Math on the Road

Math is everywhere, including on the road! On your road trip this summer, take a break from the movies and sing-a-longs to build some math skills. Here are some tips and ideas to bring out the math while you drive for hours and hours and hours.

Play a Math Game

Playing games on the road is one of the best ways to pass the time. Here are two games that you can play with your little one.

Number Game

This game is all about numeral recognition. The goal is to spot the numerals 0-9 in order. Players start by looking for a 0. Once you find a 0, you look for 1. Once you find a 1, you look for 2. Numerals can be within a larger number, but you can only use one numeral per spotting. For example, Exit 134 could count as numerals 1, 3, or 4 but only one of them.

Variations: You can play competitively or cooperatively. If you are playing competitively, the first player to spot the numeral gets that instance of the numeral. Each player keeps track of their own current numeral. You can also make the game more difficult by removing mile markers and exit signs from the game.

Counting Game

Choose an object that you know you will see a good amount of. Depending on where you’re driving, this could be cows, barns, cacti, other cars, etc. Count the number of objects as you drive. A group of objects only counts as one. For example, a group of ten cows would only count as one cow. This makes the game last longer! The goal is to get to ten.

Rule variations: You can change the goal number based on your child’s counting skills. Children 5+ may be ready to count to 20, so make the target number. You can cooperatively or competitively.

This is also a great opportunity to practice estimating! If you spot a big group of cows, ask How many cows do you think there are?

Look for Shapes

While you’re driving, have your child look for different shapes. When your child identifies a shape, ask them How do you know? In their answer, look for the number of sides, the length of the sides, and whether the sides are straight or curved. This is a great opportunity to emphasize that the same shape can have different sizes and orientations. Learn more about shape attributes from this blog post.

Compare Attributes

Whether you’re driving through the city, the mountains, the desert, or the plains, there is always something to compare. Make sure to ask How do you know? each time! Because you’re in a car, there is now way to make a direct comparison between objects. This will challenge your child to come up with some creative explanations!

Take Action

  • On your upcoming road trip, plan to spend at least 20 minutes on math games and activities.
  • Take a deck of cards with your to your final destination and play some of these math card games during downtime.
  • Read more about math talk and how to incorporate math into everyday activities here: Math Talk for Early Learning.

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