Send-Home Activities: Ideas for Math Play
- Grades: PreK–K
Here are some activities parents can try at home to support math learning:
1. Play with many different but ordinary objects. Children stretch their imaginations when they play with ordinary objects. Many of these have interesting geometric properties. For example, some cylindrical objects, such as paper towel rolls and toilet paper rolls, can be looked through, rolled, and used to represent objects such as towers in a castle. All these activities develop the foundation of understanding three-dimensional shapes.
2. Play with the same objects in different ways. Creativity and thinking are enhanced if children play with the same object in different ways. When the box is a container, then a house, then stairs, then cut apart into a track for a car, children see the relationships between shapes, real-world objects, and the functions they serve.
3. Play with the same toys again and again. Some materials are so beneficial that all children should play with them again and again throughout their early years. Blocks for all ages, Duplos, and Legos, at the right age, can encourage children to build structures, learn about shapes and combine them, compare sizes, and count. They also learn to build mental images, plan, reason, and connect ideas. Sand and water play are invaluable for learning the foundations of measurement concepts. Creating patterns and designs with stringing beads, blocks, and construction paper develop geometric and patterning ideas. Puzzles develop spatial thinking and shape composition.
4. Keep in mind that less is more. Everyday objects can be fun, as is playing with constructive toys again and again. However, buying too many different types of commercial toys can decrease children's mathematical thinking and creativity. Less can be more! Rotating toys keeps children interested.
5. Count your playful actions. Many games and playful activities just call out for counting. How many times can you bounce a balloon in the air before it touches the ground? How many times can you skip rope?
6. Play games. Card games, computer games, board games, and others all help children learn mathematics. They count dots on cards and spaces to move. Counting helps them connect one representation of numbers to another. They learn to instantly recognize patterns of numbers, such as the dot patterns on dice or dominoes. Some games involve using a timer. Concentration and Bingo involve matching. Checkers and Candy Land involve spaces and locations.
7. Play active games. Beanbag tossing, hopscotch, bowling, and similar games involve moving and distances. Most of the games involve numbers and counting for score keeping, too. Games such as "Mother May I?" involve categories of movement. "Follow the Leader" can be played using math concepts, such as announcing you will take five large steps backward, then two small steps to the side.
8. Discuss math playfully. Math will emerge when you help your children see the math in their play. Talk about numbers, shapes, symmetry, distances, sorting, and so forth. Do so in a playful way, commenting on what you see in the children's constructive play.
9. Provide ample time, materials, and teacher support for children to engage in play, a context in which they explore and manipulate mathematical ideas with keen interest.
Also see main article, Math Play: How Young Children Approach Information, for more information.