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Math is fun? Really it is.

by Lisa Ginet

posted by Lisa Ginet

“Let’s do math!” I often say at the start of a workshop. This may lead to some panicked looks or trips to the bathroom. If I say, “no pencils or calculators involved,” then a few people will laugh, and most will look more willing to try what I suggest …


What are these people doing? The Counting Calisthenics! If you need a break from the computer, you can do it, too! Stand up and count while you move:

Touch toes – “1”

Touch knees – “2”

Touch hips – “3”

Touch shoulders – “4”

Throw hands up – “5!”

Continue counting while repeating movements

(toes, 6; knees, 7; hips, 8; shoulders, 9; hands up, 10 …)

Keep going until you want to stop.

After you sit back down, consider this question: If you kept doing the toes, knees, hips, shoulders, hands up counting calisthenics, what movement would you be doing at “456”?

It would be quite exhausting to actually keep doing the counting calisthenics all the way to 456, but I expect that, if you think about it a little, you will be able to figure out that you would be touching our toes at “456.” You probably noticed that your hands were up in the air every 5th number, and then the cycle started again. So, your hands would be up in the air for “455” and back at your toes at “456.”  You are using what you know about the structure of our base-10 number system and the pattern of the calisthenics movements to arrive at an answer. You are doing math!

We at the Early Math Collaborative want to encourage you, and all adults who spend time with young children, to build new math ideas and new math associations by engaging in fun and meaningful math activities. Why? If adults are going to engage children in doing real math and constructing authentic mathematical understanding, then the adults need to exercise their own “math muscles.” Because many adults have bad memories of math in school, they often avoid doing math with children. It can be hard to engage adults in exploring foundational math if they don’t feel good about math and don’t think they can do math. Just as learning math facts from flashcards is not an effective way for children to become fluent and flexible problem solvers, blindly following activity directions will not help adults understand the math in the activities or respond effectively to children’s comments and questions.

“Counting Calisthenics” is just one of our Adult Learning Activities. While they involve basic math concepts, Adult Learning Activities are not children’s math that we are asking adults to do; nor are they activities to repeat with young children. We have designed these activities so that they:

  • pose a puzzle or problem;
  • are interesting enough to capture and retain adult attention;
  • are easy to implement;
  • may have more than one solution or route to solution;
  • clearly focus thinking on foundational mathematical idea(s).

We hope that having fun doing math will help convince you that the world is not divided into those who are good at math and those who aren’t. We can all be doers of math, and we can build the same confidence and excitement in the children in our lives.



18 Replies to “Math is fun? Really it is.”

  1. Kids learn more when they are having fun. Making a learning game with exercise would be remembered more than seeing it on paper.

    1. Some kids learn by reading books and some learn by hands on projects or physical activities. I’m happy to see a little of both in classes these days.

    2. We use math everyday and teaching kid measurements through cooking is a great way to be familiar with fractions.

  2. I like that you involved one of the 8 intelligence (movement/hands on) to improve different types of learning styles for the children.

  3. math is all around our environment we live in. You can use natural to graph, measure and sort several things we see in our back yard.l

  4. Math does not have to be learned only in the class room. Our out doors are filled with things we can use to apply mathematics for example: sorting, counting and classifing.

  5. This was a good example of how to pose an authentic math problem. I think that there would be many opportunities to pose these types of mathematical reasoning in the early childhood environment. I can see the learning happening when children are allowed to problem solve in these ways.

  6. I work with children ages 0-3 and we do very simple math. Who knew peek-a-boo was a math/pattern activity! My current little group are between the ages of 14 mos. and 20 months. We work at simple math activities — walking patterns – walk/march, walk/march; banging on boxes – fast/slow, fast/slow. We have just started sorting animals/people, and making patterns with pop beads. They have no idea they are becoming math scholars, just having fun with some serious thinking!

  7. This reminds me of head, shoulders, knees and toes. Not only does it involve counting, it is gross motor as well as balance.

  8. I like the fact that it doesn\’t have to be complicated to teach numbers and patterns, making it fun like this more children will join in and not even realize they are learning,

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