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Hands-on, Real Life Math Experiences
In a child's early years, math is actually play. Counting, stacking, sorting, and balancing are all fun activities that develop mathematical reasoning.
Don't separate math from fun. Don't kill a child's natural love of mathematical play by insisting all mathematical concepts be relegated to a textbook or a workbook once she reaches the elementary years. By using math in daily life, especially in games and playtimes, not only will your child avoid the "math dread" so many of us have, but he will also end up with proficiency in many math skills. Math will come alive and become living math.
Learning Math Through Play
Whether it's deliberate on your part or not, these activities all benefit math comprehension. There are ideas on this list to suit everyone from preschoolers to upper elementary students.
Just look at the math display pictured below. In the eyes of a child, these are TOYS, not "math manipulatives." Do you have attractive, engaging math toys in your home? Consider the list. Most of them are inexpensive.
- sorting buttons, counting bears, or beans
- board games -- any games that require moving pieces after a roll or spin, Monopoly, Battleship
- card games -- UNO, SkipBo, War, Rummy
- math bingo
- tangrams and other shape blocks or number rods
- dice games -- Yahtzee
- following recipes while cooking
- memory -- matching the problem with its answer
- sorting pom poms or dry pasta into egg carton sections
- saving and spending money
- scales, tape measures, and rulers
- hundreds chart
- timers, clocks, and stopwatches
- pattern blocks
Living Math - a Charlotte Mason philosophy
Those who homeschool with a Charlotte Mason approach often speak of living books, living science, and living math.
What is living math, anyway?
Simply put, living math is real math, used in daily life to solve actual problems or to play games. It is math outside of worksheets and textbooks and instead inside the context of solving relevant problems -- how can we double this recipe or how much money will I have to save each week to be able to buy my brother a birthday gift?
So with living math, textbooks or worksheets are never used, right? Well not exactly. As long as life is breathed into the curriculum, textbooks can still be part of a living math program. But to use a living math approach, you have to be very deliberate to add the daily use of math to solve life's problems and to have fun.
To read more about living math, download the Winter 2007 Charlotte Mason Educational Review from Childlight USA. Look for the great, 2 page article called "Making Math Meaningful" by Dr. Milton Uecker. It offers seven great strategies that you can incorporate into your homeschool math experience. And read Miss Mason's own words about math as well.
The Best Math Resource
These books are for mom or dad to plan some fun games and activities for math learning. Armed with these ideas, you won't hear groans "Oh no! Not math again!" Instead, you'll hear, "Horray! We can play a game!" Or you get a note like this one that my daughter gave me after a day when we incorporated a game from Family Math.
This book is a fantastic resource of math brainteasers, games, and activities all meant to be done by a parent and a child (or children). If you want to make math more fun, put away the textbook for a day and pull out this volume! This is the book that got me the sweet note above.
If you want to begin implementing living math, this is the ONE book I'd recommend.
Practical Math Ideas from Real Moms
These blog entries from real, homeschooling moms will inspire your math learning!
- Our Journey Westward
Graphing poll results is rather engaging anyway, but Cindy makes it even more fun by having her children create graphs with leaves, candies, and math manipulatives! Read all of her math entries for even more encouragement.
- Living Math Posts at Jimmie's Collage
These are all of my own blog posts tagged living math.
Get kids fired up about math with this big collection of super-cool reproducible board games that build key skills: multiplication, division, fractions, probability, estimation, mental math, and more! Each game is a snap to make and so easy to play.
Living Math Books
These are just good books. But they happen to include mathematical concepts. So they are perfect for a living math curriculum.
And for more about the use of literature in math instruction, see Mathwire.
A concise article that's worthy of a read is How to Use Leveled Readers in Math. You'll find a step by step approach.
Visit Teach with Picture Books blog for some great ideas for this book.
What's Your Angle, Pythagoras?
I love how this picture book brings the Pythagorean theorem to life with clear illustrations and an engaging narrative.
Sir Cumference and the First Round Table
For free lesson plans and printables to accompany many of the Sir Cumference titles, visit Homeschool Share.
Homemade Math Manipulatives and Games
I love this blog post explaining How to Use Math Manipulatives. Keep MIchele's recommendations in mind as you implement these great resources.
- Math Toolbox
A great site for clear directions for math manipulatives from household items.
- Proteacher Forum
A discussion filled with lots of manipulative ideas.
- Printable Pattern Blocks
At the bottom of each page, it even tells you what color paper to print on!
- Ready Made Game Boards
Just print and play. This site also has printable spinner and dice patterns. Scroll down for simpler templates that allow you to be more creative.
- Houghton Mifflin Math
This textbook company offers lots of freebies -- math references, math manipulatives, and more. These are arranged by grade level, but be sure to check several grade levels. There are so many goodies, sometimes things are hard to find. Here's a tip
- Free Online Graph Paper / Grid Paper PDFs
Free graph and grid paper PDFs. There is much more here than just tiny boxes! There are hexagons, circles, dots, trapezoids, and even more!
- Primary Mathematics Enhancement Programme
This is a complete curriculum. Harvest some nice printable number lines, shape cards, and operation symbols from these nifty resources.
- Tangrams Resources
Beautiful printable PDFs with both color and black and white tangram patterns. This page also includes puzzles to solve with your tangrams!
- Free Printables : SEN Teacher
This page has some amazing math resources -- 3D shape templates, number wheels and charts, games, numeracy fans, coin games, and so much more.
Online Math Play and Tools
- Virtual Math Manipulatives
Play online with virtual manipulatives.
- Create a Graph
This is a sophisticated graphic program, but it's easy enough for a child to use with some adult supervision! Graphs can be saved and printed.
- Virtual Pattern Blocks
The hands-on kind are better, but maybe you would have a need for an online type.
- Multiplication.com's Games
Every game is meant to reinforce multiplication skills.
- Googol Power Games
Game topics include counting & numbers, addition and subtraction, multiplication, math skills, and math facts.
- The MegaPenny Project
An amazing resource for visualizing huge numbers using pennies. Very cool! You must visit this site with your child beside you.
- Online Tangram
Virtual tangram puzzles -- very engaging.
Research these options for a living math approach.
- Living Math Curriculum
LivingMath.net sells a living books, math history curriculum written by a homeschool mom. The book lists for these programs are extensive and free! If you have access to a good library, though, this would be an affordable math program. This program
- Math on the Level
More of a resource book than a complete curriculum, Math on the Level shares how to teach math skills (up to the algebra level) through real life.
- Life of Fred
A unique math approach -- a story! Read about Fred to learn math in a very engaging way.