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Fun Activities to Help Your Elementary School-Age Child Build Math Skills

mom-daughterMost parents are aware that reading with their early elementary school-age children at home reinforces emerging reading skills. But many parents may not know that playing number games and engaging in math activities at home can provide similar reinforcement when it comes to early math learning.

For children who struggle with math, and especially for those who may have learning disabilities in math (otherwise known as dyscalculia), it’s critical to build a strong foundation in math upon which to develop needed skills as well as an understanding and appreciation of math for school success, advanced study and practical applications at home and in the workplace. If you wonder if your child might be at risk for dyscalculia, use our Interactive LD Checklist to take a closer look at particular characteristics related to math that might call for further investigation.

The following activities are fun and can help your child learn and practice math concepts and number skills.


Play and Practice Math at Home

You don't need a college degree in math to help your child learn and practice math skills at home! The following games and activities can be simple and fun, all the while reinforcing your child's math awareness and ability:


  • Play games that require children to name numbers and use sequencing and counting skills. Chutes and Ladders is a good example.
  • Have your child estimate and compare the size and weight of various household objects. For example: “Which is bigger, this grapefruit or the lemon? Which is heavier?”
  • On a table, put four glasses of equal size in a row and fill them with water as follows: 1/3 cup, 1/2 cup, 3/4 cup, 1 cup. Ask your child questions that encourage her to compare, estimate and think about measurement. Ask, for example, “Which glass has more water? Which has less?”*
  • Give your child a newspaper (or magazine) and a set of numbers to look for, for example, from 1 to 25 (or 1 to 100 if she is familiar with the higher numbers). Have her cut out the numbers and glue them in numerical order onto a large piece of paper.*

Children develop positive attitudes toward math when they see that their parents and families value it. Find ways to show that you enjoy math. Let your child see you using math not only for routine activities, such as paying bills and following recipes, but also for fun, by playing number games and solving math puzzles.*


Math Concepts On-the-Go

Running errands and traveling provide children with lots of opportunities to practice number recognition as well as counting skills. Here are some activities to try when you and your child are out and about:

  • Have your child help you compare the cost of various items at the grocery store.
  • Have a young child look at a license plate and identify the largest single or double digit, or add together all the numbers on the plate.*
  • As you travel, have your child play “Number Search.” Tell her to be on the lookout for numbers and when she sees one on a car or truck, a billboard, a sign, a building, or anything else, to point out the number.*
  • As you and your child drive to an appointment, point out the time on a watch and say, for example, “It’s 3:15, and it takes us 30 minutes to get to your dentist’s office. Are we going to get there before your 4:15 appointment?”*

Many other examples of such activities can be found in a booklet produced for parents by the U.S. Department of Education, Helping Your Child Learn Mathematics.

Additional Resources


*Source: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Communications and Outreach, Helping Your Child Learn Mathematics, Washington, D.C., 2005.

Tags: grade3-8