Math Games for the Car

Travel time with your child can seem like wasted time. Sure there are many and varied ways to occupy them so that you can drive in peace. But most of those things are not designed to advance their education. so rather than plugging them into whatever electronic diversion you possess, what could you be doing? Here you will find several math games to keep your children learning.


Addition Games:

  • "What Comes Next?" Have your child shout out the numbers he or she sees. Then ask "What comes next?" Start with single digits and work up to double and triple digit numbers.
  • "Plus One" Again have your child shout out the numbers she sees. then ask her to add one. for example if your child says seven you would ask "What is seven plus one?" or "What if we add one to seven?" This is very similar to the previous game and your child will probably catch on very quickly, but it is important because it introduces math terms that she will be using for the rest of her life. Start with single digits but move one to double and triple digits if she is learning and enjoying herself.
  • "Adding Up the Line" As with the previous game your child sees and identifies a number and you ask him to add one to that number. But after he has mastered adding one move on to adding two and continue to move up the line of numbers. Again start with single digits.
  • "Add Them Up" In this game your child will identify two numbers. Then simply ask her two add them up. As your child gets comfortable with addition you can have her continually adding to a single total. My daughter loves to see how high she can get before the end of our trip.


Subtraction Games:

  • "Minus One" As with plus one simply ask your child to subtract one from the number he has identified. For example if your child sees a three you would ask, "What is three minus one?" or "What is three take away one? Start with single digits.
  • "Subtracting Up the Line" Like the addition game you progress with your child from subtracting one, to subtracting two, to subtracting three continuing up the line of numbers as she becomes comfortable with each new number. (This game works best if your child identifies two digit numbers.)
  • "Subtracting Down" There are two options for this game. You can simply ask your child to subtract any two numbers he sees. (Remember to phrase the question with the larger number first.) Or you can begin with a large number like one hundred and have your child continue to subtract from it until he reaches zero or you reach your destination. As your child gets more advanced consider using two or three digit numbers.


Multiplication Games:

  • "Skip Counting" If your child likes to sing this is a fun little exercise. Moreover, you can do this with children of nearly any age. Pick a tune and a number and begin skip counting to song.
  • "Multiply by Tables" Start by having your child spot a random number out the window. Then ask her to multiply it by 1. After she is familiar with that table move on to the next. It is more entertaining than simply going over the tables at home.
  • "Random Multipliers" After your child is familiar with his multiplication tables this game is a good review. Have him identify two numbers, then ask him to multiply them.


Division Games:

  • "Divide by Tables" After your child has identified a number (two digit numbers work best) ask her to divide it by one. When she is familiar with dividing by one move on to twos, then threes, etc. Depending on your child's level you can ask for the remainder or have her use decimals.
  • "Random Dividends" Ask your child to first identify a two digit number and then a single digit number. Next ask him to divide the first by the second. For example if your child sees the numbers 23 and six you would ask "What is 23 divided by six?" or "How many times does six go into 23?" As with the previous game you can ask for the remainder of have him use decimals.


Percentage Games:

  • "What's the Discount?" Ask your child to identify a two or three digit number. Then ask her to identify what the discount would be if she were getting ten percent off. After she is familiar with ten percent move to twenty, then thirty, etc. When she is competent with ten through ninety try choosing the percentages at random.
  • "What Percentage of the Whole?" Have your child identify two single digit numbers. Then ask him what percentage of the larger the smaller number is. For example if your child saw three and four you would ask, "What percentage of four is three?" Your child should then divide three by four. You can try this game with larger numbers but it can get difficult to keep track of it all in your head.


Fraction Games:

  • "Which is More?" Start by asking your child to give you three random digits. Create two fractions with the same denominator and ask them which is more. For example if your child game you the numbers five, seven and eight you would ask "Which is more five eighths or seven eighths?" To make the game more difficult ask for four random digits. For example if your child game you the numbers six, four, three and nine you would ask "Which is more six fourths or three ninths?"
  • "Which is Less?" Much like the previous game ask for three digits and create fractions but this time ask which is less. For example if your child gave you the numbers one, three and four you would ask "Which is less one fourth or three fourths?" And as with the game above you can make it more difficult by asking for four numbers. For example if your child game you the numbers two, seven, three and eight you would ask "Which is less two sevenths or three eighths?"
  • "Adding Fractions" Start by asking your child to identify three numbers. Create two fractions using those numbers such that the fractions have the same denominator. Then ask your child to add the two fractions. For example if your child gives you the numbers three six and nine you would ask her "What is three ninths plus six ninths?" When she is more comfortable with fractions try using different denominators.
  • "Subtracting Fractions" This is very similar to the game above but instead of adding your child will subtract. So, for example if your child gave you the numbers two, four and six you would ask "What is four sixths minus two sixths?" (Don't forget to put the larger number first.) Again when your child is more comfortable with fractions try using different denominators.


Counting Songs:

I did not include the most basic "What Number Do You See?" because as you are presumably driving you will not know what number your child is looking at and will therefore be unable to provide corrections. Having a child identify numbers without the appropriate correction would be counterproductive. Instead there are several counting songs that you could sing with your child.

  • "Ten Little Monkeys" will teach your child to count down from ten.
  • "One, Two Buckle My Shoe" will teach your child to count up to twenty. (I usually stopped at ten.)
  • "Peanut Sitting on a Railroad Track" is a good choice for teaching ordinal numbers. The link will provide you with the tune and basic lyrics but you will need to add the ordinals. In other words "The first peanut sat..." and "Then around the bend came the first train". Then simply count up with each verse.
  • "Five Little Ducks" will teach your child to count down from five.
  • "Four Little Ducks" will teach your child to count to four. The link will give you the tun and the basic lyrics but I use four ducks and in place of "widdle waddle widdle waddle" substituted "one two three four all in a row". I only ever sang the first two verses but my girls loved this song as toddlers. (Actually they still enjoy it.)
  • "The Ants Go Marching" is a good choice for counting up as it will go one as long as you can continue to think of rhymes.

Hopefully these math games will help you feel better about travel time and help your child feel better about math.

Do you work on memorizing math facts with your child?

  • Yes, math facts should be memorized.
  • No, that is what calculators are for.
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