Playing with figures and computations allows students to develop math skills in a safe and supportive environment. Over the years, I have found one of the most effective ways to overcome math fears is through play and exploration. Math-focused games, trivia, literature, and media resources are all excellent ways to develop a mathematical playground for students.
Joyful Mathematics Books
- The Grapes of Math by Greg Tang. Using vivid illustrations. This title builds readers' awareness of detail while heightening their problem solving acumen.
- If You Made a Million by David M. Schwartz. A classic picture book exploring the uses and forms of money. Students will be left imagining what they could do with a million dollars.
- Math Curse by Jon Scieszka. Using fun illustrations and imaginative extremes, this tale brings math anxiety and strategies for dealing with it to life.
- Math Fables by Greg Tang. A joyful picture book reminiscent of playground chants, this title is full of catchy rhymes that explore early numerical and operational concepts.
- Arithme-Tickle by J. Patrick Lewis. Through comical and imaginative riddles, the reader is taken on a mathematical brain-twisting adventure.
Games and Activities that Amuse and Inspire
Math Riddles: After listening to a story of math riddles, my students created their own riddle. They would then rotate in pairings, exchanging and solving each other’s computational creations. This activity can be repeated to review concepts throughout the year. It can also be extended by having students share bonus riddles to be featured in the class newsletter or on the class website.
Race the Calculator: My class enjoyed showcasing their mental math skills in a game we called Race the Calculator. I would use a giant calculator to solve the problem as it was called out. Using a pre-set PowerPoint, we would move through a series of problems. Students would compute the answer in their heads or on their write-and-wipe board. As they arrived at the solution, they would record and display the answer on their board. Class members would compete as a whole to see if they could beat me using a calculator. This fun activity allowed us to review material and build confidence in personal computation. Occasionally, based on student request, they would use calculators as I used the board to solve. This provided the chance for me to model steps to solve a problem.
Creating a Counting Book: There are counting books available for almost any theme. These titles provide wonderful inspiration for creating personal counting books. Some of my favorite projects include:
- Counting Our Class: Students used pictures of classmates to create unique counting books.
- 100th Day of School: Our year of 100, students used stickers and illustrations to build a book of class events and vocabulary leading up to 100. For example, 1 pencil, 2 notebooks, 3 fish, etc.
More Math Games:
Using provided materials, students build math games to take home for a family game night. Many parents would appreciate additional ideas for math-based games and activities using items that are readily available at home.
After being introduced to tangrams by listening to the book Grandfather Tang's Story by Ann Tompert, students get the chance to create and explore using their own set. The lesson includes links to a tangram template as well as assessments and extension activities.
Encouraging critical thinking, this lesson details the creation of a revolving math center bulletin board display. Students create math journals to record and solve problems displayed on the Math Challenge Board.