Screen-Free Educational Activities: Math

New schedules and worksheets are up on the fridge, pencils are getting their second sharpening, and for some this year, computer screens are on every morning – all signs that we’ve settled into a new school year. To keep up the school spirit, each week we’ll be rolling out a subject-focused activity that’s fun for all. The best part? These activities are completely screen-free! So put screen-time on pause and have fun together the old-fashioned way.

Pipe Cleaner Math Activity

Numbers and fuzzy pipe cleaners? A duo that is sure to ‘add up’ to some fun learning moments! It only takes a few steps and common household items to put together this tactile math activity.

What you’ll need:

  • Paper cups
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Mini screwdriver
  • Permanent marker
  • Scissors
A kid playing with a toy dump truck.

Setting Up:

  1. With the permanent marker, write numbers onto the paper cups.
    • Note: Though educational standards vary throughout the country, most kiddos in kindergarten are learning to recognize numbers up to 10. Adjust the number range depending on your little one’s math level.
  2. Using the screwdriver, poke the same number of holes into the bottom of the cup.
  3. Cut the pipe cleaners in half.
A kid playing with a toy dump truck.

To play, get your little one to:

  1. Read the number written on the cup.
  2. Count out the same number of pipe cleaners.
  3. Insert the pipe cleaners into the cup’s holes.
  4. They’ll know they’re correct if there are no extra pipe cleaners or holes!

Bonus! If you have multicolored pipe cleaners, you can also practice sorting with your child by assigning a pipe cleaner color to each cup.

Stacking buckets that fit together for easy storage.

For older kiddos, you can adapt this activity to work on basic addition and subtraction. Encourage them to add up the numbers from 2 cups, then to count out and insert the same number of pipe cleaners. To practice subtracting, have them remove a few pipe cleaners from a cup and ask them how many remain. With these simple learning tools, you can get creative with how you want to learn with your child!


No matter how you and your kiddo go about it, we do hope you have ‘sum’ screen-free fun! Follow us on Instagram to find out about our upcoming educational activities.

Thank you to Planning Playtime for the inspiration!