Mathematics is the science of quantification and application of abstract concepts into tangible goals. Everywhere you look around, you can see application of mathematics. It is in fact a language of sorts that helps you define the world around you. From telling time to identifying different shapes in the world to measuring things and even cooking, all aspects of your life are linked to Mathematics.
With so much dependence on math, it is imperative to build strong mathematical skills for kids. Robust math skills can assure a higher academic success and also are good predictor of strong logical and critical thinking skills.
How to Get Your Child Interested in Math?
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How to Spark a Lifelong Love for Math in Kids
Mathematics for kids revolves around quantification, shape, comparison and differentiation. It is something they start using even when they are unaware of the math language itself. For example, a child as young as a 2-year-old will pick the bowl with more candies than the one with a single candy, when given a choice. What they are using is their mathematical knowledge of comparison and quantification.
Similarly, an older child will pick a bigger (longer) chocolate when given an option between a mini and a standard chocolate bar. Kids instinctively use their inherent math skills to their advantage.
One way to build lifelong love for math is letting your children in the kitchen. Kitchen is like a math superstore! You do all sorts of measuring, sorting and basic math operations in this very place. Let your child practice their spatial reasoning skills, a very important dimension of mathematics, by placing pots and pans in the kitchen cupboards. You can try other spatial reasoning activities as well to make it strong.
You don’t need market-bought sorting toys if you let your children explore your kitchen. Let them fit pans into each other and voila! You have taught them a hands-on lesson on shapes, size and ascending/descending numbers.
Help your child mix a bowl of fruit salad, initiating learning for proportions and fractions. There are literally as many math activities for kids in your household as you can imagine! Counting stairs, sketching the shape of your room and windows, observing the automobile wheels, analyzing the symmetry of human body – there is math everywhere. All you really need to do is open that door for your kids.
This natural understanding should then be leveraged to build strong foundation of mathematics for kids and a lifelong love for the discipline.
As a STEM educator, I meet lot of children who are brilliant but a very few who are keen on solving Math problems. Most children face difficulty when we reach to the Math component. Now, these children are really young and are yet to have set notions or fear. Yet, the majority of them struggle with simple practical applications of Mathematics.
When introduced in a right way, Math can really be fun. However, many parents struggle with instilling interest and love for the subject in their children. If you properly introduce Maths at an early age, it has the ability to rewire children’s brain for growth mindset, better problem solving and build positive attitude towards the most feared subject.
We do not need to be a rocket scientist to approach Maths in the right way. Just a little change in the outlook and mindset would do the trick. Here are a few ideas:
1. Make Math part of Every Day Life: Math is all around us. The moment we wake up, we look at time. Time is nothing but a simple division of the day and night into different zones – AM and PM. Presenting numbers as part of our lives is a great approach towards building interest in Numeracy.
Use simple daily activities like cooking, shopping, watching sports, climbing stairs as an opportunity to introduce math. When children relate what they are learning to real-life situations, they question more and hence learn more.
2. Encourage Problem Solving: Present children with opportunities to problem solve and do their own math, per se, ask them to cut their sandwich into half or 4 squares or 2 triangles. Let them work it out themselves. You will be amazed how such a simple activity will keep them engaged and enlighten them in the process.
3. Approach Mistakes with Encouragement: Children who make mistakes are more likely to succeed than those who never make a mistake. Mistakes are a proof of trying so approach these errors with encouragement and not criticism. Remember, a simple calculation for adults can be challenging for little children.
4. Play Board Games: Board games are an interesting way to teach early Numeracy skills. Number recognition, counting is often a part of the board games and could easily be learned while playing.
5. Use the correct jargon: When we talk about big and small, tall and short we are essentially doing math. Children can learn a lot from the correct jargon. Make it into a ‘I Spy’ game and ask them to spot the tallest tree, biggest flower and smallest pebble. When parents use these words in their daily routine, children catch on to them and learn important mathematic principles.
6. Read Math Books: There are ample story books, STEM books and rhymes available that can help children build their love for the subject. Three Little Pigs, Ants go Marching, Noah’s Ark are some everyday reading resources that incorporate math.
7. Blend it with Art: Math and art make a perfect harmony. Simple drawings can introduce your child to the world of shapes, proportions and symmetry. Simple geo-board activities, string art, weaving are a few great ways to integrate the two.
