deal when she gets close. Explain that when this guess is based on prior experience or knowledge, it’s called an estimate. Then, estimate how long it will take to drive to Grandma’s, how long breakfast will take, at what second the popcorn will start popping. Celebrate with hugs and high fives when she comes close.

3. Compute. Make it light and nonchalant, but ask for help figuring out a household math question. “How many pieces of bread will we need for peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches for the week?”

4. Explore. Look for various math-related objects, like shapes and patterns, when you’re out and about. Squares, circles, rectangles, for example. Or patterns in the windows of a high-rise building, the plantings in a landscape, the tiles in a floor, or the arrangement of colors in an article of clothing. Recognizing patterns helps with future math – counting by threes, for example, or learning multiplication. 

5. Play. A creative adult can find some math in just about any game. Some obvious places to start are cards, dominoes, dice (which some math teachers call, cleverly, “math cubes”), Chutes & Ladders, Monopoly and other games that encourage counting. Jigsaw puzzles are excellent for learning about patterns. Don’t forget puzzles like Sudoku, which may require some teamwork.

6. Browse. The internet has plenty of sites for math fun. Try Splash Math, Reflex Math and Cool Math 4 Kids. I like the last one for its variety and Learning Games for Kids for its printable stuff. Math Learning Center is a good one for rainy days or for when they say they have no homework. 

There are lots of websites that have grown-up stuff, too, like research and suggestions for further learning. Educate yourself at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics’ website or at the U.S. Department of Education’s website.

7. Create. Art comes in many shapes and sizes. Did you know many artists use geometry in their craft? See what beautiful original art your child can create by using this sheet with basic geometric shapes. Print a few pages and see what they can come up with!

8. Be a good role model. Show your kids that math is more than just a school subject. Let them see you doing math in the kitchen, in the garage, in the grocery store, at a restaurant. If you disliked math in school, keep it to yourself. They don’t need “permission” to dislike it, too. That’s not an option in today’s world.

Have fun. Just as you want reading to be fun, help make math fun for your child by taking it out of the textbook and inserting it into their everyday life.

Looking for more? Download our FREE guide: “9 Ways to Make Math Fun.” You’ll start seeing a lot more smiles in the car and at the kitchen table as you turn math into games. These tips are great for kids of all ages!

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