• Rachel Tidd

Encouraging Math Play

“In a 2007 study, Greg Duncan, an economist and education professor at the University of California, Irvine, and his colleagues used six large-scale longitudinal studies of students to look at what most affected a student's long-term school outcomes. They found that a child's math ability at the start of kindergarten was the best predictor of his or her academic performance in 8th grade, even more than early-reading scores, attention, or social-emotional development. That held true regardless of gender, race, or family income.”


You read that right - MORE than early reading scores!

Why then do we not put a larger emphasis on math in our culture! We know that reading to our children is important, but we must also show our children that math is all around us, is useful and fun!

One way to encourage mathematical thinking is by adding math tools to your home, outdoor environment and classrooms can encourage children to play with math in new and different ways!

Here are some ideas of items to add inside and outside!

  • 10 frames made from popsicle sticks, sticks or simple laminated frames to encourage and scaffold counting

  • Recycled checkerboards

  • Number lines- cloth, painted on paved areas etc

  • Measuring tapes, rulers, fabric measuring tapes, yard or meter sticks

  • Scales- digital and pan type, with or without weights

  • Large Unit blocks- these wood blocks are essential and mathematically sized so that they smaller squares equal rectangles which equal bigger rectangles etc Hint: You need a large number of these! Once both of my children started building we had to double the amount! Often you can find them used!

  • Hollow blocks- we built ours as it is much more affordable! , same idea as unit blocks two 1 foot blocks equal the 2 foot blocks. These are a staple in many of the best early childhood environments!

  • Sumblox- have you seen these! They look amazing!

  • Magnetic blocks like magna blocks or picasso tiles

  • Sorting trays

  • Loose parts for counting, sorting, building

  • Measuring cups and spoons

  • Graduated cylinders (plastic not glass)

  • Games

  • Dice, spinners

  • Dominoes

  • Chalk for drawing outdoor games like hopscotch, 4 square, number lines etc

  • Hoops and hula hoops

  • Muffin tins (great for sorting, multiplication and division especially when combined with loose parts

  • Egg cartons

  • Pans, pots, round cake pans (aluminum and stainless steel from thrift store last the longest outside!)

  • My children also like playing and building with cuisenaire blocks, magnetic pattern blocks and unifix cubes (these are so versatile, I recommend 200)

  • Sandpaper numbers (just like sandpaper letters- these are tactile from the Montessori method) ours our from polliwog77 on etsy

  • Hundreds board (love this one by mirus toys that you can put loose parts right on!) and laminated 100s charts

  • Maps

  • Abacus- show children how to use one! A good time is when they are playing store! ( I personally like the kind where groups of 5 are different colors)

  • Real coins! (paper money just gets lost or ruined in my experience)

  • Wallets and purses, treasure boxes (all encourage money play)

Watch children when they are playing for opportunities to naturally integrate math talk, concepts and scaffold their learning! Suggest writing prices on their mud kitchen menu, measure how high their tree house is if they want a rope to reach it, teach them traditional games like hopscotch, dominoes, cards, and hand clapping rhymes! I list some great math game ideas in my kindergarten post as well! Point out math around you when on a walk, in the car, and in the store.

How do you integrate math play into your day? I would love to hear your ideas!

*some links provided use the amazon affiliates program. All other links are simply for your convenience, most are items we own and use ourselves, or that are on our wish list!