Great Math Activities to Teach Kindergarten and First Grade Students

By Rebecca / August 23, 2017

Everyone wants their children to succeed in life. In order to ensure your child’s success in the future, it is vital to boost their academic interests and abilities early on. Subjects like math can be difficult to gain and then keep an interest in. Many parents struggle to come up with a fun kindergarten math activity, math game, or a number of math worksheets that will not only pique their child’s interest but help them learn at the same time.

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It is often said that mini students learn best when they are having fun. There are various math games, activities, and first grade and kindergarten worksheets that are not difficult to set up that will aid your children in developing their math knowledge and skills. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, kindergartners often showcase a positive attitude towards learning behaviors. This means that it is possible to teach your child and have fun while learning subjects like math and be met with a positive, open attitude.

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When it comes to first graders, most children are experiencing a full day of school for the first time. Some parents may find it harder to keep their children excited about learning. The National Center for Education Statistics states that 95% of first graders worked on their math every day. However, there are always fun activities and games that will keep them working on math and not get tired of it!

Math Activities for Kindergartners

Kindergarten is an important stepping stone to a child’s education. Five and six-year-olds have sponge-like minds and are eager to learn new things. When it comes to counting numbers, single digits, and double digits, there is a multitude of activities that will teach your child all while having a blast.

Airplane Number Game

This activity utilizes the child's imagination and pretend-play to bring a unique style to learning numbers. With the use of sidewalk chalk or sidewalk chalk paint, draw puffy clouds onto the driveway.

Number each cloud (not in order, scatter them around) and make sure to repeat numbers as well. When you call out the numbers, have your child pretend to be an airplane and fly to that number. For repetitive numbers, tell your child to find all the number 6s or any number you wrote multiples of. The Airplane Number Game not only is helping your child recognize numbers, but it is also allowing them to channel their energy as well with moving around.

Two-Digit Number Counting Cup Game

Some children have a hard time remembering two-digit numbers. Have you ever heard a child say two-teen for twelve? Or just completely skip some numbers and think they are correct? This game will help them visualize and count to higher numbers.

Using paper cups, number each cup with a double-digit number. Place the cups on a table or countertop. You will need a pile of poker chips (or buttons, pennies; anything easy to count with) next to the cups. The number of chips should equal the total sum of the numbers each cup says. Your child will count out the amount of chips for each cup, corresponding to the number written on it.

Some children are visual learners and need hands-on in order to grasp a concept and the Two-Digit Number Counting Cup Game is the perfect way to do so.

Marshmallow Math

One way to add incentive for your child is to make the game involve food. Who doesn’t want a tasty reward? There are many ways that marshmallows can aid in learning math for kindergarteners. Marshmallows can be used for addition, subtraction, estimation, measurements, and more.

One activity that can be done with marshmallows is dropping some in a clear container and have your child estimate the amount in there. Add incentive by allowing them to eat one marshmallow each time they are correct or at least one number off.

Another fun game that will also teach them shapes is drawing various shapes of different sizes on a piece of paper and having your child count how many marshmallows fit inside the shapes. Marshmallow math is simple and fun with a lot of learning opportunities.

Memory Game for Numbers

Matching games are always fun for kids and even for adults too! Create a matching memory game for your kindergartner using index cards or cut-up pieces of paper. Number half of the cards with any numbers they may need help remembering. On a corresponding card, draw or use stickers to match the numbers.

For example, for a card that says the number 6 on it, on a separate card, draw six objects or place six stickers. When you are all done creating the cards, place them upside down in random order for your little one to match!

The memory game works by flipping over two cards at a time. If it is not a match, flip them back over. Not only does the game help associate the numbers with a visual representation, but it is helping your child improve their memory skills as well.

Counting on a Number Line

Number lines are used to help children visualize when they are adding and subtracting. There are many ways to create a number line, either with sidewalk chalk, post-it notes, a shoelace, or just regular pen and paper. With either direction you decide to go, the idea is the same.

Depending on your method, have your child move a chip or themselves to the right or left for addition and subtraction. Help your child recognize numbers by telling them a number and moving to it on the number line.

You can also tell them a new number and ask them if it is greater than or less than the number they are currently at. Multiple math concepts can be taught through the use of number lines.

Monster Cardboard Boxes

Don’t be afraid to get downright silly with your activities for learning. Kids are highly imaginative and love playing pretend. For this activity, you will need two cardboard boxes (like a tissue box or empty cereal box), one big and one small.

