playful problem solver Resources
Welcome to the Playful Problem Solver Resources page!
After poring through ALL my favorite puzzle books, activity books, games, and math tools, I’ve listed here the ones that are perfect for your child’s interests and learning style.
The Playful Problem Solver is one of three learning types from the Discover Your Math Superpower quiz. Of the three learning styles, your child tends to be the most active, playful, and energetic.
These are incredible traits to have as a math learner!
But in certain settings, I’m sure you’ve also seen the flip side: how hard it can be for your child to sit still and focus, especially on something “boring” like math.
Thank goodness math can be learned in different ways–including hands-on activities, fun games, and real-life contexts that engage your child and really stick in their mind, helping them learn much faster.
Before we dive into the math goodies, let’s take a look at a snapshot of your child’s math superpower.
A Quick Snapshot of the Playful Problem Solver
The Playful Problem Solver learns math best when playing a game and/or moving their body.
To some extent, this is true for every kid, but it’s especially important for the Playful Problem Solver.
When your child has to be still for a long time, their brain becomes restless and has difficulty focusing. Motion and activity help keep your child’s mind engaged in learning math.
Unfortunately, most classrooms are not set up for this.
Even homeschooling moms can fall back into the traditional expectation of the quiet, studious kid. This can be frustrating for both of you, as you spend your time reminding them to pay attention or sit still–when what your little firecracker truly needs in order to settle down may be to bounce, rock, or run around a little.
There are 3 things that may keep your child from liking math:
- The math isn’t fun
- They have to sit still and focus for long stretches
- They get distracted or get yelled at at math time
One Thing to Keep In Mind
Meeting the needs of the Playful Problem Solver can be a bit of a balancing act…
On the one hand, too much sitting and keeping quiet can take a toll on your active child. It can feel like all their restless energy just builds and builds, until they’re ready to pop!
On the other hand, too many brain breaks, fidgets, or interruptions can be distracting and break the flow of your child’s learning. 😩
It’s a fine line. And since every child is different, it really is something you’ll have to fine tune with some trial and error. But when you get that balance right, it’s totally worth it!
Here are some of my top recommended Playful Problem Solver resources for helping your child understand and love math.They are organized into four sections: Math Activity Books, Tools, Kids’ Books, Games, and Fidgets.
*This post contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you. I only recommend what I would use myself.
Math Activity Books
Pictures, drawing, and real-world math are all great ways to get your busy bee interested in math. These books make math COLORFUL and fun, and help your child learn while doing the things they love to do.
Color By Math: Dinosaurs: (Ages 6-8) This addition and subtraction color-by-number activity book starts very easy (numbers to 10) and builds to more challenging problems (numbers to 100). The pictures are vibrant, with a bigger range of colors than typical color-by-number. Fun book for extra practice.
Amazing Visual Math: (Ages 7-10) This incredible, kinesthetic book helps kids learn about 3D shapes, patterns, symmetry, telling time, and more through hands-on pull tabs, flaps, and pop-ups. It’s a visually stunning experience of math that is basically irresistible for kids and adults alike.
Kitten Math: (Ages 8-11) Your child has just taken in 4 adorable foster kittens. Your child will use real-world math as they feed, weigh, shop, plan, measure, and more. With each activity, your child will get better at math…and build compassion and skills in caring for the tiniest babies in animal rescue!
Molly and the Mathematical Mysteries: (Ages 8-11) Join Molly as she ventures into a curious world where nothing is quite as it seems. A trail of clues leads from scene to scene, presenting Molly with a number of challenges. But who is leaving the clues, and where will they lead? This interactive mystery shows math isn’t just about numbers—it’s about imagination!
Multiplication and Division Color By Math: (Ages 8-11) A gorgeous color-by-number for older kids. Solve the problem, match the answer to a color, and color in the intricate picture.
Math Art and Drawing Games for Kids: (Ages 8-11): Visual & creative kids will love this book, which is heavy on the “art” and light on the “math”. While most of the book is geometry/shapes focused, there are a few projects on multiplication and fractions. It’s a good way to help art lovers connect with math.
This Is Not a Maths Book: (Ages 9-12) A book of art and geometry that is sure to draw in your creative-minded child. (Ha ha, see what I did there?) There is some detail-oriented line drawing, so good fine motor skills are helpful.
Math Picture Books
Did you know MATH picture books are a thing? It’s true! Your child can learn a ton of math simply by reading a fun story. Colorful pictures, rhymes, and interactive text make these books a great choice for the Playful Problem Solver.
Dozens of Donuts: (Ages 5-9) LouAnn the bear makes a dozen donuts to eat before hibernating. But her neighbors keep coming to visit, and she keeps sharing them until she has none left for herself. As she sleeps, her friends cook up a plan for their friend bear when she wakes up. A tale of counting and division, similar to The Doorbell Rang.
The Penny Pot: (Ages 7-9) All the kids at a school fair want their faces painted. It costs 50 cents. As each child counts out their change, the book shows the coins they used so kids can count along with them. It’s a cute story, and one of the best I’ve seen for practicing counting coins.
