How to Make Math Fun

Wondering how to make math fun for your child? You can make math interesting, even at a young age! In this article, I’ll explain what you need to know to get started!

How to Make Math Fun“I know lots of ways to make 10!” my 6 year old said. He had been learning different combinations using adding and subtracting to make certain numbers. It was heartwarming to see his excitement and get a glimpse of how he was learning these new concepts.

I only have so much access to the materials my kids learn in class, but that hasn’t stopped me from nurturing a love of math at home. The last thing I want is for them to grow up thinking that they’re “not good at math.”

I truly believe that success in math boils down to making it fun and natural. I based these games and tips on their classroom assignments as well as books and articles I’ve read to make math enjoyable. Hopefully, you’ll find them just as useful:

Play dominoes

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“Let’s play Domino Flip!” my twins said one day after school. They played this game every day in their first-grade class, and it was a big hit among the kids. Domino Flip helps them practice adding numbers while making it a friendly competition.

You’ll need dominoes with dots. Here’s how to play:

  1. Lay all the dominoes face down on the floor.
  2. Both players turn one domino each face up.
  3. Have your child add all the dots on their domino while you do the same.
  4. The player with the bigger number collects both dominoes.
  5. After all the dominoes are turned and added, each player counts the number of dominoes they collected. The player with the most dominoes wins.

Once your child starts adding the dominoes easily and quickly, play a version where each player flips two dominoes.

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Play “21” (aka Black Jack)

Like dominoes, playing 21 encourages addition skills as well as knowing when to keep going and when to stop. Here’s how to play:

  1. Each player gets two cards and adds up the numbers. (Jacks, Queens, and Kings are all 10, and the Ace can be either 1 or 11.)
  2. The goal is to get as close to 21 as possible without going past it (for instance, a player with cards that add up to 22 would instantly lose).
  3. Each player can get additional cards from the deck, one at a time, until they feel like they’re as close to 21 as possible without going past it.
  4. The player with cards that add up to 21 (or the number closest to it) wins the round.

Play games and puzzles

Make math fun with the games you already have at home! Nearly every board game can be turned into a math lesson. Even counting how many spots you move on the board is fantastic math practice. Some board games include pretend money, like The Game of Life and Monopoly Junior, to practice counting.

You can also play games and puzzles that incorporate math concepts. My kids got Blokus as a gift and couldn’t stop playing it. Tangrams were popular as well, both at home and in their classrooms.

Guess estimations

Every week, my son’s first-grade teacher played “The Estimation Jar,” where a student brought a jar filled with items. The kids guessed how many items were inside and wrote their guesses on a sticky note.

Then, they took turns sticking the notes with the numbers on the board in numerical order (any duplicates were arranged vertically on top of each other).

Once all the numbers were in order on the board, the teacher started giving hints about the correct number. She might say, “The number of cotton balls in the jar is higher than 30,” at which point the kids decided whether their guesses made the cut. The person that came closest (or right on the nose) was the winner.

You can play a version of the estimation jar at home, even without a jar. For instance, place pretzel sticks on your child’s plate, and you can both guess how many there are. Or guess how long the couch is (in feet) before measuring it with a ruler.

Use real items to explain concepts

Nothing beats seeing math actually applied in real life using physical, tangible items.

Show how fractions work as you slice an apple into pieces. Explain multiplication when you divide blocks among your kids (“If 3 kids each get 5 blocks, how many blocks are there all together?”). Use toy cars to show tens and ones or to practice adding and subtracting.

Using math manipulatives is the first part of what educators call the Concrete Pictorial Abstract method, or CPA. The “concrete” part of the method relies on tangible ways to show math concepts.

Draw math concepts

As such, the “pictorial” part of the method is, as you might guess, drawing the concept. Now that your child has seen math used with real items, she’ll have an easier time drawing it on paper.

Explain the subtraction problem “10 minus 6” by drawing 10 circles, crossing out six, and counting the remaining circles. Tie it back to the “concrete” part of the method by reminding her what you did with the items (“Remember when we had 10 cars, and we took away 6 of them?”).

