Saturday, February 4, 2017

Fun math anyone can do

You can do fun with math with your students. Here are 30 different math activities for preschool, elementary, and middle school.


My kids loved doing these fun math activities.


On of my very best students was deciding to go into a field that had nothing to do with physics, science, or math. It was at least the third time in three years this had happened. My heart sank toward my stomach.


Jingles? I asked.

You know, like in the car advertisements.


What disappointed me most wasn't that these bright students were throwing away stable economic futures. It wasn't that the world is full of problems, that these passionate young people might have been able to help solve, although that was also true. It was more personal than that.
Why would you want to write jingles?!
Because it's fun.
How had I failed to to help them see that physics is fun?

She'd rather write jingles about cars?

Why isn't math fun?


As I talked to my students it quickly became obvious that the reason they didn't think physics is fun is because it's a math based subject. They enjoyed experimenting, but "doing the work" of problem solving wasn't their idea of a good time. Writing, on the other hand, is a leisure activity. We express ourselves through a journal or blog. Math is seen as a chore, or worse, the domain of geeks and geniuses.

If you had a child who didn't think reading was fun, would you accept that "he's just not a reader"? Of course not! You'd read to him. You'd find different books that interest him. You'd try a new method. But, what if you have a student who doesn't think math is fun?

Why math matters


Did you know that "mathematician" actually makes the list of best careers? It's true. It comes in at number twenty on the US News list of best jobs. Keep in mind these are also the fields where people are most needed.  Most of the best careers are science based, and how far will you get in those science based careers without math?

When you allow a child to think that they "don't like math" you are putting him on a path that leads away from the best jobs of the future.

Fun math is the solution


Kids need to experience math in a format other than worksheet. They need a taste of what doing math just for fun feels like.  Unfortunately, developing good activities can take time. That's why these fun math ideas exist. They're doable for anyone, and the explanations are included.

This list of fun math ideas is organized by age and type. Scroll down to get ideas for elementary students.

Fun preschool math 


Math through play


How to teach math through Free Play
Making patterns with duplos is a math activity preschoolers love.
Blocks are a great math tool!


Playing with DUPLOs

Geometry through play

Playing with Playdough

How to count past ten (measuring tape)

Math crafts for preschool


Preschool counting practice with scissors

Bead necklaces

Flag craft for preschool

Beads and algebra


My kids loved doing this Jamaican counting rhyme!
Banana counting rhyme

Preschool math work



Preschool magnetic math practice

Toddler counting practice -egg cartons



Elementary math activities



Math fact practice for kids who hate to write

Equation writing

Decomposing tens

Algebra with leaves

Multiplication with leaves

Math Games


Here's a fun hands on way to explain chaos theory!
Chaos theory
Play Dominoes

Christmas tree addition equation puzzle

Money Changing game

Math for fun


Chaos theory

Binary abacus

Fun size statistics

Cool Minecraft Engineering


Looking for more fun math?

If you found this list helpful, you'll want to sign up for the Thriving STEM monthly newsletter where I share all the new and seasonally relevant ideas for teaching math. It's also organized by grade, so you can find exactly what your students will enjoy.

Sign up for the Thriving STEM newsletter now.

After you've signed up for the Thriving STEM newsletter, you might also want to check out this list of math activities by Erica at What Do We Do All Day?

My kids loved doing these  fun math activities.


Our students can learn to enjoy doing math just as much as writing jingles. It may take a little extra effort, but I think if you try it,  you and and your students will agree that math is fun.

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I can't wait to hear what you have to say! Thanks for sharing.