Some people have a game for everything. Cooking up make believe games for learning the stock market, or designing hopscotch with current events, they seem to be able to invent cool ways to learn on the fly with seemingly no help from anyone.
But not all of us are so quick-witted, even though we would love to be able to turn any moment in time into a learning opportunity. The one subject most of us have difficulty with is math. So here are some ideas to help you be the envy of your homeschool co-op:
Few things appeal to a young child's sense of adventure more than a treasure hunt – an allure that can be used to teach math. Handing your children a map of your yard excites them as they scour the property, solving math puzzles with the tenacity of a swashbuckler.
A typical chart might read:
A. Start at the porch facing north.
B. Take 4 x 5 step (4 times 5, multiplication, yeah!)
C. Turn left and jump 8 + 10 times
D. Face west and skip 6 x 2 times
E. Look under the rock marked X.
Put whatever you want under the rock – chocolate coins, or a healthier treat. Mostly your kids will have a great time learning to add, multiply, and follow directions.
As a little girl, I loved the look and feel of my mother's button collection that she kept in an old round cookie tin. My mother has long passed, but I still have the button collection and now my girls love to look at it. Not surprisingly, I have added my own buttons to the collection and my adult daughters are starting with their own button saving.
On rainy days, you could spill the collection on the floor and have young children sort colors and shapes. Counting is the next natural thing to do, then adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing. It's a quiet way to reinforce math skills.
LEARN ON THE SIDEWALK OR DRIVEWAY
To help kids learn their multiplication tables, draw a chalk grid on the patio, driveway or sidewalk. Make it 5 squares wide and 4 squares long. In random order, write a number from 0 to 9 in each box, using each number twice.
Have your child toss a rock or bean bag into one square, then another. If their rock hits a 3 and a 4, for example, they can multiply the numbers together. If they calculate correctly, jot the number on the sidewalk. If not, mark down a 0. With 2 or more children, you can have the person with the highest score as the winner.
OPEN A DINER
One mom we heard of has her children scan daily specials on a chalkboard, pull up to the breakfast counter, and place their order each morrning. Mom takes their orders (or you could assign this to older children) from the limited menu and prepares their orders. She then has each child total up their own meals and they pay in pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters from a jar that they use to teach the concept of money and denominations. To keep them on their toes, you could shift the prices around. One day cereal might cost 43 cents, and another day it could be on special for 18 cents.
Once a month, you could open your "diner" at night and switch roles. The children could pick out simple menus, set the prices, and with a little help, serve the meals to their parents. You could also tie this into our previous blog post about making lunchtime part of your curriculum.
What ideas do you have to make math fun?