You can also draw boxes of tens and ones, a number line, or various shapes—anything to record a math concept on paper. That way, the “abstract” part of the method—doing the math problem with only numbers—can come much easier to her.

Play “how to make numbers”

My kids loved to announce different ways to make numbers. They might say, “You can make ’10’ like this: 4 plus 4 plus 4 minus 2.”

Make it a game by coming up with as many different ways to make a particular number. Don’t be afraid to go beyond the typical numbers—add, subtract, multiply, or divide to come up with the same number. You might even introduce large numbers: “200 minus 190 makes 10!”

Make your own math problems

Incorporate math into your daily life by creating your own real-world problems throughout the day. For instance, you can say:

  • “How many more minutes are left before bath time?”
  • “You get 20 crackers. Let’s count them by 2’s together…”
  • “If one snow cone is $3, and there are 3 of you, how much money do I need to bring with me?”
  • “You have 9 pieces, but your brother has 5. How many pieces do you need to give him so you both have the same?”

Try to incorporate “math lingo” throughout the day, using your daily life as the subject matter.

Cook and bake

One of the most hands-on ways to make math fun is right in the kitchen. Cooking and baking are prime excuses to practice math concepts. You can:

  • Count how many eggs go into the batter to bake cookies.
  • Use measuring cups and spoons to talk about fractions.
  • Count how many times to stir the bowl.
  • Have your child toss diced zucchini into the skillet by 3’s.

In other words, you’ll never run out of chances to introduce math in the kitchen.

Mom and daughter baking

Go grocery shopping

Running errands with the kids? A fantastic way to make math fun is through grocery shopping. From counting money to comparing items, you’ll find plenty of ways to incorporate math during your regular shopping trips. For instance, you can:

  • Explain that two half-gallons of milk are the same as one gallon of milk.
  • Subtract the savings you get from a coupon.
  • Estimate how much your groceries will cost (this works best if you only have a handful of items).
  • Compare the total price with the price per measurement (for instance, a $10 bottle of olive oil at 10 ounces is a better deal than a $7 bottle at 5 ounces).

Take math outdoors

Something about being outdoors can easily lift our spirits and moods, especially when it comes to learning. If your child fights you about math, see if you can talk about it outdoors.

Grab a box of sidewalk chalk and draw math problems outside. Use fallen leaves to explain adding and subtracting. Gather small rocks in a row to show the number line.

The more you can introduce math in a setting he loves—outdoors—the more likely he’ll take to practicing and understanding these concepts.

Little boy outside in a garden

Read children’s books about math

Combine literacy and math with math books for kids! If you already incorporate reading into your daily routine, read books specifically about math. These are sure to entertain and educate your child about math concepts.

Let your child solve a problem alone

Sometimes, we think kids should always have the right answers every time, or that mistakes or difficult problems should be avoided.

Instead, kids remember more information if they get the wrong answers at first. It turns out, stumbling and making mistakes encourage them to remember the correct information once they get it.

Allow your child to struggle and try new material, and then switch to giving feedback or the correct answer. Here’s an example of how to do that with a math word problem:

  • Give her the problem and have her solve it first, all on her own. Frustration and mistakes might be made, but that’s fine.
  • Then, show her one of the ways to solve the problem (point out that there’s always more than one way to solve a problem!).
  • And finally, give another similar problem (maybe using different numbers) and ask her to solve it. Better yet, ask her to show you one or two different strategies on how to solve it.

Not only do mistakes show her how to do things correctly, but they also help her remember the information once she learns it. Not to mention she’s building the resiliency, motivation, and creativity to bounce back after facing challenges.


Learning about math concepts may not come as naturally as, say, reading to your child may be. Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t incorporate it into your daily life and make it fun.

Play games and encourage estimations. Use tangible items and draw pictures to explain math concepts. Play “how to make numbers,” and make your own math problems. Cook and bake at home, and use grocery shopping to teach concepts. Take math lessons outdoors, and read children’s books about math.

As parents, we can do plenty to teach math right at home—including all the many ways to make the number 10.

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