Math Practice: Five Take-Home Games

Put the materials for these math activities into sturdy canvas totes. Then invite students to take turns bringing them home to share with their families.

1.Measure Up!
What goes in the tote: The book How Big is a Foot? by Rolf Myller, construction paper, markers, scissors, and a 12" ruler
Focus skills: Nonstandard and standard measurement
Directions for families: Invite parents to read the book to their children. They’ll discover that a foot isn’t always a foot long! Next, have kids trace and cut out one of their feet and measure objects in the house using this nonstandard “tool.” Then measure the same objects with a ruler and compare measurements. Discuss the problems people could face at the hardware or craft store if nonstandard tools were used.

2. Shape Shifter
What goes in the tote: Geoboards, rubber bands, index cards with various shapes (square, rectangle, trapezoid, and triangle) drawn on them, gumdrops, and rounded toothpicks
Focus skills: 2-D and 3-D shapes, problem solving
Directions for families: Duplicate a shape from an index card onto a geoboard using rubber bands. Then, using the gumdrops and toothpicks, construct a 3-D figure for the same shape. For those needing a challenge, include pentagon, hexagon, and octagon cards. 

3. Digit Dash
What goes in the tote: A bag of small manipulatives, dry erase boards, markers, index cards with various numbers on them under 50 (or 25, 15, etc.), and a two- or three-minute timer
Focus skills: Counting, addition and subtraction, equivalent names for numbers, commutative property
Directions for families: While one person flips an index card over to reveal the “target” number, another turns the timer. Each person writes (on dry erase boards) as many addition and subtraction facts as they can think of that equal the target number. Some children may want to use the manipulatives to count so they can visualize the facts. Compare answers. The winner is the one with the most facts. Tip: After a few rounds, if turn-around facts aren’t included on boards, reinforce the commutative property. (If 4+5=9 then 5+4=9.)

4. Switch-A-Roo
What goes in the tote: Ten cutout snowmen, four hats (red, yellow, green, and blue), four scarves (red, yellow, green, and blue), and recording sheet
Focus skills: Problem solving
Directions for families: Invite kids to “dress” the snowman and make as many different “outfits” without repeating colors (can’t be a red hat and a red scarf).  After constructing each outfit, draw it on the recording sheet. (Try to make at least eight different outfits.) For an extra challenge, add boots and brooms in each color and allow them to repeat color combinations.
5. Fill’er Up!
What goes in the tote: Measuring cups (¼, ¹/³, ½, and 1 cup), six 8-ounce plastic cups, small sticky notes, pencils
Focus skills: Estimating, reasoning, equivalent measures, capacity
Directions for families: After identifying the size of each measuring cup, have kids use the different measuring cups to pour water into plastic cups. Use sticky notes to label each cup with the correct volume of water. Put plastic cups in order from most full to least full. Ask questions such as, “How many of the ½ cups would you need to fill up one cup? Two cups? How many of the ¹/³ cups would you need? How many of the ¼ cups?” Children can find out if their estimations were correct by using the said amounts to fill the extra cups.
—Lisa Mullarkey