# What are your kids' favorite math activities?

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I'm curious, what do everyone's kids enjoy about mathematics? My daughter is very different from what I remember being like as a kid: I was very into puzzles, whereas she's much more into learning new ideas or concepts. So far, the things she's found most engaging were the binary system and negative numbers. She doesn't mind doing the puzzles from Beast Academy once in a while but gets bored of them fairly quickly.

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Perfect squares, mental math, and prime numbers.  Strangely, my kid who claims to not like math loves the 'Balance Benders' puzzles from Critical Thinking Company and loved doing mental subtraction a la Singapore math (which taught that to subtract 19 from 35, you took 10 from the 30, subtracted 9, then added the 1 back to the 5, then you subtracted 10 from the remaining 20).  I had dreaded teaching this sort of subtraction to this particular child, but they loved it.  Kid who was super good at math at an early age doesn't enjoy the puzzle-style books as much, but at some point extrapolated knowledge of perfect squares into what they thought might be a rule about how to identify the next number in a series (don't remember if it was a square or a cube)..they turned out to be right, but it took my husband a page of math to prove it.  Kiddo said that they pondered perfect squares as they were falling asleep.  Lesson for me - you never know what will catch their fancy.

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Games.  Any game involving math, really.  Oh, and story math.  Life of Fred is a huge favorite here, and so was Anno a long time ago.

There is no single aspect of math like negative numbers or exponents that my kid enjoys above another.  He's just not to the point where he has found any math that he things is a drudge, except timed drills. LOL  He was hesitant when we started the second book of Gattegno because it seemed to be everything he knew already, but within two weeks he was becoming intrigued by the patterns and mental math it was reinforcing.  What started at a 60 minute relaxed session is down to a brisk 20 minutes of manipulating numbers quickly.  It's the same math, but I think he's enjoying the visual reinforcement and proof that things work the way they do.

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My girls both delight in noticing things about numbers - primes, perfect squares, powers of 2, patterns, pnegatives (hey, everything else started with P!).

They enjoy the "I got it!" moments when they've been working on a puzzling problem. They both LOVED the logic chapter in Beast Academy 4B. One of them says she doesn't like math at all (but I think she's confused) and one says she loves math. That second one went through a stage of wanting to read all the math-related books in the junior nonfiction section at the library, but at this point she knows everything in the interestingly-written ones, and the ones with more involved math are not written engagingly. (I think she's planning to read my copy of Math with Bad Drawings soon, and she will probably enjoy more than half of it.)

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2 minutes ago, purpleowl said:

My girls both delight in noticing things about numbers - primes, perfect squares, powers of 2, patterns, pnegatives (hey, everything else started with P!).

They enjoy the "I got it!" moments when they've been working on a puzzling problem. They both LOVED the logic chapter in Beast Academy 4B. One of them says she doesn't like math at all (but I think she's confused) and one says she loves math. That second one went through a stage of wanting to read all the math-related books in the junior nonfiction section at the library, but at this point she knows everything in the interestingly-written ones, and the ones with more involved math are not written engagingly. (I think she's planning to read my copy of Math with Bad Drawings soon, and she will probably enjoy more than half of it.)

You should introduce them to Vihart's youtube channel.  She does this thing called Doodle Math that is so engaging and funny.  We all love her stuff here.  Not a book, but definitely keeps upper math interesting.

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1 minute ago, HomeAgain said:

You should introduce them to Vihart's youtube channel.  She does this thing called Doodle Math that is so engaging and funny.  We all love her stuff here.  Not a book, but definitely keeps upper math interesting.

I'll have to take a look, thanks! Although with as many times as I say "stop doodling and focus on your math," I'm not sure how good an idea it would be to introduce something called Doodle Math... 🤣

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My kids most enjoy learning about math concepts and least enjoy memorizing facts and doing arithmetic.

They don't really prefer one topic over another.  Some of their favorite activities are:

Murderous Maths Books - oh, my goodness - all of these books have been read hundreds of times by this point.  My 5 year old has been squirreling them away into his room to read during free time even though they are both mathematically and linguistically too hard for him.  Even my 3 year old has been asking for them as bedtime read alouds!!

They also love the Beast Academy guides (and have a love-hate relationship with the practice books) and somewhat enjoy the Life of Fred books (purely for entertainment).

Dragonbox apps.  These are HUGE favorites.

And Prodigy.  They would play Prodigy all day if I let them.

Balance Benders, Mind Benders, Critical Thinking Co., mazes, etc.  They all recently went through a phase of LOVING huge dot-to-dots - like with 500 dots!!

