Just a few weeks before my daughter started kindergarten, we made the decision to homeschool. We notified the private school in which she was enrolled, and I excitedly ordered her curriculum for the year.
The only problem? I had no idea what I was doing. (None of us really do when we first start homeschooling, although I certainly thought I did.)
Clueless yet confident, I ordered a small mountain of books, including two fat math workbooks. The math books had received good reviews so I thought they’d be the perfect choice.
The program started off easy enough, but it didn’t seem like long before my kindergartener was adding double digit numbers and doing other work that was far too difficult for someone so young. Suddenly, math caused all sorts problems: tears, frustration, anger, arguments.
“I don’t want to do my math,” my daughter would sob, time and time again. She dreaded it so!
“We’re not quitters!” I told her, unmoved by her tears. “You will finish the year and then we will look into buying a different program.”
So she did. And it took two years to undo the damage I inflicted. It still breaks my heart when I think about it. Because here’s the thing: First of all, never stick with a curriculum that genuinely isn’t working. And second of all, math really can be fun.
My daughter is in grade three now, and as of this year, she is enjoying math. I’ve worked really hard to get to this point. We tried several different programs, before settling on one that is a perfect fit for her. (I’ll be posting a full review of our curriculum in a couple of months so stay tuned!)
We also play a lot of games. Almost daily, we do a fun math drill to reinforce basic math facts. Sometimes they involve sweet treats; sometimes they don’t. But always, they involve lots of smiles and laughter. They are a homeschool highlight.
If you, too, are looking to make math enjoyable, here are five fun math games to play in your homeschool:
Mobi Math Tiles
A few months ago, I decided to take the plunge and purchase Mobi Math tiles. It has been absolutely worth the investment. Turn the tiles over and let your child choose two or more. Depending on what you’re practising that day, they can add, subtract or multiply the numbers.
Hint: Chocolate chips make great rewards for correct answers.
Dominos are another fun way to teach math facts. Pour the dominoes into a paper bag and have your child select one. Depending on their grade level, they can add the sides together, subtract the smaller side from the larger, or multiply the two sides to find the product.
A set of dice is another easy and inexpensive math manipulative. You can use regular dice in the same way you use dominoes (roll them and add, subtract or multiply). A set of polyhedral dice allows you to use larger numbers to create more complicated questions. An operator dice set will give you the option of using plus, minus, times, divided by, greater than and less than symbols as well. Math dice are a huge hit in our house.
One of the most requested homeschool games in our house is math war. The game is much more engaging than traditional flashcards, and my girls love competing against each other to see who can solve the equations and win the most cards. There are several versions: Addition and Subtraction Math War, Multiplication War and Division War.
The favourite game around here by far is “Candy Math”. This is simply an oral math drill with a candy reward. We pull our questions out of Ray’s Arithmetic, but you can use your textbook, math lesson, questions you make up or another source. Each correct answer is rewarded with a chocolate chip or other small treat. I usually ask the girls 10 questions each, and they are more than happy to answer.
Math doesn’t have to be painful. It doesn’t have to be boring. And it certainly doesn’t have to result in tears of frustration. If you have a child who’s struggling, find some ways to switch things up and re-engage their interest.
Above all else, make it fun.