Ideas for Joyful Learning During School Closures: Make it Count!

This week, we want to tackle a subject known to strike fear into the hearts of adults and children alike: math. We're demystifying the subject and sharing ways you can make math fun and useful for children of all ages.

At-Home Learning: PBS SoCal and KCET, in partnership with LAUSD and in collaboration with California PBS stations, are offering broadcast programming with digital resources that adhere to California’s state curriculum. Download this week’s schedule.

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This week, our Joyful Learning article will tackle a subject known to strike fear into the hearts of adults and children alike: math. The education team at PBS SoCal and KCET wants to demystify the subject and share ways you can make math fun and useful for children of all ages. There are tons of opportunities to learn and practice math skills in the home: cooking, counting, measuring, etc. Our team found creative activities to help prepare children for school and learn important life skills. We hope “sum” of you enjoy our staff’s “additions.” 

Have an early learner at home? Explore more math activities on PBS SoCal’s Family Math website. This initiative helps families access fun, developmentally appropriate and culturally relevant math opportunities in their communities. Why math? Early math skills can set up your kids for all kinds of success in elementary school, high school and beyond. 

Ideas for Early Learners (Pre-K–3rd grade)

CREATE

Did you know that letting your kids help in the kitchen is a great way to nurture their math skills? Pick out a favorite family recipe and have your children help you measure ingredients into measuring cups or spoons. For example, if you’re baking cookies, ask your child to count how many eggs or cups of chocolate chips they need to add to the cookie dough. Practice fair sharing after all the cookies are done baking by discussing how many cookies each person should have so that everyone has an equal amount. 

Here are a few other fun recipes that have math concepts built into the recipe: Make soft-pretzel numbers; practice counting and dividing a delicious fruit salad; and explore fractions while making cheesy personal pizzas.

Yogurt cups decorated as treasure chests filled with small pieces of chopped fruit.
Pirate fruit salad in treasure chests | Family Math / PBS SoCal

Make a DIY shape sorter out of recycled materials you can probably find at home. This is a great way to practice identifying, labeling and talking about shapes. 

READ

Including a few books that feature math concepts such as numbers, adding, or measuring can be a great way to incorporate math learning into reading time. We recommend “7 Ate 9” by Tara Lazar. This fun number-themed mystery explores what happens when 6 tells Private I that 9 has gone missing because 7 ate 9! This book makes numbers come to life in a memorable way. As you’re reading the book, ask children to label all of the numbers they see to practice number recognition. 

Join PBS SoCal for a Live Read Aloud with KidTime StoryTime on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 1pm. The storyteller brings math-related storybooks to life in both English and Spanish. Register here!

PLAY

Download and print the At-Home Early Math Learning Kit from DREME Family Math at Stanford. It’s filled with ideas on how you can incorporate math into everyday routines such as reading, setting the table, cleaning and cooking. It is also available in Spanish

Play Sorta-Ma-Gogo with Cat in the Hat. Help Nick and Sally pick up items and sort them according to shape or color. 

Bake and decorate a cake with Peg + Cat. You can practice counting out your fruit topping and equally dividing the cake for friends or family. Or you can bake a cake that looks just like Peg!

WATCH

Learn basic shapes by making a shape mobile. This video shows you how to make a cute mobile that will get you talking about shapes.

Child interacts with a shape mobile to learn about basic shapes.
Child interacts with a shape mobile to learn about basic shapes. | Family Math / PBS SoCal

This clip shows you how to make a homemade balance scale and compare weights of small household objects. 

Watch full episodes of Peg + Cat on PBS KIDS 24/7 and online via PBS KIDS Video

Ideas for Older Children (4th Grade-12th Grade) 

CREATE

Have your kids plan and cook a meal or bake a dessert (with some parental guidance, if needed). Pick a recipe and set a budget for the meal. Create a shopping list and, if safe for your family, go with your kids to the grocery store to explain how to shop for food on a budget (check out this video on saving money at the supermarket for tips). When you return home, your kids can practice fractions by cooking the meal. Need an extra challenge? Double the recipe or divide it in half to reinforce those math fundamentals. 

Pink pickled turnips
Pink pickled turnips | Victoria Gonzalez

Math is a key part of other subjects. In the sciences, physics and math go hand-in-hand. Try this Land a Spacecraft on Target experiment from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to learn about real-world physics applications and get in some fun indoor target practice!

PLAY

Improve your logic skills with these free Sudoku puzzles from LA County Library’s “Activities at Home” page. There are also free, online versions of the puzzle. 

Grab a deck of cards, and you got a family game night plus math practice rolled into one! You can find math-specific card games that reinforce arithmetic skills, equations and fractions. However, the classics like Gin Rummy or Canasta can help your children notice patterns, understand complex order of operations, and improve critical thinking and strategizing skills. If you’re rusty on the rules, the playing card company Bicycle outlines the rules for over 100 of your favorite card games.

 WATCH

Got questions about finances? Our friends at Two Cents may just have the answers. This PBS Digital Series covers everything from topical issues about the economy to practical tips to budget and save money

Explore interesting math history, riddles and real-world statistics problems in this Ted-Ed playlist Math in Real Life

Strong math skills are needed in many of the sciences too. But don’t worry, the Crash Course team has you covered. Dive into the fundamentals of physics, engineering, computer science and many more, without forgetting the social sciences either — economics requires math knowledge too. These series are a great way for your students to review academic subjects and discover different types of careers and areas of study. 

We want to hear from you!

We would love to see photos of you doing these activities with your family. Email your photos and stories to education@pmgsocal.org.