Homeschooling parents know that one of the biggest challenges for any middle-elementary math student is to master the multiplication facts. It can seem like an unending task to memorize so many facts and be able to pull them out of mental storage in any order on demand.
Too often, we are tempted to stress the rote aspect of such memory work, which makes our children lose their focus on what multiplication really means. Before practicing the times table facts, make sure your student gets plenty of practice recognizing and using the common models for multiplication.
You may want to pick up this poster and use it for ideas as you play the Tell Me a (Math) Story game. Word problems are important for children learning any new topic in math, because they give children a mental “hook” on which to hang the abstract number concepts.
And for extra practice, you can play my free card game…
This was a fun activity from Moebius Noodles for our PK-1st grade Homeschool Math in the Park group. The children take turns making a maze and setting a dinosaur inside. Then the other dinosaurs (parents or siblings) try to guess whether their friend is on the land or in the water.
(1) First, draw a big circle on the white board. This is your lake.
(2) With a finger or a bit of cloth, erase a small section of the circle to create the opening for your maze.
(3) Starting at one edge of the opening, draw a random squiggle inside the circle. Make your squiggle end at the other edge of the opening.
(4) Set your dinosaur anywhere inside the maze.
(1) Now it’s your turn to guess. Is the dinosaur standing on the land? Is it swimming in the water?
(2) How will you figure out if you guessed right?
(3) Check by jumping across the lines of the maze. Each jump takes you across a boundary: Splash! (Into the water.) Thump! (Back on the land.) Splash! Thump! … Until you reach the dinosaur inside.
(4) Or go to the maze entrance and walk your dinosaur along the path. Can you find your way?
This is seriously embarrassing and I debated whether to put this video online or not because this is NOT my normal personality, but my girls made up this game and will play it for over an hour and ask for it repeatedly… so I figured someone out there might be able to use it with their kids, too.
If you know me, please don’t ever ask me to do this in public. I will refuse.
Math concepts: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, powers and roots, factorial, mental math, multi-step thinking Number of players: any number Equipment: deck of math cards, pencils and scratch paper, timer (optional)
My high school class ended the year with a review of multiplying and factoring simple polynomials. We played this matching game, and then I gave them a puzzle worksheet. I liked this idea, but I didn’t like the decoded answer. In my opinion, puzzles should give the student a “reward” for solving them — maybe a joke or riddle or something — but that answer seemed almost like nagging.
So I changed things around to make my own version:
Yahtzee and other board games provide a modicum of math fact practice. But for intensive, thought-provoking math drill, I can’t think of any game that would beat Contig.
Math concepts: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, order of operations, mental math Number of players: 2 – 4 Equipment:Contig game board, three 6-sided dice, pencil and scratch paper for keeping score, and bingo chips or wide-tip markers to mark game squares
In the treasure-hunting game of Geocaching (pronounced “geo-cashing”), players use GPS systems to locate boxes hidden at different geographical locations across the country.
Now, the creative people at Mathbits.com have come up with an online treasure-hunting activity for junior high and high school students, called MathCaching. Students solve mathematical problems to find hidden “boxes” on the Internet. Each box reveals clues to the location of the next one.
The MathCaching game covers pre-algebra through trigonometry topics, with calculus levels under development. For more information, visit the MathCaching site, or read the post on my Frugal Homeschooling blog.
Math concepts: multiplication, mental calculation, times table Number of players: one leader (teacher) and two or more players Equipment: free MINGO number cards and boards; bingo chips, pennies, or other tokens to cover numbers
Math concepts: mental calculations, math vocabulary, and anything else you want to include Number of players: any number, but I think it works best with two players who alternate asking questions Equipment: imagination and, if necessary, scratch paper
Many years ago, I read a magazine article by mathematical music critic Edward Rothstein, wherein he described a game he invented for his daughter:
“What number am I? If you add me to myself, you get four.”
Rather than explaining the rules of the game, let me tell you a story…
Math concepts: odd numbers, even numbers, greater-than/less-than, rounding off, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, negative numbers, prime numbers, square numbers, problem solving, mental math Number of players: two or more Equipment: pencil (or pen) and paper for every player
Math concepts: slope, logical strategy Number of players: 2 or more Equipment: 4×4 or larger grid, pebbles or other tokens to mark squares
Alexandria Jones and her brother Leon played Avoid Three with pebbles on a grid scratched in the sand, but you can also use pencils or markers on graph paper. You need a rectangular playing area at least 4×4 squares large. The bigger your grid, the longer your game.
