Math caused the most angst for Veronica and I as we home schooled. As a child in school myself I didn’t have a fondness for math – although my marks were better than average – and was certain th ere would be no way, shape or form that I’d be able to teach her anything more than core math concepts.
As it turned out, I was ‘blocked’. When I began to change my thinking of ‘math in the real world’, the lessons became easier for both of us. It is important for us to help children see that real learning happens all the time, not just when they are filling out worksheets or sitting at our school table — and math has value in all stages of life.
For a while, we mixed up our home schooling lesson plans with a weekly Math Lab day. One day a week we would leave the math curriculum on the shelf and do some hands-on learning with games and crafting.
Math Lab days are also great for using math software you have sitting around, but may never get around to using. Or how about those math games you have purchased, but usually remain on the shelf collecting dust?
- Counting games with candy, Legos, or anything else you might have lying around.
- “War” with a regular deck of cards or make your own deck with numbers to 100 and maybe a “wild card” or two to make things more exciting.
- Snap Cubes (a popular manipulative) are great to play with, making “trains” of different color patterns. You start the pattern, and your child adds on to the train following the pattern. Then let them start a pattern and you finish it.
- Any board game that requires dice and counting.
- Use standard and non-standard items to measure things around the house.
- Kitchen – baking involves using lots of real life fractions.
- Play store, library (paying late fees), or bank.
Elementary thru Middle School
- Math with Literature! We liked Sir Cumference, A Place for Zero, Equal Schmequal.
- Our favorite math games are S’math and Knock Out! from Muggin’s Math – we just purchased their new fraction games, too.
- Board games, including Monopoly, PayDay and Sequence.
- Card games like UNO and War. A favorite is to use flashcards with math facts as our “war” deck.
- Videos: Multiplication Rock, Money Rock
- Play store.
- If you have any of the handheld, electronic math toys, Lab Day is a good time to make sure they are put to use.
- Computer games – Money Town, Math Blaster.
- Use activities from “Family Math”, “Math for Smarty Pants” or “Games for Learning Math.”
- Plan an imaginary trip and use a map to figure how many miles you will travel.
- For kids interested in the Stock Market, you can use Lab Day each week to track and check on a couple of stocks, plotting their progress on a graph.
- Visit one of the fun, free math game sites online. There are many free websites for online learning available now.
One other idea that we’ve implemented, not just for Lab Day, but as a way to add some more real life application to our math lessons is the “Mommy Bank”. I gave each of my kids a blank check or savings registry book. Their allowance is “direct deposited” into their Mommy Bank account. They must add the amount each week. They also deposit money received for their birthday, holidays and any odd jobs they take on for cash. When they purchase something, I pay for it and we deduct it from their account in the Mommy Bank. Of course, older children often prefer to keep their money with them, but this works well when they are younger or for those kids who are not yet ready to carry around cash.