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Bringing Math Home: A Parent's Guide to Elementary School Math - Games, Activities, Projects

Bringing Math Home: A Parent's Guide to Elementary School Math - Games, Activities, Projects

by Suzanne L. Churchman

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This ultimate parents' guide to elementary school math features projects, games, and activities children and parents can do together to increase their understanding of basic math concepts. Fun activities such as mapping a child's bedroom for practice in measurements or keeping a diary of numeric items like vacation mileage and expenses reinforce the math skills


This ultimate parents' guide to elementary school math features projects, games, and activities children and parents can do together to increase their understanding of basic math concepts. Fun activities such as mapping a child's bedroom for practice in measurements or keeping a diary of numeric items like vacation mileage and expenses reinforce the math skills outlined in each lesson. Using the standards issued by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics as a foundation, this book covers both content and process standards for areas such as algebra, geometry, measurement, problem solving, and reasoning/proofs. It also includes a glossary of math terms and dozens of suggestions for additional children's reading to further math understanding.

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"A good book that can be easily understood and used by parents."  —Science Books & Films
Science Books & Films
A good book that can be easily understood and used by parents.

Product Details

Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
5 - 12 Years

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Bringing Math Home

A Parent's Guide to Elementary School Math

By Suzanne L. Churchman

Chicago Review Press Incorporated

Copyright © 2006 Suzanne L. Churchman
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-56976-203-5


Numbers and Operations

In the past, the standard for Numbers and Operations would have been known as arithmetic. Much of what children need to know in this area remains the same as when you were in school. Students still need to know how our number system is set up; how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide and how to make computations using paper and a pencil, calculators, or just their brains. Students also need to know what each operation means and how to show numbers in a variety of ways.

Skills and Activities for Grades Pre-Kindergarten to 2

The following text breaks down the broad heading of Numbers and Operations into specific skills that children of this age group should know.

Young children should be able to count, understand what each number represents, and know "how many" there are in sets of objects.

Counting is the basis for everyday adult math skills, which include everything from monitoring finances and scheduling time, to counting calories, to counting the nuts and bolts provided for assembling a child's first bicycle.

Counting not only means being able to recite the numbers in order (1, 2, 3, and so on), but also understanding that there is a one-to-one correspondence between the numbers and the objects they count. Small children often do this by touching or moving each object as they say the number. While many things they are experiencing as new seem obvious to you as an adult, concepts such as discovering that counting objects in a different order results in the same answer are thrilling to a pre-kindergarten or first grade child. While every child has a different level of maturity, most four-year-olds will start out learning to count to five, and the process grows from there.

Another aspect of counting is "skip counting." This refers to counting by twos, fives, tens, or other numbers. Children are taught to do this by "skipping" certain numbers to reach the next one (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10).

Counting Mania


You will need a small group of objects that your child can count. Here is a list to get you started, but the possibilities are endless:




Chocolate chips (in or out of cookies)

Tiles in a floor

Books on a shelf


Paper clips


Pieces of cereal


You and your child should count as many things as you can, as often as you can. The key to counting is practice. Encourage your child to write the total number he or she counts. Your child can do this with a chalkboard, dry erase board, paper, or something kids really like, such as sticky notes.

Nimble Numbers


You will need index cards, a marker or pen, paper, and a clock or wristwatch for this activity. Number the index cards, choosing an amount appropriate for the age of your child (such as 0-10, 1-20, or 1-100).


Place the cards face up in a random pattern. Keep track of the time that it takes for your child to put the cards in numerical order. By doing this often, you can easily see your child's improvement.

Literature Connection

Anno's Counting Book by Mitsumasa Anno

Count! by Denise Fleming

The 329th Friend by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat

Children of this age group should begin to understand that numerals have different values depending on what place they occupy (their place value).

For example, kids should recognize that in the number 365, the 5 means five ones, the 6 means six tens, and the 3 means three hundreds. They also should recognize that in our base-10 number system, each place to the left is 10 times bigger than the one to the right.

What Does a Number Look Like?


You will need paper, a pencil, and some type of small manipulative, such as toothpicks, beans, or buttons. Make sure you get a large amount of the manipulative you choose. Divide a sheet of paper in half, with "tens" labeled on the left side and "ones" on the right side; your child will use this place value mat to group tens and ones.


This exercise shows place value by asking your child to build a number. Ask your child to count out 54 items, first by making five piles of toothpicks (or whatever manipulative you choose) with 10 in each group and placing them on the "tens" part of the mat, and then by placing four more toothpicks on the "ones" side. Encourage the learner to verbalize the amount — for example, "There are 54 toothpicks, or five tens and four ones." Older students can also work out larger numbers this way with big containers of beans, toothpicks, and the like. They should then group by hundreds, tens, and ones.

How High or Low Can You Go?


