Guessing Games Superior Math Skills

February 01, 2011

 My daughterMy MyMy jh uMyMyMy daughter seriously asked me to guess the name she had given her stuffed dog.  I tried with a few names and then gave up.  She insisted I keep trying until I guessed it.  So I decided to play along because I thought to myself if we were going to play a guessing game, I wanted to make it a constructive experience that would actually benefit her cognitively.  It was this experience which motivated me to come up with more useful guessing games that were as fun as they were educational.

If your child has mastered straightforward counting, then guessing games will enrich their minds.

Here are some examples.  Give your child a scoop of peas and have them guess how many are there in the scoop. After guessing, count and compare the guess with the actual number. The end result is a child with a better sense for numbers who in turn excels in math later in life.

There are countless ways to make up guessing games. You can show a picture of multiple items in it. Let the child look at it for several seconds. Cover the picture and have them guess the number of items previously shown.

Another one I like to use in our house is when I fill a jar with several items and have children guess how many items  are in the jar. I repeat with different sized items and have them guess again.  In this exercise I demonstrate the concept that larger items take up more space.  It didn't take long for my kids to grasp the ideas of size and space and how fewer large items may take up the same space as several small items. Understanding this concept will serve kids well as their mental development grows..

Comments: 3

Counting For Excellence in Math

March 08, 2011

Counting is how children learn to measure the quantity of items. The simple activity of counting can help kids excel in math. Have your children count peas at the dinner table, count how many people are in the family, or count the number of toy cars on the floor. Once they have mastered the process of counting, add lessons on numerical symbolism. Write the numbers 1 – 10 on a piece of paper. Grab several items to count. Count one thing and show the symbol 1 for one. Count two things and show the symbol 2 for two and so forth. While there are many exceptional puzzles and learning games you can buy from Lakeshore and  Melissa & Doug, it is just as easy (and cheaper) to tap into your inner artist and make your own at home with index cards and colored markers. ..

Comments: 4

Math Fun

April 07, 2011

  Despite what your kids may think, learning geometry can be fun. Get a pack of simple pipe cleaners or spend a little more and buy some Bendaroos to model geometric shapes: circle, square, rectangle and triangles. For more advanced kids you can add a rhombus, parallelogram, trapezoid and diamond. Then follow up by re-creating each figure using toothpicks. The toothpick will reinforce the idea that the edges are straight. Kids should quickly realize they couldn’t make a circle with toothpicks. All other polygons can be made with toothpicks since the sides are straight.

Extend the activity by finding these shapes around the house or create a shape scavenger hunt with various shapes drawn out.

For older children, you can create a game of concentration. You can have the shape on one card and the name of the shape on the other card; the name and shape cards make a match. Modify the game a bit by adding properties of shapes: right angles, opposite sides are parallel or congruent, opposite angles are congruent, consecutive (next to) angles add to 180 degrees...etc.

Comments: 4

Cooking Adventure - Too Fun to Believe it Teaches Math, Reading, and Science!

April 28, 2011

As I have already mentioned in some of my earlier posts, most Sundays we have a family day. Last year we decided to have each family member pick a Sunday activity.  My enthusiastic daughters always pick baking. 

While this activity seems to compete with my diet, we look forward to homemade melt-in-your-mouth brownies or double chocolate fudge cookies.  My ambitious girls read the ingredients, measure them out and follow the directions. 

Before I proceed I have to share a fun story.  I remember when my daughters were very young, they had the most challenging time cracking eggs. It was entertaining to watch their attempts as egg whites ran down their little fingers.  We ate a lot of crunchy brownies.  I got a fake solid egg and gave it to them to crack.  They kept banging it on the bowl first and then on the countertop and it just would not crack.  They soon realized something was wrong because they knew from experience that eggs break easily.  I had a heck of a time keeping a straight face so when I finally came clean you can imagine the laugh we all had.  That egg still makes an appearance when we bake and we still laugh about it. 

