# Posts tagged DIY math toys

## Playing Math This Week – Nov 7-13, 2011

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Learn about odd and even numbers this week on the Rocks and Roll Day. No need to stay Earth-bound either. To the infinity… and beyond!

Math games can be played any time anywhere. Here are some ideas for each day of the week. These games do not require any advance prep either. Give them a try this week and feel free to change them to make more interesting for your kids.

November 7 – Feline Festival Day

Remember iconic numbers? See how many you can find on a cat. Hint – one tail, two eyes (or ears), three kittens are the usual size of the first litter, four paws, five claws… This might be enough for younger children, but see if you can find more numbers with the older kids. You can either take pictures of your cat (if you have one) or find pictures online for your Feline Iconic Numbers book. And how about building cat-themed real multiplication tables?

November 8 – Rocks and Roll Day

Go on a rock hunt, then see if you can tell how many rocks you found without counting them. This process of quickly and accurately estimating a number of items in a set is called subitizing. Hint – if your child doesn’t have much practice with subitizing, arrange rocks in patterns like dots on domino tiles and keep the number low at first (5 or fewer).

November 9 – Smokey Bear Day

This is a perfect day to draw a whole forest. Show your child how to draw trees by repeating a simple “v” shape (see our star tree above). As you admire the results, introduce a new word – fractal (a complex shape that is created by repeating other shapes). You can also play with Fractal Trees online.

November 10 – Math Madness Day

How can you limit yourself to just one game on a day like this?! If you are trying to start a new tradition of playing one math game a day with your child, this is a perfect day. Whatever you choose to do, enjoy it!

November 11 – Veterans Day

Take a look at some of the camouflage patterns. Then try to create your own by drawing interlocking, but not overlapping curved shapes, then coloring them in. Camouflage patterns are great examples of tessellations. Can you create (or spot) other tessellations?

November 12 – Dollars and Sense Day

Just counting money could get pretty boring after a while. How about playing a “money functional machine” game in which you create a mystery ATM out of a cardboard box. Your child puts a coin into it and gets a different coin (or several coins) back. You come up with a function, a set rule according to which your machine operates. Your child has to guess the rule. Once he guesses correctly, switch your roles and let him operate the machine. A rule can be as simple as “a machine that turns all coins into pennies” or a machine that “doubles the number of coins put into it”.

November 13 – Wampum Day

It’s a craft; it’s a math model – make your own counting rope as seen on the Love2Learn2Day. It can be handy in demonstrating and practicing addition, subtraction, and more.

So what games are you playing this week?

## Is Your Child’s Playroom Math-Friendly?

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I remember when back in the 5th grade my parents put a huge map of the world on the wall of my room. That was the year I read lots and lots of adventure stories and looked for all the places mentioned in them on my map. That was also the year when I breezed through all my geography tests and won a local geography bee.

It seems common sense now that you can encourage your child’s interests through room decor. With all the maps of the world and the Solar system and various posters of dinosaurs, buildings, rockets, human bodies, etc on the market it seems you can cover all the usual and not-so-usual interests your child might develop between now and college. Decorating for learning has never been easier, right?

Except, of course, if you’d like to promote math learning. Somehow posting giant multiplication tables above Junior’s bed doesn’t sound all that appealing. The problem is not that math posters don’t exist. In fact, a quick Google search will give you over 28 million links. It’s just most math posters seem to fall into one of the two categories – either math-y jokes or posters full of equations to be memorized. This is beyond boring! Sort of like pasting spelling bee words all over the walls. There’s just no excitement, sense of exploration or opportunity for story-telling in this.

So what’s a concerned parent to do? Here are a few solutions:

1. Fractals Posters

There are plenty available online, just search for “fractal posters” or images of fractals. Fractals are not simply beautiful. They are mesmerizing. They invite observation and exploration. They are also some of the simplest mathematical constructs. If your child can draw straight-ish lines, she can create simple fractals.

2. Rube Goldberg Machines and Marble Runs

These can be either posters or, better yet, real contraptions. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be particularly inventive or mechanically gifted to come up with one. As long as you can buy and assemble a game of Mouse Trap, you’re good to go. Marble runs of all sizes and configurations will work too and can be a wonderful DIY 3D art installation.

What your child learns in this case is the idea of functions and combination of functions. She learns to see regularity and predictability of input and output.

3. Mirrors

Mirrors are not just for dress-up. After all, mirrors teach important math concept of symmetry. However, a mirror on the wall is a bit limited in its educational possibilities. Instead, opt for smaller hand-held size mirrors. Tape a couple of them together to form a mirror book. You can use it as a prop in lots of various pretend games and as a background for all these imaginary landscapes children love to build. Along the way your child will observe symmetry, angles and might even discover multiplication.

4. Paint Chips

These are great for creating art that illustrates concepts of gradients. If you have paint chips with little square cut-outs in the middle, you can lay them over different color paint chips in a grid pattern illustrating the idea of combinations.

5. Paper solids

A while ago we wrote about making some not-so-basic geometric solids out of paper plates and paper cups. Even for someone like myself, who has two left thumbs, this is an easy project that comes out picture-perfect. So why not decorate your child’s room with the results?

I’ve just re-decorated my son’s room (which mostly consisted of repainting the walls and re-arranging the furniture). So now the room looks nice, if a bit bland. Writing this post makes me want to get to work decorating it right away! I’d love to hear your math-friendly decor ideas and take a look at your projects.

## Knitting Math

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I have a long list of things I’d love to learn in life, like knitting. I have an even longer list of things I’d love to teach my son. Yes, knitting is on that list too. Or crocheting, whatever is more to his liking.

I’m not going to go over all the benefits of teaching a child (or self) to knit. Sharpened fine motor skills and improved concentration are just two of the more obvious outcomes.

The no-less important benefit is that knitting and crocheting produce tangible outcomes. And these tangible outcomes can be re-used as beautiful math toys or math art that will teach advanced math concepts.

If you are too busy and your children are too young to pick up yarn arts, you can browse knitted math-y objects on Etsy, like this dodecahedron. I showed it to my son and asked him what he thought of it. He said that he thought it was an emblem, possibly for a robot. He also pointed out all the triangles he saw.

Next I showed him this fractions afghan. We tried figuring out the pattern – rectangles divided into 1, 2, 3, 4 and more parts. We also counted to see how in some rectangles there was the same number of yellow and green elements while in others there were more green elements.

But don’t get too hard on yourself for not creating something just as beautiful for your child. Instead, stick around to find out how you can create no less stunning geometric shapes for and with your child. Hint – you’ll need to stock up on paper plates.

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