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Time to Play: Making Math Fun!

Did you like math growing up? I absolutely hated it. I didn’t start liking it until I started teaching it to 2nd graders in East Harlem. I didn’t want my students to dislike it, so I found ways to make it fun. As a mom with two elementary school-aged children, I try to make it fun for them, too. Whether it’s for math homework or playtime, you can make it fun, too!

1. Use Small Toys as Math Manipulatives to Teach Addition and Subtraction:

While I had done a version of this with crayons and erasers to show my son how to add and subtract, at a recent blogger brunch, blogger Rajean Stroud of mentioned she used toy cars to act out math problems for her son. I thought it was a terrific idea. The next time my son was having problems figuring out his math assignment, I pulled out nine toy cars (we have a lot of toy cars) and showed him how to tell a number story using toy cars. It was an instant hit, and it got him really excited about doing his homework. Win-win!

2. Play “Store” With Toys and Real Change:

Does your little one know the values of different coins? Take some spare change and teach your child what the coins mean (if he or she is not aware). Once your child can identify which coin is which, set up a “store” at home and have your child “buy” their toys back using the correct amount. You can start simple. Take Post-its and write monetary amounts on them, such as 1¢, 3¢, 5¢, etc. Kids like handling money (and will be super excited if you let them keep spare change).

3. Cook with Your Kids:

Cooking is a great and natural way to teach math, science, and literacy. Use plastic measuring cups and teach your kids to measure out ingredients. (It’s totally okay if they get flour all over the counter!) You don’t have to make anything complicated. Even making something like pancakes (from a mix) can be fun and teach measurement and volume. And another benefit—your kids may actually eat more foods if they cook them!

4. Sort Objects by Color, Type, Size, etc:

Sorting and categorizing is a wonderful skill to teach your kids. You can sort Halloween candy, superhero action figures, Legos, blocks, and Play-Doh colors. You can make it into a game and time kids to see how fast they can sort their objects.