Watch a young child carefully select the largest cookie from the plate, and you will see how intuitive math is from a very young age! Sadly, math in the United States all too frequently becomes a dreaded subject – in no small part because our country has a severe shortage of qualified math teachers.

The good news is, there are some really fun ways to help kids enjoy math! Here are a few of my favorites (links are affiliate links to Amazon):

#### Get out in nature

I don’t think it’s an accident that every single mathematically talented person I know loves spending time in nature. Nature is the source of life’s most fascinating, beautiful, and complex patterns – like the Fibonacci sequence! When your child plays outside they are getting exercise, vitamin D, and a great start in loving mathematics!

#### Invest in learning toys

Learning toys traditionally found in classrooms make fantastic toys for homes as well – and they are the perfect way for kids to learn the basics of subtraction, addition, and even multiplication on their own! Here are a few of our favorites – purchased for our family because I loved playing with them as a kid!

- Learning Resources Three Bear Family Rainbow Counters: my favorite counters – they are well made and double as weights for a scale
- This bucket balance is easy for kids to use and very versatile – the buckets can hold liquids, and you can put a lid on the buckets for a flat balance. The balance also has a small drawer for storing weights.
- Cuisenaire Rods are a fun way to explore measurements, perimeter, area, and more. My kids also enjoy making letters with them.
- Pattern Blocks are a fantastic introduction to basic geometry! We enjoy using these with contact paper to create beautiful wall mosaics.

#### Listen to them

Reasoning is an important mathematical skill. Take the time to listen properly to stories your child is telling you. Asking why and how questions will help them learn to expand and justify their ideas.

This post is the fourth of eight in the Get Ready for K Through Play series I am working on with Bernadette of Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas, Megan at **Coffee Cups and Crayons**, Vicky at Mess for Less, Cerys at **Rainy Day Mum**, and Kristina at **Toddler Approved**. Be sure to check out their posts as well!

- Fostering Kindergarten Math Skills from
*Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas* - Post-It Math Games from
*Mess for Less* - Math Fun in the Pool from
*Toddler Approved* - Math Activities for Kindergarten: Snack Time Practice from
*Coffee Cups and Crayons* - Number Prints from
*Rainy Day Mum*

Drop by our Get Ready for K Through Play Pinterest board for more ideas!

MaryAnne lives in Silicon Valley with her Stanford professor husband Mike and their four children. She writes about parenting through education, creativity, and play. Mama Smiles - Joyful Parenting is a space to share crafts, hands on learning activities, and family outings that enrich lives and bring families together.

Diane Hurst says

I think I most enjoyed math through rhythm, when a child– like with traditional rhymes (1,2, buckle my shoe, etc.) Didn’t think much about math in nature, but you’re right– there are some really interesting patterns. Our favorite math manipulative is the abacus (100 beads, in rows of 10; or a homemade variety for just making one row of 10). Here’s a picture of an abacus I made from a wire hanger: http://www.gentleshepherdweavings.blogspot.com/2013/04/a-preschool-big-bead-abacus.html

MaryAnne says

I love your abacus!

Rhythm is a wonderful way to learn math!

Nina says

Thank you for the link to the Stanford course; I’ve bookmarked it because it looks like something I’d want to check out.

In addition to poor math skills, I think we also need to get over the “I’m not a math person” ridiculousness that I hear often. I was one of those who grew up believing that I wasn’t a math person, but truly, anyone can get an A in math if they believe they can. I already had such a barrier with my negative self talk that it perpetuated itself. Now, I love numbers :)

MaryAnne says

The “not a math person” is exactly what the Stanford course is working to prevent. I signed up, because I think it has some great information for parents, and it doesn’t look like a big time commitment.

Faigie says

I hated math. Didn’t understand adding & subtracting fractions until my math for kids class in graduate school. Cuisinaire rods are great. You can use them for years on so many levels.

MaryAnne says

Cuisenaire rods are simple, but very cool! I’m glad you finally got a decent math class in grad school!

Megan says

I totally agree! And the bucket balance is new to me so thanks for the suggestion!

MaryAnne says

We’ve had a lot of fun with that bucket balance!

Jeanette Nyberg says

I love those pattern blocks- they look like something you could do a ton with. Bookmarking the math course link, too!

MaryAnne says

The math course looks great – I signed up!

Lisa Nelson says

Pattern blocks are awesome! We use them all the time – in all kinds of different capacities.

They really help Hadyn understand the lessons. Plus, they are interactive and fun. He does enjoy making puzzles and figuring things out.

Thanks for this post!

MaryAnne says

Have you ever tried using them with play dough? That’s another favorite in our house! https://www.mamasmiles.com/play-dough-and-pattern-blocks/

PragmaticMom says

Great ideas for playing with math concepts! I think I just focused on counting up to 100 before Kindergarten and counting by 10s. We used Chicka Chicka 1 2 3 for that. There are numbers on the back covers to play around with.

MaryAnne says

That’s pretty good, if your kids could all count to 100 and by 10s by kindergarten!

Jessica says

Thanks for reminding me of useful tools that we had in our classrooms as children that I think J will absolutely love (he just loves math). I don’t think I ever knew the technical term for the perimeter blocks, and I just love that kids find multiple uses for a toy/teaching resource. I’m so excited about the math course to learn different ways I can teach math to my kid(s).

MaryAnne says

I signed up for the math course, too – it looks fantastic! I met Jo Boaler when I was working on my Masters degree, and I know the people who took classes from her LOVED her.

Elisa | blissfulE says

I love how you pointed out that mathematically-talented people love spending time in nature. Very true, but I had never thought of that connection before!

MaryAnne says

I hadn’t realized it either, until I started thinking about this post :)

Natalie says

As you know, I love math – this is one subject I could easily teach at home. I like logic in math, so we used Lollipop Logic and other beginning logic books when Anna was younger.

MaryAnne says

Thanks for the recommendation! I’ll have to look for those.

Ticia says

Have you ever gotten the Three Bears Family game? You’re trying to get all 3 bears back home to the cave. It’s really cute.

MaryAnne says

I haven’t, but it sounds great!

Jen says

My son LOVES math. It’s his favorite subject, for sure.

Ann says

I really like your list of learning math toys!

My son likes counting money. I do try and point out and explain math concepts if they come up. Multiplication is a good example. I remember my mother did this with me and it gave me a lot of math confidence in school.

Katherine says

I keep meaning to get some kind of balance scale, if only I had a place to put it!

For as hands on and wonderful as our school is, there is too much drilling in math, and Rebecca hates it. I don’t know what to do about that unfortunately.

One of our math activities is counting and dividing up allowance into short term saving/long term saving/giving/spending.

MaryAnne says

I keep thinking that I should start up an allowance with my kids. I would love to learn more about how your system works!

Jody says

I love your list MaryAnne – we have a lot of fun with nature and pattern blocks. I’ve just recently bought cuisenaire rods but we haven’t taken them out yet – now I want a bucket balance!!

MaryAnne says

Bucket balances are great! I hope you and your girls enjoy cuisenaire rods!