Math and Numbers

Fairy and Elf Activities #6 for Boys and Girls: Fairy Math Fun and Play

Flat glass marbles, like these in a grown-up friend’s fairy garden, inspired some fairy math fun and play counting, grouping, and making patterns.fairy rock math fun

In the craft drawer,  we have a few of these smooth, sparkly glass circles left-over from another project. They make wonderful fairy rocks. Big Brother, who is just 4, likes to count. He counted these several times. Each time he counted he got a different number, because he skipped a number here and there.fairy rock math fun

Accurate counting comes from practice; just remembering all the numbers is quite a challenge, never mind getting them in the right order. He did touch each marble as he said a number, showing that he has figured out each number goes with one item. This one-to-one correspondence is the foundation for counting, that one number is connected to one thing. As we say more numbers, we mean more things.

While he was counting, Big Brother noticed there were different colors. He liked the green ones so he separated them from the light purple ones. Making groups is a powerful thinking skill. As we think, we organize and deal with information. Do you remember the movie, “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids?” Grouping or categorizing is like the movie; it shrinks information into smaller packages.fairy rock math fun

Making patterns is another way to shrink information. If the fairy rocks are in random order, it would be hard to remember the color of each one. If there is a pattern, such as purple rock – green rock, purple rock – green rock, it’s so much easier.

With the fairy rocks, I showed Big Brother a purple-green, purple-green pattern. He wasn’t interested in having a pattern. He just wanted the green ones. Again, patterning is a skill that kids develop from experience and practice. There will be other opportunities to show simple patterns until the brain makes the needed connections.

fairy rock math funFor most of this fairy math fun, Big Brother directed the play as he wanted.  He liked making a line and different shapes. After a while, he decided to do something different. We carefully put the fairy rocks away so Little Brother didn’t get them. Do you have any items that could be fairy rocks for some math fun and play?


For more fairy play activities, check the plays-of-the-day on the blog.


How to Steal a March #4: Play Builds Math Confidence not Math Anxiety

Did you know at school 1 in 4 children is burdened with math anxiety? Children’s play builds math confidence instead of anxiety which can last for a lifetime.self-directed play

When it comes to math, such as dividing a recipe in half, checking the utility bill, or measuring a board before cutting, are you comfortable? For many adults this is a nightmare and the roots of the fear come from long before they started school. Trying to figure out which way to go when suddenly faced with numbers is like trying to navigate in a new country. For kids that haven’t seen, touched, and played with numbers before school no wonder they feel fearful and anxious. On the other hand, kids that have math play experiences greet numbers and math ideas like old, familiar friends.

As parents and caregivers, they are countless ways to encourage math play. Here are a few:

  • Run some water in a sink or bin and add a few containers and spoons of different sizes. As kids play they figure out it takes lots and lots of small containers to fill a bigger one. That’s the math concept of volume.
  • Snack time has many opportunities for counting. Let kids count out 10 fishy crackers, cheerios, chocolate chips, raisins, cranberries, and other little finger foods to eat up. Young kids will need help with the counting. It won’t be accurate at first. Some of the numbers will be mixed up but kids are hearing and using the number words. math play
  • Compare the sizes of things and use words like more, less, many, few, small, big, etc. Math is also about relationships. Dolls and
    other toys that go inside each other are designed on relationship.
  • Include some foam and magnetic numbers for kids to touch and explore. Kids may not know which number shape goes with which number word but brains are recording how they look and feel.
  • Patterning is another important math skill. You can show your child a few patterns, like red car/blue car, red car/blue car. After seeing lots of repeated patterns kids can make then on their own.
  • One-to-one matching is a critical idea. A muffin tin is fun for this. One car or one block or one tiny animal goes in each hole. Brains need to grasp the idea that one number means one thing so play experiences are critical. Setting the table is one-to-one matching too. One fork for each person.math play numbers

The expression to “steal a march on someone” means to have an advantage. Ordinary experiences will give your child a powerful advantage and play builds math confidence. How many ways can your child play with math today?

