My Homeschool Math Curriculum, Games, and Books
Take a peek into our homeschool room!
Many days my children B-E-G to do math! Why?!? We combine workbooks with lots of fun math games, toys, and picture books! I have searched through countless curricula & activities to find the best fit for my children, and I want to share with you what I've found that we think is fabulous! I currently homeschool 4 children (18 mo - 4th grade).
What do you think of teaching math?
Babies & Math
Reading, Counting, and Sorting
Almost as soon as my baby can sit up, I read lots of books to him/her. Many of the books include basic math concepts like counting, shapes, etc. I will also count out loud as I put away toys, books, clothing, etc. We also have numerous baby toys that involve sorting shapes and colors.
We love using touch and feel baby board books such as Touch and Feel: 123 (Touch & Feel) Board book by DK Publishing. You count from 0 to 10 as your baby feels various textures. We have lots of the books from this series. They are some of our favorites! There are many other great board books that teach counting, shapes, and more.
My toddler is just starting to get to the stage that she can do this Melissa & Doug Large Shapes Jumbo Puzzle by herself. The handles are chunky enough that she's been able to try to put the shape pieces in the right places before she was 1. The pieces are sturdy wood and can withstand chewing. This is a great way to introduce shapes. I have owned this puzzle for a number of years and continue to keep it and use it with each additional baby and toddler.
Games, Books, and Cooking
1. Counting Bears
My preschooler (age 3) loves when I pull out counting bears. She sorts them, continues a sequence pattern, groups them, counts them, lines them up them into various shapes, etc.
We own this set that has 50 bears and 5 cups. My kids would love it if we got a larger set because even my older children still enjoy playing with these.
2. Number Tiles & Flashcards
We also have number tiles and flashcards with numbers on them. I'll pick up a number and ask her to find that same number. She is also learning to identify numbers from any board game we play that has a die with numbers on it. We also count them together and I'll ask her what each number is. The number tiles are nice because they don't bend. When my preschooler was younger she had a tendency to bend up some of the flashcards.
We use a Eureka set of number tiles. You can buy them from amazon.com by looking up Eureka Tub Of Number Tiles, 175 Tiles in 3 3/4" x 5 1/2" x 3 3/4" Tub. I LOVE that they come in a container that has a screw-on lid so that can be easily stored.
We also love playing games using math flash cards!
Eenie Meenie Miney Math!: Math Play for You and Your Preschooler (Brown Paper Preschool) by Linda Allison has great ideas for hands-on projects to teach math concepts to your preschooler. I have gleaned many FUN activities from this book. They are easily implemented and explained in a straightforward manner.
3. "Living" Picture Math Books
As with all my children, we also read a lot of books together. Many of the books contain math concepts. Below and also toward the bottom of this page I have listed some of our favorite math picture books along with a website listing many great ones.
Cindy Neuschwander is an AMAZING author! She packs so many complex math topics (pi, angles, 3D shapes, etc.) into books that are delightful to read. We've been reading the Sir Cumference series of books since my oldest son was 2. You'd be amazed at what a young child can comprehend when the material is presented in such a simple manner. Cindy Neuschwander has written other math story books as well, and they're all great!
4. Cooking and Baking
As soon as my toddler can stand pretty well on his/her (typically around 16 months), s/he gets to help out in the kitchen. We count to 20 as everyone takes a turn stirring up batter. We discuss measuring cups and their equivalents. We talk about doubling a recipe. By the time my children are introduced to fractions in their math workbooks, they consider that part to be a breeze!
1. Learning to Add and Subtract: Sum Swamp
In order to teach my oldest son basic addition and subtraction I tried so many methods and nothing worked. Finally I came across the game Sum Swamp. He was adding and subtracting within days of us getting the game. He begged to play the game dozens of times a day. My second son also learned basic addition and subtraction from this game. Even my 4th grader still enjoys playing this game!
This teaches addition and subtraction using 2 die (numbers 1-6) and a +/- die. It also teaches even and odd numbers. My kids love playing this game! I love it so much that I have given the game as a gift to numerous families!
