Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Guest Post: 15 Ways to Help Kids Develop Math Skills!

15 Ways to Help Kids Develop Math Skills
Author: Whitney Hollingshead

As adults, we use math all day long. Hopefully we recognize that math skills are important, but how do we ensure that our children will have the math skills they will need to succeed as adults? While our children learn much about math at school, we can easily help our children develop and improve math skills at home. The key is to use activities that are easy for parents to set up and downright fun for kids.

Here are 15 fun and easy ways that you can help your children develop important math skills:

For Toddlers

1. Shapes - Grab some construction paper and cut out some large shapes. Use a triangle, a square, a star, and a circle. Place the shapes on the floor and give your child action prompts such as “step on the star” and “jump on the square”.

2. Sizes - Use a set of plastic nesting bowls or measuring cups in varying sizes. Place the objects in order from smallest to largest. Show your child the smallest object and the biggest object. Mix up the objects and place them randomly on the surface. Then ask your child to find the largest object and then the smallest object, etc.

3. Sorting - The next time you are folding your child’s laundry, get your toddler involved. Using their own clothing, have your toddler separate the clothing into piles based on item type. All of the socks go in one pile, while all of the shirts go in another, etc.

4. Time - Tell your child to go to a room nearby and retrieve a specific object. Repeat the process with a room that is farther away. Ask your child which task took them longer to complete. Ask questions throughout the day such as “What will take us longer today, getting dressed or driving to the store?”

5. Patterns - Use candy, dried pasta, beads, or any small items that you have on hand in a variety of colors, shapes, and/or sizes. Start by showing your child a simple pattern with the objects such as red, blue, green, red, blue, green. Have your child build the same pattern. Then ask your child to turn around. Take your same pattern and remove one of the pieces. Ask the child to turn around again and to identify which piece is missing from your pattern. Make sure you closely supervise all of the small objects to prevent choking.

*Remember that practice leads to mastery. If your toddler struggles with mastering any of the concepts above, keep practicing. You can always make the task easier or harder based upon the needs of your toddler.

For Little Kids

1. Counting - Ask your child to count the number of objects around them in any room, while traveling in the car, etc. For example, ask “How many dogs do you see at the park today?”

2. Time - Have your child estimate how long it will take to do basic everyday tasks. Then set the timer and compare their estimate to reality. Repeat the process with many different tasks. You can even challenge your child to complete a task faster.

3. Addition & Subtraction - Set out a number of objects. Ask your child to count them. Then ask the child how many objects will be on the table if you add one more. Repeat the process for taking one away. Next place two piles of objects on the table and ask how many objects there will be if you combine the piles. Combine the piles and then discuss what will happen if you take away some of the objects.

4. Sequences - Help your child memorize your phone number and address. Practice reciting the information out loud and writing the information on paper. To avoid potential confusion, start with only the most important phone number. As your child masters memorizing important number sequences, you can help them memorize additional phone numbers and addresses.

5. Money - Use spare change to teach your child the names of each coin. Talk about how the coins compare in size, color, and monetary value. Once your child has mastered these basics, ask them to hand you the coin that is worth 10 cents. Next ask them to hand you three pennies, etc.  

For Big Kids

1. Fractions - Get your child involved in cooking simple recipes with you. Teach your child how to use measuring cups to correctly measure ingredients and discuss comparisons. For example you can demonstrate that two ½ cups of liquid combine to make a full cup.

2. Money - Teach your child about various forms of payment. Discuss the differences between coins, paper bills, checks, and credit cards. Set up a play store with a few objects and give your child a form of payment to purchase an item. If they use the credit card, follow up by sending them a bill for the amount plus interest. Explain that buying on credit now will cost more in the near future. Also explain that writing a check means you no longer have that money in your bank account. Once your child has mastered the various forms of payment, research other currencies used around the world and talk about how money is different depending on where you live.  

3. Shapes - Help your child cut more advanced shapes out of construction paper such as a pentagon, a hexagon, a parallelogram, and an oval. Talk about the names of each shape and point out the number of sides found on each shape. Ask your child what each shape looks like. Lay the shapes on the floor and use commands such as “leap on to the hexagon with your right foot”, “put your left hand on the oval”, etc.

4. Measurement - Give your child a tape measure and a list of household items to measure. Have them measure some items in inches and other items in feet. Discuss how inches and feet relate to each other. Talk about places your child would like to visit near your home and far away. Use a map to measure the distance to theses places according to the scale on the map.

5. Time - You can combine this activity with the map activity above. Using a world map discuss time zones and ask your child to choose a place on the map. Then figure out what time it is where you are and what time it is at the chosen location. Repeat the process for several locations around the world. If you have friends or family members in different time zones, discuss what time it is where they live.


  1. These are awesome ideas. I'll be saving them for later for sure. I love that they're all real life/hands on type ideas -- kids learn so much better that way!

  2. Great tips! I will be using these soon!

  3. This is a very well organized list to help kids of all ages improve their math skills. I like the way you laid it all out with examples and tips.