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Family Math Activity: Play with a Spinner to Make Math Moves

A paper plate spinner is divided and marked with instructions like step to the right, jump and duck.
This spinner is sure to get your family making math moves in no time. | Yesenia Prieto
In this activity, you'll make a spinner to play with giving directions to help your child develop their spatial sense.
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Esta actividad también está disponible en español.

Movement helps children understand spatial relationships and distance. Make a spinner and play this game involving directions and movement at home as a family.


 All you need for the spinner is a paper plate, a round head fastener, a pipe cleaner and a marker.
All you need for the spinner is a paper plate, a round head fastener, a pipe cleaner and a marker. | Yesenia Prieto

To make the spinner, you'll need one paper plate, one round head paper fastener or push pin and one pipe cleaner. Use a pen or marker to write on your spinner. You can decorate your spinner using markers, crayons, colored pencils or stickers.

Making the Spinner

A paper plate is divided into six slices with a black marker.
To start, you'll need to divide the paper plate into six slices. | Yesenia Prieto

Make the math movement game spinner before beginning. On the bottom of the paper plate, mark the center point with a pen or marker. Draw "slices" on the plate (like a pizza!) by making a straight line from the left edge of the plate, through the center point, and to the right edge. Do this three times at evenly spaced points around the plate to make six slices. Next, make the spinning mechanism by wrapping the end of a pipe cleaner just under the round top of the fastener or push pin one time. Poke the fastener into the center of the plate and fold it so that it sandwiches the pipe cleaner against the plate (keep the fastener loose enough that the pipe cleaner can spin easily). If using a push pin, after poking it through the plate, wrap the pointy tip on the back of the plate loosely with tape so it stays in place and is not as sharp.

Directional Words

If your child is helping you make the spinner, use spatial and directional words to explain your steps like center, left, right, through, straight and around. For example, "Let's find the center of the plate together." After making the spinner, ask your child to help pick six spatial/directional movements that they will do as part of the math movement game. Here are some phrases to choose from: jump up, duck down, step left, step right, spin around, clap hands together, do a wiggly dance, stand straight or lay flat. When you have decided the six movements together, write them out, one inside each slice on the spinner.

How to Play

Spin your pipe cleaner to start the game. Wherever the pipe cleaner lands, that is the first movement of your math movement dance. Spin again, and with each spin, add that movement to your dance. After each spin, try out the steps of the dance together, adding the additional steps with each try. How many movements can your family remember? Record the dance with your camera!

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Related Workshop

This activity is part of our Spatial Sense workshop, which helps parents and caregivers playfully build children's knowledge of location and position words.