For a lot of kids, second through fifth grade is a time of wildly imaginative play and ceaseless exuberance. It’s also a time academically when kids are forced to get certain kinds of basic knowledge deeply and permanently committed to memory.

Math facts — simple addition and subtraction, multiplication, and division — are probably the most grueling and tedious of these chores. (Just try to brightly suggest that flash cards can be fun and see what sort of response you get from a child struggling with learning his 7s time tables.)

But this game offers a new twist on an old task. Whether you’re tossing a beach ball by the ocean or just imagining sandy dunes on the living-room floor, this simple game can turn math drills into silly, athletic fun.

What you’ll need

  • An inflated beach ball
  • A permanent marker (black or dark blue)

Make it happen

Divide the ball into large sections with the permanent marker. In each section write a numeral. Toss the ball to another player or up in the air and catch. Locate the sections in which the player’s thumb has landed, and remember the numeral. Toss the ball again and note where the catcher’s thumb lands. Add or subtract these numerals. Keep playing!

Extending the game

Increase the difficulty by using larger numbers to add and subtract or by multiplying the numbers.