It is hard to believe that while we are having so much fun my daughters are learning lessons in math, reading, science and fine motor skills. 

Without even knowing it my daughters learn...


Things are measured

There are different units of measurements: cup, tablespoon,...etc.

How to use tools of measurement


Following directions 

Reading units of measurements and their abbreviations


Heat causes a chemical reaction by changing the form of the mixture

Fine Motor Skills:    





Cracking eggs

Now I know not everyone out there enjoys baking, but I have some recipes that are impossible to mess-up.  I’ll share some of my favorites over the next few days…so stay tuned.    

Comments: 2

Cooking with Children – Some recipes to try!

May 02, 2011

Spend quality time with your children: cooking and baking with them as they practice reading directions, measuring out ingredients, and recognizing units of measurement.

Southern Barbeque  

Spray crock-pot with canola oil.

Put 3 lbs beef loin (or pork loin if you prefer) in a crock pot

In a mixing bowl add the following ingredients:

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • ½ cup of your favorite barbeque sauce
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbs Dijon mustard
  • 1 - 2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke flavoring
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder

Pour the mixture over the meat in the crock pot. 

Cook on low for 7 - 9 hours or on high for 3 - 4 hours.  If meat is tough then it needs to cook longer.  Meat should break apart easily with a fork.

Serve barbeque on a fresh roll and top with  cole slaw.

Cole slaw   

  • Shredded cabbage
  • ½ cup Duke mayonaisse 
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 4 Tbs red wine vinegar 


Double Chocolate Cookies

Makes 9 dozen

  • 1 ¼ cups butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs (room temperature)
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup baking cocoa
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 cups (12 oz) semisweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.  Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well.  Stir in chocolate chips. 

Drop by teaspoonfuls 2 in apart onto greased baking sheets.  Bake at 350 for 8 - 10 minutes. Let cool.

Taken from Taste of Home Best Loved Cookies & Bars, Jan 18 2010


Delectable Chicken Enchiladas

Best to use Neumann’s Pineapple Salsa, Cracker Barrel Cheese and FRESH cilantro.   

  • 1 lb cooked boneless chicken breast, shredded
  • 1 small onion (I puree it so my children don’t know it’s in there)
  • 1 clove garlic crushed
  • I cup of Newman’s pineapple salsa
  • 6 oz of Philadelphia Cream Cheese cut into cubes
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro (sometimes I add more )
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup shredded Cracker Barrel Jack Cheese
  • Flour tortillas

Spray the bottom of a large skillet with cooking spray or add one Tbsp canola oil.  Sauté onions for 2 minutes then add garlic and sauté for another 1 -2 minutes.  Add cooked chicken, ½ cup salsa (save remaining ½ cup for the top), cream cheese, cilantro, and ¼ cup cheese (save remaining ½ cup for the top) Mix while on low heat for 1 - 2 minutes. 

Spray the bottom of a 9 by 13 glass casserole dish with cooking spray.  Have children spoon the mixture onto soft flour tortillas (whole wheat for a healthier version) and roll into enchiladas. Top with remaining cheese and salsa.

Bake at 350 for 10 - 20 minutes until warm.

Comments: 2

Top Ten Things to Teach/Occupy Your Children When You Grocery Shop

May 16, 2011


  1. Pick out fruits that are red, green...etc.  You can also have children tell you which items are fruits and which are vegetables.  Teaches classification skills - math and language
  2. Children can weigh fruits and vegetables and guess how much the bunch will cost based on the weight and unit cost.  Teaches math
  3. Have children find the items you are looking for as you turn down a given isle. If you are shopping for a recipe, have children find the needed items on the list.  Teaches observation skills and following directions 
  4. Give children a shopping list and have them categorize items.  By grouping similar items, shopping will be quicker.  Teaches time-management and classification skills
  5. Have children pick the cheapest product by looking at the unit price.  They will learn to compare decimals and understand the concept of greater than or less than.  Teaches math
  6. Add the estimated cost of each item purchased and ask your child to estimate the total cost of the groceries.  Teaches math
  7. Have children read labels on products.  Looking at the first five items, discuss what makes certain items healthy or not.  Teaches reading and health
  8. Have children read your shopping list as you find the items.Practice reading
  9. Ask children to find the isle that contains a specific item.  For example, ask your child to read the isle sign to find the one that contains pasta…etc. Practice reading - language and categorization
  10. I let my children assist me at check out and then we look over the receipt for accuracy.  Children learn fine motor skills, following directions, reading money and independence