Mathematics is far from boring and if your way of teaching your child is even close, then here are some cool and fun ideas to assist you.
Math Activities for Kids – 2 to 4 Years
1. Cloud Gazing
We all have done this as kids. What fun it is to spot shapes drifting across the sky! Allow your child to build wonder and math acumen by spotting shapes in clouds. Make it hands-on by giving them a drawing sheet and asking them to draw the shapes they see.
2. I Spy Shapes
Another fun math activity to do with kids, this one also helps you tend to your chores while your little one is on the shape hunt. Make small chits of various shapes and place them in a bowl. Your child draws a chit and spots the shape drawn around the house. Great for polishing observation skills as well!
3. Number Match up
You don’t always need store-bought worksheets to teach math. Use a plain paper and pen to write numbers in one column and draw corresponding quantity in the other column. Let your child count and match!
4. Dice Numbers
A dice is a great device to start teaching counting. With only six numbers, it is well suited to lay the formative base for numbers. Roll the dice, count the dots aloud and write the corresponding number. This is such an easy activity that links numbers to quantification. Before you know it, your child would be associating quantity with numbers. As they grow, you can use two dices.
5. Body Part Counting
Another super cool math activity for kids is body part counting. One nose, two ears, 3 digits in a finger, 4 cute little milk teeth, 5 chubby fingers and so on. Your little one will love counting his/her body parts and learn their names too!
6. Pattern Making
This is one math activity for kids all parents must do as it lays strong foundation of mathematics. Teach your child how to identify patterns on their clothes like plaid, stripes, polka etc. Later, help your child spot patterns in her daily routine. Waking up, getting ready, breakfast to dinner and till we finally sleep, we follow a pattern.
7. Tickle Body math
This is really a fun math activity to do with kids, especially for younger ones. Start with their finger and measure their arm, using your palm while counting 1, 2 and 3. Say it aloud “Your arm is 3 palms long’” and as you reach their shoulder, tickle them up! Let them do the same to you!
8. Loose Parts-Inspired Play
We absolutely adore loose parts inspired math play. For this age group, you can use chunky blocks, play dough, wooden cubes etc. anything big enough to eliminate the danger of mouthing and choking. Also you need to maintain hawk eye all the while but it is highly rewarding!
Let your child explore with the block shapes and building with them, mould play dough and stack wooden cubes. All these activities also double up on their motor skills, thus enhancing the overall learning experience.
Math Activities for Kids – 4 to 7 Years
1. Number Games
For older children, one of the best ways to porch math is through number games. Like we said, math should be nothing but fun. Involve your older kids in fun, easy to play number games and you’ll have a budding Aryabhata at home.
2. Math Art
Math art is an excellent way to help children visualise and play with math. Math has always been an essential part of art and vice-versa. Almost all great painters like Leonardo Da Vince and others were great mathematicians too.
3. Card Games
Playing cards is a great way to teach basic math operatives like addition, subtraction and multiplication to children. All you need is a sturdy deck of cards and limitless imagination.
4. Dice Games
For older children, you need more than one dice. Turn rolling dice into a math game of addition and multiplication. Dice math games for kids also build subitizing skills that are essential for mental math.
5. Loose Parts
Children between four and seven years are highly creative and self-expressive. Bank on this ability to create patterns and numbers with loose parts and inspire Loose Part Math Play.
6. Build Math Vocabulary
Children, whose parents regularly use jargons associated with math, generally outperform their peers who are not exposedto math jargons. Make words like symmetry, identical, equal, tessellation, pattern a part of your vocabulary with your kids.
7. Pretend Play
Yet another imaginative math activity for kids, put up a pretend play of an ice-cream cart or a grocery store to practice your child’s math skills.
8. Flameless Cooking
Help your children make sandwiches and cut them into quarters, squares and triangles to sharpen their math skills. Involve them in making cake dough thus measuring and quantifying ingredients.
Number hopscotch is the perfect math activity for kids who just love to move. Let them practice their counting, skip counting and operatives while playing a cheerful game of hopscotch.
10. Sudoku and Picture Puzzles
Sudoku and picture puzzles are a great way to polish math skills while having fun. Simply google them up and you have an endless free source of math games for kids right at your home, without spending a dime!
