There are so many ways to turn play into learning opportunities. Toys and games can be hacked into teaching tools and I’m here for it! I’ve found 13 ideas and counting (ha!) for teaching elementary level math at home using games and play.
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Rather than force the kiddos to do page after page of worksheets, I thought some more interactive ideas might be in order. (oh the math puns abound!) I love using everyday items to create a fun learning environment. A. Because then you don’t have to shop around for specialized teaching tools and B. Using items your kids are already familiar with will help them feel like the concepts they’re learning aren’t unattainable.
Young kids learn best through play. (I’m sure I’ve read that somewhere, anyway it sure sounds true!) So here are the best play-based math lessons and ideas I could find for teaching elementary math at home!
What Does Elementary Math Consist of?
First of all, what topics are elementary aged children supposed to know? Curriculum varies from province to province and state to state, and greatly within grades, but in general kids need a starter knowledge of the following:
- Number Sense – An understanding of numbers and the different ways to represent them.
- Arithmetic – At the elementary level this includes addition & subtraction, multiplication & division.
- Geometry – An understanding of 2 and 3 dimensional geometric shapes and identifying them in everyday life.
- Fractions – Learning different ways to represent fractions and adding them.
- Money – An understanding of monetary values.
- Spacial Sense – Measurements including distance, size and temperature, telling time, comparing and estimating.
(Disclaimer: I’m not a professional educator, I’m just a mom who like most moms during the pandemic got an up-close look at what my kiddos were learning.)
So as a start, if you’re trying to decide on a math-related activity, just ask yourself if it touches on any of the 6 topics above. If it does, then you’re teaching elementary math! Give yourself a high five!
What is the Easiest Way to Teach Math?
Again, I’m no expert. But I do have a ton of experience with my own boys and what effective strategies might work to get them to learn what I’m trying to teach.
To make learning math easy and fun for kids you can try:
- Using family names in word problems. Getting my 7yo to giggle when we say “Mommy had 12 cakes, Daddy ate 10 of them!” is pretty effective at getting him to engage with the material.
- Let them choose their books. We had a look on Amazon together and let our boys pick their own workbooks from a pre-approved list. Making them feel like they have a say in their education helps a lot.
- Reward them with games. Hear me out. Once our boys finished their on-paper math work, they were allowed to have screen-time math work disguised as games. I wrote a whole post on the best educational websites for kids here. We heavily limit screen time, so any kind of online game feels like a big treat to them!
- Make messes. Kids get a huge kick out of getting to do stuff that they normally aren’t allowed to do. Like playing with their food for example! Find ways to incorporate everyday items into the learning and break a few rules along the way. Cut potatoes into chunks and make them add the fractions, measure apples, ruin a few slices of bread by changing their shape and size.
- Get outside. Take the learning environment out of the house. Count seeds as you plant them, make them keep score in a complicated soccer game of your invention, measure rocks to build towers. Be creative and kids will get on board!
Teaching Elementary Math Games at Home
Ok, here is the list of ideas I’ve been promising of some fantastic games and strategies to make learning math at home fun!
Do a science and math class all in one. Plan a fun nature scavenger hunt, looking for specific numbers or colours of items.
Another great way to take the lesson outside. Use a hundred chart to practice counting, additions, multiplication etc. There’s a lot of creative ways to use to teach elementary math using a hundred chart.
This post has 6 great card game ideas for encouraging math learning. These particular games just use a regular deck of cards, but other card games like Skip-Bo or Uno are also useful for teaching math skills.
This same site has bingo games for addition, subtraction and division practice too. She’s got a ton of free resources!
No matter the question, Lego seems to always be the answer. Let them build and learn at the same time!
I love this hack for transforming a game of Guess Who into a teaching tool. Players can use equations to guess the number or whatever method is age appropriate. There are loads of other ideas out there too like using geometry shapes instead of numbers or shapes with fractions.
This is Lego + board game + math all in one.
This game is easily made using dot stickers. Players must correctly answer the equation in order to remove the jenga piece.
This is a great puzzle math game.
More Lego math! Lego is fantastic for learning fractions as well as other math skills. And most people with kiddos usually have it on hand. I’m all for using what you’ve already got!
There are a tons of ways to use dominoes to teach elementary math skills. This post has a whole bundle of useful printables to that end.
Again, using what you’ve got on hand for the win! Money math will teach valuable (ha!) money life skills too. This post has several ideas for teaching math using money.
There is a whole packet of different geometric shape building cards to build with mini marshmallows and toothpicks. Plus when the project is done, you can eat the marshmallows!
Dice games are a great way to practice quick mental math for little ones. This post has a number of different ideas.
Do you have any more ideas for games that can be used to teach elementary math lessons at home? I’d love to hear about them!