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Creative Times, home education, Mummy Thoughts

Trains, Cars and Vehicle Maths

As you know, we home educate.  My son is 4 in a few days and over the last 6 months we have become familiar with numbers – the symbols for them, the meaning of numbers and more recently the concept that you can add numbers together to make bigger numbers and that you can share things out evenly into groups.

My challenge was to make this something my son enjoys doing and asks to do – which he does.

So I looked to his favourite toys – cars, trains, well anything with wheels to be honest!

Our games have included:-

Counting Vehicles

understanding numbers, the vehicle method!

understanding numbers, the vehicle method!

Monster was just getting to grips with the concept of symbols to represent numbers.

So we got (almost) all the trains, cars and planes out and counted out the right number for each symbol.

As you can see, he is very proud of himself!


Dice Car Racing

Monster loves to race cars across the living room floor.  So I stuck numbers 1-6 on two sets of cars and then gave us each a dice.

Which ever number came up on the dice, we had to race that car.  Lots of giggles and noise and Monster became very proficient in reading the dots on a die and matching those to the number on a car.


Diesel 10 Misbehaves

As all you Thomas fans will know, Diesel 10 is not the nicest of engines on the Island of Sodor.  In our game, he kept taking some of Monster’s trains away.

So say Monster started with 5 trains….. But then Diesel 10 came along and took away the blue ones (2 – Thomas and Gordon), so how many did Monster have left?

This game involved counting and matching the number symbol to the number of trains we started with and then after Diesel 10 had been along.

Monster loved this introduction to taking away and asks for replays with other ‘characters’ as the ‘naughty one’!


Number Car bonds

Number bonds seem to be a popular activity for schools and as far as I am aware it is the realisation that adding different numbers together can result in the same answer. So to get to the answer 10 you can add 10 + 0, 9 + 1, 8 + 2 and so on.

We started out by counting the trains he had chosen to play the game with.  There were 9 this time, but Spencer (the mischevious one) made it up to 10.  So we did some games of counting the blue trains, the green trains and so on and matching the right number.

Then we added green trains (3) to blue trains (3) to make a new number (6).

But he wanted more!

So, with all the trains I put them in different groups.  Green and Blues on one side (6) with the rest on the other side (4) and count them up (10).

Then Spencer came to join the Green and Blues so we had 7 + 3.  He quickly realised that the answer was always 10.  No matter whether we had 2 on one side and 8 on the other, 5 on each side or any other combination as no trains had gone, the answer was always 10!


Robots Play with Trains

We were playing on the upstairs landing, him in just a T-shirt, snacking as he thought and solved the problems.

The kids have some bionicals lego that Monster refers to as robots.  These were going to be the ‘characters’ playing with the trains.

We had been playing a while – doing the counting, taking some away, adding some in and so forth and Monster still wanted more.

Red robot and blue robot each have 9 cars!

Red robot and blue robot each have 9 cars!

At this point, each of the robots had 9 cars each.  It was time to bring in a 3rd robot.

I challenged him to work out a way to give each of the robots the same number of cars….

A new robot wants to play. All the robots need to have the same number of cars. At first, he gave 3 cars to each robot and some were left over!

A new robot wants to play. All the robots need to have the same number of cars. At first, he gave 3 cars to each robot and some were left over!

His first response was ‘I can’t!’, but I wouldn’t give at all and let him think.

So he gave each one 3 cars and there were 9 cars left over!

Great problem solving and the problem was solved correctly.

Well until mean mummy added in another rule…

All the cars had to be used!


I introduced a new rule that all cars had to be used. He gave out the remaining cars to each robot, one at a time

I introduced a new rule that all cars had to be used. He gave out the remaining cars to each robot, one at a time

So each robot was given another car and another until the were all gone.

Finally all robots had 6 cars each!

Finally all robots had 6 cars each!

Now each robot had 9!

Great ‘Grouping and Sharing’.





Each time he asks to do numbers with trains or cars, I come up with a slightly different game.  Same principles – counting, adding, taking away, putting into groups, sharing and so on, but slightly different.

What I love is that my daughter pipes up from her room from time to time with things like….

‘Mummy, he is doing grouping and sharing!  That is like dividing isn’t it?’ or ‘He is doing really difficult maths and doesn’t even know it!’  and my favourite ‘I’m really proud of you’ (said to her brother).

Learning should be fun and to my mind, it is best using the things that your children already love and know.  Then it becomes meaningful for them and they will practice for fun.  Monster (his name for himself!) often counts his trains, his cars and just about anything else, enjoying the fun of it; sometimes missing 15 on purpose now as I give him a ‘Hard Stare’ every time he does so and that is funny.

I don’t mean to boast with this post, just illustrate that children love to learn if they are having fun and ‘playing’ with their favourite toys.  Then the learning is incidental for them, but key for you.

Hope this helps other mums (or dads) who are home educating too!


About ecomumof2

I am a mum of 2 children, currently 8 and 4.5. We Home Educate and enjoy a wide range of activities - many of which involve being outdoors.


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