Comments: 1

Reading Math and Teaching Fun: Enjoyable Books that Motivate Children to Learn Math - Age 2 - 12

May 26, 2011

Here is a list of books that will help increase your children's math IQ.  There are four charts: levels 1 - 4.  Reading these books to your children will enhance math sense and help them build strong learning schemas for math. 

Level 1

Patterns: Beep Beep, Vroom Vroom!

Comparing Sizes: The Best Bug Parade, If Dogs Were Dinosaurs

Directions: Bug Dance

Doubling Numbers: Double the Ducks

Opposites: The Greatest Gymnast of All

Ordinals: Henry the Fourth

Understanding Capacity: A House for Birdie

Hours: It’s About Time!

Counting: 1) Math Fables Too by Greg Tang, 2) One Child, One Seed, 3) One Nighttime Sea, 4) Swan Harbor A Nature Counting Book

Odd and Even Numbers: Missing Mittens

Subtracting One: Monster Musical Chairs

Matching: A Pair of Socks, Seaweed Soup

Sequencing: Rabbit’s Pajama Party

Sorting, Classifying: 3 Little Fire Fighters, Grouping at the Dog Show

Quantities: More or Less

Shapes: Windows, Rings, and Grapes – a Look at Different Shapes, First Shape Book, Round and Square  


Level 2

Area: Bigger, Better, Best!

Rounding: Coyotes All Around

Time Lines: Get Up and Go!

Understanding Halves: Give Me Half!

Symmetry: Let’s Fly a Kite

Comparing Numbers: More or Less

Numbers 1-100: 100 Days of Cool, 100 Ways To Celebrate 100 Days

Counting by 5’s and 10s: Leaping Lizards, Toasty Toes

Calendars: Pepper’s Journal

Money: Counting Money, Money by Penny Dowdy, Money at the Store by Jennifer Rozines Roy and Gregory Roy, I Can Add Bills and Coins by Rebecca Wingard-Nelson

Probability: Probably Pistachio

Perimeter: Racing Around

Making Predictions: Same Old Horse

Counting By 2s, 3s, and 4s: Spunky Monkeys on Parade

Combinations: The Sundae Scoop

Measuring: Super Sand Castle Saturday

Order: Guess the Order

Shapes: Shapes in Sports, The Shapes We Eat, The Shape of the World Many-Sided Shapes

Odd & Even Numbers: Splitting the Herd

Graphs: Bar Graphs by Vijaya Khisty Bodach

Addition: 1+1=5 and other Unlikely Additions, Adding and Counting On, Mission Addition

Subtraction: Subtraction by Ann Becker

Multiplying: Doubling and Multiplying by Richard Leffingwell

Math Riddles: Arithmetickle by J. Patrick Lewis 


Level 3

Estimating: Betcha!

Classifying: Dave’s Down-to-Earth Rock Shop

Equivalent Values: Dinosaur Deals

Dividing: Divide and Ride

Place Value: Earth Day-Hooray!

Time: Game Time!

