Making room for the fun: math games

Sometimes, when I look at my calendar and see the days slipping away, I get very tempted to throw out all the “fun” stuff on my school schedule and just do seat work.  Fill in the pages and just be done with it. But about the time I’m tempted to do that, something happens that reminds me why it can be important to include fun, and beneficial as well.

I use some Kumon workbooks with my younger children–tracing, coloring and cutting. I’ve also added their books on time and money. Math-U-See does cover these topics, but these are nice reviews. So yesterday, Blue Eyes was learning about adding dimes, nickels and pennies. Instead of having her write all the answers down, I grabbed my little box of fake money and her book and we sat down to practice counting out money. She thought it was great fun. But I took it a step further and told her a little story: I was Mrs. Chubbock and she was Betsy (we’re reading Betsy-Tacy this week) and she’d come to my store to buy candy. Of course there was a good deal of inflation involved since her candy was all a penny and we were working with larger coins, but that’s fine. I’d give her a handful of coins, and made a sheet of paper with prices on it. She got to choose what type of candy she was “buying” for which price. Then she’d tell me she wanted jelly beans for 16 cents and have to count out her money. Sometimes she’d have enough money, sometimes she wouldn’t. She thought this was great fun and would have continued to do this if I’d had the time to continue sitting there. It only took about 10 minutes, but she got to practice her money skills holding coins instead of seeing the pictures of coins on a page, and it was a practical lesson as well, because you really need to know how to use money to buy stuff, right? The first homeschool conference I ever went to, way back when, had a conference by a mom that had a great idea. She kept a glass jar for change in the kitchen, and every once in awhile she’d get it down and let her boys count it. If they counted correctly, they got to keep the money.  If not, the coins went back in the jar until next time.

Another thing we do a good bit is play games. It can be a pretty easy way to review math facts and your kids not even know it.  We have two games in particular that we enjoy. The first is Sum Swamp. Four little animals are trying to move through the swamp. You roll two number dice and one math sign die-it is covered with addition and subtraction symbols. You build your equation from the dice and move forward that many places. For my younger children who aren’t able to add or subtract yet, I keep some small stones in the box so they can actually “build” the equation and see the answer. It also has a couple of places that review odd and even numbers. It’s cute and all my kids enjoy it.

The second game is Shut the Box. The box has 12 wooden pieces attached, each with a number, 1-12. You roll two dice and try to “shut” as many pieces down as possible. So if you rolled and got 8, you could shut down the 8 or the 7 and 1 or the 6 and 2 or the 5 and 3. You keep rolling until you can’t shut any more, then add up the remaining pieces to get your score. After every person has taken a turn, the person with the lowest score wins.

I have another game, called Muggins Math, but it also includes multiplication and division, which are a bit too difficult for my younger children. It is fun and can be modified to play with addition and subtraction if you like. It’s more expensive, but it covers more material:).

Now, don’t get me wrong, we don’t do this every day. It can be more time consuming. But, on Fridays, instead of reviewing math facts the usual way,  I make an effort to practice math facts with a game of some sort, and everyone enjoys it.

If you are interested in these games, you can check them out on my Amazon page. I have a section on math games. Betsy-Tacy is in the “Fun to Read Aloud” section. In the interest of full disclosure, if you do buy these from my store, I get a wee bit from Amazon that I use to buy school materials for my kids. I thank ye kindly:).



Filed under Homeschool

2 responses to “Making room for the fun: math games

  1. This is really a great way to get your children comfortable with math and see it as fun and not “ugh! Math”
    I love the change jar idea. Kids love to play with money and to have such an incentive is really great! With multiple kids you are teaching them not only how to properly count change but also teamwork as they’d most likely be more successful working together.
    Math is fun, it’s just often taught to us that it’s not fun but work. I like the idea of Friday Math Games. I bet your children look forward to it too.

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