Decorate the boxes to look like monsters to satisfy your child’s imaginative spirit and keep them interested. The monster’s mouth will be the opening in the cardboard box. Make sure it is big enough for your little one’s hands to fit in. Make number cards that the monsters will “eat.” Mix high numbers and low numbers together.

The bigger monster box only eats high numbers and the smaller monster box only eats low numbers. Have your child differentiate between high and low numbers with the monster eating game.

Math Activities for First Graders

First graders usually have the basics down for simple math concepts, such as knowing how to count to ten or even 20. In first grade, the math concepts get a bit more complex. According to PBS parents, they learn concepts like counting by 2s, 5s, and 10s; money; and 2-3 dimensional shapes.

Just like kindergartners, first graders learn best when they are having fun and can use their imagination.

Frog Jump Game

Children love small animals, so incorporating cute, little frogs into a math activity will surely gain their enthusiasm for learning math! To play the Frog Jump Game, make a start line with tape of some sort (painter’s tape would work best), cut out a picture of a frog or make one out of construction paper, and have measuring tape on hand. Have your child jump from the start line as far as they can. Mark where they land with a piece of tape.

Your child can measure how many frogs they jumped with the cutout picture! This is a fun way for them to begin learning about distances. Once your child knows how many frogs in length they jumped, get out the measuring tape to find the actual distance in inches. This is also a fun activity to get your kids moving and use up some energy!

Magical Sums

Does your child ever put a sheet over their head and pretend to be a ghost? Kids love the idea of the supernatural and of magic. Around Halloween time, in particular, this activity will amaze your child and help them learn too! On a plain white sheet of paper, take a permanent marker and draw several ghosts. Above the ghosts write an equation that fits with what they are learning or need to review. Write the answers to each equation inside of the ghost with a white crayon so that your child can not see the answer when they are doing the worksheet. Have you child write down their answer to the equation with a pencil next to the ghost. When they are all done solving the problems, it is time to reveal the answers inside the ghosts!

In order to do this, water down some black paint so that it is not thick enough to cover the answer. Have your child reveal the answer by brushing the watered-down paint over the ghost. The answer will reveal itself like magic!

Odds and Even Slap Card Game

Learning the difference between odd and even numbers can be tricky for some kids. Luckily, there are fun ways to help your kids learn and remember which numbers are odd or even. The only thing you need for this game is a deck of cards and a few players.

This game works just like the popular game, Slapjack. A dealer hands them out to each player with the face down. Instead of slapping the Jacks, slap each odd or even number! Helping your child know the difference between odd and even numbers will help them solve math equations involving addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication.

Let’s Make a Dollar!

Children begin learning the concept of money in first grade. Help teach them the value of coins with this fun activity. Depending on how many children are playing, get 100 pennies and 10 dimes for each player. You will also need a die and pencil and paper for each player.

In order to play, each player will have a scorecard will columns labeled for pennies, dimes, and the value. When the die is rolled, each player will pick that number of either pennies or dimes from the piles and place them in their corresponding columns.

After each roll, count the value of dimes and pennies each player has. For every 10 pennies, the player must trade them for a dime. After 6 rolls of the die, have the players add up their remaining values on their scorecard. The player closest to making a dollar wins!

Color by Subtracting and Adding

Every kid loves the popular way of coloring called color by numbers. Take it a step further and print out or make your own color by number sheets that involve solving an equation first! The correct answer to the equation will correspond to the right color needed for that section. An incorrect answer will cause the wrong color to be used and change the picture.

This is a good way for your child to see that they made a mistake and encourage them to go back and check their math.

Learning to Tell Time

One of the harder concepts for children to learn is telling time. Children get used to counting to 100 to make a dollar. With time, the highest number for the minute hand is 60. This can be hard to grasp and differentiate for small, growing minds. For first graders, they are just learning to understand how clocks work.

To help them understand the clock a bit better, help them make their own clock for a hands-on experience. Take a paper plate and either you or your child write the hours on the plate. Make arrows out of cardstock or index cards, then make a hole in the middle of the paper plate, and finally fasten the hour hand and minute hand to the plate with a paper fastener.

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Once your child starts getting the hang of the hours, add the minutes for more precise times. This paper plate clock can be used to conduct a lesson, but it can also be used continuously. Have your child use it throughout the weeks to keep track of daily activities and so on!​