Thursday, February 17, 2011

Math Facts and Games

My girlfriend Deb shared with me last week a fun math game she is doing with her boys.  I decided to give it a try with my two younger boys (7 & 10) and they love it!  Caleb (10) has been struggling with math this year and we have backed way up in his math and are redoing much of it.  However, as we have gone forward what I'm realizing is it is not the concepts he's not getting but his math facts he is struggling with.  He knows them but still has to think for a minute or two and that makes math long and boring and fertile ground for mistakes.  Deb shared this game with me around the same time I read this post by Jeannie Fulbright (author of the elementary Apologia science books) about math.  Basically she shares how important math facts are and if you don't know them well... well you start having the problems we are!

So what's this game??  Basically it's a fun way to do flash cards really (and I may be doing this a bit different than Deb is but it's working).  I wrote math problems on a full piece of paper and the answer on an index card like this-

Then, use your imagination!  Sometimes we spread out the big papers and they put the answers on top.  Other times we spread out the answers and they put the problem on top.  We'll use the stopwatch and see how fast they can do them, how fast they can bring me the right answer to the card I hold up or simply go through the large papers like regular ol' flashcards.

Elijah is working on his addition and subtraction while Caleb is working on multiplication.  Sometimes they race each other or cheer each other on.  Elijah's favorite is to spread out the answers and then I hold up a question and he has to jump to the right answer.

By the way, when we race we are not beating the other person but just beating our own best time.  Poor Carter was feeling left out of all the fun so he joined us today too!  A little review won't hurt anyone right!  This is helping Caleb tremendously.  I am just trying to figure out right now if I want him to just drop math for awhile and really focus on his facts and then pick it back up or just slow down on his math but still keep plugging along.  This week he is just slowing down.

Funny, since our kids are home they judge what grade they are in simply by what math book they are doing!  Elijah is just finishing his 1st grade book in the next week or two and Caleb still has about 8 weeks to go in his 4th grade book since we backed up almost to the beginning a few months ago.  Elijah couldn't care less but Caleb hates it because he's "suppose" to be in 5th grade (actually because of his birthday he could go either way but he started early so HE thinks he "should" be in 5th).  I told him that's the beauty of homeschooling!  We'll slow down for now and who knows, in a year or two he may start flying and we'll let him.  Maybe he'll catch up or surpass where he thinks he "should" be!  And if he doesn't... oh well!  We'll still get to where we need to go one way or another.

If I could turn back time I would have focused harder on math facts in the beginning regardless if he understood the why behind it.  I think I will use this approach with my 3 younger ones and see where it gets us.  Here are some interesting thoughts on this approach from the Robinson Curriculum.

So how about your kiddos?  Homeschool or not, if they are struggling in math check out how well they know their facts!