Toddler Tuesday: The race track and numbers.

Learning math is fun for young kids when the learning is play.

Learning math can be fun. It is important – especially for the younger kids – that the learning they do be more fun than anything else. Otherwise, they will lose their love for learning because they will equate learning with work.

race tracks can be used to learn math.

We labeled the race track with two numbers. This version has 1 and 2. We also did 2 and 4, 7 and 8, 9 and 3.

We have been having a little trouble with learning numbers – well recognizing numbers. Abby can count to ten – accurately – with objects and her fingers. She can identify the number 1 and zero. She can write her numbers, if an example is placed before her (and she is using her purple pencil, otherwise all bets are off).

What she’s not good at is being shown a number and knowing what number it is. This is true for all numbers except 1 and zero.

So today we had a spare bit of time and I thought we would play with numbers for her – just a bit. As an added but of fun, she got to boss her brother around in this “lesson.”

First I made the race track. It’s a piece of shelving we aren’t currently using and some electrical tape. I ran a tape down the middle. Then  I put numbers with tape in the top two boxes (you can see the number one, but not the two, in the picture). We used the following sets of numbers:

  • 1 and 2
  • 2 and 4
  • 7 and 8
  • 9 and 3


I would’ve done more but it ran into dinner time. I was hungry even if the kids pretended they weren’t.

Abby told Nicholas which cars to put in which slot. She actually went into the toy bins and got a ton of cars out so she could have different colored cars each time (I made her tell me the colors of the cars too – just to make sure she was getting a good review). Then she had to tell Nicholas which car went into which lane.

I had to make sure Nicholas would only listen to her when she gave a number, not just pointed – and that was the hardest part of the lesson. He got the idea after a time or two, and she was forced to actually say the numbers.

I changed the number sets pretty often. I wanted to make sure she didn’t get to comfortable. We’d do about 5 races with one set of numbers, then switch. Then switch back, but put the numbers on the opposite sides of the track.

Abby was forced to recognize the numbers properly in order to get the cars going where she wanted them to go. She also got to be the “race starter” and call out “go!” Nicholas thought it was great fun to try and guess which one would win based on their velocity (mass times acceleration – and generally the heavier car won).

That was our number lesson for the day. It was a fun bit of inside play, since the weather wasn’t great, and it also covered a lesson without either of them realizing that they were doing school work.

After all, play is the best way to learn.

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