Fun with Math ... for Parents, Children, and Siblings
Math can be fun for children and youth of all ages. Math games and activities give both parents and their children opportunities to play and learn together. Math worksheets are not play; homework is not play.
So let's have fun and explore geometry.
Let's start with building blocks for young children. Sort blocks by shape. Sort blocks by color. Name the sides of the blocks (square, rectangle, circle, or triangle.) Build with just one type of block or color. Build alternating 2 shapes or colors. You can make your own blocks using empty boxes and taping open ends together. Also Duplo blocks or large Legos work well for these activities.
When you are out with your child or with your younger brother and sister, look for shapes around you. For example, ask “Can you find a rectangle?” Your child or sibling might point to a window or a door. “Can you see any circles?” Your child or sibling might find a traffic sign.
Please remember this is a fun interaction and not a formal learning session.
Elementary School Children
Let's keep using building blocks but now focus on the three-dimensional names (rectangular prism, cylinder, cube, and triangular prism.) Identify the number of sides and the shapes of each side. Look for three-dimensional shapes around the home and when out and about. Identify the similarities and differences among them.
Move beyond simple two-dimensional shapes and focus on different types of triangles (right, obtuse, and acute) and quadrilaterals (rectangles, squares, parallelograms, and trapezoids), and shapes with five or more sides. Use a protractor to measure angles. Use a ruler to measure length of the sides. Focus on similarities and differences to compare and contrast these shapes. Use copy or construction paper to make many different shapes; identify and label each one.
Use one-centimeter grid paper (available to download from the Internet) to find the area of two-dimensional shapes. First trace the shape on grid paper. Then count each square centimeter; estimate with partial square centimeters. Older elementary students can use formulas they have learned in school, but will still need to measure the lengths of sides, bases, and heights. Using the grid paper again, ask your child or younger sibling to draw as many shapes as possible with an area of 24 or any given number of square centimeters.
Tangram activities are available on the Internet. Tangrams are a group of shapes that when fit together form a square. When separated, they are used to form many given designs from very easy too difficult.
Middle School Children
Create your own rectangular prism using a cereal box. Measure each side for length and width. Now recreate each side using light-weight cardboard, a ruler, and a protractor. Do not trace it! Once all sides are ready, carefully tape it together. The new rectangular prism should be the same size as the original. Use the formula for area of a rectangle (A= lw; Area = length * width) to calculate the area of each side. Then find the total surface area by adding the areas of all six sides. Find the volume of your prism by using the formula (V = lwh; Volume = length * width * height). Your answer will be in cubic centimeters. You can test the accuracy of your answer by filling your new prism with something like cereal and then use a measuring cup to find the amount needed to fill the prism. Remember that one milliliter equals one cubic centimeter.
Now using just a protractor, ruler, cardboard, and tape, create other three-dimensional figures. This is a chance to be creative. Identify what worked and what did not.
For ready-made geometry ideas and materials, check out local toy stores, educational supply catalogues, or online sources.
The goal of all of these hands-on geometry activities should be having fun together ... parent and child and/or siblings together. Please do not make your time like a school drill session. Questions that can help children learn can just be part of a casual conversation. Focus on discovery.
Remember that math can be fun!