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Let's Be Math Explorers

Sep 5, 2008
Everyone Loves Exploring - Whether your ideal place to explore is a deep dark jungle, a long, sandy deserted beach or a marketplace in a distant, exotic land, we all have an idyllic place that we could spend hours and hours exploring and making wonderful discoveries.

Children are certainly keen explorers too, perhaps even keener than adults. Children still have a natural curiosity and an unending desire to explore and discover. So let's look at how that natural curiosity can be used to advance math skills.

We know that children love to explore and discover so how can we harness this to help them with math. The answer is simple - let them explore and discover in math. Give them numbers to play with, let them explore patterns, let them discover properties of numbers and shapes and measurements.

Best of all, when they learn this way they also develop a real understanding of these concepts because they haven't just been told that this is the way it is, they have discovered it for themselves.

Math games are a great way to explore in math. When children play with numbers they learn about numbers. They discover patterns. They discover properties of numbers. They discover relationships between numbers. They discover number concepts.

Best of all, when they learn this way they also develop a real understanding of these concepts because they haven't just been told that this is the way it is, they have discovered it for themselves.
Let's do some exploring of our own now and look at a few games we can use to explore math concepts.

Higher or Lower is a great game for exploring number order and place value.
To begin select the upper and lower number limits, e.g. between 10 and 100.
One player selects a number and records it on a piece of paper.
The other player/s guesses what they think the number might be. For each guess the first player tells if the chosen number is higher or lower. Play continues until the number is guessed. A more challenging game would be to explore larger numbers or decimal numbers. This game is always a favorite no matter what age group I am teaching. I just adjust the size of the numbers to the ability of the students.

Grab and Group is a great way to explore division. Players take turns to grab a group of items (marbles, toothpicks, counters or even pens). They then attempt to make groups of 2's with no remainders, then 3's, 4's, 5's and 6's. Players score points for each of the groups they can make, e.g. a player who grabs 9 can only make 3's so they score 3 points. A player who grabs 12 would score 2+3+4+6=15 points as they could make groups of 2's, 3's, 4's and 6's. This game is also easily adjusted to the abilities of the students. Younger students will manipulate the items to see if the number is divisible by the given number. Older children will simply count the items then mentally calculate what the number is divisible by.

You can also have children explore properties of numbers by posing a question for them to answer.
- How many prime numbers are there between two given numbers, e.g. 1 and 100 or 200 and 300?
- How many times do you write the digit 7 when you write all of the numbers between two given numbers, e.g. 1 and 100 or 500 and 700?

For more games to get your kids or your students exploring math you could try a number version of Hangman using a complete computation.

Tic Tac Toe can also be played in number versions, e.g. use the numbers 1-9 to fill the grid. The first player to create a line that totals 15 is the winner.

There are many other math games that are ideal for exploring in math. Playing games in math offers so much more than just a bit of fun. These games also help to develop a deep understanding of math concepts and a positive attitude towards a sometimes unpopular subject. Don't be surprised when you even hear, 'Gee that was fun! Can we do it again?'
About the Author
Teresa Evans is a teacher and parent who uses math games to get kids excited about math. She shares her favorite math games including board games, card games and game sheets at MakingMathMoreFun.com. You can receive your own 7 part math games collection when you visit www.makingmathmorefun.com
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