Percentage: The Grizzly Gazette

Angles: Hamster Champs

Bar Graphs: Lemonade for Sale

Negative Numbers: Less Than Zero

Metrics: Polly’s Pen Pal

Finding Unknowns: Safari Park

Subtracting Two-Digit Numbers: Shark Swimathon

Dollars and Cents: Sluggers’ Car Wash

Fractions: Fraction Action, Full House, Fraction Fun

Symbols: Math Words And Symbols

Problem Solving: 1) Math-terpeices: the art of Problem Solving, 2) Word Problems Made Easy, 3) You Can, Toucan, Math

Counting Large Numbers: Place Value

Multiplying: 2 x 2 = Boo! A Set of Spooky Multiplication Stories

Math Riddles: Arithmetickle by J. Patrick Lewis 


Level 4

Probability: Chance and Average

Roman Numerals: Fun with Roman Numerals, Roman Numerals I to MM

Multiplication: Anno’s Mysterious Multiplying Jar

Clump Counting: Greater Estimations

Real World Math: Restaurants By The Numbers

Geometry: Sir Cumference and the Sword in the Cone,

Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi

Numbers: Go Figure! A Totally cool book about numbers, On Beyond a Million An Amazing Math Journey


Comments: 1

Promote Math and Science Intelligence by Enhancing Spatial Thinking: Pre-K - Grade 8

June 06, 2011

Spatial thinking is taught indirectly as other math and science content is discussed in schools and textbooks.  Children are given minimal opportunities to apply spatial thinking thus making it even more important for parents to make a concerted effort to teach our children to participate in fun activities that enhance their spatial reasoning. 

Spatial thinking is the ability to perceive the location of things, their shapes, their relation to each other, and the paths they take as they move.  Some very practical ways we think spatially in our everyday lives are: following directions to assemble something, imagining where a new piece of furniture would fit in our home, or using a map to find our way.   

Here are some ways to help your children increase their math performance through activities that develop spatial awareness.

Level One 

  1. Teach geometric shapes using some strange-looking as well as the standard shapes for triangles, circles, and rectangles.
  2. Teach spatial words such as middle, between, in, out, inside, outside, front, back, side, top, bottom, around, over…etc.
  3. Have children tell you where items will go in an experiment.  Let us say you plan to drop a bouncy ball.  Before dropping the ball, ask child to imagine where the ball will land.  

Level  Two

  1. Have children do jigsaw puzzles.  If you go to my technology tag and scroll down, you will find a list of websites for children. Several of them have jigsaw puzzles children can practice online.  Use spatial language as you help your children master puzzles.  Have children separate the straight edges from the others.
  2. Use simple maps with your children or create your own.  My daughters and I used to play treasure hunt.  We would take turns hiding an object (the treasure) and then draw a map so the other player(s) could locate the treasure.
  3. Read the book Zoom with your children.  Helping children deal with the intangible and detailed challenges in the book will increase childrens' scores on spatial tests.
  4. Encourage young children to gesture when imagining movement of objects.

Level Three

  1. Have older children practice using a real map. 
  2. Highlight the element that is used to measure space.  Let us look at an example where children use number lines in math.  To measure the number of units from 2 to 5, it is the space between the numbers that is being measured.  Highlight this space so children measure the change from 2 to 5, instead of the digits from 2 to 5.  The difference(space) from 2 to 5 is three units whereas there are four digits from 2 to 5.  Students often make a mistake and come up with an answer that is one too many.
  3. Encourage children to engage in recreation that enhances the use of spatial thinking such as:  
  • Photography (scale changes from real life unit to the unit of the picture),
  • Paper folding (turning a 2-dimensional object into a 3-dimensional one,
  • Origami (combining shapes),
  • Assembling something, building,
  • Rearranging the furniture in a room, 
  • Playing the game Tetris (rotates shapes to fit them together)
  • Playing with any software for creating three dimensional objects 


Some information from this blog post was taken from American Educator, a Quarterly Journal of Educational Research and Ideas, Vol, 34, No. 2\ Summer 2010  in an article titled: Picture This on pg 29

Comments: 1

Clever Ways to Play that Teach Brief Math and Language Lessons

July 15, 2011

I love the game I-spy because I can use the game to reinforce a plethora of math and language concepts.    

