This article lists a whole host of winter math activities for your kids to enjoy. As temperatures have begun to drop in the Northern Hemisphere, children are more likely to stay indoors. Take this opportunity to create room for inspirational learning, instead of letting unwanted distractions cloud your child’s ambitions. Although the onset of winter doesn’t mean that your child will not step out of the house, they will, with warmer clothing. In the same way, nourish and prepare their minds with these winter math activities to keep them ahead of the competition and in tune with the season’s offerings.
The winter math activities are as follows:
1. Lego Games
According to a study, building LEGO games or “construction play is related specifically to math skills, and visuospatial memory is involved in the relationship between construction play and math skills”. The limitations of every piece of LEGO joined together in a modular fashion innately assists in understanding mathematical concepts of area (the surface covered by a shape) and perimeter (the length of the outline of the shape). The understanding of such modular pieces aid in forming the neural connections, fundamental to any science, joining to form an emerging and more complex building block, be it of ideas, concepts learnt in computational thinking, or simply a part of the LEGO game.
“The World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Report places creative problem-solving in the top three skills the job market will require from 2020. Imaginative play helps children learn how to innovate, problem-solve, and think critically throughout their lives.” It’s not only important for parents to provide children with the opportunity to learn these skills but also with the opportunity to utilise them in the longer term, as practice makes perfect. LEGO games are perfect example of a tool to implement these skills.
According to Teachervision.com, “Mozart put an interesting spin on one of his works, the Musikalisches Würfelspiel, or Musical Dice Game, by introducing the laws of probability into its composition. For every 16 bars of music in this piece, Mozart offers two choices for the eighth and sixteenth bars and eleven choices for every other bar. Any combination of choices results in a lovely minuet conforming to harmonic and compositional requirements for the Viennese minuets of his time. Mozart suggests the use of a pair of dice to make the choices: throw the dice and take the sum of the resulting numbers as the choice. More melodies can be made from this piece than there are people on Earth today!” Try this with your budding Mozart online, by clicking here.
Train children on tempo, pitch and get them to follow the beat by repeating to songs after you, through one-on-one correspondence. In addition to developing interpersonal skills and exercising their vocal chords with confidence, children also understand the concept of comparisons which is an essential skill in maths. According to Scholastic, an educational publisher, “Each time you invite children to apply these skills in a different way, you reinforce not only their understanding of the math concepts but their ability to apply and use their skills.” (Click here to read the complete article on activities combining math skills with music notes).
Did you ever think the rhythmic movement of dance would have anything to do with equations? Erik Stern and Karl Schaefer have pioneered possibilities of combining the two (their full Tedx Talk can be found here). This blog by Sir Ken Robinson makes the case for why dance is as important as learning mathematics in (American) schools and lists benefits such as increase of communication and collaboration between students, leading to prevention of bullying as they are able to express themselves creatively.
Get your child to choose their favourite recipe from a children’s cookbook. As they are in the flow of making something delicious, help them digest the difficult concepts of conversions, ratio and proportions of ingredients required, costing of getting those ingredients that would teach them how to manage their resources. (Click here for access to Mathcentral for detailed instructions).
Origami is the popular Japanese art of folding paper geometrically in beautiful designs. This winter, why not ask your child to make Snowflakes (click here for instructions) and Stars (These have been used in Coldplay’s video for “A Sky Full of Stars”. Click here for instructions) which can be used as decorations in their rooms or even hung as ornaments on the Christmas Tree? You could even customise this activity by recycling newspaper and paints or glitter. Or choose your child’s favourite constellation and map it on the wall with the required number of Origami stars.
6. Mathematical Fractal Art
Fractals are geometrically sequenced shapes that look the same at any given scale. This property is called self-similarity. Fractals start with simple patterns and as they are repeated, the complexity increases, giving rise to beautiful patterns that have only been replicated by nature. One can understand fractals by the repetitive design pattern found in broccoli florets and pine cones. Simplified models and drawings can be created on the basis of these more complicated 3D fractals.
The most famous fractals are the Sierpinski Gasket (linked with Pascal’s Triangle and the Mandelbrot Set) and the von Koch Snowflake. Fractals are incredibly useful in creating textured graphics on computers, and this process can also be used to creating images through image compression (developed by Michael Barnsley and Alan Sloan in the 1980s). According to author Daniel Shiffman, algorithms could be demonstrated as fractals. (Click here to read more). Fractalfoundation.org lists a whole list of games and activities based on fractals that can be found here. Sciencealert.com’s article, “7 Times Mathematics Became Art And Blew Our Minds” features former NASA engineer, Kerry Mitchell who creates all his art using algorithms and fractals.
The most famous and most used concept in painting is the Golden Ratio. It was this magical ratio, if present, determined the success of art and separated it from chaos. This ratio can also be used to form sequences and have been found hidden in many famous paintings but the most beautiful till date must be the Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci. Encourage your children to read up on this amazing concept. Here is a blog that provides details on how to create the Golden Ratio, which your children will be able to follow easily.
Mathematical games and puzzles, enable children to develop alternative perspectives, expanding their thinking to form dynamic and open-minded approaches. It is through the skills from recreational mathematical games and puzzles that children learn to build their connections of and with the wider world through communication and collaborations (sharing solutions). Being exposed to perspectives different from their own, is where real learning takes place and forms new thinking patterns in the child’s brain. Examples of such games are Sudoku, KenKen, Tower of Hanoi, to name a few.
This article has covered a variety of winter math activities that will help children build useful skills in daily life. From recreational dancing, singing, cooking to more technical aspects of drawing, solving puzzles and winning games with mathematics. Perhaps, one can’t think of anything more pleasant than to rejoice the success of honing mathematical concepts over the cold winter, in the warm presence of friends and family.