Mathematics is a subject which most students love to hate – and certain teachers even hate to teach, because of the overt negative vibes. On the other hand, there are some students who are a joy to teach, simply because they are so skilled with numbers.

Following are some activities which teachers can use for inculcating math skills at elementary level classrooms.

Gaity, a kindergarten teacher, uses an activity involving six puppets: five monkeys and one alligator. She gives small laminated drawings attached to pop sticks to the children and asks them to sing the following song: “Teasing Mr. Alligator can’t catch me. Along came Mr. Alligator, quiet as can be, and snapped that monkey right out of the tree.” She has the children sing the song a number of times, until they have memorized it. Then, she selects six students: five to hold the monkey puppets and one for the alligator. In unison, the class sings the song, taking a monkey away each time. While they are singing, the teacher writes the subtraction problems on the board to go with each verse of the song, e.g., 5-1=, 4-1=, 3-1=, 2-1=… Then, the children solve each problem using the puppets. The alligator is supposed to serve as the subtraction sign.

Another activity is called ‘flying a saucer’. Before the class begins, the teacher writes a math fact on each of a number of paper plates. In the playground, the children line up with a paper plate in hand, and when cued, they throw the paper plate as far as they can. Then they scramble to pick up the plates, before the whistle blows, after which they line up again. One by one, ask the students to read out and answer the question written on his or her plate/s. The child that gives the right answer remains in the line and whoever does not has to sit. Any sitting student can ‘buy’ his or her way back into the game by answering a problem that someone doesn’t know in the next round.

Ghazala, also a kindergarten teacher, plays ‘winning the cheeto’ with her students. She writes the numbers she is working with on cards made out of construction paper. These cards are then taped to the floor forming a square. In addition, she also puts small pieces of paper with numbers on them in a box. For starters, she lets each student stand on a number and then, while the teacher sings, they walk around stepping on the numbers as they go. Once the song stops, they have to stop at the number they are on, and the teacher then draws out one of the pieces of paper from the box and calls out the number written on it. Whoever is standing on the number is the winner. This activity can be used to teach colours, shapes and alphabets.

For the activity called ‘number patterns,’ students learn to identify the number pattern on the board and write the missing numbers, e.g., 18, 15, 12, -, -, -. Make sure you explain the concept well and ask them prompting questions like whether the missing number is larger or smaller. To check if they have understood the concept, ask them to create their own number patterns and see if their partner can identify them.

For the activity ‘Cheerio and counting,’ ask the children to tell you their age, using their fingers. Give the child a number card with his or her age on it and ask them to put the correct amount of Cheerios on it. Talk about each number. After that, give them a piece of yarn and have them make a necklace, using the Cheerios as beads, while counting them as they go along.

‘How many balloons left’ is an activity that can be used as an introduction to a lesson on subtraction. Take three balloons, show them to the students, and have them count them out loud. Without warning, pop a balloon. Your students are bound to enjoy this. Then ask the children: “How many balloons are left?” Ask the children to convert what they just saw into a subtraction number sentence and write it out on the board for them.

Naila, a grade one teacher, uses the activity ‘going on a shape hunt,’ in which she gives the children a writing pad and pencil and asks them to explore the playground looking for objects with circular, triangular or square shapes. The children are to sketch the objects they find in their writing pads. Back in class, she asks the children to draw one of the objects, label it as a circle, triangle or square and colour it. Afterwards, students can share their works of art with others and discuss their findings.

All in all, one can definitely surmise that teaching mathematics does not have to be a boring activity at all, either for the teacher or for the students. Both can have fun in their math class – all you need is a little creativity to take the lesson further than the textbook/workbook and homework exercises.