Minnie’s Diner: (Ages 7-9) Papa McFay’s sons are doing chores on the farm. But one by one, they drift to Minnie’s for a meal…and the portion size multiplies with each bigger boy who shows up. It’s a great rhyming adventure that will get kids predicting the next outlandish meal order. Doubling and early multiplication.
The Lion’s Share: (Ages 7-11) A lion invites all the animals for a feast on his birthday. Greedy animals take half of the cake that is passed to them, so none is left for the ant…or King Lion! Ant promises to make Lion a cake, which prompts the other animals to promise cakes as well. This is a tale of halving and doubling, with incredible illustrations and a great story.
The Greedy Triangle: (Ages 5-8) A bored triangle visits a local shapeshifter to add another angle to his shape. Poof! He becomes a different shape! He keeps adding angles and changing shape until he realizes how special a triangle is. This is a great book for learning shape names and seeing them in real world contexts.
Measuring Penny: (Ages 6-11) Lisa has an important homework assignment: to measure one thing in several different ways. She decides to measure her dog Penny, and uses paper clips, dog biscuits, and other creative tools. (Warning: This book may inspire your child to measure their own furry housemates!)
Blockhead: (Ages 7-11) A delightful book about patterns in nature, and the life of Leonardo Fibonacci as a boy. Bullied by other kids and by teachers for being a dreamer, Leonardo’s observations led to his discovery of the Fibonacci Sequence. Look for the hidden pictures with your child, then head outside to find real-life math in nature!
The Playful Problem Solver is a big fan of games in general, and especially games that are tactile, fast paced, and/or have a lot of boisterous action. Here are some of my top picks for active kids:
Double Shutter: There is something about the sound and feel of flipping these number tiles that feels soooo satisfying! The game is a version of Shut the Box, where kids roll 2 dice, then flip over any number tiles that add to that total. The goal is to flip as many tiles as possible. The game ends when one player can’t make their number. Fast, fun, and super addictive!
I Sea 10: (Ages 5-7)Cute sea creatures on number disks in a Memory game. In the original game, you flip two disks to try and make 10 (and try not to get a shark). You can get creative and make your own rules (as I did), or even have your kid make up their own game! The number disks are super fun.
Clumsy Thief: This fun game teaches kids to learn number pairs that add to 100. Cartoony, fast moving, lots of action happening at once. It can be loud, but it’s so worth it! Also Clumsy Thief Candy Shop for adding to 20.
Skyjo: This is an interesting game in that almost all the math happens in the last 5 minutes of each round. But it’s still one of my top math card games, because of how easily it teaches kids to add with negative numbers. It’s also really fun (similar to the card game Golf).
Fraction Formula: Fill the plastic beaker with colored cylinders to reach the top (1 whole). Even kids who hate fractions love this game! Super hands-on, visual, and quick to play.
Miss Brain’s Cool Math Games: 30+ dice and card games to help your child learn math. Highly recommended! There is a book for grades 1-3, and another for grades 3-5.
Fidgets and Math Tools
Active math games are all well and good, but there are times your child will have to do more traditional math. Here are some tips and hacks to make math time more productive and happier all around.
Bouncy Bands for Chairs: You attach this band to the legs of a chair, and your child bounces their feet against it. A great option for helping kids who are always in motion to concentrate.
Fidget Toys Collection: Fidgets are small toys that satisfy your child’s need for movement, so they’re able to focus on a task better. This is a huge variety for a low price, so may be a good place to start when looking for the right fidget for your child.
TIP: Don’t introduce a new fidget during math time! Be sure to use one that your child is already familiar with, so they’ll be more likely to settle into the soothing movement without giving it undue attention.
Fidget Slug Toy: A calming, quiet fidget that is shaped like a slug.
100 Chart Poppers: Is it a fidget? Is it a math tool? This awesome new resource turns the hugely useful 100 chart into a tactile counting tool.
Giant 120 Floor Mat: Like the 100 chart, but this one goes up to 120 and is a huge vinyl mat that kids can walk or crawl on. It’s about 4 feet long and comes with square markers to put on the numbers for games, patterns, etc.
Multiplication Chart Poppers: Another new popper resource, this one for learning times tables. There are other multiplication chart poppers out there, but I like how this one’s use of color helps kids understand how to use the chart.
Math for Love Multiplication Flash Cards: Flash cards can actually be a good resource for the Playful Problem Solver, as long as the activity stays playful and engaging. I like these because they have pictures on them to visualize multiplication in different ways.
More Playful Problem Solver Resources
The Playful Problem Solver resources on this page can bring your child LOTS of joy in the days, months, and years to come! Be sure to bookmark this page; this is one you’ll want to revisit often as your child grows.
For even more creative math resources, be sure to check out our Artful Math Shop. You’ll find holiday math, creative activities for specific math topics, and real-world projects. (NOTE: These are digital, downloadable products that you print out at home.)
Did you find this page helpful? Leave a comment below and let me know!