Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Math Fun

Favorite Educational Toys 1

Elaina just finished her first math book.

She worked really hard last week and doubled up her lessons in order to finish.

Boy was she let down to find out that: 1.) She would NOT be receiving a gift after completing it, and 2.) She would have to start another book.

Reality stinks, huh?

I’ll fill up her math time with lots fun games while we wait for her book to arrive.  In the meantime, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to share our favorite math resources.

Place Value

Place Value is one of those skills that is learned easier with hands-on tools.  We have a simple and cheap set of Foam Place Value Rods.  We also have this fancier set that covers much higher numbers.



This Inchimals set has been one of the only school things that I have paid full price for.  All the kids have loved using it.  Of course a basic ruler and a tape measure can be fun too.  Kids like to measure things.  I’ve been known to give them a tape measure, a piece of graph paper, and a pencil, and set them off to measure whatever they could find in the house.  They can work together or alone and easily pass the time learning about their environment.



Balance scales are great too.  This set can do solids and liquids.

Even though this set is technically a science toy, we’ve used it before for measuring liquids.  I also set out measuring spoons, cups, and scoops during sensory play and ask questions as they play to spur understanding of measuring liquids.  Cooking is another fun activity to teach measuring, following directions, and working together.

Building Thinking Skills


I love these books by The Critical Thinking Company.  We’ve used the same book over and over again with all of the kids.


They require interlocking cubes, pattern blocks, and attribute blocks.  The kids will often choose each of these sets for free play to create patterns and other objects.



Puzzles are another great activity to build thinking skills.  We have lots and the kids all love doing them.

Building Sets

Believe it or not, building activities can teach a lot about symmetry, organization, and balance.  They also strengthen hand muscles to get kids ready to hold a pencil and write their numbers.  Not to mention, they foster a lot of creative thinking





We have a large variety of building sets including:

Legos, Trios, Wooden Blocks, K’nex, K'nex Jr., Marble Run, Magnetix and Magtastics, Bristle BlocksBlock-and-Roll,  and Zoobs.


A few of our favorite "Thinking" games are:
Rush Hour
River Crossing Jr.




We've always used these fun dice games to teach and practice counting skills.  Mama Jenn has a lot of them and so does Making Learning Fun.  I have a few too in my preschool packs.


You can use just about anything that interests your child to count.  We use marbles, foam counters, teddy bear counters, pennies, pom poms, and anything else we can find to keep it fresh and interesting.



This Count with Me Magnetic Book Set is one of Olivia's favorite school activities.  The library has tons of counting books too.



We use these Roll and Graph activities a lot.  The kids love them and they are great for visual learners.  Photo Cubes can be used the same way.  Just slip different numbers in each slot.


This set is another of her favorites.  She also likes using Dominoes to count.


Mathlinks, Teddy Bear Counters, Foam Counters, beads, pom-poms, gems, rocks, fruit loops - just about anything you can think of can be used to help teach the basics of addition and subtraction.  I’ve taught my kids how to use touch-points too, which is a very valuable tool in my opinion.  The Abacus is another fun way to count, add, and subtract.

We’ve used several sets of flashcards, our favorites being these write and wipe kind.


Addition and Subtraction games are a fun way to practice number skills.  Our family loves loves loves games, especially dice games which are a great way for a beginning counter to get lots of practice.  Mama Jenn has a lot of fun dice games.  Check them out here.

Here are a few others that we have:
Addition and Subtraction Puzzles
Math Match-It
Addition Bingo



1, 2, 3 Go!

I have been using this Addition Songs CD with both of the girls.  Olivia is just working on the counting 1-20 song, and Elaina is working on the others.

Patterns and Sequence


Teaching kids about patterns and sequencing is an important foundation to learning math. Organizing objects by similar shape, size, color, or other common attribute helps them understand mathematical problems.

Here are a few of the sets we own:
Playful Patterns
Pattern Blocks and Boards
Monkey Magnets
Color Tiles
6 Step Sequencing Cards



Giant Pegboard


Busy Bugs, Bear Family & Pattern Cards



Knobless Cylinders
Stacking Cups & Nesting Blocks



Nothing like good ol’ flash cards to practice multiplication skills.  We use these little magna-doodle boards for practice too.  I call out the problem and the boys write the answer on the board.


We also use these multiplication/division boards for self-quizzing.  Math Wrap-ups are Isaac's favorite new tool this year.  The boys recently started playing Number Rings together.  It is a really great way to practice math skills and order of operations as well.


Time Telling Skills

I think teaching time telling is fun.  I guess I'm kind of nerdy that way!  :)  These are the tools I have and love to use with the kids:

Ravensburger My First Clock Game
Shape sorter clock
Flip clock
Other fun games: Making Learning Fun
Best time-telling book: What Time Is It Mr. Crocodile?




Counting Money

There is no manipulative like fake money that draws a kid in.  It's probably their hope that it could be real money...

I'd say the first step is teaching your child to count to 100.  Then teach your child to count by 5's and 10's.  We so skip counting with our morning circle time routine

To get down the basics of counting money we use:
Shop and Learn Math Game
play money
Monopoly Jr.
Money Puzzles



Money Count Cards
File Folder Games



Geometry, Fractions, and More


When the kids were first learning their shapes, I sent them around the house with a little home-made booklet and told them to find and draw as many shapes as they could find.  If the shape was a rectangle they could draw their bed, the fridge, a cereal bar, a movie case.  They loved this fun activity and we repeated it with each shape.

A few other activities we love:
Shape Discovery Boxes
I'd like to get a set of these Geoboards too.



Rainbow Fraction Tiles are a great visual for teaching the concept of fractions.  We also have this game which is a free printable.


Cuisinaire Rods have so many purposes in our homeschool so I just added them in at the end.  Read all about them here.

Making it affordable


I’ve mentioned before, that I almost always buy our “school toys” at thrift stores or garage sales.  Lots of things I find for around a $1.  For real.  And I’ve been slowly collecting for the last 5 years or so.  I’m also pretty diligent about staying organized with these tools so that they are easy to find and ready to use.  We store our everyday school math tools in our school room in the bottom of a wall cabinet.   The rest is in our school closet and accessible to the kids whenever they want to play.

Although these toys are really fun to have around, they are not a necessary part to your child’s education.  This list is to serve as a suggestion board of ideas to help visual and kinesthetic learners.  In our homeschool, we rely pretty heavily on bookwork for math, and add in these tools as we need them to help illustrate a new concept or practice a new skill.  They serve to “break-up” the routine a bit and keep it interesting so that there is less burn out and boredom.

What do you use in your homeschool to make learning math fun?

Favorite Educational Toys 1

Stay tuned for more of our favorites!

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