Category Archives: Elementary School

Olympic Math (just in time for PyeongChang)

Olympic fever is hitting our house. We are even compromising on our “no TV” rule (we borrowed one).

What a great opportunity to practice data and graphs! Kids are already excited about the events and it helps them keep track of the medals.

This free printable is primary for 1st and 2nd graders although you could adapt it for other ages. The first part is to be completed before the Olympics start. So whip it out now so you can check your predictions later 🙂

Download the printable here: Winter Olympic Data and Graphs

Solitaire Tens

I’ve been reading About Teaching Mathematics by Marilyn Burns and it is chock full of great ideas. I came across this game in my reading today and made a few tweaks. It is ideal for home schoolers because kids can play it on their own.

Start with a deck of cards and remove all of the face cards. The aces are ones in this game.

Shuffle the cards. Flip over 7 in a row. If there are any tens or any pairs of cards that make ten remove them and place them face up in the discard pile. I like to keep mine organized by pair so you can easily see all the different ways to make a ten.

Deal new cards to replace those in the row of seven.

Continue dealing and making pairs. If you ever get a whole row of 7 with no possible pairs, start a new row of 7 above. These cards can be paired with each other or with the first row.

If you don’t make any mistakes, no card will be left without a pair. It is a great way to test for errors! And it is kind of fun to watch the deck of cards gradually disappear into pairs of ten.

Preschool Math: Dry Erase Dice Game

Recently I found this gem at the Dollar Store.

You write the numbers on this die with a dry erase marker. This is gold because it means you can change the numbers at any time. In elementary you could add the number zero or teen numbers. My little preschooler is focusing on the numbers one to five so I changed the six to a smiley face.

Now I just needed a game to play 🙂 Joseph loves games! At first I thought it was because he really liked winning (like his mom). But soon I saw he didn’t mind losing either. What he loves is the undivided attention. He is often careful to point out that his one year old sister “cannot play because she’s too little.”

In math we are working on learning the numbers one to five. But we are not focusing on counting. Instead, we are spending our time on the more important skill of understanding the amount each number represents. So far he can correctly show me groups of one, two, or three objects when asked. That is more important to me than if he can count to twenty. We’re going to keep practicing until he has a solid grasp of four and five too. This game was a great way to make that practice fun.

So without further ado…the amazing dry erase dice game!

You will need:

  • 1 die
  • A dry erase marker
  • 2 plates or bowls
  • 20 beads, beans, or other type of counter
  1. Mark the die with the numbers 1 to 5. Practice saying the names of the numbers. Instead of a 6 put a smiley face. When a player rolls a smiley face they have to do something similar (we jumped up and stuck out our tongues).
  2. Each player starts with 10 beads on their plate.
  3. When a player rolls the die they take that many beads from the other player. They should carefully count them in the center before putting them on their plate. That way if they made a mistake you can catch it.
  4. Play continues for 10 turn or until one player wins all the beads. Whatever you have the patience for 🙂

That’s it! Super simple but we spent so much time practice our numbers this morning because he was engaged in the game. The beads worked really well for us because he liked trying to steal certain colors from me.

Math Day

It is summer! We’re going to the beach as often as we can and spending our days outside as much as possible.

But I’m also hosting a math day once a month. It give me a chance to try out some fun math activities. And it helps my homeschooling friends fight the dreaded summer slide. Want to host one of your own? Here are some tips:

  1. Pick a theme. One concept is a good idea. I’m targeting first graders so in June we did addition and July we did subtraction.

2. Keep it light! It’s summer…no boring worksheets allowed. I’m using my own materials but you can find a ton of stuff on Pinterest. We played games, completed math fact coloring sheets, and always used edible manipulatives. Which brings me to my next point…

3. Snacks are a must 🙂 Snap cubes are fun but Skittles are better. And if you want to avoid the sugar rush go with Goldfish crackers or pretzels.

In the end, I think the key to the success is friends. Getting to try out these activities with their friends was the main motivation. And if you’re like me that means a mix of ages (see the group photo above). I had the older kids work as helper and the younger kids thought it was a blast too. Granted they didn’t understand the subtraction…just the Skittles.

More on Math Day favorites soon…


Roll a Sum

This game is incredibly simple. But I was shocked, it was a huge success at my most recent Math Day. It might have been their favorite activity. It is a way to practice addition facts and is suited for k-2.

Start by making a game board that looks like this:

  1. Roll the dice. Count up all the dots. Cross out that number on your side.
  2. Player two rolls.
  3. If you roll a number that is already crossed out your turn is over.
  4. First player to cross out all their numbers wins!

It is exciting because it gets really challenging to roll those last couple of sums. As a challenge I asked some of the older kids in the group which sums were the easiest to roll…and why?

Also, I noticed that as we played the kids were starting to shift from counting up the dots to just doing the addition in their heads. Great!

Try it out and let me know how it goes.


