Technology is a useful tool for academics but nothing can compare to the brain building power of hands-on math learning. You can even encourage your children to create their own math activities and math games just by having a few choice manipulates at their disposal. Developing math skills is not just an in-school exercise, use these handy tools for math games at home!
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My son loves to invent his own math activities and math games at home and after school. Sometimes he corrals me into joining him. Other times he likes to play independently. I've noticed that he tends to use the same tools from our game and activities closet over and over again so I want to share them with you in the hopes your kids will have the same success!
Pencil and large pad of paper
Let's start with the basics, shall we? Procure a healthy stash of pencils, erasers and a big pad of paper. We use so much paper for keeping score, figuring out equations, drawing puzzles, sketching out board games, etc. Many math games can be played with just a pen and paper. Some of our favorites include:
In addition to plain white paper, my son loves to use graph paper for his DIY math games.
Dice are absolutely essential. Not only can your children use them to solve basic math equations but many simple math games use dice. Everyone needs a colorful set of traditional 6 sided dice, but I recommend investing in some specialty math operations dice!
Your children can invent their own math dice games, or play one our our favorites:
Dice also come in 10-, 12-, and other multi-sided variations for extra fun and learning.
We have this exact set of poker chips and I cannot even begin to count all the ways we have used them! My son has used them for all sorts counting games. Plus my younger son loves to sort them, stack them, and arrange them in patterns, all of which are great exercises for developing math skills.
Two of our favorite diy math games that use poker chips are:
I am so glad I indulged in a set of these Montessori large wooden number cards. We've had these for a few years and they've gotten a lot of use. My son mainly uses them independently and likes to sort them out, rather than creating actual games around them.
One of my son's favorite things to do with the number cards is to recreate big numbers he finds in books! I love how sturdy the cards are.
Montessori math materials include a lovely wooden hundreds board but we have gotten a lot of milage out of a simple laminated version. My son sometimes uses it as a game board, but he also uses it as a way to keep score. With the laminated version, your kids can use a dry erase marker and thus reuse the board again and again!
Montessori Golden and Color Beads
I love all the Montessori math materials, though I confess we do not use them in a strict Montessori-approved way. We have some Golden Ten Bars, Golden Bead Thousand Cube and some Golden Bead Hundred Squares. We also have a colored beads teens set.
My son uses the bead bars to count, but also as game pieces. One thing he has been doing recently is rolling the dice and then counting out the number with the color bead bars.
As you can see from this very terrible photo, he even uses the ten bars to create shapes! Now that's putting your creative mind to work.
Everyone must have a set of dominoes! After all, one of the best ways to learn cause and effect is by setting up a domino run!! Don't limit yourself to playing by the rules. My son likes to use dominoes for math equations and activities. Sometimes he uses them as building blocks. Even sorting dominoes builds math skills and reinforces an understanding of quantity.
Deck of Cards
A deck of cards is my favorite thing in the world on some days. My older son can play solitaire for an hour without getting bored. He sometimes simply sorts the cards for fun (I know, right?), and even tries and construct a house of cards.
Some of our favorite math card games:
Side note: we love a good card game so much that we get a souvenir deck from places we visit. Obviously I obtained this unicorn deck when we visited the rainbow.
However, coins also make great playing tokens and game pieces.
Some of our favorite math games to play with tokens or coins:
Last, but not least–books!
We have used several math and games books for inspiration. Sometimes my son wants the play the games according to the rules, sometimes he wants to make up his own rules. Either way is valid! Here are our favorite books: