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Math Hands-On Activities at Home

written by: Patricia Gable • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 10/13/2014

Do you hear your child's voice whining, "That's boring!" when you try to work on math at home? Try some hands-on math activities at home, mental math in the car and problem solving in the store. Your child will get some math practice without even knowing it!

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    It’s hard to sit and drill facts (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) with your children. You can hear their sweet little voices saying, Numbers Calculations “This is boring!" before you even buy the flash cards. Are you looking for math problems to do at home? There are so many subtle and fun ways to do math hands on activities at home. Your goal should be to teach your child to be a thinker, a problem solver. The trick is to blend math into your normal crazy day.

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    Little Hands

    When you children are young:

    1. Sort things with them. Sort by color, size, shape. Use blocks, socks, buttons or other toys.

    2. Teach your child to set the table. They will learn to put one of each item at each place setting.

    3. Use a deck of cards and sort them by the numbers, shapes of each suit or colors.

    4. Cook together. Make sure you talk as you gather and add ingredients. “We are using ONE egg. We are using Two Cups of flour."

    5. Use the words big,small, little, large, same, different, too big, too small.

    6. Put a toy behind/under a barrier and see if your child can figure out how to get it.

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    You're Getting Bigger

    1. If your child understands how to sort things, it’s time to work on patterns. Use some silverware when you are doing the dishes. Fork, spoon, fork, spoon,_____ (what comes next?) Make it harder as your child gets better. Use a variety of household objects.

    2. Find patterns around the house: on a quilt, wallpaper, calendar, etc.

    3. Sort and count change. Start by counting the number of coins you have, not the value.

    4. When you are in a grocery store with your child, ask them to read the price, weight or any numbers on the product. When able, have them pick out one or two items to pay for. For older children, see if they can estimate the price. $1.98 is close to $2.00. $3.76 is close to $4.00. $2.00 plus $4.00 is $6.00. Do I have enough money?

    5. Have your child read a recipe and plan a grocery list. Then have them measure using cups, teaspoons, etc. Cut the cooked dish into equal portions and talk about fractions. If you cut a pizza into six pieces, one piece is 1/6 of the pizza. It’s all math!!

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    Game Time!

    1. Play the old game of “War" with a deck of cards. Deal out the cards equally. Each player turns over a card. a) Whoever has the bigger number keeps the two cards. b) Whoever can add the two cards together first, keeps the two cards. c) Whoever can find the difference (subtraction) between the two numbers, keeps the cards. d ) Whoever can multiply the two numbers together the fastest,thumbnail-2.aspx  keeps the two cards.

    2. Dice games can be played a similar way. Roll the dice and add, subtract or multiply.

    3. Play board games. Board games are fun ways to practice many skills.

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    In The Car

    1. Do some mental math while you are stuck in traffic with your child. Pick a number and an operation (+,-,x ). For example you might say, “We are going to use the number four and addition." Then start saying a variety of numbers and your child adds it with the number four mentally and gives the answer.

    2. Rounding numbers: say a number and have them round it to the nearest ten or hundred. Here's some examples:

    86 rounds to 90

    62 rounds to 60

    55 rounds to 60

    130 rounds to 100 (rounding to the nearest hundred)

    151 rounds to 200

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    Seize the Moment!

    Take every opportunity to throw in math hands on activities at home. You can create a story problem while you're folding laundry or cooking dinner. Share with your children how friends and family use math in their jobs. Look for patterns and numbers in the world outside the home. The most important thing is that you show your child that math is important, it is part of every day life and that can be fun.

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