13 Hands-On Activities to Teach Homeschool Math
Are you teaching homeschool math to your preschooler and need more ideas?
Teaching math to young children isn’t an easy task due to its abstract nature—and kids tend to struggle with abstractions at an early age.
That’s where hands-on math activities come in!
Keep reading to learn how hands-on math activities dramatically improve your child’s understanding of important basic concepts. You’ll also find 13 fun, easy-to-do hands-on math activities to make math fun again for your child!
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What Are Math Hands-On Activities?
There was a time when teachers taught math through a series of exercises or worksheets. Then, they would explain how to solve them, and students would proceed to do as told.
However, that time is gone (or should be).
Students now learn through hands-on math activities. That’s because “hands-on math activities offer students learning opportunities that paper and pencil tasks simply can’t.”
Hands-on math activities are any activities where your child can touch materials, play with them, cut and glue them, and use those experiences to learn about numbers and math.
Why Hands-On Activities Are Essential for Homeschool Math
Children need concrete learning experiences before moving on to more abstract types of learning, particularly younger ones.
Hands-on activities increase student engagement and help build conceptual understanding—which is one of the five strands that define math proficiency.
Conceptual understanding refers to the “comprehension of math, concepts, operations, and relationships” so the student can transfer that new knowledge and apply it in different contexts.
It gives great importance to learning the “why” of every new concept or skill.
13 Hands-On Activities to Teach Homeschool Math
I’ve put together this list with 13 hands-on activities to bring your child closer to conceptual understanding and help them build strong math foundations.
The exercises are categorized by the math concept each helps them learn.
One of the first math concepts children need to learn is shapes. Shapes are everywhere, so kids find them easy to understand. The following activities are a good way to start.
1. Shape Sticky Wall
A smart way to introduce shapes to a preschool student is by creating a sticky shape wall.
First, you need to draw different shapes on the non-sticky side of a contact paper sheet, then tape the contact paper to the wall and peel off the sticky side.
Now, bring out shape buttons and ask your child to sort them onto the correct shape on the Shape Sticky-Wall.
As your child progresses, you can add new ones and ask them to help you draw them.
2. DIY Geoboard
A geoboard is a straightforward tool that helps children to learn about geometry.
They usually come in square or circular form, “with nails set in a variety of configurations, upon which rubber bands could be stretched into various shapes.”
All you need to make your own geoboard is a cork hot pad, a pack of thumbtacks, and lots of colorful rubber bands.
Then ask your child to use the rubber bands to create different shapes in the geoboard. At a later stage, you can ask them to “draw” other figures using the rubber bands, such as a house, a boat, or a robot. You can use this board to introduce your child to the different types of degrees and movements.
3. Shape Wheel
This very simple concept will make teaching the shapes to your child a fun and engaging activity.
Draw a shape wheel, like the one in the image below, and cut out colored papers in the different shapes you want your child to learn. Then glue those shapes to clothespins.
Now ask them to match the clothespin to the figure on the wheel.
Your child will learn about shapes and, as a bonus, will work on their fine motor skills.
Before learning to add, subtract, multiply, or divide, your child needs to learn to count.
LEGO bricks, funny spiders, or marshmallows will help them learn how to count in a fun way.
4. Counting With LEGO Bricks
Every kid loves playing with LEGO bricks, so why not use them to teach them how to count?
At first, you can use the LEGO bricks as counting rods, but then you can also ask your child to sort them by color, shape, size, and more!
If you want to take your hands-on math activity one step further, you can print a counting worksheet like the one in the image. You can download a PDF counting worksheet at the Great Peace Living blog.
5. Spider Math
This is a perfect activity for the Halloween season.
Take a long piece of contact paper and draw some cute and funny spiders on it. Then write a number on each spider and stick the contact paper to the wall.
You must get some googly eyes and then ask your child to stick them to the spiders’ faces, matching the number of eyes with the number written on the spider.
6. Marshmallow Counting Mats
This is a great hands-on activity for preschoolers learning numbers and how to count.
All you need are a bunch of marshmallows, play-doh, crayons, and counting mats—which you can download for free at Life Over C’s.
