There are so many great ways you can show your class how much fun math can be. Getting your students involved in hands-on activities with their classmates is one of our favorite ways!
Math activities make your students flex their collective problem solving, spatial reasoning, reflecting, and communicating skills, while still engaging with great math learning. Getting your students off the page, interacting with each other, and getting their hands dirty is an awesome way to learn a concept from a different perspective.
Not all math activities are made equal, of course! Not every activity will be a good fit for your classroom. As you’re doing a math activity in the classroom, keep an ear out for the level of math conversation that’s going on. One of the sure signs of a good activity is one that spurs on discussion and even argumentation about math! If your students are arguing about their solutions to a problem, you know they’ve got to be engaged!
Need more convincing on why math activities are a great addition to your classroom? Check out our blog post about making your classroom more fun!
So without further adieu, here are five of our favorite math activities for your kindergarten class:
In Missing Numbers, students are given a partially-completed hundreds chart. They need to fill in all the blank spaces with the correct numbers. It sounds simple, right? Well the best activities are! But being a simple activity doesn’t mean it isn’t without a deep learning potential.
By making this a whole-class activity you can add an excellent problem solving, communication, and reasoning element to this activity. Have students use positional language to describe which square they want to fill in next: “the one to the right of 16,” or “the square below 19.”
Then, when a student thinks they know a number, have them justify their reasoning and explain it to the class: “I know that 17 is next because it is one larger than 16.” Make the activity even more social by having other students try to come up with other strategies they could use to determine that same number:
“I know it is a 17, because it is one less than 18,” or
“I know it is a 17 because it is 10 more than 7,” or
“I know it is a 17 because it is in the 7th place of the 10s row”
*Note: In the attached activity, we have actually used a thirty chart instead of a hundreds chart. Since a thirty chart has five numbers in each row (instead of ten numbers, like on a hundreds chart) it is really good at helping students use multiples of 5 as an anchor for counting.
In Add to 10, students will work with a deck of cards to try to find all of the different combinations that add up to 10. In activities like this, where you need to find as many solutions as possible, it is great to split the class into groups for a little friendly competition.
If your students are working in groups you can have them share their answers with the class afterwards. This has the added benefit of having students compare their solutions, and reflect on the strategies they used to solve the problem.
It is pretty likely that your students will discover the commutative property of addition all by themselves in this activity! One group may get 7 + 3 = 10, and another may get 3 + 7 = 10. Do those count as two different answers? Are they the same answer? Which is it? Get your students discussing what they think for some great math conversation.
A great way to promote discussion with this activity is to have two volunteers each find an object to weigh in the classroom, then, before you put them on the scales, have your class vote on which one they think weighs more.
You can extend this activity even further by trying to make student’s balance the scale while using two different objects. How many paper clips does it take to equal one pencil? Have your class try to estimate and record their answers on the board. Estimation is an awesome way for your students to use their math skills to reason, predict outcomes, and practice their mental math strategies.
Fill in the Blank is a great problem solving activity for groups of students. In this activity, students are given a pattern with a missing piece and need to try to determine what should go in the gap. Recognizing patterns is a hugely important for young students learning math!
We have provided several examples to get you started, but having your students extend this by making their own problems for their classmates is great fun. Get your students into groups and have them try to stump each other!
Make sure your students are really vocal when they are answering these problems as well. This will introduce a strong communication element to this activity by having them say their strategies out loud. How do they know which shape is missing? What information is important to find that out?
You can extend this activity (literally) by extending the pattern sequence too! After a student has figured out what the missing piece is have them try to continue the pattern forwards and backwards for an extra challenge.
Since this is a find-as-many-solutions-as-possible type of activity (like Add to 10), it is a great choice to pit your students against each other for some friendly competition.
When your students are sharing their findings with the class, you may come across some very interesting classroom disputes. It’s time to talk about symmetry!
For example, you may have two groups come up with these two solutions. Are they the same? Are they different? If you rotate the shape they certainly line up, but does that mean that they’re the same?
What about these two shapes. These are a little trickier…they are made of the same pieces, and they kind of look the same, but are they? Here you could show your students that if you rotate the pieces, they don’t match up, but if you flip them over, they match up perfectly! So are they the same? Have your students decide.
Written By: Conrad Nickels
Director of Education
Director of Education and Lead Designer at Zorbit’s Math Adventure, using game-based learning and ed-tech to make math your greatest ally.