As you begin your holiday shopping for your Little Mathematicians this year, consider these gift suggestions that make learning fun while inspiring innovation and creativity!
Fun with Mathematics:
Pattern Play provides an engaging (and beautiful!) way to introduce young children to patterns and geometric concepts while providing a tactile experience that develops fine motor skills and spatial relationships. Ideal for preschoolers, this set of quality wooden blocks is a cross between a puzzle and building block set. The included illustrated cards, challenge children to replicate patterns ranging from simple to complex, which offers a bit of a challenge to elementary age children as well. The blocks can also be used to create endless free form designs, providing hours of engaging creative play. The set is very well made and fits nicely into the included wooden tray so it’s an ideal toy to leave out “on display” to entice young, creative minds without feeling like there is yet another toy to clean up in the living room – so a gift for parents as well!
Magnetic MightyMind develops an understanding of visual and spatial relationships while fostering creative problem solving skills. The set contains a series of design tiles in six basic geometric shapes and four colors that can be combined to complete various puzzles. The included deck of 30 puzzle board cards are organized in order of difficulty to allow children to solve puzzles at their own pace, building on each previous challenge. All items fit neatly in a handy storage tin making clean-up and storage a breeze. This set includes small pieces, so best for 3 and up.
Shut the Box is a classic dice game that is fun for individual or family play. In this simple and educational activity, each player takes a turn to toss the dice. Each time the dice is thrown, the player may close one or more of the wooden flaps with a total value that matches the combine value of the dice. Whoever closes the most flaps wins. The game is essentially straight forward addition practice hidden in a dice game. (This is another learning tool that can be left out “on display” to entice students to practice their addition skills!)
Fish Sticks is a visual strategy game that also strengthens pattern recognition and basic counting and math skills. As the game states, “Match the fish, row by row – the more you match, the faster you go!” That about sums it up. Great fun for family game night. Ideal for ages 5-10.
Sum Swamp is designed for two to four players and is sure to develop and sharpen early math skills. To venture through the swamp, players roll the dice (two numbered dice and one showing plus and minus signs) and add and subtract their way around the board.
Mancala is a “count and capture” game played around the world. My own children learned the game, and mastered it, in Montessori school. It’s a great way for children to learn (and teach) strategy, while reinforcing counting, addition and subtraction concepts.
Qwirkle is as simple as matching colors and shapes, so it’s great for young players. This game also involves tactical maneuvers and well-planned strategy which makes it fun for older players, too. Players earn points by building rows and columns of blocks that share a common shape or color. In addition to pattern recognition, the simple scoring of the game allows for practicing addition skills for young learners.
Money Bags teaches basic money value skills as players collect, count and exchange money as they race to the finish line.
In addition to math games (no pun intended), math-themed books are a great gift for Little Mathematicians. The Bedtime Math book series provides a fun and easy way to add math activities to bedtime or anytime at home. Bedtime Math: A Fun Excuse to Stay Up Late is the original book featuring three levels of challenge problems (plus a bonus question) in a variety of kid-friendly and inviting themes. Bedtime Math: This Time It’s Personal and Bedtime Math: The Truth Comes Out continue the math fun in this same engaging word problem format. You can read more about the Bedtime Math concept, including the website tools and apps, here.
Finally, a fun way to add math to any day is through music. Here Come the 123’s by They Might Be Giants, is a fun and lively music collection completely focused on counting and math concepts. Songs are silly and engaging to appeal to young children, but the selection of songs cover a variety of basic and fairly complex math concepts for young minds. The CD also includes a DVD featuring videos of all the songs, many of which the visual helps children further understand the meaning (or utter silliness) of the lyrics.