2. A Beka or Singapore Are Both Good Options
After my second son (currently age 5) learned how to add and subtract, I started him on Singapore Math 1a. I like Singapore Math because it includes real world applications of what you're learning. Beware that the pages are black and white. I had started my oldest son on A Beka (probably because the pages are more colorful). After a couple of years my second son said he wanted to do the same math his older brother was doing, so I switched him to A Beka. Since I initially wrote this post, I have introduced math to two additional children, and I have used A Beka with both of them. I am happy with both Singapore Math and A Beka and would recommend either.
3. Books and Flashcards
We also continue to read books that contain math concepts and also go through addition and subtraction flashcards. Even though my younger children are too young to completely understand the math concepts, they still enjoy these stories. They remember the concepts and learn them easily when they get older. My oldest son breezed through learning about different types of angles because he said he remembered the house tops and mountains from one of the Sir Cumference books!
Our favorite series is the Sir Cumference series by Cindy Neuschwander. Masaichiro Anno has written a number of great math picture books such as Anno's Mysterious Multiplying Jar, which teaches about factorials as items grow and multiply, and Anno's Magic Seeds, which teach about geometric progression by showing how quantities multiply. What's Your Angle, Pythagoras? by Julie Ellis, Pythagoras and the Ratios: A Math Adventure by Julie Ellis, Rabbits Rabbits Everywhere: A Fibonacci Tale by Ann McCallum, and The King's Chessboard (Picture Puffins) by David Birch are also some of our absolute favorite "living" math story books!
Elementary and Middle School Math
Singapore, A Beka, Saxon, Math-U-See, & Making Math Meaningful
Singapore vs. A Beka
My oldest son has used A Beka for math starting with Arithmetic 1 and going through Algebra. It seems to go at the same pace as Singapore Math, which I had been able to observe over the years as one of my sisters uses it. They're both fine choices. I would say the only big difference is that A Beka has colorful pages whereas Singapore Math has black and white pages. I do think Singapore Math does a slightly better job of instilling an understanding of the math concept, but they both seem to work well at producing bright math students. I think both a great curricula for math!
Saxon, Making Math Meaningful, and Math-U-See
When my oldest son was younger, we also looked into Saxon, Making Math Meaningful, and Math-U-See. I think those are all great math curriculums. I think Math-U-See is great for a child who struggles with math and needs to learn one concept at a time (i.e. all addition) rather than mixed concepts (like addition, temperature, graphing, and money all on the same page). Saxon Math (great if your child needs lots of repetiton) and Making Math Meaningful (great for making sure your child understands the concepts) didn't go at a fast enough pace for my oldest son. They're both good curriculums but not the right ones for us.
I have purchased numerous great homeschool products (including math books) at homeschoolclassifieds.com. I usually purchase my A Beka workbooks at an A Beka curriculum fair (at which you don't have to pay shipping costs) since workbooks are usually not available for resale. You can easily buy used curriculum, tests, and teacher answer keys though if you want them. I personally do not buy the curriculum or tests.
Which math curriculum do you prefer?
Elementary and Middle School Math
Games and Extras
1. Math Board Games
I love Learning Resources math games! Here are our four absolute favorites: Sum Swamp (teaches addition, subtraction, and even/odd numbers), Money Bags (teaches money), Dino Math Tracks (teaches place value), and Totally Tut Math (reviews +,-,x, & /). We've owned them for years and have played them over and over again.
We also own Learning Resources Angleside School Adventure Angle Measurement Game (teaches angle measurement), Measuring Monkeys (teaches measurements), Head Full of Numbers (reviews +,-,x, & /), and Iguana Factor (teaches multiplication). The children love to play those as well, but I think they are slightly less educational than then the first 4. We have owned all those games for years and still play them. We do not yet own the Learning Resources board games Step Right Up Estimation Game (teaches estimation), Timing It Right (teaches time), or Cross-Town Coordinates (teaches coordinates) but I plan to buy them some day.
In addition to Learning Resources games, we play Monopoly and Battleship, both of which also teach many math concepts.
Buying Tip: Many of the above board games go on sale at amazon.com around the first few weeks of December.
This is great for teaching about money! My children love this game!
This is great for teaching place value (ones, tens, hundreds, and thousands). Since my 5 year old is learning about the tens, we remove the hundreds and thousands place dinosaurs when he plays. My kids love this game!