The Usborne Puzzle Adventure books which are an interesting mix of close reading, code breaking, math, logic, observation skills, etc.

Logic games like Rush Hour Jr., Laser Maze, (and Camelot Jr. before those).

Math games like Zeus on the Loose, Rat a Tat Cat, Prime Climb.

LOTS of intricate free play with pattern blocks, Cuisenaire rods, Tangrams, Geoboards, a balance scale, different types of rulers, etc.

YouTube videos like Vi Hart and CGP Grey (some of his, like machine learning algorithms and efficient airplane boarding, have a lot of math in disguise)

My oldest now also loves Great Courses lectures.  He is currently watching Physics in Your Life which involves a lot of math.

They also seem to really delight in playing with math together.  Recently they have been playing with the 3 year old by asking her all sorts of math questions for which the answer is three.  So they ask her the square root of 9.  And the value of x when 5x+6=21.  And 3! -3, or pi rounded to the units digit.  They seem fascinated in coming up with more and more questions to which she can confidently yell out the answer "3!".  Similarly, the older two write each other all sorts of math challenges and codes and puzzles.  Sometimes they don't work at all or are impossible to solve, but that doesn't seem to bother them too much.

I think them playing math together is an offshoot of the whole family talking about math a lot in our day to day lives.  We talk about higher level math, especially how it relates to the kids' lives, a lot.  But not in lecture form at all.  It is much more Socratic in nature, with lots of discussion and rabbit trails.  This has really blossomed in the last few years as my oldest felt more and more mastery over arithmetic and was more comfortable playing around with more complex ideas.  That isn't to say that we didn't talk about those things earlier, but my kids have become more engaged and enthusiastic as they have gotten older.  Personally, I would keep an open mind about how your daughter likes to engage with math - she is still so young.

Wendy

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My 7yo likes symmetry of all kinds, coordinate and vector play, functions, playing around with different bases, fractions, 3d shapes, odd/even, numbers infinitely descending/reducing or ascending/growing. That last one I don't have a name for, it's just something I noticed. Is there a specific area of math that looks at that topic?

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8 minutes ago, Sarah0000 said:

My 7yo likes symmetry of all kinds, coordinate and vector play, functions, playing around with different bases, fractions, 3d shapes, odd/even, numbers infinitely descending/reducing or ascending/growing. That last one I don't have a name for, it's just something I noticed. Is there a specific area of math that looks at that topic?

Give an example? Not sure I’m following :-).

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42 minutes ago, square_25 said:

Give an example? Not sure I’m following :-).

Um, like he likes to talk about circles having no end if you walk around it but it has an end if you walk from the center out, how if the galaxy is a spiral and expanding the shape is unchanging but its getting bigger until infinity and compares points in the galaxy through time (if a star started here, it would end up there), describes and asks questions about infinitely dividing numbers and if there's a limit to what can be divided and also infinitely multiplying numbers, how the area in an oval shrinks slowly at the ends opposite it growing slowly in the middle. I don't know the areas of conceptual math it just seems like when he does math or I introduce a topic he relates it some way back to getting bigger/smaller. Yesterday he did 12+4 like this "12 is +2 from 10, 18 is -2 from 20, so 16." Like he's always seeing the movements and inverses and balances.

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27 minutes ago, Sarah0000 said:

Um, like he likes to talk about circles having no end if you walk around it but it has an end if you walk from the center out, how if the galaxy is a spiral and expanding the shape is unchanging but its getting bigger until infinity and compares points in the galaxy through time (if a star started here, it would end up there), describes and asks questions about infinitely dividing numbers and if there's a limit to what can be divided and also infinitely multiplying numbers, how the area in an oval shrinks slowly at the ends opposite it growing slowly in the middle. I don't know the areas of conceptual math it just seems like when he does math or I introduce a topic he relates it some way back to getting bigger/smaller. Yesterday he did 12+4 like this "12 is +2 from 10, 18 is -2 from 20, so 16." Like he's always seeing the movements and inverses and balances.

Well, for infinitely adding and infinitely multiplying, if you mean things like 1 + 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + .... = 2, you'd want to do limits, and I see no reason you couldn't explore that on a concrete level!

There's also the idea that there are "different infinities": there are infinities that are bigger than other infinities. That really blew my mind at some point: in some real sense, there are "more" real numbers than there are integers or fractions (and the number of fractions and integers is the same.)

Would either of those be the right kind of thing?

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2 hours ago, purpleowl said:

My girls both delight in noticing things about numbers - primes, perfect squares, powers of 2, patterns, pnegatives (hey, everything else started with P!).

