9 Fun Ways To Help Your Kids in Math At Home

As we are all navigating how to homeschool our own children at home thanks to CoVid-19, I wanted to share some of my favorite ways to practice essential K-1 math skills at home that are so fun your kids will be begging to keep playing!

Even after this pandemic is over, these are great activities and routines to keep in mind for the summer time or any time you are at home with your littles to reinforce what they are learning at school.  I plan on sharing some of my favorite activities that are perfect for distance learning from home over the next few days (I blogged about reading and writing ideas here).  Let’s start with math games today!

Many of these games are ones I used in my first grade classroom and are great for kindergarteners, 1st graders or struggling 2nd graders.  Most of them I’ve blogged about separately and will link the detailed post at the end of the quick description.  They can play with an adult or older sibling.  Some are independent activities.  They also can be easily extended for an on grade level 2nd grader.

Quarantined and not getting out of your house to buy materials? No problem!  All of these activities require nothing more than what you already have around your house!

War (Game of Compare)

WHO? Mostly kinder or first graders, partners

WHAT? A deck of cards

HOW?  Just play traditional war, but reinforce comparing words.  If you have a first grader, you can ask them to write the notation for the first 10 or so rounds. (Ex: 5 > 2)  You can take out the face value cards for younger kids if needed!

WHY?  Kinder and firsties need to understand quantities and how they compare to each other.  They need to be fluent with and understand words like greater than, equal to, less than, etc… This helps build their number sense and understand our number system that we use.

ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS TO ASK? Who has more?  How many more?  Who has fewer?  How many fewer? How do you know?

Read more details HERE.

Double War (Double Compare)

WHO? 1st graders or struggling 2nd graders (see how to adapt to use with 3-4th graders), partners

WHAT? A deck of cards

HOW?  It’s the same as war, but you each draw 2 cards.  Add the 2 cards together and compare the sums.

Have older kids in 3rd or 4th grade?  Have them multiply the cards and compare the answers.

WHY?  It continues to build stronger number sense with comparing larger quantities.  It also practice fact fluency (or timed math facts if your district still uses that term).

ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS TO ASK? Who has more?  How many more?  Who has fewer?  How many fewer?  How do you know?

SPECIAL NOTES? Try having your child lay down both cards and give you the sum.  Then, you lay down just one card.  Ask, “How many more do I need to have a greater sum than you?”  It’s not necessary to do this every turn, but a good discussion to have a few times in the game.

Fact Family Card Game

WHO? 1st and 2nd graders, play alone or with partner

WHAT? A deck of cards using A-10 and Q (as a 0) cards only

HOW?  Deal a face down stack of 21 cards.  Turn over 4 cards at a time.  Look for a fact family.  Make a stack of a fact family when you find it.  If you don’t find one, continue to draw one more card until you do.  Once you find a fact family, turn over more cards to have just 4 cards showing again.  The object is to have as few cards left over when you get “stuck” as possible.

WHY?  First graders need to know related facts to help them have more strategies for solving addition and subtraction problems.  It also builds fact fluency.

Read more details HERE.

Tens Go Fish Card Game

WHO? Kinders and 1st graders

WHAT? A deck of cards, A-10 and Q as a 0 cards only

HOW?  Play go fish, but a match is 2 cards that make 10 (9 and 1, 8 and 2, 7 and 3…)

WHY?  One of the kinder standards is to know the combinations of 10.  This is important because it helps kids add and subtract more quickly.  In first grade, this skill can help them regroup numbers to find a group of 10 or mentally add things like 8 + 7 by knowing that 8 + 2 is 10 plus 5 more is 15.

ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS TO ASK? I have ___, do you have a ___ to make 10?  I have ___. What do I need to make 10?  How do you know?

Read more details HERE.

Total of 10 Card Game

WHO? Kinder and 1st graders.  Can be extended for 2nd graders.  Play alone or with a friend.

WHAT? A deck of cards with A-10 and Q (as a 0) cards only

HOW?  Lay 20 cards down in a 4×5 array.  Find cards that make 10.  Remove the cards from the board.  Continue until you are stuck.  The goal is to have as few cards (or none) left as possible.  Combinations can be 2 cards or 3 or 4 cards…but let the kids figure that out.  It’s fun to watch them figure that out!

WHY?  One of the kinder standards is to know the combinations of 10.  This is important because it helps kids add and subtract more quickly.  In first grade, this skill can help them regroup numbers to find a group of 10 or mentally add things like 8 + 7 by knowing that 8 + 2 is 10 plus 5 more is 15. It also helps them think more flexibly about 10 by finding 3 or 4 numbers that also combine to make 10.

ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS TO ASK? How many more do I need to make 10? How do you know?

Read more details HERE.

Board Games

WHO? Any age!

WHAT? any of your favorites.  I’ve listed my favorite ones for elementary kids HERE.

HOW?  Follow the directions given in the game 🙂

WHY?  Board games build problem solving skills and critical thinking skills.  Both of these skills transfer over into math problem solving.  You can read all of my reasons for playing board games in detail HERE.

