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Adding Joy to Math Instruction

Updated: Jun 29, 2022

Many of us have a memory of a school experience in which an entire class of students became adept at multiplication because we had the chance to play Around the World. Practicing concrete skills through playful experiences can really sprinkle some magic onto even the driest of topics. Great classroom teachers are skillful at finding ways to incorporate play with 25+ students. As parents we have the opportunity to create ways of reinforcing skills learned at school or teaching skills our learners need or want to learn with games played at home.

Play Games Designed to Practice Skills

My son learned to add and subtract numbers 1-12 with fluency by playing Sum Swamp (Co-Teach is not affiliated with Learning Resources, I just really like this game!). In addition to being a fun game his grandmother gave him for his birthday, I have never once had to beg him to play and it has allowed my son to teach himself addition and subtraction. Every time he plays he is improving his fact fluency. As an added bonus, he includes his little sister by doing the math for her, and helping her count her spaces. Her job is to recognize the numbers on the dice! Flashcards and worksheets have their place, and some kids love them, or will do them without complaint. But if that’s not how your learner likes to learn right now,

finding a game that will give practice to the same concepts is the way to go. Games will make the learning that much more enjoyable for all involved, and will incentivize improving fluency, which is a key component to math instruction.

Rely on Quick Hit Games

You can certainly find entire lists of games for all manner of educational content, but it’s not necessary to blow your budget on buying all the games. You can look for the game that presents itself in any given situation, or create games out of objects you have at home. Better yet, get matched with a Co-Teacher who has deep experiences finding and creating games for all manner of academic content. Here are some examples of QUICK and spontaneous games that can promote improved math skills:

  • Present a pile of jelly beans, fruit snacks, or any other snack of choice and ask your child to guess how many there are-- and then count to see how close they are before eating!

  • Ask your learner to guess how many stuffed animals they own. As they count them, have them line them up from shortest to longest, categorize by color, or in alphabetical order!

  • Play “count the cars” while driving. Ask one child to count blue cars and another to count red. Which color did more cars have? How many total cars did you count? How many MORE red cars were there than blue?

  • Play “guess the weight”. Use a kitchen scale to estimate weight of household objects. The winner of 5 rounds gets a prize.

Spending short bursts of time on quick games throughout the day can give your kids a chance to break out of the routine and incorporating them can create an atmosphere of joy and excitement which goes a long way in promoting learning.

Create Math Games with Household Objects

For more formal math gaming that doesn’t require a big investment, a deck of cards can be used for a variety of games. For example, teach your child to play the classic War card game, and they won’t even realize they are mastering the skill of comparing numbers to determine which is greater than or less than! If your child is older, you can adapt the game to 2 and 3 digit addition by flipping two or three cards over at a time! There are other games such as Nifty Fifty in which each player is trying to create equations that are closest to 50 after flipping 4 cards over.

Kids are eager learners when they are presented with something that excites them. Think about how quickly your child learned to create complex geometric shapes using Legos, or could suddenly add and subtract when they needed to know how many more tickets they needed on ABC Mouse to purchase another hamster!

Whether you play quick games that come to you in the moment or designate a game day and have more formal gaming sessions, you can improve your learner’s math skills and fulfill their desire for play and connection all at the same time.

If you’d like help and guidance in adding joy to at-home learning our Co-Teachers would love to help.

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