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Written by Jamie Martin of Simple Homeschool and Steady Mom
Since late-February I’ve been writing a series about math in our homeschools–trying to investigate this subject from a different angle. (Get it, angle?!! Math humor, gotta love it.)
Up until now we’ve talked about looking at math differently, what that practically looks like for other families, children, and experts, and how to use books to increase our young children’s love of and exposure to math.
Much of the research we’ve peeked at suggests waiting until around age 10, give or take, to introduce formal math. (I’m not saying this is the only way to approach it, by the way! It’s one of many intentional possibilities.)
If you decide to follow this advice, however, what should you do up until that age? Well, why not create your own math playground?
Here are a couple of possibilities:
Option 1: Less Structure
In the early elementary years of homeschooling, look for ways to bring math into your lives when the opportunity naturally arises (and of course it will!). Point out patterns in nature and the beauty of God’s creation. Discuss it all with a sense of wonder and possibility.
If your child enjoys games, follow her lead in playing some of the ones listed here–and read aloud some of the books I’ve mentioned in this post. As your child gets older, you may transition to option two below (or not, depending on you and your kids).
Option 2: More Structure
Let’s say you must document your child’s study for your state or country. Does that mean you can’t approach math this way? (I get this question a lot!)
I don’t think it means that at all. Just apply these ideas with a bit more structure and document what you’ve done as needed.
Maybe you decide to set aside 15-30 minutes each weekday, three times a week, or whatever suits you–making it your math play time.
Create a routine if that works best for you: read one math book or one chapter of Life of Fred (answering the questions aloud is fine, unless you need them written for proof of study), play a math game, and end with a Bedtime Math problem. Switch it up when you or your child need a break or get bored with the routine.
Now that you have an idea of how to play with math, let’s get an idea of what to play with! Below I’ve created a display of popular games, toys, and videos that I hope will be of help to you.
Feel free to bookmark this post so you can come back to it as needed. If you add a handful of items each year, over time you’ll develop a wonderful collection.
Let’s be straight up about games for a second: They’re great for learning, but young kids can seriously stink at losing. This seems to get better with age and depends on the personality of the child, but don’t force something that makes you both miserable!
In our home I’ve found it works a bit better if I play one-on-one with a child (as opposed to siblings squaring off against each other).
Here are some of our favorites (plus a few other popular choices):
You have a ton of math toys in your home already. Don’t overlook the obvious: a ruler, measuring tape, compass, dominoes, beans for counting, and your kitchen measuring cups. We’ll find math everywhere if we keep our eyes open for it.
Some other options that might be worth investing in:
I’m all about using well-chosen video to add to our love of learning.
Below are some inspiring options you’ll want to check out, and this helpful math post from Thomas Jefferson Education also has links to several clips if you scroll all the way to the bottom.
“Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas.” ~ Albert Einstein
What’s your family’s favorite way to play with math?