Monday, August 15, 2011

Math -- There's So Many Ways to Learn

The title is pretty descriptive here, and, I've written about this before, so this will come as no surprise to anyone reading, but there are LOTS of ways to learn math. Math in schools is typically taught by doing worksheets, or memorizing "math facts," or copying problems. In life, however, the only time I've ever used memorized math facts was when I use the times tables or basic addition in my head. I am also rarely called upon to fill out pages of math problems or formulas. My children are not worksheet people. Well, Winnie can be interested in a worksheet or two now and again, but as a whole, it's just not their thing. However, I know that math is important. I DO use math in everyday life, and my kids do, too, and will continue to do so for the duration of their lives, so why shouldn't they learn it the way they'll use it?

We have thus embarked on a way to learn math that the kids like, and can easily access. Here are some of the things we are doing.

Literature-based math:

My kids may not be worksheet people, but they sure as heck are book people. They love to read. We read each and every night before bed, so I figured why not check into some literature-based math activities.

Enter Life of Fred. Life of Fred is an amazing series of books that are all based on a quirky little mathematician named Fred. There is a 6 page story and 6 problems in each chapter. We've been reading at least a chapter a night, snuggled up together in bed. The kids do the "problems" which are super fun questions entitled "Your Turn to Play" outloud together, and have a blast. They beg to read Fred, and they are remembering the math from night to night. Plus they are learning all kinds of additional things, like who Archimedes was, and famous painters, and how to spell the days of the week.

It used to be that Fred's stories didn't begin until Fractions and Decimals, and therefore Fred was not accessible for younger kids, or kids who struggle with math. Just this year, however, the author, Dr. Stanley Schmidt, released four additional volumes for elementary kids. Find them, they rock!

Fred isn't the only game in town, either. Check out other literature-based math with your kids, if they are readers or book lovers, it may just be the key to their love of math, as well.


They aren't just for little kids. Sure, we're all aware of using Cheerios, or plastic toys, or colored cubes for counting, pattern making, and sorting, but what about for older kids?

My ten-year-old loves Legos. She has also been wanting to learn more multiplication. So we have combined the two loves. We found a Natural Math site that had a link for Lego times tables. Today Zhara and I started building one. This is not a short project, BTW, so be prepared for some input of time and effort.
First Zhara wrote out a table from 1s through 12s, in grid form.

We decided ahead of time that we would use square (4 peg) Lego bricks for the project. My job was to collect those, and deposit them in a pile for Zhara to stack.

Zhara then started figuring out each row, writing the amount, and then stacking the right amount of Legos in each square.

They grew and grew. Zhara figured out each amount herself. She kept saying she'd need help in just a second, but she kept figuring it out on her own without any help.

We got through the 3s today. Tomorrow we will continue on... though, despite the fact that we have thousands of Legos, we are running low already, and will likely have to dismantle some of the earlier rows to create the 4s-12s. It's been a lot of fun.

Computer Math Games:

Everyone can get in on this. Thanks to some friends and our own hunting, we've found some fun math sites --, Timez Attack, and some great math games of all kinds at Fun 4 the Brain.

It's been a fun way for Wednesday and Angus to try out some of the skills they've learned from Life of Fred.

We've also discovered some games, apps and websites that the kids access through our iPad -- best buy ever for homeschooling, I swear.

So spread out there -- find new ways to get your kids excited about math. Everyday we find something new and fun to use to learn more about math, and we've yet to touch a single worksheet or pre-packaged curriculum math series.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review! I'd love to hear how you are using the ipad - favorite apps, etc. We have a few favorites, but always interested in more!