One of the goals for first graders is to memorize basic addition and subtraction math facts by the end of the year. This will become especially important in the later grades, when students move on to more challenging computation, such as regrouping with two and three-digit numbers. Lots and lots of repetition and practice are the key to memorizing math facts. Practicing at home can really help, but you don’t want this kind of repetition to become drudgery. So why not mix practice with play? Here’s an activity that’s so much fun, your child will want to “stick” with his fact practice!
a set of wooden craft "popsicle" sticks (about 20-30)
an extra fine point permanent marker, black
a sandbox filled with sand
What You Do:
Use the marker to write a math problem on the top end of the craft stick. Write the answer to the math problem on the bottom of the stick. Continue in this manner until all the sticks are labeled. (Note: These problems should be very simple addition and subtraction problems. Check with your child's teacher if you are unsure what kinds of equations are appropriate.)
Have your child submerge the sticks in the sand so that the problems are visible, but the answers are not.
Point out that these sticks would make great building materials in the sandbox. They could become bridges for sandcastles! But before your child can pull them out of the sand to play with them, he has to say the math fact and its answer out loud. Show him how to do this by choosing a stick, saying aloud the problem and the answer, then pulling the stick out of the sand to check the answer. If the answer is correct, keep the stick for sandbox play. If the answer is not correct, put the stick back in the sand.
After your child has practiced all his Sandbox Math Sticks, join him in some fun, creative play. Then store the sticks for later by filling a sand pail with sticks, or simply plant them in the sand again!
Liana Mahoney is a National Board Certified elementary teacher, currently teaching a first and second grade loop. She is also a certified Reading Specialist, with teaching experience as a former high school English teacher, and early grades Remedial Reading.