Snack Math Stories

WHO? Preschool – 2nd grade or any age kid struggling with understanding math word problems

WHAT? pieces of snacks (goldfish, crackers, cheerios…anything that can be counted out)

HOW?  While you are serving lunch or a snack, practice oral math word problems.  The options are endless, but I’m going to give you some story frames that we use at our house that cover the math word problem standards for K, 1 and 2. These are examples, and you can add more details to the stories as you see fit.

Fill in the blanks with numbers.  Use these standards as guidelines…
K – numbers to 10
1st – numbers to 20
2nd – numbers to 100

*I will give you ___ goldfish.  Now, I’ll give you ___ more goldfish.  How many goldfish do you have now?

*I gave you ___ goldfish, but you ate ___.  How many do you have now?  How many would you have if I ate ___ more of them?

*I gave you ___ goldfish.  How many more goldfish do I need to give you so that you have ___ goldfish?

*I’m giving you ___ yellow goldfish, ____ green goldfish and ___ red goldfish.  How many goldfish do you have in all?

*I gave you ____ goldfish.  How many goldfish do you need to eat before you have ___ goldfish left?

*I gave you some goldfish.  Now, I’ll give you ___ more.  You have ___ goldfish altogether now.  How many did I give you to begin with?

*I gave you some goldfish.  You ate ___ of them.  Now you have ___ left.  How many did I give you to begin with?

*You have ___ goldfish.  Your sister has ___.  Who has more/less? How many more/less?

*You have____ goldfish.  Your sister has ___ fewer/more than you.  How many does your sister have?

*You have ____ cups.  You put ___ goldfish in each cup.  How many goldfish do you have in all?

*I have ___ goldfish.  I want to give them to ___ people.  How many can we each have to get a fair share?

*I have ___ goldfish.  I want to put them into cups.  Only ___ will fit in each cup.  How many cups do I need?

This is just the beginning of problems you could do!  Get creative!  The more problems you practice, the better the pay off!  The fun part is when I sneak it in to snack time or lunch or anything food or toys related, they willingly play along without realizing they are practicing math!

WHY?  It is important for kids to be able to comprehend a math story problem…to know what information the problem is giving them and what they need to solve for.  The goal with this activity is comprehension and discussion…not writing anything down!  When kids understand what a problem is asking them to do, it is MUCH easier for them to do the actual math.  The more casual, oral experiences they can have with this, the more it will help them.  Just like the more books you read to your child, the better they become at reading and understanding stories. 

Also, it is VERY important that you try out and practice all of these problem types…even with your kinders and some preschoolers!  Even though you might think they are too hard (because it’s basically multiplication and division) you’ll be surprised what your little can do when you put it in a math story and use food! 🙂

ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS TO ASK? How did you figure that out?  (This is super important for kids to be able to do!  ALWAYS ask them to explain it to you. You’ll be floored by their thinking!)

Telling Time

WHO? Kids of all ages

WHAT? digital and analog (old-fashioned) clock

HOW?  Just ask them to read the time to you.  All the time.  On a variety of clocks.  Give them a time limit to play or do a task.  “You can play on your iPad until 4:30.  Watch the clock on the ipad and stop at 4:30.”  It’s really that simple.  Just practice all the time.

WHY?  Telling time is a life skill and one that just needs repetition to perfect.  Kinders need to tell time to the hour (1:00, 2:00…) 1st graders must tell time to the hour and half-hour (1:30, 2:30…). And 2nd graders need to tell the time within 5 minutes (1:05, 1:10, 1:15…).  But any kid starting in kinder should be able to read any digital time.  Those time standards are mostly for analog times.

ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS TO ASK? What time is it?  What time will it be in an hour?  It’s ___. You can play for an hour.  What time do you need to stop?

Counting Collections

WHO? Kinders, 1st graders and 2nd graders, done alone or with a friend

WHAT? anything you have in bulk at your house (pasta shells, q-tips, legos, blocks, beans, marshmallows, buttons, stickers….the sky is the limit!)

HOW?  Just count.  Counting collections is all about counting how many.  Count a set of legos ahead of time, hand them to your kid to count and tell them to let you know when they know how many!  Count by 1’s, count by 10’s, count by 100’s, whatever they want to do.  But the goal is to eventually (at least by first grade) be putting things into groups of 10 to count by 10.  To extend this, have them record how they counted on a blank piece of paper or these recording sheets.  Here are the counting guidelines based on grade level.  But your kid should definitely practice counting above his/her grade level.

K – count to 100
1st – count to 120
2nd – count to 1000

WHY?  Counting is foundational for number sense.  Show me a kid who can’t add or subtract well, they probably can’t count well.  Counting in kinder develops one to one correspondence (pointing as they count) which develops the idea that each item means one more in the counting sequence.  As counting develops, kids learn they can count in groups of ten and begin organizing their collections into groups of 10.  This builds base 10 understanding (place value) and skip counting.

ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS TO ASK? How many ____ do you have?  HOW DID YOU COUNT?  Can you count it a different way?  Can you count it a faster way?

Read more details HERE.

More Free Resources

Looking for more free printables and resources to help your K-2 kids with math that take little or no prep?  Check out these FREE resources by clicking on each picture to download them.

True False Equations FREEBIE!  St. Patrick's Day FREEBIE  Hundreds Chart Puzzle FREEBIE
Valentine's Day Math Worksheets: FREEBIE  Christmas Counting FREEBIE

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