Calendar Math

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Calendar math is a perfect way to start your day. When your daily routine incorporates a math calendar, kids retain information longer and it is a perfect time to stretch their thinking!

This is a perfect way to start your day. When your daily routine incorporates a math calendar, kids retain information longer and it is a perfect time to stretch their thinking!

Why should you include using a calendar in your math lesson plans?

  • This taps into brain research about how students learn best.
  • It is a fun way of teaching children mathematics that focuses on introduction, repetition, and mastery of basic math skils.
  • It is also a great way to utilize math vocabulary words and problem solving on a daily basis in your math lessons.

teaching mathematics using a calendarCalendar Math Ideas
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When difficult concepts are presented as math learning games, children become more receptive and enthusiastic.

These oh-so-easy ideas are perfect for teaching young children mathematical concepts.


Calendar Math Activities

1. Calendar Math Cover-Up

Materials: deck of cards, index cards to cover the dates, white boards, markers

Hold up two cards (Jacks = 11, Queens = 12, Kings = 13, Aces can be used as 1 or 0).

Have the teams write as many different number sentences as they can to equal a date on the calendar within two minutes (for example, if I hold up a 4 and a 6, students can write number sentences for 6+4=10, 6-4=2, 6x4=24, 4x6=24, 4+6=10). Both cards must be used.

Hold up their whiteboards and check for accuracy. Credit is only given if a complete number sentence is written. A point is awarded to each team for each correct number sentence.

An index card is placed over the number(s) on the calendar that were given as correct answers (in the above example, 10, 2, and 24 would be covered). These dates/numbers are no longer available to use as sums, differences, products or quotients. This is where it starts to get tough.

As the calendar begins to get halfway covered, I will start to hold up 3 cards at a time. All cards must be used. This allows students to use multiple addends, parenthesis, etc. to form their number sentences.

This is excellent differentiation. Ace, 5 and 4 could be written as:

  • (0 x 5) + 4 = 4
  • (5 - 1) x 4 = 16
  • 5 + 1 - 4 = 2
  • 5 x (4 + 1) = 25

The game ends when the calendar is mostly covered-up by allowing each team to earn a point for a creative way of showing the remaining numbers, whether by drawing a polygon with that many sides, showing it as a square number, a number sentence, Roman numerals, etc. You can really see their growth in number sense as the students become more adept at manipulating numbers throughout the year.


2. Graph The Results
An alternative calendar math game for Calendar Cover-Up is to give each group a different set of colored post-it notes. When the group gets an answer, their post-it goes over then calendar number.

At the end of the game, take off the post-it notes and form a graph on the board. The winner will be very easy to see.

Add an x and y axis label each one and read the graph. Teams then can write questions about the data shown in the graph.

Play the game again and make a double bar graph, then compare the two sets of data.


3. Baggie Elementary Problem Solving
Give each team (could be one person or groups) a baggie with a calendar and a set of problems that have been copied on to colored paper. When you say, "Go!" each team takes all the problems from the baggie.

As the students solve the problems, they place the individual colored squares on the matching numbered calendar square. When the entire calendar is covered, the team yells, "Done!"

Clear the calendars, mix up the problems and play again. This is an excellent game for practicing problem solving strategies.


4. "Oh No!" Calendar Math
This is one of the best classroom math games. Problems are placed in a brown paper bag, and each team of students is given a calendar, a bag and a record sheet.

Decide how you want the students to pass the bags (front to back, side to side, around a circle). The first student draws a problem from the bag, calculates the answer and finds that day on the calendar. They check off the day, write the amount on their score sheet and pass the bag and calendar to the next player.

As the process is repeated, each student keeps his or her own running total. The bag also will contain squares that say, "Oh No!" If one of these squares is drawn, the student does not get any points and play passes to the next person.

When the timer rings, the game continues to the person it originally started with so that everyone gets the same amount of turns.

5. The Empty Math Calendar
Use a blank calendar that has only two days marked on it. Circle another day and ask the students to figure out what day is circled.

The students then write an explanation for how they found their answer. Examples are: 5 and 17 are on the calendar, and you circle 21. The solution can be found by adding 14 to 5 and add 2 more, or 17 can be added to 7 then subtract 3. There are many solutions to this problem.

You could also include math vocabulary words that students need to use to explain their answers.

6. Mystery Number Calendar Math
Similar to a Word Wall game. Give clues that will identify numbers on the calendar. This is a great use of math vocabulary.

Example: The number I am thinking of is an even number. It is multiple of 3. It is not greater than 10. What number am I thinking of? 6


7. Save the Date
This goes beyond just saying what the date is, what yesterday was and what tomorrow will be. As a whole class calendar math activity, write the date using the traditional (May 27, 2010) and scientific ways (5-27-2010). Then write the number of the date in standard, word and expanded forms (27, twenty-seven, 20+7).

Skip count to the date and relate this to multiplication. For example, the date the the 18th. Skip count by twos to 18, then say, "We counted 9 groups of 2 to reach 18, so 9x2 equals 18." Draw the sets and arrays to show the multiplication sentence.

Introduce the concept of equivalency by using the date. If the date is the 15th, you could write: 10 + 5 = 18 - 3.

Create fact families using the date (10+5, 5+10, 15-5, 15-10).

Skip count forwards and backwards from the date. Skip counting prepares the brain for multiplication, subtraction and division by introducing recognizable patterns.



The varied uses of calendar math makes it a good fit for any level. I have used it with both primary and intermediate students.

A calendar makes teaching mathematics fun, interactive and tap deeply into problem solving.

Using these simple steps on a daily basis will result in better retention, higher scores and kids who feel confident about what they are learning.




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