Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Math We Do

Stephanie at Ordinary Life Magic put up another great link-up last week, Math Play. I highly encourage you to read her post. I'd like to tell you all about why math is better done outside of textbooks, but my pregnant brain is not up to the task, and Stephanie said it all so well anyway, so just go read her post and the articles she links to. I'll just give you a list of math ideas we've used over the years. We fluctuate quite a bit on how we do math. Sometimes, we use the textbooks. Sometimes we shun them. Sometimes we do obvious math. Other times we do more hands-on thinking not directly related to numbers but still building up those math brain cells. We do what we need to do at the time and switch when we need something else.
So. Here's a variety of mathy things we do.


The kids love to play with tape measures and scales. We measure when we do science or cooking. How much has our plant grown? How much do we need if we are going to double this recipe?


In our Tuesday co-op, we often do math-oriented group games or projects. Math Forum has some ideas for this type of activity.
The kids have also taken math classes with our Monday co-op. Zahana and Rohan are in one now, which is a hands-on exploration of numbers and such. Miah and Larkin have taken one where they made lapbooks for measuring, time, numbers, etc. and another one for improving their multiplication skills. These are always fun (non-stressful) classes for them.


Miah and Larkin are currently working on Saxon 54. They do this independently and bring me their work to check when they are finished. Occasionally, they ask for help on a problem, but usually they can do it themselves.
We have also used Singapore math, which went fine at first but ended up not working at all for us.

Zahana and Rohan are loving dot-to-dots and mazes right now.

Life of Fred

This is not exactly a textbook. It's more in a story form. All of the kids love Fred. I love Fred too.


I have made various Montessori materials for making number concepts more visual and tactile. Here is a page of Montessori links where you can find lots of ideas for creating.

Calendar - A calendar hanging on the wall with outings and activities marked on it is enticing enough to learn things like days of the week, months of the year, "How many days until . . . ?", yesterday, tomorrow, etc. We also like poetry books like Around the Year and doing seasonal activities.

Telling Time

Clocks (analog and digital) in every room and places to go at certain times pretty much gets the job done. If a kid asks, "How much time until we leave?" I tell them what time we are leaving and let them figure it out. Or vice-versa. Sometimes I ask Zahana what time it is and let her make a guess, then explain what time it is.

Dr. Wright's Kitchen Table Math

This book is full of hands-on ideas and games for teaching math in a natural and fun way.

Living Math - I highly recommend this website for teaching math in way that will not make your kid hate math. Lots of ideas for real books and games that teach math concepts. We check out math books (like Anno's Magic Seeds and A Fly on the Ceiling) from the library. You can find another list of living math books here.

Tangrams, Geoboards, Fraction Bars and Pattern blocks - all good for exploration

Counting everything

A variety of blocks and building materials

Compass Drawings

This was a huge hit with the kids. I'd like to find another one like it. They make their own compass drawings on their own now.

Origami, Kirigami, and Window Stars

Angles and measurements. Larkin really loves origami, so I bought Unfolding Mathematics with Unit Origami to try out.

Logic Links

Art and Crafting

sewing, drawing, and other craftiness often involves math

Playing with Patterns

Think! Challenges

Lentil Math and Geometric solids


learning to use one of these helps with mental math skills

Dominoes and flash cards

Geometric pattern books by Robert Field

Mathematicians are People, Too - Reading about people who were fascinated by math encourages little thinkers. (I just noticed there's a second edition of this book.) We played around with cycloids after reading about them in this book.

Rainbow gnomes - Get creative!

Adrianbruce.com has printable math games.

Money - The kids have certain chores they can do to earn money (apart from their regular chores.) Earning and spending their own money makes money concepts real. They also like to play store, which involves adding, subtracting, and making change. Collecting coins is another way to learn about money and values.

A Christian Perspective on Math

Exploring Sunflowers, pinecones, and pineapples.

Games, of course!

Various resources I've collected here and there:
Geometry Brainteasers with 3-D Shapes
DIME Build Up book and solids
Problem Solving with Polyhedra Dice
Geometry and Fractions with Geoboards
Cuisenaire rods

Rethinking Math
- a post I wrote a while back about math
To see more of the math we do, click on "math" under labels.


  1. Wonderful, Sarah! Thank you so much for adding all of these ideas to the list!
    I'm looking forward to checking out some of these new things.

  2. wow. this is an overwhelming amount of resource, thank you !! this is the only aspect of homeschooling in which i feel inadequate and afraid !

  3. What a beautiful collection of ideas! Great!!