Here are some examples:


  1. I spy something longer (quantity) than a pencil.
  2. I spy something heavier (quantity) than a cup.
  3. I spy something inside (spatial awareness) something else.
  4. I spy something that is used in a pattern.
  5. I spy something bigger (quantity) than a ball
  6. I spy something that has four parts
  7. I spy a rectangle.
  8. I spy something that has three sides.
  9. I spy something thinner than a ruler.
  10. I spy something used to measure (math tool).


  1. I spy something that rhymes with up. 
  2. I spy something that begins with the letter t.
  3. I spy something that ends with the letter r.
  4. I spy something translucent (vocabulary).
  5. I spy something that goes with a fork.
  6. I spy something that is the opposite of big.
  7. I spy something that is a compound word.
  8. I spy a homophone.
  9. I spy something that spells a three-letter word with o in the middle.
  10. I spy  something that makes this statement an alliteration: Lazy Lizzy Let Lucas Lick ____. 




Comments: 1

Are Your Children Bored?  Simple Ways To Get Them Physically Active While Sneaking in Math & Science

July 18, 2011

Children need many daily opportunities for exercise.  My daughters fail to choose physical activites to fill up their time. They have great imaginations and could easily spend the entire day with imaginative play: creating prompts and playing superheroes.  In their defense, they do get exercise swimming in our pool several times a week.  I have found that I need to make a concerted effort to create more opportunities to encourage them to exercise.  In the process of doing so, I’ve found ways to incorporate some practice with math and science as well. 

Here are some ideas for getting your children moving while sneaking in bits of academics.  In time-keeping activities,children alternate between keeping time and being participants in the activity.

Keep track of time with a stopwatch or regular watch (math) for the following physical activities.

  • Potato sack race
  • Create an obstacle course for children to perform
  • Run races
  • Swim races
  • Have children time each other to see who can: hula-hoop, do jumping jacks, skip, hop, or jump rope the longest.  To tame competition, have children compete with themselves, trying to improve their own time with each try.  Different-age children should not compete since it creates an unfair advantage to the younger ones.

Counting (math)

  • Throw a ball back and forth and count the number of consecutive catches before dropping the ball.
  • Have children time each other to see who can perform the most of any given activity in a row: sit-ups, cartwheels, and/or jumping jacks. 
  • Young children can play the game “duck duck goose” (counting)

Counting down (math)

  • Play Musical Chairs

Measure total distance, length or distance away from a goal.

  • Jumping the farthest
  • Hopping the farthest without falling down or stopping
  • Walking the farthest distance on an imaginary balance beam without falling off (Use tape to create one)

Keep track of the score (math)

  • Any sport: basketball, softball, baseball, soccer, volleyball…etc.
  • Beanbag toss
  • Miniature Golf
  • Bowling

Make a Map (Spatial Awareness, Science, and Math Scale Drawing)

  • Nature Map: Have children go for a walk and try to remember landmarks.  Then upon arriving home have them do their best to draw a map including landmarks and other things seen on the walk. Remind them to keep the length of each part of the route proportional to the length of the whole trail.
  • Map for a Scavenger Hunt: One child makes the map of the hidden items and the other children go for a walk to find the items.  They switch roles as needed.

Get a Smart Cycle and buy educational games to go with it. 

Play darts while jogging in place. (Spatial Awareness)

Play Simon Says (Following directions, Learning parts of the body: Science)

Imitate different animals and move around like those animals. (Science)

Have children make-up a dance routine with patterns in dance moves Try to include hoops, scarves, and ribbons to spice it up. You can also let them play Dance Dance Revolution DVD game.  (Patterns: Math)

Other great ideas for increasing exercise but these don’t involve learning. 

