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Math Homework Activities: Using The Number Line

By Finn Orfano

Parents can help their elementary school students learn to add and subtract on a math/number line by planning home activities. Rather than working with a traditional number line written on paper, parents can get creative with a number line race car game, a vertical number line, and a walking line.

In early elementary school, children begin learning math/number line activities as a way of familiarizing themselves with basic addition and subtraction. During homework time, parents can assist their children in learning math facts with the following activities (which can be done with a 1-10 or 1-20 number line):

Race Up And Down The Number Line

This homework activity combines practicing addition and subtraction with creative game play. Parents who do not have toy cars on hand can substitute board game pieces or other small items.

(1) Place a number line on the table (the number line can be hand-drawn or a printed image) and give your child a toy car. Explain that the car will be moved up and down the number line as math facts are read.

(2) Gather a set of addition/subtraction flash cards. If the first card reads "5+2", for example, ask your child to place the toy car on the number 5 to start. Then say "5+2" out loud, and instruct your child to move the car two places up on the number line, resting at 7. Repeat this process with a few flash cards until your child understands the concept.

(3) As the game progresses, allow your child to independently figure out where the car needs to go. As your child becomes more familiar with basic math facts, increase the speed of the game.

Create A Number Line On The Wall

Vertical number lines that are attached to a wall or door can be used as visual aids during math homework time. When making this type of number line, be sure that your child is able to reach the highest number with his or her hand.

(1) Once the number line is displayed in the room where your child normally does homework, ask your child to stand by the line and listen for the first addition or subtraction fact.

(2) Begin reading from the math flash cards, and guide your child in moving his or her hand up the line for addition problems and down the line for subtraction problems. Encourage you child to count numbers out loud if they need to--for example, "Seven minus three. I need to move down three, two, three. The answer is four."

Life-Size Number Line Activity

Another way to make math homework fun is to make a life-size number line that your child can walk on. In warm weather, create an outdoor line with sidewalk chalks. When studying indoors, tape a roll of paper to the floor and color in the numbers with crayons or markers.

This activity is similar to the one above, except that your child will stand on the number line and walk up and down according to which math fact is given.

By organizing math/number line activities that are enjoyable for young children, parents can encourage learning without having to worry about a child becoming bored or restless. Math homework activities that involve both parent and child are also beneficial in giving families an active role in education and development.