Parent Guide: Fun and Easy Math Activities for Kids
Having a secret stash of math activities for kids can certainly come in handy for parents, babysitters, teachers, and virtually anyone who spends time with children. Whether mom and dad are trying to prepare their preschooler for kindergarten or they simply want to help their youngster get the hang of some tricky math functions, a fun one-on-one math activity can be just the ticket to gaining a child’s interest and participation in math. For some, mathematics comes easy but for others it can take a lot of practice and memorization. Children who are struggling to understand a math concept or who simply seem disinterested in learning about mathematics will need something fun and intriguing to get them involved. The following math activities for kids are just a few great ideas that parents can use to get help their children explore a more practical and interesting side of math.
Shape-Building with Food
Shapes can be a difficult area for preschoolers to get a grasp of, particularly some of the more complex shapes such as pentagon and hexagon. A fun way to introduce an interesting hands-on approach to learning shapes is to involve food. One could use anything that the child likes as long as the foods have the ability to create whichever shapes are going to be taught to the child. Pretzel sticks and marshmallows work really well for this project because the pretzel sticks can be used to pierce the marshmallows which will hold the pieces together. The child can be encouraged to snap pieces off of the pretzel sticks in order to make the necessary shape. For instance, to create a rectangle the child would need two regular-length pretzel sticks and two that have been slightly trimmed (munched-on). Instead of marshmallows, one might also use jelly candy or gum drops.
Greater/Lesser Than with Legos
For some children, overcoming the “greater than, lesser than” milestone can be a difficult task. Understanding what these commonly-used math phrases mean can be so difficult in itself, along with numbers being thrown into the mix, that some children simply zone-out. A great way to show a child exactly what greater and lesser means is to give them something physical to represent the numbers. What better way to do this than to use Legos? Use a flat foundation Lego piece and use two different colors to represent the numbers that the blocks will represent. For instance, if the question is 3 _ 8 then one might use three red blocks stacked on top of one another to represent the first figure and eight blue blocks stacked to represent the second figure. This “real life” representation of a greater than/less than scenario helps the child to understand that the equations aren’t as foreign as they seem on paper. To jazz up this activity a bit, consider putting numbered pieces of paper into a bowl and have the child randomly select two numbers. Have the child lay them on a table in front of the Lego foundation and assist him or her in building the towers that will represent each number. Give the child a piece of paper with the greater than/less than symbol, >, and have him or her place it in the correct position between the numbers.
Number Bonds with Jelly Beans
Number bonds not only help children understand addition and subtraction, but in many cases this practice helps them to gather information from a picture and put the data to practical use. If a child struggles with number bonds then it might be time to break open a bag of jelly beans and sit down for a math lesson! For any math activities for kids involving food, always make sure that the child has freshly-washed hands and a clean work space. For this activity one will need a piece of paper with three large circles drawn to form the points of a triangle. Lines should be drawn from the top circle to both of the circles below. Now, place however many jelly beans are needed into the top circle. Say, one uses eight jelly beans for the “whole” number in the first problem. Ask the child how many jelly beans are needed in each of the bottom circles to equal the same amount in the top circle. If the child seems reluctant to get started then provide part of the answer for them. For instance, mom or dad could put eight jelly beans in the top circle and three in one of the bottom circles. This way the question now turns into: if we have three jelly beans, how many more do we need to make eight? This can make number bonds much easier to grasp, plus the child gets to enjoy a few jelly beans for his or her hard work!
A well-rounded stash of math activities for kids must also include measurement. Measuring in proper units may be a bit advanced for younger children, but that doesn’t mean that young children can’t practice measuring in order to get an appreciation for its usefulness and practicality. Consider using Legos, blocks, or another collection of items that are exactly the same size. Teach the child to start at the beginning of an object and add one block after another until they have reached the end of the object. Afterward, ask the child how many units tall or wide the object is. For fun, start with the child’s foot, having them measure from toe to heel. With a bit of guidance and praise it won’t be long before the child is measuring everything in the house!