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Hands-on Math Activities

“What science can there be more noble, more excellent, more useful for men, more admirably high and demonstrative, than this of mathematics?” -Benjamin Franklin

Math doesn’t have to be the dreaded subject of every day. Accommodating a child’s learning style is particularly important with math. Since it can be an abstract subject as a student progresses, it will go more smoothly if they can see it, hear it or touch it, depending on what works best for them. Hands-on math activities solve many headaches.

Choosing a text that is user-friendly to your child will be of great worth. Don’t buy the first thing you look at. There are many popular textbooks for home educators, such as Saxon, Math-U-See and others. As you examine these, consider how well they will fit your child’s learning style. A visual learner is likely to do well with Math-U-See, as is a kinesthetic learner. If your child is an auditory learner, Math-U-See may also work, but it will be critical to approach it differently than you did with your visual learner. This student will need you to talk through it with him. Where you visual learner may be content to watch the DVD that goes with the program and “see” how it is demonstrated there.

A focus on keeping math a hands-on experience will be particularly helpfull as they are forming opinions about math and learning the basic skills to be acquired in the Discovery level.


Discovery Level

Let them cook. Learn about measurements of all kinds. Teach them to double or triple a recipe. They learn to set the timer and understand time as they learn how long something bakes.

Estimate how many beans in the jar, cars in the parking lot or any other easy estimation activity that fits into your day. There is math everywhere.

Make math part of chores. Young learners practice their counting skills while picking up a given number of toys or counting how many cups to put on the table. Make up dice games or use hundreds charts creatively to make cleaning up more of a game.

Shop with them. Help them learn to use money. Give them opportunites to earn and spend money.

Ask them what time it is. This works great when you are in a room away from the clock and really need to know what time it is. If they don’t understand how to tell time yet, have them tell you what numbers the hands are pointing to.

Read about great mathematicians. A favorite source for these stories is Mathematicians are People, Too (two volume set).

Use manipulatives of all kinds.

Play games! They love games and playing will help them become comfortable applying math while having fun. Play in groups and alone. Use such things as dot-to-dots, math fact dominoes, Equate, Think it Through Tiles (Discovery Toys), math puzzles (we love the 2-sided puzzles from Garlic Press, including puzzles for addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and money).

Do a lot of drill. This is when they memorize more easily. Use flash cards, Math-it, Wrap-ups, file folder games, dice games and any other effective method of drill.

Learn to skip count through tens. Math-U-See puts out a great skip counting CD.

Be careful about beginning with the use of a textbook too early. There is so much they can learn from games, activities and life in general.


Analysis Level

Let them shop for you. Give them a budget and an assignment to plan the menu for the next two weeks. Help them learn to look for the best price per unit.

Find ways for them to earn and take care of their own money.

Read about great mathematicians. One source that is great for this level of learning is Historical Connections in Mathematics (in three volumes). In this book you can learn about the mathematician and then do the accompanying activities.

Look for activities that help them to use logic skills and think things out.

Let them do projects that require math skills such as small building projects, sewing and other handcrafts and gardening. Math is everywhere.

Talk! Watch for opportunities to talk at dinner, in the car or while pulling weeds. Be willing to help them analyze the math they find in daily life.

Continue to play math games and have manipulatives available when needed.

Read Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? and other Uncle Eric books.

Playing a musical instrument has been shown to help children in their learning of mathematics. Analysis learners are at a great age to jump into music.


Application Level

These students need to be studying math at a level appropriate to what they plan to do as an adult. If they are college bound, they must get through trigonometry in order to be accepted to a university.

Use this time to learn life skills, such as managing a checking account, filling out a tax return, figuring out mileage on a vehicle, etc.

Continure to read the Uncle Eric books.

These students need to be able to see patterns and think logically. They must learn to problem solve, and follow a logical train of thought.

Keep talking!