Each counting mat has a cereal bowl at the top of the page, where your child must put the correct number of marshmallows according to the number on the mat. Then, you can ask your child to create the number on the mat with play-doh, and finally, write the number with letters.
When your child has finished working with the 10 counting mats, it’s time to practice counting from 1 to 10.
Patterns aren’t an easy-to-grasp concept at first. They’re hard to explain in a vacuum or in an abstract way.
However, once children see and create patterns by themselves, they quickly get the idea and find them quite interesting.
7. Dot and Build Patterns
Learning patterns is crucial for preschoolers, as they will later use that knowledge to acquire and develop more advanced math skills.
With this simple hands-on math activity, you can help your child learn all kinds of patterns in a fun and entertaining way. Grab a piece of paper and draw black circles, as seen in the image below.
You can also download the Dot & Build printable directly from A Little Pinch of Perfect. Now create your first pattern using plastic cubes and ask your child to complete it.
Then, ask them to recreate the pattern in the row below it, but with markers. You can create as many designs as you want, and they can be as complex as your child wants.
8. Apple Patterns
These apple pattern strips come with the pattern already printed on them. All you have to do is give a strip to your child and ask them to complete the pattern with plastic cubes, play-doh, or little colored paper balls.
You can download for free these useful apple pattern strips at Life Over C’s.
The addition is the first basic operation that kids learn during their education. Make it fun using frogs or LEGO bricks, so it’s easier for them.
9. Frog Math Game
This Frog Math Game is perfect for teaching your kindergartener to add in a fun way.
You get small frogs with an addition operation on them, and your child has to place them on top of a flower with the result of that addition.
As one number can correspond to the result of other additions, you can ask your child to put together all the different addition operations resulting in 16, for example. That way, your child will start learning about fact-families and the various combinations they can do with numbers.
You can download this free printable from 123 Homeschool 4 Me.
10. Addition With Lego Bricks
For students, a bit older, this activity can help them truly understand addition while having fun with LEGO bricks. First, you can download the addition-problem cards for free at Frugal Fun 4 Boys and print them.
Choose an addition-problem card and ask your child to create towers of LEGO bricks in 10s and 1s, like in the picture below.
Now, put the ones together and move them over to the solution page. This way, your child will learn the concept of regrouping and have fun doing it!
11. Math Fact Memory Game
As a teacher, I’ve used the memory game to teach concepts such as Spanish vocabulary and addition and subtraction. This math fact memory game is an excellent tool to develop addition and subtraction skills in kindergarten students.
First, download the Math Fact Memory Game at Playdough to Plato for free and print it.
Second, cut out the math fact cards and glue them to colored card stocks—one color for the fact cards, a different one for the result numbers. Now place your cards on the table and open cards like in a simple memory game. Your kid needs to find two identical cards or a fact card and the result number.
Once kids start working with shapes and patterns, symmetry is another concept they need to understand to continue their math progress.
These fun activities can help you to teach your child this concept in easy and entertaining ways.
12. Symmetry Drawing
How do you explain to a child the concept of symmetry? It’s a hard thing to do.
But what if you give them a drawing cut in half and ask them to complete the drawing? They might learn symmetry by themselves with these brilliant printable drawings.
You can download them for free at Totschooling, print them, and ask your child to complete the drawings the same way they’re on the other side.
Then explain to them why this is symmetry and build upon that knowledge.
13. Symmetry Circles
You can take your child’s symmetry knowledge one step further!
Just download this printable for free at A Little Pinch of Perfect, which includes a series of circles designed to teach symmetry.
Once you have the circles, get some colorful wooden shapes like those in the image, or make your shapes using cardboard or paper. Then ask your child to create symmetrical patterns on the different circles. This activity is excellent for teaching symmetry but also develops the understanding of patterns and shapes and might give them a creativity boost!
Make Math Fun Again and Start Using These Hands-On Activities
There’s no reason why your homeschool math lessons should be boring and hard to understand for your child. With these hands-on math activities, your child will learn basic math concepts in a fun and entertaining way.
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