They enjoy the "I got it!" moments when they've been working on a puzzling problem. They both LOVED the logic chapter in Beast Academy 4B. One of them says she doesn't like math at all (but I think she's confused) and one says she loves math. That second one went through a stage of wanting to read all the math-related books in the junior nonfiction section at the library, but at this point she knows everything in the interestingly-written ones, and the ones with more involved math are not written engagingly. (I think she's planning to read my copy of Math with Bad Drawings soon, and she will probably enjoy more than half of it.)

Hahahahaha, I love pnegatives. I guess it's a silent p, like in pneumonia ;-). I forgot: my daughter liked primes as well. We should do more with them! By the responses on here, they are very popular.

1 hour ago, wendyroo said:

I think them playing math together is an offshoot of the whole family talking about math a lot in our day to day lives.  We talk about higher level math, especially how it relates to the kids' lives, a lot.  But not in lecture form at all.  It is much more Socratic in nature, with lots of discussion and rabbit trails.  This has really blossomed in the last few years as my oldest felt more and more mastery over arithmetic and was more comfortable playing around with more complex ideas.  That isn't to say that we didn't talk about those things earlier, but my kids have become more engaged and enthusiastic as they have gotten older.  Personally, I would keep an open mind about how your daughter likes to engage with math - she is still so young.

Wendy

Thanks for the great list (which I didn't quote to keep this short): I'll have to look through it and see if any of it appeals. I've heard of Murderous Maths before, and maybe we should give it a try! My daughter also likes the BA Guides a lot more than she likes the practice books... she enjoys them once in a while, but also burns out on them quickly.

I generally love Socratic-style teaching, so I'm with you there. What higher level math do you talk about? I haven't found much that applies to our lives yet. Arithmetic, yes, we use it a lot, but not so much anything fancier. I guess I've told her that binary is used for computers :-).

Yes, you're right, I'm keeping an open mind! She's more interested in puzzles now than I thought she would be, actually, and she's much better at them than I thought she would be as well. It's possible her level of interest will go up more, although I'm OK either way. I'm pretty good at changing course depending on my data.

3 hours ago, HomeAgain said:

Games.  Any game involving math, really.  Oh, and story math.  Life of Fred is a huge favorite here, and so was Anno a long time ago.

There is no single aspect of math like negative numbers or exponents that my kid enjoys above another.  He's just not to the point where he has found any math that he things is a drudge, except timed drills. LOL  He was hesitant when we started the second book of Gattegno because it seemed to be everything he knew already, but within two weeks he was becoming intrigued by the patterns and mental math it was reinforcing.  What started at a 60 minute relaxed session is down to a brisk 20 minutes of manipulating numbers quickly.  It's the same math, but I think he's enjoying the visual reinforcement and proof that things work the way they do.

Do you mean standard board games, or specifically math games? She's rather lukewarm about games in general (we have so many, and she rarely asks to play them), so I haven't tried math games. But maybe if it's instead of a lesson she'd be all for it, lol.

That's nice that your kid likes all aspects of math... my daughter unfortunately really dislikes arithmetic. She doesn't mind using it for problems but absolutely balks at having a list of calculations to perform :-(. Makes it a bit trickier to teach her the facts! Luckily, we have a while to get them down solid and she has a good memory.

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10 minutes ago, square_25 said:

Well, for infinitely adding and infinitely multiplying, if you mean things like 1 + 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + .... = 2, you'd want to do limits, and I see no reason you couldn't explore that on a concrete level!

There's also the idea that there are "different infinities": there are infinities that are bigger than other infinities. That really blew my mind at some point: in some real sense, there are "more" real numbers than there are integers or fractions (and the number of fractions and integers is the same.)

Would either of those be the right kind of thing?

Yes exactly that's the kind of thing he talks about. What area of math is that?

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Posted (edited)
1 minute ago, Sarah0000 said:

Yes exactly that's the kind of thing he talks about. What area of math is that?

I think those would be two different areas! :D Which one appeals more, the infinite sums or the idea of "different infinities"? I could see if I can dig up some kid-friendly references.

Oh, also, what kinds of numbers does he know about? Does he know about decimal notation or not?

Edited by square_25

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4 minutes ago, square_25 said:

Do you mean standard board games, or specifically math games? She's rather lukewarm about games in general (we have so many, and she rarely asks to play them), so I haven't tried math games. But maybe if it's instead of a lesson she'd be all for it, lol.

