We have a 2nd grade math curriculum that I really like, but I am supplementing with some additional hands-on activities. Children learn so much by doing and exploring. Worksheets are good for drill and practice, but I think that if children think that math equals worksheets, they will probably not enjoy math very much. I also like to look for activities that build thinking skills so that the boys will be able to problem-solve in real life.

This game is from a book that we used in my college math methods class called About Teaching Mathematics by Marilyn Burns.

The activity is called “Empty the Bowl.” The game is very simple. Put 20 cubes in a bowl. Roll the dice to see how many cubes to take out. You don’t have to have an exact roll to go out – if there are 2 left, and you roll 3, that’s fine. Keep track of the sums of the numbers you roll. After a few rounds, ask some probing questions to get your child thinking.

  • Is it possible to empty the bowl in one roll?
  • What is the fewest number of rolls possible to empty the bowl?
  • What is the greatest number of rolls that you could have?

Aidan enjoyed this game, and it was a fun way to practice addition facts.

We then moved on to building shapes with toothpicks and play-doh. Aidan especially enjoyed this activity because he loves to build things. We made two dimensional shapes first, and then explored building with three dimensional shapes.

Aidan had the idea to add a triangle to the top of his cube to make a house.

Modeling clay would have worked a little better because the play-doh was kind of soft, but we’ll definitely be doing this activity again!

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  1. Esther Irish Sep 21, 2010

    I love that I can do these with the stuff I have at home! If I have to go out and buy things for an activity, it just rarely gets done. Thank you!

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  2. min Nov 28, 2010

    Both these activities are great! I think I will improvise it for my 4.5 year old. I'm a big fan of Marilyn Burns. Thank you for sharing and linking to Math Links!

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