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Engagement,  Math

How to Use Cups to Make Fun Math Activities

Fun Math Activities with Cups

There are so many great math activities out there for students. Between Amazon, the Target Dollar Spot, and your local teacher store, it isn’t hard to spend a few hundred bucks on math games and activities for your students. Unfortunately, our teacher salary doesn’t exactly give us the flexibility to drop that kind of cash…so, finding budget-friendly solutions for fun math activities is important!

Fortunately, there are many activities you can make yourself for a fraction of the cost of a store-bought equivalent! I call these “math DIYs.” Previously, I shared some activities that you can make out of paper plates. Today, I want to share some more math DIYs that you can make out of styrofoam cups!

P.S. If you’re REALLY tight on cash, you can grab a large pack of styrofoam cups at Dollar Tree for $1! (Lower quality, but they do the trick!)

1. Math Fact Stacking Pyramids

I looove this math activity so much! It is incredibly versatile and great for practicing math facts. Bonus – it also involves critical thinking!

Here’s how to set it up:

Write numbers on several styrofoam cups. I recommend doing this in sets of 3 or 6 for younger grades, and 10 or 15 for older grades. You can include an even larger set if you want for an extra challenge.

The students will have to stack the cups in a pyramid according to the numbers on each cup. The number on each cup should be the sum (or product) of the two cups it sits on top. See the picture below for an example:

Fun math activities with cups

You can see that on the bottom row in the picture, you first have 4 and 1. On top of those two cups is a cup that says 5, which is the sum of 4 and 1. On top of the 1 and 5 is a 6, and in the middle sits a 2 as the answer to 1 + 1.

Of course, as you are preparing this game, you’ll want to keep this in mind and not just randomly number each cup. ๐Ÿ™‚ Make sure there is a solution!

You can differentiate this a little bit by writing each row of numbers in a different color. This will give students a starting place as they will already know which row each cup goes on. They just have to put it in the correct order.

2. Cup Twisters

Another fun math activity is what I like to call Cup Twisters! There are actually several versions of this activity that you can make. I will share two with you today.

Math Fact Cup Twisters

The first one is for practicing math facts. You will need to write numbers around the rim of some of your cups, and symbols (+, -, x, =, etc.) on some of the others. How many cups you use is totally up to you!

Once you’ve done this, stack them together. Students can twist the cups to make different math equations or comparisons! I included an arrow on mine as well to indicate which row shows the equation they’ve made.

Of course, you can add as many cups to this as you want. And the best part is, it’s easily customizable, so you can remove them at any time, too!

Place Value Cup Twisters

These ones are especially great for practicing expanded form! To make this set of cup twisters, write the digits 0-9 around the rim of each cup. Then, on the outside of each cup, write the number of zeroes for each place (none for ones place, 1 for tens, 2 for hundreds, etc.). Include one cup for each place you wish to include.

Then, stack them all together in order. The zeroes will be covered, but the numbers on the rim will show. Students can now twist the cups to show a certain number, and then pull the cups apart to see it in expanded form!

3. Subitizing Stack

Here’s a fun activity that would be great for primary grades to practice subitizing. Mark each of your cups with different representations of numbers – tally marks, number bonds, 10-frames, etc. Then, create cards that show the standard form of each of those numbers arranged in a pyramid. Students will use the cards to make a matching pyramid with the cups.

You can make these pyramids as big or small as you want. This activity makes a great math center! You can also do variations of this using only number sentences to help practice math facts, or shapes or fractions where an image is on the cups and the fraction or shape name is on the card. The possibilities are endless!

Which of these fun math activities will you be making out of cups first? Let me know in the comments!


Fun math activities

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