You will need recording sheets similar to a spreadsheet, pencils, and a die. If your child is in first grade, you may only want to make a recording sheet with two columns for the ones place and tens place. For a second grade student, you may need to create a spreadsheet that has three or four columns for the ones, tens, hundreds, and one thousands place. Write the names of the places at the top of each column. Be sure to place the ones column the farthest to the right. You should have two or more players for this game.


This game gives children practice finding place value. The object is to make the highest number. You or your child should roll the die. Each player writes the number from the die in one of the columns on his or her spreadsheet. Roll the die until every player has filled all the spaces in one line across. For example, if you are playing with three columns, roll the die three times. Each time, the players must decide in which column they will place the rolled number. The person with the highest number earns a point. Set a target score at the beginning of the game. The person who gets to the target score is the winner. You can also play the game by having kids try to make the lowest number.

Calculator Discoveries


You will need a calculator.


Your child can discover much about how our number system works by repeatedly adding 1 on the calculator. Have your child start with 1 + 1 and continue to press "+ 1" many times. Your child may observe that the ones place changes each time he or she adds 1, but that the tens place changes much more slowly, and the hundreds even more slowly than the tens. Use questions to help your child discover that the tens change every tenth time and the hundreds every 10 tens. Early calculator training will help put your child at ease using this important tool.

Literature Connection

The King's Commissioners by Aileen Friedman

Students in primary grades should understand how whole numbers (0, 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on) relate to one another.

Concepts such as comparing which number is larger or smaller and how numbers that show order (for example, second, ninth, twenty-fifth) are connected to numbers that show amounts (for example, two, nine, twenty-five) are examples of number relationships.

Larger, Smaller


You will need to make a deck of 52 cards. You can make these from index cards or a similarly heavy paper and a pen or pencil. Your child should be able to make them with a little help. Choose 13 different numbers that are appropriate for the age of your child (for kindergarten, choose 13 numbers between 1 and 20; for first grade, choose numbers between 1 and 100; and so on). You and your child should make four identical cards for each number. You should have two to four players for this game.


This game is similar to the card game War. Shuffle the deck of cards. Deal all the cards. Players stack their cards face down in front of them. Each player turns over one card. The player with the largest number on his or her card wins all the cards. If the cards turned over are the same number, then players turn over a second card. Whoever has the larger number for the second turned-over card wins all the cards. Play continues until all the cards have been played. You can also play the game with the smaller number being the target to win. Players should be encouraged to read the numbers aloud for added practice.

Order, Please!


You can use the same cards used to play Larger, Smaller to reinforce number order.


Have your child take the deck and place the number cards in order from least to greatest or from greatest to least. You can add new number cards for further practice.


To practice how order numbers are related to counting numbers, make an alternate set of cards so that one card has the counting number and another has the order number (for example, one card has 5, while another card has the word fifth). Children can then match up the related cards. Another variation would be to play the game in the next activity, Number Word Concentration.

Literature Connection

Henry the Fourth by Stuart J. Murphy

The Seven Chinese Brothers by Margaret Mahy

Young students should be able to connect number words and numerals to the amounts that they represent in a variety of ways.

Number Word Concentration


You can make cards for this game from index cards or even just scraps of paper and a pen or pencil. Make at least 10 sets of cards. A set consists of a numeral and its number word — for example, a card with the numeral 5 and then a card with its number name, five, or a drawing of five squares. You can make more sets to increase difficulty. The number of sets you make depends upon the age of your child. Pre-kindergarten and kindergarten children may only need the numbers 0 to 10; first graders explore numbers to 100; and second graders work with three-digit numbers. You should have two or more players for this game.


Turn each of the 20 cards face down on the playing surface. Each player turns two cards over to see if he or she makes a match of the numeral and the number word. If they match, the player gets to keep the pair. If they do not match, the player turns the cards face down again. The next player takes his or her turn. Play continues until all cards are gone. The player with the most sets wins.

Literature Connection

Feast for 10 by Cathryn Falwell

Children of this age group should know common fractions (½, 1/3, and ¼) and be able to show what they stand for.

Exploring Measuring Cups


You will need a large, flat pan, such as a plastic dishpan or even a cake pan; measuring cups (with separate cup measurements for ¼, 1/3, ½ and 1 cup); a dry material such as rice, sand, or split peas for measuring; and containers of various sizes.


Children love to explore. One way to explore common fractions is by using measuring cups. With a little direction, your child can discover many things about the relationship between the common fractions written on the cups. For example, your child may learn that ¼ is smaller than ½, even though 4 is a bigger number than 2. Your child will also begin to understand that some fractions are equivalent. It takes two of the ¼ cups to fill the ½ cup.

Your child can also try estimation with this activity. Kids will love to measure out the dry ingredients in the pan. Give your child a number of larger containers and let him or her estimate how many half cups or quarter cups it would take to fill it. Then, your child can actually fill it and find the exact answer.

