Games to help with Maths

Use number with small children, count your baby’s fingers and toes, count stairs, or birds, or flowers or balloons.

Small children enjoy laying the table with the right number of knives, forks, plates etc.

Use play money to play at adding up, then use real money and ask your child to buy something in a shop. Use real money and let your child choose his own sweets or toys or books.

Make a shop, with small jars or plates of interesting things with prices, and take it in turns to be shopkeeper or shopper.

Ask your child to check what time a TV programme is on, or how long it will last, or how long the film will take.

Do baking together, especially where it is important to measure and weigh ingredients. You can start with balancing weights of things, before actually weighing on some sort of scales.

Roll dice – I used to ask for as many kisses as the two die added up to. You might offer peanuts, or pennies etc.

Simple card games are good – Pairs teaches number matching. Rummy and Whist teach simple addition and Blackjack or Pontoon are good for adding to 21.

Dominoes helps with number matching, as well as being a very strategic game.

Snakes and Ladders, Ludo etc are very good for counting practice.

Add together the digits on the car registration plates you pass – multiply them if you can. .

Never-Ending sums. A good game for several children who need to be involved together. Start with a number e.g. 5, and then ask the next child to e.g.+1 or +5 or even + 713 depending on the strengths of the child. The answer is used as the basis for the next question: 5+7×3+4-10+3 etc etc. The Younger children can be asked to do easy sums, the Older ones can be given more complex activities.

Fizz Buzz: This is a game to help with tables and multiplication: Participants count in order. If we are working with the 3times table, every time the number is a multiple of 3 or has a figure 3 in it, the person must say Fizz. Thus:1,2,Fizz,4,5,Fizz,7,8,Fizz,10,11,Fizz,Fizz,14,Fizz,16, 17,Fizz etc. If you then introduce the 5times table, which is Buzz:1,2, Fizz ,4, Buzz, Fizz, 7,8, Fizz, Buzz, 11,Fizz,13,14,FizzBuzz,16,17,Fizz,19,Buzz etc. Etc. It requires a lot of concentration and is a lot of fun, and obviously works with any tables you choose.

Ask the child to work out the distance between cities or places on an atlas. Smaller children can be given big towns, older ones could be given complex routes.

2s: This is surprisingly complicated: you have to make each number from 1 – 12 using the number 2 four times. So: 1 = 2/2 + 2/2 OR 2/2 x 2/2 , 2 = 2/2 + 2/2 etc. You can use squares or points or any type of relation between the numbers that you wish, but only ever four 2s

Egg-timer exercise: this activity is adjusted to the skills of your child and lasts for about three minutes – or for the duration of an egg-timer if available. No longer. But at least five times a week for four weeks!! The child is asked sums orally and has to work them out using fingers or just a brain. Just started children who still <I>need</I> their fingers would be asked adds, or adds and take-aways to 10: 4+3, 1+7, 5+0 etc and then 8-3, 7+2, 4+3, 3+4, 7-3, 10-0 etc. When the child makes a mistake, encourage him to use his fingers (if he hadn’t) and then give the answer. Count how many the child gets right in the time the egg-timer takes. Notice that by limiting the sums, you are repeating the same sums again and again and giving repetitive practice

Older children can do bigger sums -additions and subtractions to 20, and then to 100: 15+4, 20-8, 16+3, 2+7, 15-6 etc; 41+16, 73-12, 27+27, 39+8, 87-38. Still older could be asked to do tables, starting with 2,3,4,5 and only later going on to more difficult numbers. This is highly effective and brief, neither you nor the child gets tired. Keep a graph to show how much improvement there has been, this keeps enthusiasm high.

A facility with number is critical to everyday life. We all have to be able to add quickly, to determine whether our change is correct, whether the restaurant has added up properly, what is ten percent? Unfortunately, it seems to be acceptable to say that we can’t manage number although it would be seriously embarrassing to say we were illiterate. Some children find number work very easy and good fun, others do not. These are games for a range of child ages and abilities. As always, if you imply that these are good fun, the children will be tempted to join in – if you suggest that this is compulsory and tedious, they will resent the work even more. A lot of these activities can be done with children of different ages.

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