“There is an idea that a mind is wasted on the arts unless it makes you good in math or science. There is some evidence that the arts might help you in math and science.” –Wynton Marsalis
Teaching kids to think about math outside of a school setting is crucial to a becoming a confident and developed student. Too often in school, kids are handed a pencil and a worksheet and are expected to answer as many equations as they can in a certain number of minutes. Kids come to depend on these tools to answer basic math facts. Although there might be a place for this type of memorization assessment, kids in the primary grades especially need to be taught strategies that build their number sense and fluency so that they are able to be active and confident mathematicians. When we build number sense in children at a young age, they’re likely to be more effective problem solvers who are able to build onto what they already know quickly. They’ll also develop confidence and relate math to fun activities! These interactive math games are a few of the many ways that Freedom Arts gets our scholars moving and improving their math skills at Scholar Sessions and in our Art & Academic Workshops.
Addition Parking Lot
This game is great for K-2 because it doesn’t necessarily focus on the correct answer, but makes kids think about what strategy would be best to use based on the addends in the equation. It encourages kids to use their number sense rather than relying on fingers to count or the traditional algorithm. This game will help kids develop number fluency and confidence when adding.
To prepare, mark each toy car with an addition equation. To play the game, keep tallies of correct answers for each player. Players can bump the other player’s cars off of the parking lot.
Counting on: Instead of starting at one and keeping track of counting fingers, start with one addend and add the second addend. (Examples: 3+6 6+2 4+7 2+9)
In-Betweens: Addends are two apart (Examples: 3+5 6+8 5+7 2+4)
Think 10 to add 9: Since children can usually add ten to any number, add ten and subtract one. (Examples: 4+9 9+5 9+6 7+9)
Doubles: Add the number twice (Examples: 4+4 3+3 6+6 8+8)
Doubles Plus 1: Double the number and add one. (Examples: 3+4 6+7 9+8 5+4)
This game is a great mix between math and basketball. After solving an equation, the kids have a chance to throw a ball into the basket. It encourages teamwork and quick-on-the-go math work without paper and pencil. This fun game was created by our Executive Director Andrew Gibson while he was subbing “1,2,3 Do Math With Me!” last summer. He relates to the students who struggle with math in elementary school, because he was one of them!
Supplies: ping pong balls, hackey sacks, or other small balls, tubs/bins/baskets, Dice, and tape on the floor to mark the starting line, table to put the baskets on
Split the group into two groups. They should stand in two lines behind the starting line (tape on the ground in front of the table). Give each kid at the front of the line two dice. When you say “Go” they should roll the dice and add the numbers together. When they get the correct answer, they try to shoot the ball into the basket. They keep shooting until they get a basket. The first team that gets through the relay wins. Play as many times as they want.
-Stack the baskets in a pyramid and make each basket worth a different number of points. The kids should keep track of their teams’ points on a scoreboard.
-Use three dice to add or multiply two dice for older children.
Swat the fact
Kids love to use manipulatives and practice math facts in fun and unusual ways. In this game, you have the opportunity to challenge kids using any operation of addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division. Since it is adult-led, you can differentiate the equations based on the teams or whoever’s turn it is.
Write the numbers 0-20 all over the dry erase board. Split the group into two teams. One kid on each team will come up to the board at a time. You will call out an addition or subtraction math equation. Using a (clean) fly swatter, the first kid to correctly “swat” the correct answer on the board gets a point for their team. Play until they reach a certain number of points.
-Use three addends in an equation
-Add two number and then subtract one
-1 digit x 1 digit multiplication
Number Learning Games
Like most kids, our scholars love to move and be active. Sometimes the only way to keep them focused is by providing fun and engaging lessons and activities. This website has 50 great ideas to get kids moving and doing math at the same time!
Beth Gibson (Academic Coordinator, Executive Assistant, Academic/Visual Arts Mentor)