Fractions in the Real World


You will need any items that you can cut from a whole into fractions. A pie is a good example.


Understanding fractions is another concept that takes practice and more practice. Any time a whole object is cut into equal parts, your child could be learning about fractions. Each time you cut a pie, discuss how many pieces there are in the whole pie; then, discuss how many out of that number are eaten (or left). You can cut candy bars into halves, thirds, and fourths, or divide small bags of M&M's into equal parts resulting in two, three, or four groups. This lays the groundwork for how fractions are used with sets of objects. There are countless instances in your daily life when you are using fractions. The key is to discuss these experiences with your child. Remember to use the math vocabulary when you talk about fractions: denominator for the bottom number in a fraction, numerator for the top number, and equivalent fractions for fractions that represent the same amount.



Choose a favorite recipe and use the listed ingredients; two tasty examples are listed here. For both recipes, you will also need a large mixing bowl, a mixing spoon, measuring cups and spoons, a cookie sheet, and an oven.


Children are always motivated to learn when there is something good to eat. Having your child help you cook or bake gives practical experience in the use of fractions. Here are two cookie recipes that use a variety of fractions.

Brownie Oat Cookies

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
¼ cup cocoa
1 cup quick oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 egg whites
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
Nonstick cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 350 °F (176 °C). In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, oats, baking powder, and salt. Add the egg whites, corn syrup, and vanilla. Stir until the dry ingredients are moistened. Drop the dough by teaspoonfuls onto a cookie sheet sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Bake the sheet in the oven for 10 minutes, or until set. Cool the cookies for five minutes on the cookie sheet. This recipe makes about two dozen cookies.

Peanut Butter Cookies

½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
½cup shortening
½ cup peanut butter
1 egg
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 375 °F (190.5 °C). Mix the sugars, shortening, peanut butter, and egg. Stir in the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Shape the dough into 3/4-inch (1.9-cm) balls. Place them 2 inches (5.1 cm) apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake the sheet in the oven for 10 minutes. Cool the cookies slightly before removing them from the sheet. This recipe makes about four to five dozen cookies.

To increase learning about fractions, you may want to use just the 1/3 cup (80 mL) measure for the Brownie Oat Cookies. Children will then see that it takes two of the 1/3 cup to make 2/3 (160 mL), and it takes three of the 1/3 cup to make a whole cup (240 mL). The same could be done with the Peanut Butter Cookie recipe. This time, vary the experience by using only the ¼ cup measure.

Literature Connection

Fraction Action by Loreen Leedy

Gator Pie by Louise Mathews

Young children should understand what it actually means to add and subtract whole numbers.

Children should know that adding is putting groups together, or "joining," and subtraction is finding the difference between two groups, or "taking away." Children should also understand how addition and subtraction are related to each other. The two operations are the opposite of each other and, therefore, if you know an addition fact, you also know its related subtraction fact — for example, 3 + 8 = 11, thus 11 - 8 = 3.

Addition and subtraction facts are all around you in your everyday life. For example, books on a shelf might be an opportunity for your child to add or subtract. There are five white books and two red books. How many are there all together? Or, for subtraction, you can change the question to: How many books would be on the shelf if we took four books down? Or, how many books would be left if we took down the red books?

Writing Equations


You will need small manipulatives (such as beans), paper, and a pencil.


Set out the beans (or whatever manipulative you choose) in two groups and have your child write the equivalent equation. For example, if there were six beans in one group and three beans in another group, then the child would write 6 + 3 = 9. The opposite would be that you write the equation and have your child use the beans to show the problem. You can use these two activities for both addition and subtraction.

Literature Connection

Addition Annie by David Gisler (addition)

The Great Take-Away by Louise Mathews (subraction)

On the River: An Adding Book by Sheila White Samton (addition)

17 Kings and 42 Elephants by Margaret Mahy (subraction)

Primary grade children should understand that multiplication is the same as repeatedly adding the same number, and that division is equal groupings of objects and sharing equally.

Do You Have More Cookies than I Do?

To show how multiplication is like repeated addition, have your child find the total amount of cookies that are in three bags, with five cookies in each bag. Your child can find the answer by writing out "5 + 5 + 5 = 15," which is the same as 3 x 5 = 15.

Show your child that division, in some situations, is really sharing a larger group equally. For instance, if Johnny has 15 cookies and wants to share them with three friends, each friend would receive five cookies. Sharing is something most kids have been doing since preschool. Each time your child has to share a bag of candy with friends, he or she shares equally — "Here's one for you, and one for you, and one for me." Your child has been dividing and didn't know it.


Excerpted from Bringing Math Home by Suzanne L. Churchman. Copyright © 2006 Suzanne L. Churchman. Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Suzanne Churchman is an elementary school teacher with more than 35 years of experience.

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