By Jennifer Hudson, instructor of Magical Math
Why is math magical?
We as humans love to find patterns and there are many many patterns waiting to be found in the world of mathematics. Exploring these patterns is what math is all about and it can be very satisfying and feel magical. Solving math problems triggers the reward center in our brains. Mathematics can help us understand and describe many aspects of the world around us.
How can we help our children enjoy mathematics and approach it with a sense of wonder and discovery instead of dread and frustration?
I recommend incorporating exploration, practice through games and math routines, open ended math questions and plenty of visuals into your math lessons. Using picture books can be a refreshing way to learn or reinforce math concepts too.
Use items you have at home to explore the question: How big a fence can you make with 36 pieces of fencing?
Practice through games
Have a Dominoes War. Turn all your dominoes face down. Each person flips one; the one with the most dots wins and adds it to his points stack. For an extra challenge, flip two dominoes and add them. The person with the biggest sum keeps both pairs.
Practice through routines
Here are some examples:
- Take turns skip counting starting at a target number and ending at a target number. Ie: skip count by 5’s starting at 25 and ending at 70. Make a prediction like – “Who will say the last number?” Design an estimation activity each day; try out this website: https://estimation180.com/day-36/
- Choose a “number of the day,” have students represent it in as many different ways as they can. Use counters, blocks etc to assist. How many different ways can you show 12? Keep track of answers in a math journal 10+2, 3 groups of 4, 6+6 etc (use colors on graph paper to represent each one.)
Open ended Questions: for measurement (weight): What can you find that is lighter than a pen? What can you find that is bigger than a potato but lighter than it? Find two small jars, fill one halfway with rice then fill the other with water so that it weighs the same. What did you notice?
Visuals: use a white board and markers to solve problems with colored pens, use photos and discuss what’s in the photos. For example, ask: What do you notice? What do you think? What do you wonder? Which one doesn’t belong? How many have glass? How many have shells? How many have both?
Use visuals: ask
- How do you see it growing?
- How many toothpicks to build each one?
- How many toothpicks to build the next one?
Using Stories: There are many good lists of math books both for young learners and older learners online . Check out this one for K-2: https://dreme.stanford.edu/news/children-s-books-foster-love-math
For 3rd grade: https://thriftyinthirdgrade.com/3rd-grade-guided-math-read-alouds/
For 4th grade: https://everydaymath.uchicago.edu/teachers/4th-grade/literature-list/
If your student is struggling during math time, try asking what tools or information they need or want in order to solve the problem they are struggling with. Try solving a similar problem together on a white board or scratch paper using multiple colors. See if they can come up with a visual representation of the problem.
Are you interested in more ideas?
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