By Peg Baron
To put it in a nice way, my son is rather squirmy. He doesn’t like to sit still for very long unless he’s playing a video game, then it’s just amazing. So instead of constantly telling him to sit down and do his math, we take it outside or up the stairs, literally. I’d like to share some of ways we like to “do math” when sitting still is too much. Try these games with your child and I think you’ll agree that math and exercise can go hand in hand.
Math flash cards are usually pretty boring. What you can do for your active child is put a card on each step going up your stairs and then along the hall and into another room. Place these every foot or two. Some kids like to be timed, so get out your stopwatch and yell “go!” My son will race up the stairs as quickly as he can while shouting out the answers. He makes it to his room and jumps on his bed in triumph. You can do this game several times.
Flash Card Toss
This math game works particularly well at our house because we have an open area at the top of the stairs that looks down on the family room. Actually, anywhere in your house or outside will do, and it’s great for a child who has a lot of pent up energy! Take a flash card and fling it as far as you can. Have your child run after it, pick it up, solve it, and race back to you. You can do this until either the kid runs out of steam or you injure your throwing arm.
Shoot 10 Baskets
There are many variations to this game and you can adjust it to fit your child. You can play with an actual basketball hoop or wadded up pieces of paper shooting at the trash can.
1. Have your child shoot 10 baskets and keep track of how many they make. Do this in series of 10s, as many times as you want. Next, show the scores to your child and have them figure out his average per 10 baskets he/she has made.
2. This game requires quick thinking. Ask your child to shoot 10 baskets and then ask him/her to tell you the ratio of missed baskets to baskets shot, or the ratio of made baskets to missed baskets. You can do this with any number of shooting attempts and have them answer quickly before they shoot again.
3. Another way to play is to ask them to shoot 10 baskets and figure out the fraction of made shots to total shots. Next, have them reduce their fraction, and then turn their fraction into a percentage. They should do this in their head, or if they need to write it down, you can supply sidewalk chalk or pencil and paper for some quick figuring.
Interactive Story Problems
A little imagination on your part, plus a stopwatch, makes this one fun! You make up the story problem and your children act it out. Here are some examples:
If [your child’s name] runs from the mailbox to the back fence in [however long it takes him in seconds], and [another child’s name] runs the same path in [however long it takes her in seconds], how many minutes were spent running this route by both of them altogether?
If [name] threw the ball [measure in inches] and [Mom] threw the ball 9 inches less than that, how far did your amazing Mom throw?
You are going to time your child skipping, running, hopping, running backwards, race walking, and running on all fours. But first, let him or her rank the order in which they think they will do these, from fastest to slowest and estimate their times. Then time them and compare with their estimate.
After that, you can make up all sorts of story problems:
How much faster did you skip than hop?
How many minutes total did it take you to do all of them?
Which is faster – running and running backwards vs. race walking and hopping?
These games are just a start in practicing math with your active child. I’m sure you can think of quite a few more once you get started. One thing is for sure, after playing these math games, they’re ready to sit down and do some passive reading!
Peggy Baron plays with her kids in Colorado, and runs http://cookinkids.com, a website devoted to helping parents and kids have fun together in the kitchen. Peggy is the editor of the popular Cookin' Kids Newsletter, a bi-monthly newsletter with fun facts, recipes, jokes, games, cooking safety, and cooking terms wrapped around different themes.
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By Peg Baron