There is only so long that a young child can stare at a whiteboard before the numbers begin to dance on the wall. This time of year is particularly notorious for tired brains, with too many kids mentally checked out until the winter break begins.
To give young brains a different type of workout we found five crafty ways to put math into your classroom.
Sticks in Cups
Gather ten plastic cups and a packet of popsicle sticks. Write numbers on the cups, the older your students, the higher the number. Write different equations on the popsicle sticks, e.g., 12 x 5. Ask the students to put the popsicle sticks into the cup with the corresponding the answer to the equation. For a visual explanation click here.
Skip Counting Lacing Plates
Grab some brightly colored paper plates and a long piece of string. You should have at least one plate per student. Write the amount that you are skip-counting by in the middle of the plate, e.g., 2. Place numbers around the circumference of the plate like you would on a clock, but not in chronological order. Eg. 6, 12, 2, 8, 4, 10.
Pierce a hole next to each number. Ask your students to thread a string through the numbers in their right order. They should end up with a web on their paper plate. Like the ones here.
Set up ten plastic cups against a wall in a triangular formation. Divide your class into pairs, equipping each with a score sheet. Using a tennis ball, ask one-half of the pair to bowl over the cups. The other half can then write down how many were left, e.g., 10 – 0 (let’s pretend I’m playing) = 10. Get each half of the pair to take turns at bowling and writing. See the instructions here.
Find a few coveted items in your classroom (books, pencils, marbles) and arrange them on a table. Using post-it notes put prices on them. Establish a currency system, either writing numbers on rectangular pieces of paper or on jar lids, even popsicle sticks. Make sure everyone in the class has some money.
Set one student up as the cashier and ask the other students to “buy” the objects on sale. The cashier should be able to calculate and supply change. You can ask the shoppers how much change they can expect. For a simplified version of the game, see here.
Draw an equilateral triangle for each student on an 8.5×11 page. Place a circle at each corner and in the middle of each side. Give the kids counters (small post-its) with the numbers 1-6 on them and ask them to place the counters in such a way that each side of the triangle adds up to the same number. Do not let them shout out the answer as others may still be working it out.
Marina Gomer is a journalist and mother of one. She lives with her family in Sydney, Australia.