Friday, April 15, 2016

Playful and Easy Mathematics with Building Toys (And our favorite math books!)

Wanna know a secret?  In college I majored in Engineering and minored in math.  Eek.  Surprised?'s true!   I'm a bit rusty now... but I will always have a soft spot for mathematics. There was something about solving a difficult problem that was so thrilling and satisfying.

Now that my son is older, my husband (who is also a math lover) and I have been trying to help him to love math too.  With a new baby at home, I just haven't had time lately to plan math crafts and activities.  (Mucho props to all you homeschooling mamas out there... don't know how you do it!)   But, I've been giving myself a bit of slack and telling myself that it's ok.  We've still been learning math together... just in a more open-ended and playful way.  

Playful Math Learning with Kids

Playful and Easy Mathematics with Building Toys- Math fun for kids!

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There is so much math learning that kids can do during play.  Constructive building toys, in particular, like MagformersLego, Blocks, and Magna-Tiles offer such great opportunities for kids to  explore mathematical ideas in a way that is meaningful to them.  

Playful and Easy Mathematics with Building Toys- Math fun for kids!

Mathematical Ideas Explored During Play:

 When kids play, they can explore mathematical ideas like

  • Numbers / Counting-  (Ex:  "I have 3 square pieces."  "I need a 4x2 Lego piece."  "I need 2 more.")
  • Patterns-  (Ex:  They place blocks of alternating sizes of colors in a row.)
  • Shape Identification-  They name shapes, put shapes together to make different shapes, or utilize a shape's properties while building.  (Ex:  "I'm making a square."  "I rolled the car down the slanty triangle side." "This piece rolled." "These two triangles make a square.")
  • Spatial relations-  (Ex:  "Put that next to this piece."  "I put it on top.")
  • Comparison/ Measurement- (Ex:  "My tower is taller than yours."  "My car won't fit.  I need to make this garage bigger.")
  • Symmetry- They build creations that are the same on both sides.  (Ex: "I have to make my ship the same on both sides.")   

Playful and Easy Mathematics with Building Toys- Math fun for kids!

Two Ways to Build on Kids Mathematical Understanding

So while children can explore mathematical ideas while they're playing, we can also help build their mathematical understanding by

  • Building on the ideas explored through play  
For example, I noticed that my son was building a house during his play.  I asked him to tell me about the house and then that evolved into a conversation about neighbors and neighborhoods... which led him to build more structures!  

  • Giving them mathematical language
A lot of times kids explore math during their play... but we don't always realize it because we don't hear them using textbook mathematical language and vocabulary.  So once in awhile I like stepping in and just talk to my son about what he's doing.  I try to sprinkle our conversation with specific mathematics vocabulary (ex:  shape names, numbers, terms to describe space, comparison terms) or highlight mathematical ideas (ex:  noting that two cube pieces put together are the same length as the rectangular prism).  This way I help provide him with the tools needed to communicate mathematically with others.  

Another easy way to teach kids mathematical language is by reading a lot of math-themed books with him.  Here are some of our favorites below!

Our 20+ Favorite Math Books:

I realize that this post is kind of out of character with the rest of my blog... but I figured... why not try something different.  I love arts and crafts...and being creative....and I also love math and science too. Why not embrace it?

Looking for more fun Math ideas? 

Check out this awesome STEAM book!.  It contains 50+ STEAM activities for kids!

More Fun Preschool Math Activities

I'm part of an awesome preschool bloggers group whose theme this week was "math."  I hope that this post was helpful to you!  If you're looking for more fun ways to encourage your preschoolers' mathematical understanding, check out the links below!

Happy learning, friends!

Playful and Easy Mathematics with Building Toys- Math fun for kids!