Want to raise a child who loves math and is great at it? One of the easiest ways to do that is to fill your house with hands-on materials that encourage kids to play with numbers, puzzles, shapes and math concepts.
You can pick up items to encourage math skills at dollar stores, thrift stores, garage sales and even for free outside.
Here are 50 things to stock your house with in order to help your kids love math.
- Adding machines
- Scales (postage, kitchen, digital, bathroom, balance…)
- Clocks (digital and analog)
- Calculators (simple and sophisticated)
- Rulers and yardsticks
- Magnet numbers
- Measuring tapes (toolbox type and cloth)
- Thermometers and barometers
- Rain gauges
- Dice (standard and sets with various numbers of sides)
- Cuisenaire rods (we like wood best)
- Playing cards
- Rubik’s Cubes
- Tangrams and pattern blocks
- Lots of “living math” books (picture books that incorporate math concepts in fun ways)
- Sudoku books
- Kakuro books (like Sukoku but more math-based and trickier)
- Logic puzzles
- Calendars (all kinds, including pocket)
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Building plans, tools and supplies
- Base ten blocks
- Poker chips
- Old checkbooks (write void across the checks)
- Graph paper
- Old textbooks (all levels, even college, all kinds of math, and let kids use them in any way — writing on them, altering them, anything)
- Toy (working) cash registers
- Fun math games like Shut the Box and Roll ‘n Multiply
- Building materials like toothpicks, mini marshmallows, modeling clay, straws and other items that kids can use to make 3D shapes
- Chalkboards and whiteboards
- Play money
- Receipt pads
- Math posters, placemats and conversion charts
- Sewing patterns and materials
- Stock market pages
- Lots of mechanical pencils, pens, assorted sizes of notebooks
- Lots of natural materials like acorns and shells to use as manipulatives
Leave the items where kids can use them often, and encourage them to use them in new ways. Cuisenaire rods can be used for building, making patterns or even writing a message in code, for instance. Challenge the kids to use graph paper to make a picture where every color is a multiple of a different number (green uses squares that are multiples of 3, orange sections are multiples of 5… how would you handle it for a number that has more than one factor?) and so on.
Activities don’t have to look like math lessons to reinforce math concepts. For instance, kids can use compasses to make lots of overlapping circles and then paint them with watercolors and fill in patterns. Point out that a circle is 360 degrees and show them how to use a protractor to measure angles in their circles, or just let them play with the compasses and protractors and discover it all on their own.
If kids play at running a restaurant, playing the stock market or tallying pretend sales, they’ll still be using numbers and getting more and more comfortable with them. Adding machines are great fun for all ages (the sounds make them especially satisfying!). Games like Roll ‘n Multiply help kids accidentally learn their multiplication tables. Even Blackjack helps kids with math.
Using real-world tools like planning gardens, building projects, doubling recipes and shopping will all help with math skills too.
You’ll note that flash cards are nowhere on the list! If your children truly enjoy using flash cards, then by all means stock them in your house. As a general rule, there are lots of ways that are far more fun to help kids learn their math facts, though.
Give the control over to your kids and let them just play with math materials and see how much they’ll learn to love it.
Want to stay in the loop? Subscribe to my column to be notified when new articles are published. You can also follow my homeschool boards for all subjects and ages on Pinterest and on Facebook at A Magical Homeschool.