“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Mathematics need not be an intimidating subject. Although some of us are naturally more gifted with a talent for number-related exercises than others, these essential life skills can and must be mastered, at least at a certain level, by all children, if they are to function successfully in their adult lives.
An important step in that mastery for many students is building math confidence from a young age. Math confidence starts with numeral familiarity, and it can further be built by including fun and interesting numeral and math activities daily throughout a child’s life.
As parents and teachers, we need to look for ways to keep numbers prominent in children’s lives, and to help children have both daily successes and daily play with numbers and math. Here are some ideas to get you started.
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Elaine from Kimbo gets the fun started with their “Numeral Dance” activity. Children from ages 4 to 8 spin, twist, shimmy, shake and act out other motions as they sing along and display their assigned number. http://www.amonco.org/summer3/montessori_summer3.pdf
Dianne from Conceptual Learning has shared some great interactive math exercise pages from their problem-solving program. Each problem includes three steps: 1) a question, 2) a number sentence or strategy, and 3) an answer. The three sections can be used together, in a sort-and-match exercise; or the questions can be used for independent problem solving, with the other two sections providing a double-check on the process and answer.
Dianne also presents some useful pre-algebraic problems for your students in her “Inequalities” exercises. Find them both here: http://www.amonco.org/summer2/montessori_summer2.pdf
Borenson and Associates present three algebraic activities for your students to practice. http://www.amonco.org/summer/montessori_summer1.pdf
Looking for more ideas? Check out these ideas for children of all ages and learning styles.
Students who learn by sight and hearing may enjoy counting songs and videos. You can find many of them free on-line, like these: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxPfPyYp84E, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dk9Yt1PqQiw&feature=relmfu , http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2naWinUSf6w&feature=related , http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbHBYGY2fs0 ,
For older students, here is a really cool math “magic trick” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVx9xfOl10o&feature=related .
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has a fun website for kids called “Kids’ Zone” which includes interesting poll questions, quizzes, graphs and other free activities related to statistics and probability. http://nces.ed.gov/nceskids/index.asp
Cooking can provide great opportunities for students to practice math skills. Halving or doubling recipes, making substitutions, converting from standard to metric (or back), and many more common kitchen operations can help children with math mastery. The links on this page provide lots of measurements and proportions you can use to explore math in the kitchen. http://www.outofthefryingpan.com/math
If you would enjoy a math project you can eat, 1-2-3-4 Cake is a delicious traditional yellow pound-cake-type recipe. You may have a favorite version, and you may find other versions if you look; however this one is fairly standard. It’s also a good choice because it sticks to the number pattern fairly very closely (which is especially important if your students tend to be very literal, as some children are.) This recipe is often baked in a loaf pan, like other traditional pound cakes. It also tastes delicious with a teaspoon of lemon or vanilla extract added. http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Cookbook:1-2-3-4_Cake
Not a big baker? Here is another simple number-oriented recipe that is hot and hearty for the whole family. 1,2,3,4,5 Chinese Spareribs have a sweet and sour flavoring that’s sure to please. For this traditional cut-rib recipe, ask your butcher to cut your ribs in thirds when you buy them. (Small children especially love the little ribs’ size.) http://www.recipejoint.com/recipe-meat/1-2-3-4-5-chinese-spareribs.php If you have older students who are working on fractions and/or might enjoy a zestier rib, make these additions to the recipe above: 1 teaspoon ground ginger, ½ teaspoon sesame seeds, ¼ teaspoon black pepper (coarse or fine ground), and 1/8 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder.
For a different kind of “hands-on” number-oriented recipe, how about making a batch of rolled spice or sugar cookies, and cutting them out in the numerical shapes? You can use pre-made or home-made paper stencils and cut the shapes (carefully) with a paring knife, or you can look for number-shaped cookie cutter sets like these. http://www.cheapcookiecutters.com/collections/number-cookie-cutters
Encourage students with interests in arts and crafts to get creative with numerals and math.
You can make your own math games at home from common household and craft items. http://childparenting.about.com/od/makeathomemathgames/Make_at_Home_Math_Games.htm
For more number-oriented crafts and activities for young students, visit: http://www.education.com/activity/kindergarten/math
Needle arts like hand-sewing, cross-stitch, embroidery and needlepoint, provide both good practice for hand-eye coordination and constructive, creative practical life skills. Very young children can be taught simple needlework techniques, and those techniques can be one more way to familiarize them with numerals (and letters.)
Stitching alphabet and number samplers is a very old tradition which can be fun for modern children as well. http://www.powys.gov.uk/index.php?id=2156&L=0 This webpage for the Samplers International exhibit, now closed, at the Benton County Historical Society and Museum in Philomath, Oregon, shows a variety of wonderful and inspiring samplers, both historical and modern. http://www.bentoncountymuseum.org/samplers
Here are some interesting tips for teaching needlework to young people. http://www.needlework-tips-and-techniques.com/teaching-needlework-to-children.html http://www.shakespearespeddler.com/teach.html
These pages provide some good free resources on basic needlework stitches and techniques. http://www.bhg.com/crafts/embroidery/basics
This one is very detailed and also has tips for left-handed stitchers! http://inaminuteago.com/stitchindex.html
This one is video for visual learners! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7wiR1-2U0I
Does a sampler project sound too complex? Stamped cross stitch is a good beginner project for young needleworkers—and parents or teachers who are inexperienced in the needle arts—because the size and location of stitches is visually provided. Beginners need only to cover each “x” with embroidery floss.
Here are two cute examples of stamped cross-stitch items with numerals on them. This baby bib pair features numbers and letters in a fun design. http://www.123stitch.com/cgi-perl/itemdetail.pl?item=K72918
This set of quilt blocks includes both the letters A, B, and C and the numbers I, 2, and 3 with cute baby animals, which can be made into a baby blanket, throw blanket or wall hanging. You could also split the 12 blocks between 6 students, giving each one ABC and one 123 block to complete. http://www.123stitch.com/cgi-perl/itemdetail.pl?item=K021-1368