Yummy Ways to Teach Kids Math

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Turn everyday snacks into teachable moments for your little learner with these simple tricks.

She’s playing with her food again. Sure, those berries may make a mess on her fingers, but instead of getting on to her, turn this moment into one that’s fun and teachable. Small fruits and cereals are great for counting and more! We’ve got lots of simple, edible ways to keep smiling while you teach kids math.

Kids love cereal because it’s so quick and easy. Besides, cereals have been specifically designed so kids will like them: creative shapes, colors, flavors, and the box is entertaining while they eat (and they’re working on the ingredients to make it healthier, too). Cereal can be used in mathematical learning  when it’s not being munched on here’s how:

Tactile Cards

On pieces of cardboard, draw a large number. Have the children glue O-shaped cereal inside, the same amount as the number value. After it’s dry, they can run their fingers along the shape of this number and begin counting skills, along with your help. Start with numbers one to five, and increase numerals according to age and skill level.

Egg Carton Math Game

Write the numerals one through 12 inside the sections of an egg carton with a black marker. Give each child a cup of cereal and have him place pieces of cereal to correspond with the number in each section. Count the pieces together in each egg cup. As children play this game, they are learning to recognize symbols for each number. Another way to teach number recognition is to look for number symbols every time you sit together to read a book or look at magazines. Point to numerals and say the number name out loud.

Making Patterns

Make a pattern model using bamboo skewers. Thread on mini-marshmallows and O-shaped cereal. Use colorful cereal and sort by color or number of O’s between each marshmallow. Encourage the kids to copy your model, and then make up patterns of their own. NOTE: Adult supervision is advised when using pointed sticks with young children. A variation to this activity is to glue cereal pieces on paper, creating specific patterns.

Geometric Cereal Shapes

You’ll need construction paper, scissors, glue and cereal for this project. Instruct children to cut out squares, triangles, circles and rectangles from the paper. Younger children may need adult help. Glue pieces of cereal to fill each shape.

Abacus

Unwind a metal coat hanger and string O-shaped cereal onto the wire. Wind the hanger back together. Use heavy tape to cover any sharp edges. Children can move the cereal along the wire to count and do simple addition and subtraction problems. Make up word problems, too. Here’s an example: Susan, Tina and John were walking to the park (move three pieces of cereal across the wire). How many kids were walking? Susan’s mother called her home (take away one). Now how many kids are still going to the park? Rachel and Tommy joined them (add two pieces). Now how many kids are there? Continue with the story until your child tires of this game, or start a different story.

Place Value

Find a piece of Styrofoam (in the recycle box or purchase at a craft store). Insert three pipe cleaners into the foam and glue labels on the foam base for each place value: ones, tens and hundreds. Take turns placing O-shaped cereal onto each pole and having the opposite player guess the number. A great way to teach place value and how to read numbers this way!
Children learn by doing, so as they play, they can master mathematical skills. Think creatively by using cereal and foods to make this experience fun.

Tania Cowling is a former teacher, author of teacher resource books, and freelance writer. This mother and grandmother resides in south Florida.

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