Math Play: 20 Minutes a Day

I really think it is amazing that as a society we have really been pushing new parents to read to their children for 20 minutes a day.  We all know that this helps a child in a myriad of ways to become better speakers, writers and readers.  I am blessed with a five year old that learned to read completely on her own at age 4, and I believe that reading to her every day of her life has been the reason this happened.  The cool thing was, we didn’t have to teach her to read, it just happened on it’s own (trust me, we were shocked and humbled by this development!).  Whether that is the norm or not, it got me thinking about math.

Why don’t we as a society promote 20 minutes of math play each day, the same way we promote reading? Imagine if children could authentically develop number sense from an early age by counting or playing with numbers DAILY. I bet we wouldn’t see as many students struggling with some of the simplest concepts like even vs. odd. I still have a few third graders who aren’t sure of the difference!

This is my daughter “building” numbers today. All we needed was a little paper and some unifix cubes which you can pick up at any educator supply store. I want her to see that numbers aren’t really all that abstract.  We’ll be adding many different number representations to our papers each day.

Building Numbers

I plan to add math play to my 5 year old’s day, the same way we read each day.  If you already do something like this, I hope you can share some of your activities with me!

Last, this also gets me thinking about my third graders. Is there a way that I can have math play be homework? Hmmm….I’m on it!



  1. I love reading your blog! You always say things that I agree with!! I teach 8th grade math and am about to have my first child. I often wonder about the early math development and why it’s not stressed more. I can’t wait to put my theories into practice with my own child and see what happens.


    1. Wow! Thanks so much for the warm compliments. Congratulations on your pregnancy! I hope everything goes well. Please do share some of the math activities you do with all of us. 🙂

      Happy New Year!


      1. My youngest daughter had to be our 4th player in games from a very early age. She was playing Yahtzee, Cribbage, Hearts & more before even going to Kindergarten. The result…quick with numbers, great number sense, adding, subtracting and multiplying before her peers. Math play is definitely what made the difference. This year in my first grade class I am using math games as almost all of our math facts practice in class and so far I couldn’t be happier with their progress.

  2. Brandi,

    That is awesome! I am really happy to hear that. I wish someone would do some research on this so that it is stressed more to young parents.

    By the way I love your blog. I tried to comment on it yesterday but something went wrong! I am always looking for research and best practice to fire up how I teach. I can’t wait to see what else you’ll post about.


    1. Brandi-

      I too believe that games have an impact on math ability! I have attributed my own success to the games I used to play with my grandpa when I was a kid! We did not necessarily play number games but games that involved reasoning, like checkers. I would also love to see research done in this area.



  3. This is a great idea and you make a good point! I teach high school students who d\ont know the difference between even and odd! Im sure this would be very different if they had played with numbers daily in their early years.


    1. Really?! High schoolers…that is sad. But I guess we all sort of grew up learning the way our teachers were taught, and a lot of us (myself included) continued to teach that way. I am happy to be waking up to new ways by reading about what others do with their own classrooms.


  4. You’re in great company! In addition to our project (at, there’s Moebius Noodles and Bedtime Math. All promoting numeracy in kiddos in the “normal” way of modeling positive math talk and play on a daily basis. Keep it up!


  5. Playing games is that 20 minutes of math per day that every kid needs. Counting dots on a die, moving your person on a board, adding up, and comparing how many spaces or points you are ahead or behind- all that is math in an engaging authentic context. We don’t need to assign math to kids. We need to play and ask questions!


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