Math for my 5-year-old Joely is definitely one of those areas that is better learned without pencil in hand. So instead of using a workbook for "doing math," we have often used a set of 100 number tiles that I picked up for next to nothing earlier in the year. I really like our tiles since they're so durable, but you could do the same activities using cut up index cards with the numbers written on them. There are several number tiles sets on Amazon as well.
We've used these tiles for reinforcing a wide variety of basic mathematical concepts, and when we work with them, Joely doesn't even think of it as work; to her it's just a game!
Here are some of the ways we use the tiles. For many of the activities, Joely and I take turns: I choose the tiles and she solves it, and then she chooses the tiles for me to solve. She really gets a kick out of being "the teacher."
Number Tile Activities
1. Ordering by Decade
Separate the numbers 1-10, drop the stack of tiles in front of her, then have her put the numbers in order. I expanded the stack of tiles to include the 10's, 20's, etc., as she learned them.
2. The Missing Number
Lay out a row of consecutive tiles, but remove one or two of the tiles, then have her tell me the numbers that are missing. Sometimes I leave a space where the number is missing, but sometimes I don't.
3. What Comes Next?
Start a pattern with the tiles, and have her figure out what comes next. Sometimes I have her just say the answers, and other times I give her a stack of tiles from which to choose the answer.
4. Which is Biggest/Smallest
Randomly choose two tiles from the stack and she determines which number is larger/smaller. At first I had her just point to the larger or smaller number, but then I added the "greater than/less than" sign, and she simply turned the sign accordingly.
When not using the "greater than/less than" sign, I'd often give her more than just two tiles to choose from, and she'd have to select the greatest or the smallest number from the choices as I directed. (Notice the little teeth on the "greater than/less than" sign? If you were wondering what math book I got that sign from, rest assured that it is not an "official" mathematical sign (*smile*); it's just a silly visual I added to remind Joely that the "greater than/less than" sign likes to eat the bigger number.)
5. Ordering Random Tiles
Give her three or more random tiles, and she puts them in order from least to greatest.
6. Organize by Decade
Give her are large stack of tiles and she separates the tiles into decades (all the 20's together, all the 50's together, etc.) Once they're in decades, she can put them completely in number order.
Of course, there are many other activities that can be done with these tiles since they're so versatile, but these few that I've mentioned are the activities that work for Joely and me right now. If you can think of any other activities that can be done with the tiles, please leave a comment and tell me about them!
But lastly, if you already have a nice set of tiles, I'd like to stress that it is extremely important that you never allow your children to just "play" with the tiles, even if they promise you that they'll be careful with them.
Because they'll invariably lose some of them.
You may also like these activities for using letter tiles to teach ABC order without worksheets.