That's nice that your kid likes all aspects of math... my daughter unfortunately really dislikes arithmetic. She doesn't mind using it for problems but absolutely balks at having a list of calculations to perform :-(. Makes it a bit trickier to teach her the facts! Luckily, we have a while to get them down solid and she has a good memory.

Both.  I have no problem making the game the lesson.  We started with things like Tumble Top where you spin a top and it goes into holes with different values.  First one to 100 wins (or first one to 0 from 100 wins).  Moved on to Right Start games, Prime Climb, Fraction Formula and others where there were things to do with the math.  I think that's what he likes most - using it and it being an interactive subject.  He's still a little unsure about using the c-rods, but Gattegno is making so easy for him to start seeing relationships that he skipped over the first time through elementary math.

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2 minutes ago, HomeAgain said:

Both.  I have no problem making the game the lesson.  We started with things like Tumble Top where you spin a top and it goes into holes with different values.  First one to 100 wins (or first one to 0 from 100 wins).  Moved on to Right Start games, Prime Climb, Fraction Formula and others where there were things to do with the math.  I think that's what he likes most - using it and it being an interactive subject.  He's still a little unsure about using the c-rods, but Gattegno is making so easy for him to start seeing relationships that he skipped over the first time through elementary math.

I keep hearing about Prime Climb. How does it work? (Feel free to tell me to Google if you prefer.)

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1 minute ago, square_25 said:

I keep hearing about Prime Climb. How does it work? (Feel free to tell me to Google if you prefer.)

It's a giant spiral.  Every prime number from 2 to 7 is color coded, so like 2 would have a gold circle around it, but the colors are kept constant for each number up to 101 by how they're multiplied: 4 is two halves of gold, 8 is a gold circle broken into thirds, but 10 is half gold, half green or whatever 5 is.  Every prime number above 10 is red.  You can multiply, divide, add or subtract when it's your turn and move your pawns using the two numbers shown on the dice.  If you finish your turn on a red prime number, you pick a card.  The directions range from keep to use at a different time (usually an extra move or playing something on your opponent), to immediately having to double or subtract a number.

It plays pretty quickly.  The only thing I wish is the same thing that I wish for Dragonbox Nooms: that these companies would look further than their own noses and create products that work with products already on the market.  If they chose colors the same as Montessori beads or c-rods, then these games could be integrated into math programs seamlessly.

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30 minutes ago, square_25 said:

I generally love Socratic-style teaching, so I'm with you there. What higher level math do you talk about? I haven't found much that applies to our lives yet. Arithmetic, yes, we use it a lot, but not so much anything fancier. I guess I've told her that binary is used for computers :-).

Oh, it really spans the gamut.  Sometimes we talk about math that I can fully explain - the slope of the slides at the park, bank accounts earning interest, map scales, calculating how much paint you need to cover a room, hexadecimal numbers, etc.

More often, though, we are talking about math that I can only discuss theoretically because it is so complex and far above anything I can actually explain...especially to young children.  Things like predicting the weather, or how GPS figures out directions, population sampling, the complex patterns that plant leaves grow in, musical frequencies, laminar and turbulent flow, etc.

I don't worry much about bringing these topic mathematically down to their level.  Our goal isn't to "do" this math, but just to think about it, discuss it, learn about it.  It is more important to me that my kids see math everywhere, that they understand that math explains and underpins technology and nature and science and art and life.

Wendy

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43 minutes ago, wendyroo said:

Oh, it really spans the gamut.  Sometimes we talk about math that I can fully explain - the slope of the slides at the park, bank accounts earning interest, map scales, calculating how much paint you need to cover a room, hexadecimal numbers, etc.

More often, though, we are talking about math that I can only discuss theoretically because it is so complex and far above anything I can actually explain...especially to young children.  Things like predicting the weather, or how GPS figures out directions, population sampling, the complex patterns that plant leaves grow in, musical frequencies, laminar and turbulent flow, etc.

I don't worry much about bringing these topic mathematically down to their level.  Our goal isn't to "do" this math, but just to think about it, discuss it, learn about it.  It is more important to me that my kids see math everywhere, that they understand that math explains and underpins technology and nature and science and art and life.

Wendy

I should probably do this more. I'm not nearly as good at "continuous" math once it gets past calculus (I almost got an applied math degree to go along with my pure math one, but I really wasn't paying that much attention) so I tend not to mention it much. I probably should, especially since if I had to guess, my daughter seems more science than math oriented.

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3 hours ago, square_25 said:

I think those would be two different areas! 😄 Which one appeals more, the infinite sums or the idea of "different infinities"? I could see if I can dig up some kid-friendly references.