Math concepts: subtraction within 100, number patterns, mental math Number of players: 2 or 3 Equipment: printed hundred chart (also called a hundred board), and highlighter or translucent disks to mark numbers — or use this online hundred chart
Place the hundred chart and highlighter where all players can reach them.
How to Play
Allow the youngest player choice of moving first or second; in future games, allow the loser of the last game to choose.
The first player chooses a number from 1 to 100 and marks that square on the hundred chart.
The second player chooses and marks any other number.
On each succeeding turn, the player subtracts any two marked numbers to find and mark a difference that has not yet been taken.
Play alternates until no more numbers can be marked.
Math concepts: addition and subtraction within 100, logical strategy Number of players: 2 or 3 Equipment: printed hundred chart (also called a hundred board) and beans, pennies, or other tokens with which to mark numbers — or use this online hundred chart
Place the hundred chart and a small pile of tokens where both players can reach them.
Math concepts: addition, number bonds to 10, visual memory Number of players: any number, mixed ages Equipment:math cards, one deck
Each player draws a card, and whoever choses the highest number will go first. Then shuffle the cards and lay them all face down on the table, spread out so no card covers any other card. There are 40 cards in a deck, so you can make a neat array with five rows of eight cards each, or you may scatter them at random.
Many of the games on this blog call for Math Cards. You do not need to look for these in stores or in your school supply catalog. Math cards are simply a modified deck of normal, poker-style playing cards. Remove all face cards and jokers from the deck, leaving the ace through ten of each suit. Or use a set of Rook cards, without the bird.
Using the ace as a one, this gives you four sets of numbers 1-10, and you will be ready to play your way to fluency in almost any arithmetical topic: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, greater-than/less-than, fractions, negative numbers, and more.
Card Holder for Young Hands
Little hands often have trouble holding more than a few cards at a time. Your child may enjoy making and using a card holder.
Save the plastic lids from two margarine tubs or similar containers. Place the lids together, top to top. Line up the edges, then staple them together, putting two or three staples near the center of the lids. Let your child decorate the card holder with stickers, if desired.
To use the card holder, slip playing cards between the two lids and fan them out. The lids will hold the cards upright, so the child can easily see them all.
You can begin to teach your children algebraic thinking in preschool, if you treat algebra as a problem-solving game. Young children are masters at solving problems, at figuring things out. They constantly explore their world, piecing together the mystery of how things work. For preschool children, mathematical concepts are just part of life’s daily adventure. Their minds grapple with understanding the three-ness of three blocks or three fingers or one raisin plus two more raisins make three.
Wise homeschooling parents put those creative minds to work. They build a foundation for algebra with games that require the same problem-solving skills children need for abstract math: the ability to visualize a situation and to apply common sense.
A number bond is a mental picture of the relationship between a number and the parts that combine to make it. The concept of number bonds is very basic, an important foundation for understanding how numbers work. A whole thing is made up of parts. If you know the parts, you can put them together (add) to find the whole. If you know the whole and one of the parts, you take away the part you know (subtract) to find the other part.
Number bonds let children see the inverse relationship between addition and subtraction. Subtraction is not a totally different thing from addition; they are mirror images. To subtract means to figure out how much more you would have to add to get the whole thing.
Would you like to introduce your students to negative numbers before they study them in pre-algebra? With a whimsical number line, negative numbers are easy for children to understand.
Get a sheet of poster board, and paint a tree with roots — or a boat on the ocean, with water and fish below and bright sky above. Use big brushes and thick poster paint, so you are not tempted to put in too much detail. A thick, permanent marker works well to draw in your number line, with zero at ground (or sea) level and the negative numbers down below.
The spring semester of homeschool co-op classes starts tomorrow, and I still have a couple of handouts to prepare and several pages of notes to go over in preparation. So naturally, I find myself flitting from here to there on my computer, browsing new links and cleaning out the old.
As the saying goes:
“I used to be an amateur crastinator, but now I’ve turned pro.”
In a dusty pile of long-neglected bookmarks, I rediscovered this treasure:
Math concepts: greater-than/less-than, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, negative numbers, absolute value, and multi-step problem solving.
Have you and your children been struggling to learn the math facts? The game of Math Card War is worth more than a thousand math drill worksheets, letting you build your children’s calculating speed in a no-stress, no-test way.