How to Create Your Own Fun Math Game

Learning about symmetry with a mirror book game.

Mosaic tiles + Mirrors = “Mama, look, the rockets are all flying to the center of galaxy!”

Have you ever tried introducing a new math game or activity to your child only to hear “I don’t want to do it”? Are you always looking for new ideas for bringing more math into your child’s play? If this has been your experience, then this post is for you.

If you ask me, my answer to both these questions will be an emphatic yes. If I had a penny for every game my son rejected, for every puzzle he set aside untouched, for every idea he met with a blank stare, I could easily buy half the books on my Amazon wishlist. As frustrating as this situation is, there are quite a few good lessons I can learn:

Go with your child’s interests – my son couldn’t care less about jigsaw puzzles until one day I brought home a space-themed one. He practically begged me to start working on it. Of course, buying math games for your child’s interests of the day is neither cheap, nor practical. In some cases it might not even be possible (“Star Wars”-themed Candy Land anyone?). But you can use some of your child’s favorite toys instead. For example, using Star Wars Lego mini-figures as game pieces was enough to make Candy Land irresistible.

Let your child lead – I’m not a fan of flashcards, but sometimes they do come in handy. The other day I gave my son a set of 10 cards with different numbers of colored dots on them and asked him to line them up in proper order from 1 to 10. He worked on it for a little without much enthusiasm. Then he collected his Star Wars Lego mini-figs and a couple of Transformers and ordered them to guess the number of dots on each card. He then proceeded to reward them with drinking straws, crayons, and cloth pins.  Guess which math activity ended up being more fun and on which he spent more time?

Observe and ask good questions – Instead of offering ready-to-use solutions, ask questions. “What do you think will happen if you add more blocks to this tower? How many blocks do you think you can add before it topples over?” And instead of an outright praise, make observations. “I see you gave one cup and one saucer to every dolls at a table.”

Notice math –  most of the time our kids are absorbed in some activity that is fun, but doesn’t look very mathematical to us. At least that’s the first impression we get. Yet a tea party for teddy bears develops your child’s one-to-one correspondence skills. Folding and cutting paper develops fine motor skills, but also introduces such math ideas as symmetry and functions.

Join in and enjoy –  if you are bored with an activity, your child is likely to be too. This is not to guilt you into trying to make more of an effort. Instead, find something you enjoy or can get into and play with your child or alongside your child. I love mosaics of all sorts and puzzles. I noticed that when my son and I work on these, time flies and we end up having fun.

Whatever you do, keep it hands on and interesting for both of you. Talk about the game while you are playing it. Learn to find math in everyday activities and objects.  And have fun. Learning math does not have to be boring.

What is yours and your child’s favorite game right now?

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