Oh, also, what kinds of numbers does he know about? Does he know about decimal notation or not?

The different infinities sounds interesting. Yes, he's practicing decimals now but isn't proficient in multiplying/dividing beyond money math.

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13 hours ago, Sarah0000 said:

Yes exactly that's the kind of thing he talks about. What area of math is that?

You might enjoy this article and it references what area of math discusses infinities.

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13 hours ago, Sarah0000 said:

The different infinities sounds interesting. Yes, he's practicing decimals now but isn't proficient in multiplying/dividing beyond money math.

You'd need to do infinite decimals that don't repeat to understand the different infinities thing... which really is pretty cool! Actually, maybe he'd be interested in non-repeating decimals (AKA irrational numbers)? They go on forever and never have a pattern, it kinds blows your mind :D.

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Posted (edited)

I realized I didn't mention my DS, who's almost 5. He is really into counting, by 1s, 10s, and 2s. He also started asking me recently "what comes before zero" and has been exploring negative numbers. He's also enjoying adding and has been noticing that addition is commutative (and I provide the terms when they notice things like that). He likes to identify polygons that he sees out and about. We just talk about math a lot, and I answer his questions and ask him things in return.

Edited by purpleowl

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Posted (edited)

My kids favorite one is Math Mountain.I have never seen such an outrageous game online...These are flabbergast and easy to play . My kids play also other games here, but I stricktly limit their time online for their health and safety.

Edited by SammySommers

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On March 6, 2019 at 5:00 PM, wendyroo said:

Murderous Maths Books - oh, my goodness - all of these books have been read hundreds of times by this point.  My 5 year old has been squirreling them away into his room to read during free time even though they are both mathematically and linguistically too hard for him.  Even my 3 year old has been asking for them as bedtime read alouds!!

Thanks so much for the recommendation, Wendy! We got these on Amazon and my daughter has been devouring these, even though some of them are above her mathematical level. She's so far decoded a rude joke, showed us some mathematical magic, and gone through a divisor maze (although apparently we misunderstood the rules, lol. It's on our to-do list.) And that's just what she shared with us :D.

Sometimes I get so caught up in the pedagogy that I forget to provide math that is fun and doesn't require serious thinking, and this was an excellent reminder :-).

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32 minutes ago, square_25 said:

Thanks so much for the recommendation, Wendy! We got these on Amazon and my daughter has been devouring these, even though some of them are above her mathematical level. She's so far decoded a rude joke, showed us some mathematical magic, and gone through a divisor maze (although apparently we misunderstood the rules, lol. It's on our to-do list.) And that's just what she shared with us :D.

Sometimes I get so caught up in the pedagogy that I forget to provide math that is fun and doesn't require serious thinking, and this was an excellent reminder :-).

All of the Murderous / Horrible books are HUGE hits around here.  My kids constantly beg for them for all gift giving occasions...to the point that we own almost all of them.  I'm constantly amazed by all the stuff my kids learn by reading those books!!

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5 hours ago, wendyroo said:

All of the Murderous / Horrible books are HUGE hits around here.  My kids constantly beg for them for all gift giving occasions...to the point that we own almost all of them.  I'm constantly amazed by all the stuff my kids learn by reading those books!!

I've never seen the Horrible books, either :D. (You'd think I'd have gotten there through clicking... but apparently not.) Thanks for this recommendation, too! I'll definitely take a look.

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They really like riddles on logic.

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Ever the contrarian here, I guess (LOL), I'll just add that DS#2 struggled with math intensely up through about age 10, so he would have told you in strong terms that there was NOTHING about math that he liked, esp. in the early elementary grades.

However... He did enjoy some games that we played as part of family game night that had math as part of the game (money/making change; adding dice). We just had to be very careful and make it clear that games were NOT SCHOOL, lol -- because otherwise he would refuse to have anything to do with, even it he'd been having a grand time with 5 minutes earlier when he thought it was "just a game for fun". sigh.

One "school" thing he did enjoy was working with pattern blocks, geoboards, Cuisenaire Rods, and multi-link cubes -- things that were visual/concrete and hands-on/manipulatives. He always did very well with Geometry and the highly visual/3-D math topics, and found tessalations to be very interesting. He did not mind some of the educational computer math games that involved math (Millie's Math House, EduMark Mighty Math, etc.) -- because, well, computer game, lol.

If some of the wonderful math books mentioned up-thread had been out back when he was in 1st-3rd grade, I think those would have gone over well, too. The humor probably would have overcome the "math hatred", lol.