February Friendship #5: Kids Can Be Friends with Math and Numbers

Kids can be friends with math? While this sounds impossible, it’s critical because 1 in 4 of us, kids too, suffer with math anxiety. Make friends with PLAY.math play

A simple and very affordable math toy is foam or magnet numbers. Kids can hold them, sort them, put them in baskets, and make them into a train. As kids are hands-on with numbers, the brain is eyes-on. It’s figuring out the lines and shapes of numbers and getting up close and familiar with how they look. Occasionally saying the numbers gets the brain ears-on too.foam numbers and fridge magnets

Foam and magnetic numbers can also be used to make groups, maybe using colors. Sorting is a basic math idea and any items can be used for this, not just toys. Kids can sort the knives, spoons, and forks into their groups when helping unload the dishwasher. That’s math.math play sorting

Another basic idea is one-to-one matching. Besides getting the number-words in the right order, part of counting is figuring out that one object goes with one number. Each time we say a number we need one more thing. One foot needs one shoe, two feet need two shoes. One button goes in each buttonhole. Getting dressed is a great time for everyday math. Setting the table or putting one apple in each space in a muffin tin is more math play.math play 1 ro 1 matching

Looking for and making patterns can be fun. Kids can use anything to make patterns from toys to socks, or blocks to markers. Our ears listen for patterns in music and eyes look for them all around.patterns with colors

Math isn’t just numbers, it’s also words, like more, less, bigger, smaller, longer, higher, slow, fast, and nothing. These words can be tricky to use too. The mathbox car is smaller than the toy bulldozer, but that’s smaller than a real one.  Running is faster than walking, but it might be too slow when trying to catch the

There are countless ways to use ordinary, everyday activities and play so kids can be friends with math and numbers. What kids of math play happens at your house or care center?


New Year’s Resolution: Make the Day Count with Kids NUMBER Play

Can you make the days count with the new year’s resolution to include some kids number play? How can we do this–let me count the ways. Every day there are countless ways to include kids number play. From getting dressed in clothes with numbers, counting steps to the bus, looking for numbers, telling kids they … Continue reading New Year’s Resolution: Make the Day Count with Kids NUMBER Play

Dragon Math Fun: One-to-one Matching

Have you heard the expression it’s the little things that count? It’s also the simple things, like one-to-one matching for some dragon math fun. Sometimes, this is also called one-to-one correspondence. Surprisingly, math includes relationships. For this activity, we used some small plastic dragons along with some dinosaur friends. We had a container of treasure … Continue reading Dragon Math Fun: One-to-one Matching

Dragon Play and Math Activities: Dragon Patterns

For some fun today, how about making dragon patterns? Usually, dragons are covered in scales and these scales have a pattern. Treasure has patterns too. There are lots of ideas for pattern fun. Little Sister wanted to make patterns with treasure. We rounded up some bottle caps, buttons, and flat glass marbles to be the … Continue reading Dragon Play and Math Activities: Dragon Patterns

Dragon Play Activities: Counting Dragon Treasure Math Fun

Counting dragon treasure doesn’t need to take long, unless you’re a dragon. But even if kids only spend a few minutes, that adds to the experience pile. And tonight on tv we’ve certainly watched the drama of counting and numbers. Dragons collect all sorts of treasures. Since they are imaginary creatures that could be practically … Continue reading Dragon Play Activities: Counting Dragon Treasure Math Fun

Fall Patterning Math Activities and Play for Young Children

The seasons follow a pattern, our days follow a pattern, our bodies and brains do too, so our play of the day is fall patterning math activities for kids. Please don’t let the word math scare you away or cause any anxiety. There are no numbers to multiply or divide or problems to solve. This … Continue reading Fall Patterning Math Activities and Play for Young Children

Olympic Games #10: Number Play Activities for Kids

Let’s go for some number play activities. Did you know the Olympic Games can help children develop familiarity and confidence with numbers? As we watch and listen to some of the Olympic events, we are interested in the numbers. How fast was that race? What heavy was the bar in weight lifting? Who came first? … Continue reading Olympic Games #10: Number Play Activities for Kids

#10: Space Math Activities and Games – 3, 2, 1, Blast Off

Interest in space is universal (chuckle, chuckle) and space math activities and games are fun ways to explore the universe of numbers. We count the ways… Somewhere, young kids discover they can say a string of numbers, make explosive noises, and blast off in all directions at top speed. Arms together above head is optional. … Continue reading #10: Space Math Activities and Games – 3, 2, 1, Blast Off