Want to supercharge your child’s math skills? Here are 18 creative and fun ways to use number flashcards to practice basic numeracy and math skills–for toddlers, preschoolers and elementary-age kids!
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Recently I shared a free printable set of number flashcards here on the blog. If you haven’t had a chance to download them yet, go do it!
If you have downloaded them already, yay you! I hope you’re loving them. However, if you aren’t sure how best to use them to help your child learn, keep reading. I’ve got you covered!
Flashcards tend to get a bad reputation for being boring and ineffective teaching tools, but I PROMISE it’s all in how you use them. By the time you finish reading this article, you will have learned 17 creative ways to teach your child math skills using flashcards.
FYI: none of the ideas involve mindlessly flipping through cards and drilling your child. Rather, these activities will get your child up and moving, using all of their senses to interact with and manipulate the numbers, helping them develop a deeper understanding of what numbers are and how they work in the world around them. To read more about why flashcards are actually a great learning tool, click here.
Bonus: All of the activities below are easy prep and require few, if any, extra supplies. You probably already have everything you need in your house.
If you’re familiar with my alphabet flashcards and 23 unconventional ways to learn using alphabet flashcards, some of the activities below may look familiar. Many of the alphabet activities my kids love are easily adapted to learn numbers, and I’ve explained exactly how I made them work for learning numbers. I’ve also tried to include ways to adapt activities to make them work for older or younger kids with varying levels of math skills.
Ready to play? Here we go!
Fun and simple ways to learn numeracy and math skills using number flashcards
1. Memory/Matching Game
Shuffle the number cards and counting cards together. Place them face down on a table (or floor) in a grid. Take turns flipping over cards and trying to find the matching numbers. For younger kids, you may choose to use only numbers 1-5.
Give your child a stack of mixed up flash cards and encourage them to place them in number order. Increase the challenge for more advanced learners by asking them to place them in order by twos (separate into evens and odds).
3. Number scavenger hunt
Hide flash cards around your house and encourage your child to find all the numbers. We laid out the counting cards in order on the floor, then I hid the number cards for my son to find and match up with the right counting card. He loved it!
Or, if you want to add a writing component, give your child a clipboard with a number tracing sheet, and have him/her trace each number as it is found.
4. Fly Swatter Game
Use painter’s tape (I love that stuff!) to affix several flashcards to the wall. Give your child a fly swatter and tell them to smack each number as you call it out. If you have multiple children (of similar ability), you can have two kids race to see who can swat the correct letter first.
For older kids, try giving them a simple addition or subtraction problem and have them smack the answer (for example, you call out “5+2” and your child swats the number “7”).
5. Bean Bag Toss
Tape number flashcards to assorted buckets/plastic containers (old tupperware works great). Invite your child to toss a bean bag into one of the buckets. If they make it, they say the number on the bucket and get a point (or you can award them the number of points on the card)!
For younger kids (who have a hard time aiming), just lay the cards on the floor and have them call out whichever letter the bean bag lands on…or closest to.
For older kids, give them 3-5 bean bags and have them add their points together for each throw. Play multiple rounds and see if they can beat their previous score.
6. Special Delivery
Scatter one set of number cards around the room (or you could do this in the backyard). Tell your child that you are going to pretend that they work for a factory that makes something (pom poms, toy cars, blocks, etc…something you have a lot of in your house).
Your child gets to be the delivery man who needs to count out the right number of “packages” for each “customer” and deliver them to the right places. Give your child a truck (dump trucks work great) or a “mail bag” (even a grocery sack will do).
Use the second set of flashcards as a draw pile (these are the customer “orders”). Next to your draw pile, have a pile of the something you gathered beforehand (we used cars). Flip over a card, and help your child count that number of items. Place them in the truck and encourage them to deliver them to the location of the matching flashcard. Keep going as long as your child shows interest or until you deliver all the orders.