Online Math Games and Apps for Kids
Besides these hands-on math activities, children today have access to online math games and apps, which can make learning and practising math fun. These online resources are great way to build interest in math.
This is a free math based game targeted for children from Grade I toGrade VIII. Its in-game characters compete with children to make gaming fun and learning math exciting for kids.
2. Splash Math
Another free online math game, this one is for children through Grade I to Grade V. This app encourages independent, self-paced learning and is great for kids just starting out with online math games and apps.
The extension of Khan Academy is specifically designed for kids three years and above. Beautiful graphics and animal characters present learning content in a friendly and playful way, making learning for younger kids enjoyable. You will certainly not be disappointed with this one.
4. Monster Math
This is the coolest math monster your kids will ever meet. It really takes away the scare from mathematics and your kids will adore learning math with monster Maxx.
5. Moose Math
Designed for kindergarteners and first graders, this app will surely delight your kids and help them learn. It also allows parents to monitor their kid’s performance through a report card. Based on Common Core Standards, it offers great online math learning.
6. Twelve a Dozen
Suited for kids eight years and above, this app works on building core concepts in math. Children solve variety of puzzles to build on core math concepts to move forward in the game.
7. Math Learning Center
One of the best online platforms to practice math skills, this one offers 10 free apps based modules targeted at different levels of skills.
8. Math Slide
Math Slide is aimed at children from 6 to 12 years old. It is a great guide to teaching children and helping them practice place value. With its four free versions, your children can really polish their basic math concepts and place value.
All these apps and games make learning fun and highly engaging for kids. Parents need to exercise little control, abiding the screen time guidelines. This fun twisted approach to math is certainly a big win-win for both parents and children who shy from practicing math.
If you are too concerned about the screen time and try to avoid it, another way you can consider to build interest in math is by gamifying math practice and homework. Start with equipping yourself with what your child is learning at school and then translating it into fun games with your child. Like skip counting homework can be turned into a game of passing the ball and calling out numbers. Once you are done with the game version of the schoolwork, writing it in notebook is a breeze for kids.
Similarly, you can work out how to add the game/fun element to other math homework your child is assigned at school. Simple thinking can go a long way here. You do not need to spend hours in prep. Work with tambola counters, dominos, dice to gamify your child’s math homework.
Picture puzzles and Math puzzles like Shape Sodoku, Ken-Ken, Stardoku, Tic-Tac-Toe, Shape puzzles, Tangram are also great screen-free games for kids to build math skills. The key to engage your child in such puzzles is to get involved yourself. Gently guide them how to solve these trick puzzles. You can work on Math Riddles for kids to spike their curiosity around numbers and operators.
Help your children practice their math operations by taking them shopping with you. A casual trip to a supermarket can be a master class in math. Give your children real money and let them work out how much of what they can buy. Make a simple game of candy math by assigning your child a candy list and money. Let them work out how much money they need to buy everything on the list and if they can look for good cheaper substitutes. Let her work out simple calculations for you at the grocery store. All you need is little patience and time.
Teaching children math through money is not only a great way to show the latter’s application but also practice basic arithmetic. Let your child accompany you to the bank or ATM machines to see how the entire banking system revolves around numbers. Your child will be fascinated to know how much math is used everyday.
You can also use games like Snakes and Ladders, Ludo, Dominos, Monopoly, Matchstick Game to sharpen your child’s math skills. Ask them to count and calculate their moves every time. Refrain in helping kids by doing mental math operations for them and say a big no to using calculators. These simple day-to-day habits work like magic in honing and sharpening math skills.
Math Board Games for Kids
Qwirkle: This is a simple game of matching patterns and attributes, forming a sequence of tiles. Easy to learn and play, it is great hit with children across all ages.
Monopoly: This classic game teaches children how to use money in the best way possible by making use of their math skills. Play a game of Monopoly and get your kids hands-on practice of their basic math operatives.
Ocean Raiders: A great sequencing and addition game for six years and above, this game will surely get your kids hooked onto practicing arithmetic.
Math Safari: Just like the name suggests, this board game will take you and your kids on a math safari comprising of number, shapes, time, measurement and basic operatives. Suited for kids six years and plus.
Super Math Spy: Build your child’s mental math skills with this super fun spy math game. A prefect game for family game nights.
