Ah, mathematics. I know I’m weird, but I. Love. Math. Don’t get me wrong. I love reading too, but I don’t consider myself a very right-brained person. Hand me a poem and I’m totally clueless, but ask me to solve a partial differential equation and that I can do with confidence. Mathematics has always come easily for me. It’s clean, logical, and entirely understandable. I loved math so much, I went to the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for college, the school that Sheldon and the other characters in the show the Big Bang Theory attend. That’s how much of a nerd I am.
Now that I have children, I sometimes wonder if my affinity for math is genetic or if it is something that I can nurture in my own children. Neither of my parents are particularly mathematically inclined. My mom’s favorite subject in school was art and my dad is a history buff. However, there were aspects of my childhood that I think helped draw me towards the subject of mathematics. First, my grandparents always played rummy with me. Even as young as 5 or 6, I knew how to order my cards and make decisions regarding which cards to keep and which ones to throw away. When I was a little older, we started playing gin rummy and cribbage (which is great for addition skills).
By the time I was 8 or 9, I was in love with logic puzzles (the kind with clues and a grid that help you solve which kid played which sport or something like that). I felt like a detective. (However, had I been given those types of puzzles as homework, I probably would have despised them, so there’s definitely a fine line that needs to be walked.)
The commonality I see between these activities is that, even from a very young age, math was a source of fun for me. I didn’t enjoy doing my math homework. I didn’t like memorizing my times tables. However, I did like playing math-related games and doing math-related puzzles. I’m hoping that I can replicate some of this enjoyment for my own kids and help them to learn to love math as well.
If you think about it, counting and number recognition can be hard. The symbols we use for numbers are completely arbitrary. To be able to count, the child not only has to memorize the words and symbols, but also understand that each item being counted can only be counted once. (Though it is really fun to watch a young child count a small group of objects and re-count everything 17 times.)
Unlike learning numbers, addition and subtraction seem completely natural to me. Kids are very concerned with fairness, particularly if they have siblings. I think it would be hard to prevent kids from being able to understand concepts like equal, more, and less. Once they understand those concepts, they are well on their way to being able to add and subtract with ease.
Learning to tell time is a rite of passage for any child. My goal is to make the process as painless as possible.
Here are all the homemade mathematics activities and free printables on this site in reverse chronological order: