Engaging Math Activities for the Little Ones at Home

I have been teaching math for 12 years and any time I share what I do for a living (in almost any context) I often hear negative comments like:

-I hated math
-I’m not a math person
-Why do we learn math?
-I never use what I learned in math class

As an educator, it makes me sad to hear how so many people have feelings of phobia and anxiety towards math. I feel that such attitudes are developed in the early stages of learning and passed on from parents/teachers to their children/students. As someone who loves math, I believe that it’s important to allow children to play with math as early as possible. Allowing them to #MathPlay helps them develop an appreciation for math and empowers them to better understand it.

I have been making an effort to #MathPlay with my daughter, who is in kindergarten, as much as possible. I would like to share some ideas on activities and projects we have found enjoyable.

1) Memory and Focus 

We started using cards to work on memory and focus. We usually lay down several cards and start to make pairs of numbers (in different representations). It’s a great way to spark conversation about numeric and graphic representations of different numbers/quantities.

2) Addition and Subtraction

More recently, we have also been using cards to #MathPlay with addition. I will give my daughter a card and ask her to find two cards that add up to that number/quantity. Then she will do it again so she can explore different paths to get to the same solution.

I noticed that using manipulatives is a great way to make addition/subtraction more engaging for my daughter. I recommend using dice/dominoes to have more fun while you #MathPlay with your little one while they practice their addition/subtraction. 

3) Shapes and Patterns

Exploring different shapes is probably one of the most engaging ways to #MathPlay with your kids. My daughter really enjoys making and labeling all the different shapes she knows.

My daughter also loves playing with our geometric shapes set, which is very colorful and inviting. She loves making “new shapes” and is now very comfortable recognizing different shapes and patterns. 

Another game we really enjoy is building something in 2-Dimensions and then trying to translate to 3-Dimensions. It doesn’t always work out but the game itself is a great way to explore and visualize objects in space. 

4) Building Together

One morning right before the beginning of the spring, my daughter and I had the following exchange:

Mariana: Tata, the birds are back!!
Me: Yes, you’re right

Mariana: Where are they going to live?
Mariana: Can we build a house for them?🤨

Me: Yes, what shapes do we need?

Our conversation turned into a little weekend math project where we talked about what shapes were needed to make a house and we actually got to build it. It was a fun activity that really does not take too much time/effort. My daughter particularly enjoyed decorating the birdhouse. 

I really hope you find these suggestions helpful and are willing/able to try them with your own children/students. ☺

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Note: Fresh Ideas for Teaching blog contributors have been compensated for sharing personal teaching experiences on our blog. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.


About the Author

Libardo Valencia

Mathematics Educator