Dominos: This classic game has been around for ages and is an excellent game to build interest in math in an almost natural way.
Sum Genius: A great challenge based math game for kids to inspire them to put their math skills to test. A highly competitive game, this will surely help you motivate your kids.
Math Books for Kids
Besides indulging in the above math activities and math games for kids, reading also is a great way to inculcate math acumen. Devoting 10 to 15 minutes, everyday, to math books can substantially enhance your child’s math bent of mind. Here are a few titles we recommend according to the topic:
What better way to learn counting than through rhymes from around the world! This is a lovely collection of counting rhymes from around the world that will make your child sing and dance to numbers.
Bring on some humour to learning math with this jewel from Sandra Boynton. Perfect for young children, this one is full of silliness and math.
You cannot possibly go wrong with this one. Packed with beautiful illustrations, this book will teach your kids to count unto 10.
This is one of our personal favourites and one we still treasure. This is a jigsaw book that teaches your little one to count up to 5.
This is a beautiful picture book to spark imagination while counting. Your children are sure to love it and create their own versions of imaginative art post reading this book.
This hilarious counting picture book will take you and your kids on a jolly ride while counting.
This brightly coloured book will open the world of counting and early addition to your child. Beautifully illustrated, this book is a feast for the eyes.
We highly recommend this one! Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin will introduce your kids to the world of music and counting. You certainly should not skip this one.
This text free book builds on the belief that every child has innate math ability and children can learn to count even before they can barely speak. It builds natural math talent of young kids and exposes them to the wonderful and exciting world of numbers.
10. Zero is the Leaves on the Trees
This awe-inspiring book will introduce your children to one of the most important numbers – Zero! Let them figure out the mystery behind zero with this beautiful book.
Welcome to the world of addition with animals! You cannot go wrong while adding with fuzzy, charming animals. Equipped with animal fun-facts and addition problems, this book will surely delight you.
Part of MathStart series, this book will take your child on an addition adventure with Jill, the truck driver, and her dog. Your car rides will never be the same again post reading this book.
This is a great start to introduce the concept of addition to young children. Loaded with humour and wacky illustrations, this book will surely tickle your child’s math bone.
Another recommendation for MathStart series, this book will introduce your child to tally counting while counting cars on a long drive.
Teach addition to your kids through this lovely book. Bright illustrations and engaging plot makes it an interesting math read.
Introduce subtraction or the act of taking away with this fun-filled, humorous book. Rhyming text, funny illustrations and relatable examples make this one worth your buy.
Perfect for young audience, this book comes with easy to understand text, attractive illustrations and a lovely plot to teach children what it means to subtract.
Teach your children the concept of subtraction with lovely animals from the book. Sure to excite your child!
You cannot possibly go wrong with subtraction when Hershey’s Kisses are involved. This book teaches subtraction in a fun and easy way.
This is a clever story about sly Piranhas and subtraction. A great read to teach subtraction by one and reverse counting.
If your aim is to integrate math with life and real world problems, then this onejust does that. A great STEM e-book for kids, it will help your children understand the relevance of shapes and lay foundation for spatial reasoning. It includes STEM activities and worksheets that make it quintessential buy for every kid.
Introduce your child to the world of shapes with this beautifully illustrated book. See a circle in a tortilla, triangles on watermelons and rectangles of ice-cream carts through this math picture book.
This is a great start for children who are beginning to recognise and differentiate shapes. Colourful pages with easy text make it a good read.
An adventurous math book about a perfect square that is transformed far beyond the symmetry of the square.
5. Mouse Shapes
Let your child explore the world of shapes and see how different shapes can come together to make a creature alive.
Whether your child is starting out or is well versed with patterns, this is one book that will take understanding of “Patterns” to a different level. Beautifully illustrated, this book comes with real world application of patterns, pattern activities and worksheets to build a strong foundation.
2. Pattern Fish
A great starter book, this one explores patterns in nature and specifically in fishes! Certainly a delightful math book for kids.
You cannot go wrong with candy and this book teaches you to make patterns with candy. Simply delicious!
Help your child explore patterns in her neighborhood and surrounding with this easy to understand pattern book.
A humorous take of patterns, what they are and how you can make your own, this book is a great starting point for children who are learning patterns.