Making Math Fun!Posted: October 11, 2012
“It’s time to do your math homework,” I call to my son.
He drags himself to the kitchen table. “Ugh,” he sighs. “Do I have to do this now?”
“Well, if you don’t want to do your math homework, then you will be the one at school explaining that to Mrs. H tomorow.”
He takes a big exaggerated breath, and lets it out through his pursed lips. Not unlike a horse. “Okay, fiiiiiine.”
He does his homework. He does a good job. But he doesn’t like it. Being a writer, I understand where he’s coming from. I would much rather get lost in a good book–a story filled with the unknown and many possibilities, all carefully described by the creative mind of the author–than to calculate numbers on a worksheet with only one right answer possible.
Still, basic math is a skill that we all need. We need it to get through the education system, and we need it in the real world. And like any other skill, being good at math requires practice. Teachers are begging parents to help their children practice these skills at home. But I think my son might run away screaming, if I bring him more worksheets to do.
So I took an idea from my son’s “Math at Home” suggestion at the bottom of his homework, tweaked it to our liking, and we made math practice FUN! For both of us! It was fun for him, because he had choices, and it involved using his favorite toys. It was fun for me, because he was practicing math and writing numbers without a single protest, whine, or sigh. Success!
How to make math fun:
- Let your child choose some favorite toys. It can be a bunch of random toys, or a specific set of toys. If your child is having trouble narrowing it down, you can give them suggestions such as Squinkies, Hot Wheels cars, action figures, stuffed animals, etc. We used these little football helmets that my son collects from quarter machines at the grocery store.
- Let your child choose a writing utensil (marker, crayon, pen, pencil, chalk, paint) and something to write on (copy paper, chalkboard, poster board, notepad, scrapbook paper). A few small choices let your child feel like he has a whole lot of freedom! We used my son’s dry erase board and dry erase marker that he LOVES to use!
- Know what your child is working on in math at school. Right now, my son is working on greater than, less than, and equal to, so that’s what we focused on, but you can certainly use this same idea with addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division. He is also working on numbers 0-5 in school, so we stuck to those numbers, but again, you can go as high as you like with this activity, assuming you have enough toys. (I know we have no shortage over here!) 😉
- Ask your child to separate the toys into groups. For example, we started with four helmets vs. five helmets. Talk about the two groups in a way that relates to what your child is learning at school. I asked my son, “Which group is greater than the other?” “Which group is less than?” and “How can you make the two groups equal to each other?” If your child is practicing division, ask your child to pick ten objects, and then ask, “How can we divide these into five equal groups?”
- Finally, let your child practice writing the equation.
Most importantly, play around with it and have fun! If your child starts playing with the toys, play along! Just find a sneaky way to add in a little math. If he starts racing the cars around the floor, ask him, “How many cars are in the race?” Let’s say he says eight, then you could ask, “How many should we add to make fifteen racers?” He’s still doing math, but in a way that is much more entertaining to him, and less stressful for you!