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Hopscotching into math

Submitted by on Wednesday, 17 March 2010 One Comment

It’s a math drill with no flash cards!

It’s exercise without leaving the patio!

And it’s also an idea I blatantly stole from Parents Math Night at Big Guy’s school – but, hey, there’s nothing wrong with borrowing brilliance when you see it. Plus it’s considerably more healthy than my other math trick, calculations by fruit snacks.

Yes, I only have two math tricks so far. Math was a weaker subject for me and, no, Mom it wasn’t because I “just wasn’t any good at it,” so please drop the cliche that my first-grade teacher passed along to you decades ago. When you start telling a girl at 6 that she doesn’t like math, guess what the obvious result is going to be.

Best of all: It doesn’t cost a thing other than the price of the chalk. We did buy oversized dice, but only because we lucked into two sets at a dollar store. You could easily play with regular dice, though.

The math hopscotch premise is as simple as traditional hopscotch, except instead of tossing a rock the players roll the dice. Younger children can simply count the number on each die and hop the number of steps. Big Guy already was learning addition when we began, so he added the roll in his head.

For very young children, the teachers at Big Guy’s school suggested using shapes, drawing them on the grid and having the child pull one from a basket to determine where to hop.

As Big Guy’s math skills have grown, so has our hopscotch grid – it’s the full length of the patio now. He keeps rolling until he misses either an equation or a step, adding his new roll to the number he’d landed on previously. For subtraction practice, he works backward. His class has started adding three numbers, so we’ve also started rolling three dice at a time.

And while it’s a gross exaggeration to claim that Boots can do math, the game is helping introduce him to the concepts. He understands that, for example, he rolls a one and a two and counts all the numbers at the same time, the result is three. “Yes, one plus two equals three,” I’ll say to reinforce the idea that he’s actually doing a calculation.

There are other variations out there, including one that uses a chalk-on-sidewalk calculator instead of a traditional hopscotch grid. For an indoor version, you can use masking or colored tap to form the hopscotch grid. I’ve also heard of parents using the backs of old shower curtains and Sharpies.

I see the potential to use it for multiplication, too, though that hopscotch grid will quickly wind up stretching around the block. I’m tired already.

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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One Comment »

  • MtnMom said:

    Excellent! If I had learned hop-scotch I may not have had to cheat to pass Algebra and Geometry in high school. On the other hand, even jumping rope felt like a chore to me so…probably wouldn’t have engaged in the activity enough for it to help.

    I do love activities that build math skills in children in spite of my own struggles with the subject; maybe even because of my own struggles with the subject. Music is another math building skill. It’s a bit noisy but the skills developed are well worth listening to pots and pans banging to the beat of their favorite tunes. Tupperware bowls with a plastic spatula works on days when your nerves can’t handle the heavy metal. =D