Math Dice Jr.

I found this game at Target today. Very simple and super easy to bring along on vacation or to a restaurant. The dodecahedron (yes I just really wanted to use that word) tells you what sum or different you are trying to find. Use addition, subtraction, and the numbers on the other 5 dice to get that number.

I think the best feature of this game is that it gets your ready for Math Dice. This version is for 8 and up and adds a lot more complexity.

Number Collage and Scavenger Hunt

My son and I did this project today and we had a lot of fun. More importantly it provided a great opportunity to connect numerals to the amounts they represent. It’d be a great end of year activity for a Kindergarten student or a beginning of the year review for a first grader. It focuses on number recognition and spotting the numbers 1 to 10 in the world around us.

Materials: Poster, markers, straight edge, scissors, magazines or a Smartphone and printer (we don’t really have magazines so I used my Smartphone and printed the photos inexpensively at CVS), flyers from grocery stores or other stores

For the first part of the project you are going to be going on a scavenger hunt. You need to find the numerals 1 to 10 and examples of those numbers. We used a clipboard to keep track.

I’ve done number scavenger hunts before and it is definitely a lot more fun (and easier!) if you leave the house. We found all of our numbers just by taking a quick walk around the block. But it would also be really fun at the grocery store or library. Somewhere with lots of signs and prices will make it easier. You can also just pull out a pile of magazines and catalogs and look for numbers there.

Here are some of the numerals* we spotted on our street.

Brownie points if you notice the Disney Pixar character who made it into our collage—my son was thrilled. Now to find some real life occurrences of these numbers. The best examples are the ones that occur naturally: four chairs at a table, five siblings in a family, etc.. However, if your child gets really stuck finding seven of something I won’t judge you for putting seven M&M’s in a bowl and calling it a day.


We printed all of our photos at CVS and cut them out. My son was so excited to see his toys and our neighborhood in the photos. That is one advantage of using the Smartphone over the magazines, it gives kids more ownership over the collage.

Divide the poster into ten sections and have your child carefully label them with the right number. Paste all of your numerals and examples down. We hung out finished project in the school room so we can reference it in the future.

It’s a bit messy looking but the important thing is all the conversations we had about numbers as we put it together.

*We completely ignored place value in our hunt for numbers because we haven’t learned that yet. So for the sake of this activity a 9’s digit counted whether it was in the tens or ones column. Otherwise I think it would be really hard to find all of the numbers.

Number Recognition Matching Activity: Free Printable

This activity is ideal for kindergarten or first grade. It allows students to start matching the symbols for numbers with number words and ten frames. This activity is a great wrap up after you’ve spent some time practicing numbers with counters or snap cubes.

Identifying Numbers Matching Activity

Cut out the squares on the first two pages and mix them up. Then sort them appropriately and tape them down on the provided table.

Find Your Family: A Game for Related Facts

Related facts are groups of facts that show kids how different numbers are connected. Some programs call them fact families. These fact families are important because they help kids see the connection between addition and subtraction.

A “fact family house” is when you organize all of these related numbers nicely under one roof.

For this game each child receives a game board with six incomplete houses. A house might look something like this.

Each player takes a turn rolling a die. Looking at their six houses they decide if the number on the die can add to or complete any of their fact families. Every game board is different and there is some strategy involved. You might be able to put a number in two different places and certain numbers are easier to place than others.

To win you have to fill all of your houses before your opponent.

This game could have many variations. The first one that comes to mind for me is making all the families ways to make ten. Or you could only use the numbers 1 thru 6 to make it easier for younger children. I created a blank game board too so that you can try out a variation. Write in your own numbers to tailor it to your child’s needs.

Have fun! And as always let me know if you have any thoughts or suggestions.

Find Your Family (Blank Game Board)

Find Your Family Game Board (Facts up to 9)


The Game of NIM

Do you have a pile of pennies or beans somewhere? And a child who loves to play games? Then you have everything you need to play NIM.

The game is ancient and there are many different variations. The beauty of it is with a little math you can figure out how to win every time. What I love is that by changing the number of pennies you can make the game age-appropriate for different children. Try playing as a family.

What You Will Need:

15 pennies

2 players

How to Play:

  1. Place 15 pennies between the two players and decide who will go first.
  2. Player one must remove one, two, or three pennies. They decide how many and they cannot choose to skip their turn.
  3. After player one, player two decides to remove one, two, or three pennies and so on.
  4. The object of the game is to be the player who removes the last penny (in some versions this rule is the other way around).

Play several times and see if your kids notice any patterns. Now it is time for some mathematical thinking. Can you generalize any patterns that you notice? Try changing the number of pennies or changing who gets to go first. How does that affect your strategy?

What if you change the rules and each player can pick only one or two pennies? How would that change the outcome?

The goal is to start a good discussion about the strategy. And students are motivated because the more they discover the more unbeatable they become!