I have one of those kids who understands higher-order math concepts but stumbles over the rote memorization piece of it. He makes careless errors because he’s always flying at full speed, and he hates back-tracking to remedy the situation.
We are homeschoolers and, initially, this tendency resulted in heaps of power struggles.
I want my children to love math, and to see the value in it. I want them to grow into adults who feel confident in math.
How can we practice those skills without the never-ending battles?
Is it possible to make it fun?
Practice Math Through Play
Today, I’d like to share some creative ways to keep math fun…. and you don’t need to be a homeschooler to enjoy them. These strategies can help to keep those math skills sharp over the summer months, too!
Scavenger hunts can be so much fun for children. It does not have to be complicated—any sort of scavenger hunt will do. Head out in the backyard and go on a nature hunt and then count, sort, and group your treasures. Are you headed to the beach? See who can collect the most seashells and then do the same.
Every time you play a game with your child you are working on math skills and boosting those problem-solving abilities. Play Monopoly with your daughter and let her be the banker. Teach your children to play chess and they’ll be developing strategic thinking abilities. Dice, dominoes, even the game of War can be educational and fun! Our family loves to use games to practice those math skills! If you are looking for game ideas, here are a few of our family’s favorites:
CREATE YOUR OWN RESTAURANT
This is one of my kiddos’ favorite activities. And, let’s be honest here, who doesn’t want a little help making dinner? Why not let your children do the work from start to finish. Sure, it might be a little messier than usual but you’ll be creating memories to last a lifetime and your children will be learning valuable math and life skills! Here’s how to do it:
- Allow your children to decide on dinner. They’ll need to find recipes (reading skills) and make a shopping list and a menu (writing skills).
- Take them to the grocery store and let them do the work. This includes actually paying for the shopping order. Think of all the reading, problem-solving, and math skills involved in that activity alone.
- Set them loose in the kitchen! Let them follow the recipes and do all of the measuring themselves. Provide the little ones with kid-friendly cooking tools and let them have a blast. Think of all the math involved in cooking and baking.
CREATE A LEMONADE STAND
There’s nothing like an old-fashioned lemonade stand on a hot summer day. Your child will learn valuable math skills in the process, including pricing, measurement, making change, and determining profit. Take it one step further and have a lemonade stand for a cause. Once your child adds up all those quarters, decide on a cause that is dear to your family and make someone’s day.
MAKE YOUR OWN STORE
My children love to set up our playroom like a store, get out the paper money and plastic coins, grab a few reusable shopping bags, and play store. In addition to teaching math skills, you can sneak in some early awareness of money and finances.
TRY LETTERBOXING OR GEOCACHING
Have you heard of letterboxing? It’s an outdoor recreational activity where folks hide weatherproof boxes in public places (i.e., parks, hiking trails, etc.) for others to find, based on clues found online. This is a wonderful way to combine nature, fitness, and problem-solving. Geocaching takes letterboxing to the next level by using GPS. There are millions of letterboxes and geocaches hidden around the world and it’s up to you to find them! (A bit of parental oversight, of course, is needed.)
PLAY A SPORT
Have a family soccer game and take turns being the scorekeeper. That’s math, folks! Do you have a kiddo who is obsessed with baseball? Talk about all those stats you see throughout the course of a game: batting average, ERA, RBI, CG… I could go on and on and on. Compare your team’s stats to those of your opponent. You’ll be squeezing in a math lesson as you root, root, root for your home team!
Why not spend the summer trying a new instrument? There has been a lot of talk over the years about the link between music and mathematics. Musical training can help with sequencing, pattern recognition, memory, and attention skills. And do you want to know the best part? Music is fun–your kids won’t even know that they are fine-tuning those math skills!
I don’t know about your kids, but my children love any opportunity to use grown-up tools and materials. Why not set them loose with measuring cups, ruler, yardstick, and scale—whatever you can scrounge up around the house—and see what happens? Measurement is a fun way to sneak in math, plus it helps with those cooking skills and who doesn’t want more help in the kitchen? Are you planting a garden? Why not involve the kids. Planting seeds and seedlings involves measurement, plus it can be fun to chart how fast those plants grow!
READ GREAT MATH STORYBOOKS
There are heaps of fantastic math books on the market today. Add them to your read-aloud rotation and your children will have no idea that they are practicing those math skills!
You can’t go anywhere these days without hearing STEM talk. And do you want to know why? STEM careers (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) are among the fastest-growing and most lucrative professions around. There are countless ways to incorporate STEM into your home, from books to games to toys.