Five-minute Games that Help Lay a Solid Foundation for Future Maths Success

by | Oct 25, 2021

School-age children remember more when they study 10 minutes a day for six days leading up to a test, as opposed to spending an hour studying the day before. This phenomenon is called the spacing effect. This principle also explains why pre-schoolers learn more from shorter, more frequent educational play sessions compared to longer, less frequent sessions.

 Short games fit into a parent’s busy schedule more easily

As a result, we are more likely to play shorter games more often. This is important because all learning is brain-based. This means that repetition and practise is necessary as new neural networks need to be built over time between brain cells so that they can register, retain and use new information.

 Children find it easier to focus their attention for short periods of time

They don’t learn much when they’re tired and when it’s difficult for them to get along with others.

 Five-minute games can easily be repeated or combined to create longer “tournaments”

Pre-schoolers naturally love to learn and develop new skills and they enjoy repeating their favourite games.

Here are 4 quick five-minute maths games:

Game 1: Listen, Count and Name

Name a room in the house before clapping your hands once, twice or three times without saying anything more. Your child counts the number of claps and calls out that many objects that can be found in that particular room.

Note: A variation on this game is to draw one, two or three circles on your child’s back to communicate the number of items that you want them to list.

Game 2: True or False

Make a statement that compares two things that your child can see in your everyday environment on a mathematical level. Your child says whether your statement is true or false. For example, say: “The chair is bigger than the couch – true or false?”

Pay attention to:

  • Size (bigger and smaller)
  • Length (taller and shorter)
  • Height (heavier and lighter)
  • Position (higher and lower)
  • Speed (faster and slower)
  • Distance (closer and farther away)
  • Order (first, second and last)


  • Three-year-olds can simply say whether something is bigger or smaller than something else.
  • Four-year-olds can learn to respond to a statement with yes or no.
  • Five-year-olds can say whether a statement is true or false.

For example:

Level 1: “Is the chair bigger or smaller than the couch?” Your child says: “It’s smaller”.

Level 2: If I said the chair is bigger than the couch, would you say yes or no?

Level 3: The chair is bigger than the couch – true or false?

Game 3: Count it to Eat it

Whenever possible, present food in small, bite-sized pieces so that your child can count the pieces before taking the bowl from you. Older children can also be asked to say how many are going to be left in the bowl after they’ve eaten one.


  • Three-year-olds can learn to count two or three pieces at a time while pointing to each piece as they count.
  • Four-year-olds can typically learn to count as many as 5 before their fifth birthday.
  • Five-year-olds can learn to count up to 10 pieces of food as they develop their understanding of numbers throughout the year.

Game 4: Pack the Pasta

  1. For each player, draw 10 circles in a straight line on a sheet of paper and number them 1 to 10 to create a number line.
  2. Every player is allocated 12 pieces of uncooked pasta. (Two players will use 24.)
  3. Mark 4 of every player’s 12 pieces with a coloured marker.
  4. Place all the pieces in one non-transparent bag.
  5. On their turn, without looking into the bag, each player pulls out pasta pieces one by one and packs them on their number line, starting at number one.
  6. Pulling out a pasta piece that has a mark on it signals the end of a player’s turn.
  7. Every player gets one turn and the player that ends up with the biggest number wins the round.

Note: You can play the game without the competitive component if your child is younger than 4½ years old. Use an empty coldrink bottle with a small opening and 36 pieces of pasta, with 12 of them marked. Place the pasta in a non-transparent bag. One player pulls the pieces out one by one and passes them to the other player, who drops them into the bottle. Switch roles whenever a marked piece makes its appearance. Remember to count the pieces to see how many can be retrieved in one go. Continue until all the pieces are transferred to the bottle.

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