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Engaging Math Activities for your Child's Learning Style

Updated: Jul 2, 2020

Many students are resistant to learning math, especially at home. Frequently math instruction is thought of as boring, pencil on paper, rote practice. Fortunately, this conception is a misconception. There are many ways to engage your child in math activities that will cater to their individual learning style and are fun!

Learning Styles

Howard Gardner, an American psychologist, developed the theory of different learning styles called "Multiple Intelligences." He posited that each student has a unique way in which they learn best. Many of us have seen that children have natural inclinations towards certain activities; some are artistic, some dance, some write, some engage in physical activities, some are social, etc. Multiple Intelligences Theory capitalizes on these inherent interests to make learning accessible to a variety of students through a variety of instructional techniques.

The first step is to identify your child's learning style(s). They could learn:

  1. Musically: through songs, patterns, instruments, and rhythms

  2. Visually/Spatially: through seeing, imagining, drawing, diagraming, pictures

  3. Bodily/Kinesthetically: through movement, dance, interaction with the environment, exercise

  4. Intrapersonally: through feelings, introspection, philosophizing, self-improvement, independent activities

  5. Interpersonally: through social interaction, group activities, relationships, competition

  6. Naturalistically: through nature, plants, animals, being outside

  7. Logically: through math, patterns, reasoning, problem-solving

  8. Linguistically: through language, writing, poetry, listening, speaking

There are several ways to glean which learning style(s) your child embraces. The first, of course, is through observing your child's inherent interests and vocations. Another easy way to find out your child's learning style is to take an online survey. I like this one:

Math Activities that Cater to Your Child's Learning Style

Now that you have identified your child's learning style, you can choose math activities that will resonate with them. Find a math activity that corresponds to your child's learning style below!

Musical Math (Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, and Division):

  1. Choose a song that your child likes. It should be a song that has a clear, regular tempo and rhythm.

  2. Play the song and have your child count the number of beats per verse, chorus, and refrain, recording the numbers as they go. You can pause the song or start it over as needed.

  3. Once your child has recorded the number of beats, you can ask questions like:

    1. How many beats are in the song total? (Add them up)

    2. How many beats are in the verses total? (Multiply the number of beats per verse by the number of verses)

    3. How many beats are in the choruses total? (Multiply the number of beats per chorus times the number of choruses)

    4. How many beats are in two verses? (In a song with 3 verses, subtract the beats of 1 verse from the total number of verse beats)

    5. What's another way you could figure out how many beats are in two verses? (Multiply the number of beats in 1 verse times 2)

    6. How could you find the number of beats per verse if you had only counted the total number of verse beats? (Divide the number of total verse beats by the number of verses)

Visual/Spatial Math (Fraction Equivalency and Operations, requires Legos, tape, and a marker):

  1. Get out your child's legos.

  2. Find a Lego brick that is 2x8 and, using tape, label the side with the number "1."

  3. Find 2 Lego bricks that are 2x4 and, using tape, label each "1/2." Place them next to each other on top of the "1" Lego Brick to represent 2 halves equal 1 whole.

  4. Find 4 Lego bricks that are 2x2 and, using tape, label each "1/4." Place them next to each other on top of the "1/2" bricks to represent that 4 fourths equals 1 whole and 2 fourths equals 1/2.

  5. Find 8 Lego bricks that are 2x8 and, using tape, label each "1/8." Place them next to each other on top of the "1/4" bricks to represent that 8 eighths equal 1 whole, 4 eighths equal 1/2, and 2 eighths represent 1/4.

  6. Perform math operations with the Lego bricks, e.g. 1/8 + 3/8 = 4/8 = 1/2.

  7. Use different Lego brick sizes to represent different fractions. For example, use a 2x10 brick to represent the whole, two 2x5 bricks to represent halves, and five 2x2 bricks to represent fifths.

Bodily/Kinesthetic Math (Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division, Fraction, and Decimal Math Facts, requires flash cards which you can purchase, download and print, or create on your own)

  1. Arrange flash cards in a line throughout your home about 1-2 feet apart. You can use addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fraction, decimal, or any other flash cards you may have.

  2. Your child starts on the first flash card. In order to progress to the next one, they must provide the correct answer to the problem on the card.

  3. The goal is to finish the line as quickly as possible, so time your child.

  4. You can set up two or more lines of cards (with different focuses, if needed, e.g. child A working with multiplication and child B working with addition) for two or more children to race each other.

Intrapersonal Math (Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division, Fraction, and Decimal Math Facts, requires several problems written on individual, small pieces of paper and the answers to these problems written on separate, individual, small pieces of paper)

  1. Shuffle all of the pieces of paper together.

  2. Arrange the pieces of paper into an array, face down.

  3. Your child plays an individual memory game, trying to match the problems with the answers.

  4. When you child finds a match, they remove the problem and answer from the array and place them side-by side in a separate space.

Interpersonal Math (Addition, Multiplication, Division, Decimals, and Fractions, requires a set of 2 dice)

  1. The object of the game is to score 101 points without going over.

  2. Take turns rolling the dice. When rolled and depending on whose turn it is, you or your child chooses to keep the number on the dice at face value, multiply it by 10, or divide it by 2. For example, if a 6 is rolled, they can choose to get 6 points, 60 points, or 3 points. If an odd number is rolled and your child decides to divide, they must account for halves that will be in their answer. To eliminate decimals and fractions, eliminate the divide by 2 rule.

  3. As your child gets closer to 101, they will have to make decisions about whether it is better to keep the dice at face value, multiply by 10, or divide by 2 without going over 101. The exception is if the dice go above 101 and they can divide by two to score 101 points exactly, they may do so.

  4. Whoever scores exactly 101 points first wins.

Naturalistic Math (Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division, and Fractions)

  1. Take your child to the bosque or some other area with trees and wildlife.

  2. Count the number of a specific species of tree, plant, or animal you see in a set amount of time. For example, if using Cottonwood trees, you might say "count as many as you can in 30 seconds." For ducks or other waterfowl, you might say "count however many waterbirds you see in a 20 minute walk." Have your child record their numbers on a piece of paper with a clipboard.

  3. Ask questions like "If each of the ducks you counted had 6 ducklings, how many ducks would there be total?" or "If 7 Cottonwood trees were struck by lightning and burned down, how many trees would be left?" or "If 1/3 of the pigeons flew away, how many pigeons would remain? How many flew away?"

  4. Have your child record the questions and their answers on their clipboard.

Logical Math (Any Math Concept)

  1. Play a game in which your child tries to come up with a word problem that will take you more than 30 seconds to solve. They solve the problem as well to check for your correctness.

Linguistic Math (Any Math Concept)

  1. Have your child write a math limerick. A limerick is a five line poem. Lines one, two, and five have nine syllables and rhyme with each other. Lines three and four have six syllables and rhyme with each other.

  2. An example of a math limerick is as follows:

A dozen, a gross, plus a score

Plus three times the square root of four

Divided by seven

Plus five times eleven

Is nine squared (and not a bit more).

(12 + 144 + 20 + 3 x √4) ÷ 7 + 5 x 11 = 9^2

This example is quite complex, but hopefully you get the idea!

Catering to your child's individual learning style provides immediate buy-in to subject areas in which they otherwise might be resistant. I hope these math activities are useful for you in your home practice!

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