Math PropsFor Moms and Dads
As a mom or dad, most of the opportunities you have to “talk math” with your child will be at home. Having certain key everyday items around the house will increase the chance for math to crop up in conversation spontaneously.
A prominent clock in the kitchen (or wherever you normally have breakfast). If you can have an analog clock AND a digital clock then so much the better, since comparing and understanding the times on the two clocks becomes an everyday habit.
A traditional wall calendar. Calendars are a good way of getting familiar with counting days, but they also have some subtle patterns in them. One of the columns will be the 7 times table. You can find other patterns by looking at the numbers along diagonals, in square clusters of four, and so on.
Board games that involve dice and spinners. Familiarity with dice and spinners not only helps with counting but also builds an understanding of probability. And spinner games will feature a lot in math questions at school.
A pack of traditional playing cards- and a few games up your sleeve, such as Snap and Blackjack. Card games are a natural way of learning about sorting and probability.
A calculator. A basic one is enough. This is partly for helping your child when the use of a calculator is expected, but more importantly it’s for playing calculator games.
Measuring cups. Your child will encounter these in school, so having them at home makes them comfortable with the idea. Those that show cups as well as liters provide an instant, visual conversion. Collect empty shampoo bottles or water bottles so children can create their own measuring cups.
Dried beans, macaroni or M&Ms. These are useful for counting large collections to investigate how many are left over if you scoop a large handful and divide them into twos, threes and so on.
A tape measure and ruler. Involve your child when measuring for furniture, new curtains and DIY. If you make sure you hold the zero end of the tape, they have to do the reading.
A family bar of chocolate (the type that has three rows of eight chunks, for example), stored away in the cupboard for emergency use when it comes to talking about fractions. Chocolate is a great motivator, and good for rewards too.
And some you might want to invest in…
Fridge-magnet numbers and symbols. An impromptu way of bringing mathematical equations and questions into the home. We know a dad who, after bedtime, would put calculations like
“7 X 9 = ?” on the fridge, and just leave them there as a mystery waiting to be solved when the children come down for breakfast- just imagine the smile on their faces…
Old-fashioned kitchen scales, where the ingredients are balanced by weights. Not only is this a great tactile way of adding numbers (or fractions if you have old weights), it also introduces the idea of an equation, where the things on one side of the scales are “equal to” the things on the other side.
A dartboard (with Velcro darts). Darts teaches not only addition and subtraction, but also makes doubling and tripling a familiar exercise. And at the end of the game of darts you are forced to create sums that will fit the target: “how can I get 47 in two darts, finishing on a double?”
Games with unusual dice. Dice don’t have to be cubes. Some games, particularly fantasy games, use dice with twenty triangular faces (know as icosahedra).
Dominoes. This game seems to be dying out, but you can help to revive it. Dominoes are often used to illustrate combinations (in this case, all the ways of combining the numbers 0-6). They are also great for toppling games, when you line them up on their ends and knock the first one over…
Guess Who? Children of all ages enjoy this game in which you have to work out which of twenty-four characters your opponent has chosen. The game is a perfect illustration of how to divide things into categories (in this case men and women, people with glasses and people without, and so on).
An indoor/outdoor thermometer. A great device to keep in the kitchen, which tells you what the temperature is indoors and outdoors. In winter the Celsius temperature may go negative, so your children naturally become accustomed to ideas of freezing, “below zero” and the negative symbol.