Whether you decide to hold competitions in your math club or not, recreational math materials are an important component of your program. If I had one word to describe the most important quality of these materials, it would be VARIETY. Mathematics is an incredibly broad subject, and often kids’ sense of what it encompasses is extremely limited. As you expose young children to mathematics, it is important for them to experience as wide a variety of topics and materials as possible. We don’t want them walking away from math club thinking math is just about numbers!
When I say variety, I mean variety both in the content of what is being taught, and the learning medium. What you see in the above picture are four examples of what worked well for us in terms of recreational activities. Every activity provides a different kinesthetic experience for the student, as well as exposure to a distinct topic.
Starting on the left, we have a MATHCOUNTS National Math Club Kit. This is a wonderful free resource for math clubs, providing high quality, varied recreational math activities. Pictured on the box is a challenging fraction puzzle which one solves by writing on a laminated worksheet with a dry erase pen. There are other activities, involving pipe cleaners, dice etc. This program is only available to 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. If your students are in any of these grades, I highly recommend it.
Going clockwise, we have the Math 24 game. This is a simple, yet challenging game in which participants need to make the number 24 out of the 4 numbers using arithmetic operations. It gives great practice in mental math, and it lends itself to holding tournaments. No writing is involved, as students only handle the cards that come with the game.
Next we have Geometiles, which kids love to snap together. With Geometiles, you can give kids challenges or simply let them be guided by their imagination. At the time of this writing, our Math Club is in the midst of a busy competition schedule. So for us, a session of unstructured, fun construction with Geometiles is much anticipated by both children and coaches.
Finally, at the right is a math crossword puzzle from Beast Academy. I found that kids love math crossword puzzles. This gives yet another medium for teaching– solving something fun with pencil and paper. Beast Academy has a wealth of other resources for children in grades 3 to 5. If your group is too young for MATHCOUNTS, definitely check them out.
These are just examples of what worked for us. Feel free to try out your own resources. Just remember: mix it up!