It’s easy to incorporate hands-on learning activities in subjects such as science, history, or geography, but when it comes to math, many of us find it difficult to think outside the worksheet box. For those who grew up in a traditional educational setting, math seems to be all worksheets, textbooks, and flashcards.
However, math can be just as hands-on as any other subject and once your kids see the real life applications for it, they may be more inclined to do those worksheets with a bit more enthusiasm.
Try some of these ideas.
Baking. Baking may be the ultimate – or, at least, most fun – hands-on math activity. It offers the opportunity to practice measurements, fractions, and liquid volume. With the holiday season upon us, it’s easy to practice adding and multiplying fractions with the real world application of doubling and tripling recipes.
And, of course, there is the opportunity to practice division as you work to ensure that the resulting baked goods are dispersed in a fair and equitable manner.
Building. If you’ve got a student who loves to build things, you’ve probably already discovered many practical applications for math. In addition to basic math, geometry, basic trigonometry, and algebra are all used in construction.
Measurements, angles, area, and perimeter easily come into play. You can also look at things like building costs, square footage, and converting units of measure. Your kids may even have to admit that there really are practical uses for algebra in everyday life.
Sports statistics. Your sports fans will find hands-on, practical uses for math as they figure statistics for their favorite players. Batting averages, rushing yards, or rebounds are all keywords that will help your sports fan find value in math lessons. Fantasy football is wildly popular right now – and full of hands-on math opportunities that won’t result in bad attitudes and worksheet meltdowns.
Play games. The insanely popular, computer-based game, Minecraft - which looks like some of the old school games their parents used to play - provides kids with all sorts of opportunities to practice math skills without drill and flashcards.
Yahtzee was one of my favorite games growing up – and one that ever left me complaining about practicing addition of columns of numbers. It’s also a sneaky way to practice some simple skip counting, as well as categorizing and strategizing.
Go shopping. The grocery store is full of hands-on math opportunities. You can let your children:
- Estimate your total grocery bill by rounding the price of each item to you add to your cart to the nearest dollar
- Weigh produce
- Compare unit prices
- Figure sales tax
- Calculate percentages based on sales prices
- Count the number of a given item needed based on your number of family members
- Practice counting money at the checkout counter
- Practice categorizing items by sorting the items in your cart
People joke about homeschoolers turning a trip to the grocery store into an educational field trip, but there really is so much to be learned there!
Count everything. Let your young children count, count, count! They can count the number of plates, napkins, or forks you need to set the table at dinner. The can count beans, cups, oranges, or counting bears. Learning one-to-one correspondence is one of the basic building blocks of math, so let your young children practice it every chance they get.
Replicate patterns. Patterns are a fun, hands-on math concept for young children. Make a pattern of beads on a pipe cleaner. Then, give your child his own pipe cleaner and beads and ask him to reproduce the pattern.
I used to put colored stickers in patterns on note cards, then, give them to my niece along with matching colored counting bears so that she could replicate the pattern. You can practice patterns with a variety of math manipulatives such as bead, buttons, stickers, even food! Kids love to play with their food, so why not capitalize on that: pea, pea, pea, carrot, pea, pea, pea, carrot?
The opportunities for incorporating math into everyday, hands-on learning really are all around us. We just have to look for them, recognize them for what they are, and capitalize on them based on our children’s interests.