7. Don’t Touch the Lava!
Little kids (my boys especially) love anything dangerous…and if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em! I created this learning game out of necessity on a rainy day, and it’s been a huge hit again and again.
Invite your child to hop across placemats or pillows to find and “rescue” the number flashcards from the lava. Read all the details of this game here.
8. Number Race
Spread out the cards all over the floor. Have your child start at “1” and then race to pick up “2”. Continue picking up numbers in order until you get to 10. If your child is engaged. Repeat the activity and time them to see if they can beat their previous time.
9. Stomp it!
This is a favorite of my rough-and-tumble boys, and it’s so simple! Scatter the flashcards on the floor. Call out a number and encourage your child to find it and stomp on it as fast as possible. Repeat as many times as you want!
10. Erase the Numbers
Write the numbers 1-10 with a dry erase pen on a large window or sliding glass door. Shuffle and stack the flashcards in a pile, have your child flip over a card, and erase the number shown on the card. Simple! Get more details on this activity on Busy Toddler.
For older kids, give them a simple math problem and have them erase the correct answer.
11. Graphing with objects
Lay the number flashcards out on a flat surface (table or floor), and have a big pile of something nearby…pennies, pom poms, toy cars, Goldfish crackers, etc. Challenge your child to make a “graph” of the numbers. Place one object above the “one” card, two above the “two” card, etc.
12. Target Practice (with darts)
Use painter’s tape to affix several flash cards to the wall. Encourage your child to shoot darts (we have little Nerf guns that we like to use) at the numbers. When they hit one, they must identify it, then they may take it off the wall. The child wins when all the letters have been hit and identified.
If you have multiple children, you can have them take turns shooting and award them “points” equal to the number of the card they hit. They can keep their cards and add up their points to see who wins!
13. Musical “Chairs”
Tape several letters in a circle on the floor. Play music and have your child(ren) walk/dance around the circle. When the music stops, players should hop onto a letter, and shout its name. Then, do it again!
Activities to Practice Writing Numbers
14. Dry Erase Tracing
If you laminate your flash cards, you can give your child a dry erase marker to trace the numbers on the flash cards, practicing their writing skills.
Pro tip: If you have a hard time getting all the dry erase ink off the laminated plastic, dab or spray a cloth (paper towels are great) with rubbing alcohol and it will come right off!
15. Play Dough “writing”
Rather than tracing with dry erase markers, make play dough snakes and use them to form the numbers on the cards. Clean up is a breeze as long as you laminate your cards. P.S. – This is my favorite fool-proof recipe for easy homemade playdough.
16. Writing in the Sand
Pour some sand (or salt, sugar, etc.) in a small tray. Shuffle the number flash cards, and place them face down on the table. Encourage your child to flip over a card and write that number in the sand using their finger (or you can give them a stick to use as a writing tool). Gently shake the tray to erase the number, and draw another one!
Games for older preschool and elementary school:
17. Last man standing
You’ll need two dice for this game. Lay out cards 2-10 on a table/floor. Have your child roll the dice and add/count the dots. Remove that number from the game. For example, if you roll a 2 and a 3, remove the number 5 from the game. Repeat until you have only one number left. That card is the winner (the last man standing)! If you roll 11 or 12, just roll again. (Or, if you want to make the game take longer, put a card back in if you roll an 11 or 12.)
You can also play this game without dice, and it will go faster, which is good for younger players. Instead of dice, just use the counting cards as a draw pile. Flip a card and remove its match from the game. Keep flipping and removing cards until you only have one left. You could even pull out one “secret” card at the beginning so that flipping over the cards is like revealing clues to solve the mystery of the missing card.
18. Make Ten
Place the cards on the table or floor so they look like this:
Now, place one number 1-9 in the first blank spot of the equation. Challenge your child to find a number that will finish off the equation correctly so that both sides equal 10. Repeat with a different number.
There you have it…seventeen fun ways to practice numeracy and math skills with young kids.
Which idea(s) do you think your kids would like best? Tell me in the comments below!