Math Night!


Now’s the Time!

If you’ve ever wanted to have a math night at your child’s school or homeschool group, now’s the time. This event makes a great stress reliever for students, either before or after state testing. And I don’t know of any better way to get parents involved in their children’s math education.

The hardest part is getting on the calendar, so take care of that first. Putting together the activities is easy, especially if you have a few other enthusiastic parents and/or teachers to help. Even if you’re planning it by yourself, it’s very doable. I’ve read about schools forming committees and meeting several times before the event. But I happily left committees and meetings behind when I retired from engineering, so my approach was to just dive in. I did it by myself, and I had fun in the process. You, or you and a couple of other parents and/or teachers, can do this with ease. The only requirement is that you are enthusiastic about promoting the idea of having fun with math.

Here’s What I Did

I’m organizing a math night at a local elementary school at the end of the month. The activities I chose are mostly from my regular tutoring practice, but I included a few that I found on the internet. I divided the activities into three levels: K-1, 2-3, and 4-5.

I created an Excel spreadsheet with columns for Level, Curriculum Standard (not required, but helpful), Activity Name, Description, Number of Players, Number of Stations, Materials Needed, and Forms to create and print. I also created a “to do” list and a shopping list. It turned out that I only had to buy a small set of plastic farm animals and a couple of boxes of crayons.

Here’s a complete list of activities, by level, along with a brief description.

For Kindergarten and Grade 1:

cow mathHow many legs? Draw a plastic farm animal from the bag, count the legs, and add them to your current total. Keep going as far as you can.

Combinations. Using a printed page containing pictures of groups of items, find as many ways as you can to make a specified total by adding up items in selected groups.

Glyphs. Answer questions and create a drawing with characteristics that correlate to your selected answers. This is a data representation activity. I have a two-sided chalkboard table easel that will be perfect for the little ones who want to pair up for glyphs. (I blogged about how to make and use glyphs several weeks ago.)

Shapes. Draw a card containing the name of a shape and create that shape using Play-Doh and craft sticks.

Abacus. Count the beads on the top row, one by one. Then skip count by twos on the second row. For a bonus, try skip counting by threes, fours, and fives on subsequent rows.

Line Jumping. Draw a card, then start by standing on the specified number on the life-size number line on the floor, and move the required number of spaces to find the specified sum or difference. (Thanks to Lakeshore Learning for the idea!)

Storytime. Listen while a parent reads one of the available math storybooks out loud. (This is intended to accommodate the sleepyheads near the end of the evening.)

For Grades 2 and 3:

hopscotchHopscotch. Throw a pebble on a square and then hop up and back, skip counting by the number specified on the square where the pebble landed.

Dominoes. Pick a tile from the bag and add (2nd grade) or multiply (3rd grade) the two numbers.

Glyphs. Answer questions and create a drawing with characteristics that correlate to your selected answers. This is a data representation activity.

Shapes. Draw a card containing characteristics, but not names, of shapes and create that shape using Play-Doh and craft sticks.

Length. Choose an object from the basket and measure its longest dimension in both inches and centimeters, to the nearest whole unit (2nd grade) or half unit (3rd grade). Third graders are also invited to create a line plot of their data.
Money Riddles. Choose a card and use the play coins to figure out the answer to the riddle.

For Grades 4 and 5:

dominoDominoes. Draw two tiles at a time. Place them in front of you so that each tile represents a proper fraction. Then figure out which fraction is larger. (I’ll have a Fractions Tower there to help them figure it out if they need it.)

Multiplication War. Each player draws a playing card. The first player to correctly name the product of the two numbers wins the round.

Symmetry. Separate a basket of objects according to symmetry.
Factors. Draw two playing cards. Multiply the two numbers and then find all other factor pairs for the product.

Glyphs. Answer questions and create a drawing with characteristics that correlate to your selected answers. This is a data representation activity.

PEMDAS. Use your knowledge of the order of operations to place parentheses in an equation to make the result equal to a specified number. (Thanks to my friend Mary for this one!)

Magical 1s. Study the 1s Pyramid to find the number pattern, then fill in the remainder of the pyramid.

Twister GameMultiplication Twister. Spin the dial and place the specified appendage on the answer to the multiplication problem indicated.

I’m planning to save the movement activities for the last rotation of the evening so kids won’t be tempted to play Multiplication Twister all night!

Maximize Participation

Now, about incentives. “My” particular elementary school is offering two. First, each family will receive a copy of my book, Math Can Be Fun. And even better, every child who attends will get a 100 on a virtual math test! I’m expecting a very good turnout. Not all schools can be that generous. I’ve heard of schools giving a choice between a very long homework assignment and attending Math Night.

Let Me Know If I Can Help

If you have any questions about hosting a Math Night at your school, please contact me. If you’re in western North Carolina, I can even organize it for you!

And remember, this is supposed to be fun … it is not a test! So be sure to have teachers available to help students if they need it.

Let me know how it goes!

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