2. Snacks & Flashcards
We also go through flashcards a few days a week during snack time. I have all the addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division cards mixed together and divided into 5 stacks. We go through 1 stack each time. I'll set out a snack (sliced apples, popcorn, Cheerios, raisins, etc.). For every card my son gets wrong, I get to eat one of the snacks from his bowl. I always make sure to give him plenty of food so that even if he gets some wrong, he doesn't lose out on snack time. I also only give him 5 seconds per card. Now that my 5 year old knows some math, he joins in on this game. If he gets the answer before my oldest son does, my 5 year old gets the snack instead of me. My kids LOVE this game!
3. Superstar Math for Grades K - 5th Grade
To challenge my son to excel in math, I also give him Math Superstar Worksheets which have challenging math problems graded with stars depending upon the problem's difficulty. These worksheets are free to print off the Intenet. Just click on the appropiate grade level on the left-hand side. For every 100 stars my son gets, he earns a Happy Meal at McDonald's.
4. Exciting Math Books (Living Math)
Since my oldest child was a baby, I have spent lots of time reading quality books to him and now to all my children. Reading books to your children is one of the most important ways to teach them. There are so many excellent story books out there that do an amazing job at teaching even the most complex concepts in an engaging manner. I listed our favorites above in the Kindergarten math section. You can find an extensive list of great math picture books at livingmath.net.
Looking for my other homeschool-related posts?
- Homeschooling Preschool and Kindergarten - Are you considering homeschooling but don't know where to start? Do you have a preschooler who is eager to learn but you have no idea what to teach or how? Are you feeling overwhelmed by all the options? I have laid out what I do to homeschool my children when they are ages 3-5 and have also included my favorite resources for preschool and kindergarten learning.
- Homeschool Kindergarten Essentials - Are you considering homeschooling your kindergarten age child or are you already homeschooling and are looking for ideas? I have graduated 3 of my children from "Kindergarten Homeschool" and am currently homeschooling kindergarten with my 4th child. Below you will find my practical tips for your first year of homeschooling kindergarten.
- Taming Toddler Tornadoes - Are you homeschooling older children and you have a baby and/or toddler at home as well? I currently have three school age children along with a preschooler, toddler, and baby. A question I get a lot from homeschooling families is, "What in the world do you do with your toddler and/or baby?" Read below to find out what I do to keep my babies and toddlers busy and happy while still covering algebra, sentence diagramming, dissections, and more with the older set.
- My Typical Homeschool Day and Schedule in Words and Video - Are you homeschooling or considering homeschooling more than one child? I describe what I do every day while homeschooling my 7 children, and I included videos of us during a typical day!
- How to Homeschool Multiple Ages - I posted our daily homeschool schedule for 3 different stages: when I only had preschoolers (ages 4 and under), when I only had 1 child who could work independently and 4 who couldn't, and our current homeschool schedule that includes every age but high school. I have also included a few more tips for general home management.
- How to Start Homeschooling (Transitioning from a Public or Private School) - Welcome to the exciting world of homeschooling! I totally remember how overwhelming it is when you first start homeschooling. I've been homeschooling for 4 years, so the fear, anxiety, excitement, dread, etc. of starting homeschooling is still fresh in my mind. Many families have asked for my advice on how to start homeschooling. This is what I tell them.
- My Homeschool Curriculum for Elementary Grades - Take a peek at my homeschool bookshelf. Actually, all the books are piled across my dining room table right now, but you can peek there too! Ahh, the daunting task of picking out the BEST homeschool curriculum! There are so many great options from which to choose! I have searched through numerous curriculums to find what works best for my family. I am frequently asked what curriculums we use for homeschooling, so I created this page listing what we use. Below you can find the homeschool curriculums that I selected for my family for all subjects for all elementary level grades. I'm not saying our choices are the best choices for your family, but this is what is working for us right now. At the bottom I have also included what our general daily schedule looks like. I wrote this when I was homeschooling 5 children (baby - 4th grade).
- Fun, FREE Hands-On Unit Studies Hub - Over the years I have posted over 35 science and social-studies based unit studies, compromised of more than 170 lessons. The unit studies include the Human Body, Simple Machines, Earth Science, Medieval Period, American Revolution, Pioneer Life, Countries of the World, and many more! For each lesson I have included activities (with photos), our favorite books and YouTube video clips, lapbook links, and other resources. I posted links to all of my unit studies and lessons at the above links.