  • If you have room, keep a mini trampoline available. Children can exercise during their TV time.
  • Exercise video to do with mom or anyone else
  • Hopscotch

To keep your children accountable for exercising everyday, they can log onto an incentive program at 



Comments: 1

A Stimulating Activity That Sharpens Math Skills: Drawing Math

July 21, 2011

Some activities are never perceived by our children as relating to math because their experiences are typically geared towards paper and pencil math. I try to remind my friends and family that there are two facets to math: the instrumental or procedural math and the relational or real life math. It’s easy to incorporate bits of relational math in activities without them even realizing they are doing it! Here is an example of one of those activities:


  1. First, I found a picture to be drawn. The difficulty level of the picture should correspond to children’s age and cognitive abilities. The picture shown above was slightly too difficult for my seven-year old daughter, but I helped her a little with the location of the petals.
  2. Then, I cut the picture down to make a square.
  3. In order to make the grid, I found it easiest to fold the paper horizontally and vertically that way all the squares were congruent ..
  4. Next, I used a marker to draw lines over the folds.
  5. Using a blank sheet of paper the same size as the picture, I followed the same procedure to create an identical but blank grid.

 I showed my daughter how to find corresponding boxes and helped her draw and color-in identical pictures. Reese loves coloring, and was so impressed with her own ability to mimick the beautiful flower painting, that she had no idea she was learning relational mathematics!  

Comments: 1

Education Games

July 26, 2011

I often find myself playing educational games with my children; games which are not so educational that they are tedious but rather just enjoyable learning.  Activities such as “Go Fish”, “Concentration”, or any matching games really help my kids with memorizational skills. When I was a teacher, I’d use these games with my students and they proved so effective, easy, and fun that they’ve become part of regular play at home. These games, by their very nature, are repetitive. Memorization comes from repetition in seeing and thinking about an association.

Today, instead of using a regular deck of Poker cards, I decided to switch it up a bit to provide variation. I made my own “deck” out of index cards (construction paper or cardboard would work as well), and wrote matching words on them. I thought that showing pairs in words may be more age appropriate for my girls. We played “Go Fish” with these word cards just as we would have with regular cards and the kids caught on instantly. Depending on the age of your children, numbers, words and/or pictures may be great choices.  

Below are some examples of potential categories.

If anyone has any other creative ideas for matching games, I’d love for you to share! 


A Card

Its Match


Go to the potty

Wipe, Flush, Wash





Leave a room

Turn off the light

Math Addition

3 + 5 or 2 x 4


Language – Rhyme words


Sock, knock, dock, flock, lock…etc


George Washington

Lost all his teeth


Abraham Lincoln

On the penny



25 cents





Comments: 7

Intelligence Test

August 04, 2011

My daughter Madison, a rising 1st grader puts down her Wii remote and meets me at the table for her 5-minute math lesson. I hand her the paper, which reads 

5 + 3 =

8 – 5 =

8 – 3 =

She fills in the answers, 8, 3, and 5 then says, “mom that’s too easy.” 

I hand her the second paper that reads

91 + 6   = 97

97 – 91 =

97 – 6   =

Again she fills in the answers, 6 and 91 then says, “mom that’s too easy.”

I hand her the third paper that reads

$    +      @      =      #

#    -       $       =

#    -       @      =

Once again she fills in the answers, @  and  $  then says, “Mom am I done?” 

Comments: 2


August 15, 2011

 Pattern Blocks

Pattern Blocks are my number one choice of manipulatives because of their versatility.  For children pre-K thru Kindergarten, they can be used for counting, sorting colors, identifying basic shapes, and simple patterns.  Elementary-age children can use them for more sophisticated patterns, creating identical shapes with different pattern blocks, beginning fractions, area, and perimeter which in turn reinforce addition.   Kids never tired of them!  When teaching middle school and high school age children, I use them to teach identifying and measuring angles, finding the sum of interior angles, finding how many triangles make up a given polygon and symmetry.  Hurray for Pattern Blocks of multi-purpose!

For more resources on pattern blocks go to: 




Comments: 4
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