A fittingly treasure-esque box or jar for your pirate to place his bounty.
A collection of small items like colored gems, strings of beads, and "coins" (can be found at craft stores) or household treasures like buttons, bottle caps, screws, old keys, or anything else that can be counted and sorted.
What You Do:
Hide it. Spread the loot around your house or in the backyard. Once your pirates have located their booty, the math begins!
Estimate. Put all the treasure in a clear container. Ask your kids to guess how many items are in the jar. Challenge them to empty out the portion they think is half, or to take out a quarter of the amount. Then empty the entire contents and check the accuracy of thier estimations.
Sort and classify. Ask your kids to sift through their treasures and match like items. Then throw them a few questions. For example, are the buttons all the same size? Do the keys look alike? Are some of the gems square and others round? Not only does this activity teach children to group items into sets, but it teaches them to observe carefully. Ask them how the things in each set are alike and how they are different.
Tell a story. Use their treasures to tell addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division stories. For example, if we share 17 buttons among 3 friends, how many will we each get? Will there be some left over? Or if we have 3 shirts that need 5 buttons each, do we have enough buttons? Ask your kids to act out the problem, by dividing the buttons between the "3 friends" or the "3 shirts". They can use stuffed animals if they'd like, or just their imaginations.
This activity is adapted from the U.S. Department of Education publication, "Helping Your Child Learn Math".