If your kids like math, it's pretty easy to teach it to them. Self-motivation makes everything run smoothly.
But what if your kids don't like math? Or what if they're so young, they don't even know what math is? How do you build a foundation and instill concepts? Do you just sit 'em down at a table, hand 'em a hundred 4-digit multiplication
problems, and tell 'em they're gonna do 'em till they like 'em?
Yes, we've tried it.
No, it doesn't work.
Instead, we've found the best way to teach math is... to teach it without teaching it.
Well, let me say it like this. If you can convey certain concepts without having to resort to chair, desk, and chalkboard, then so much the better! Learning is learning, either way. And we've found there's a greater chance of mutual enjoyment (and retention!) if the teaching occurs unconsciously.
This is where games come in. Board games, card games, dice games, you name it. Games are fun, and games can teach. (I'm excluding video games because...well...I just am.)
Now, whenever I mention "games" and "teaching kids math", someone always says, "Oh, you're talking about Chess, aren't you?"
No, I'm not talking about Chess. I don't know why everyone always associates Math with Chess. (Is it because nerds like math, and nerds like Chess, so therefore Math and Chess must be...the same?) Chess is a wonderful game, don't get me wrong. It can help build concentration, encourage strategic thinking, develop visualization, logic, etc. But Chess is not what I would use to build numeracy.
As a child grows older, subtraction comes into play subconsciously, because that helps determine interval widths for placement. I, myself, use a little probability, together with memory of what cards have already been played.
But without a doubt, the primary educational value of this game is ordering. After several days of playing RACK-O, ordering numbers is second nature.
And did I mention that it's fun? It is! Actually, I'm quite addicted. I could play it every night. Trust me, it's a lot more fun than teaching "number ordering" on a chalkboard.
So take our advice, and use games to supplement your math instruction. Your kid will enjoy it, and you will as well.
Do you have a favorite math game? If so, leave a comment telling us the name of the game and why you like it. We are always on the lookout for new favorites!!
If you like our puzzles and explanations, please visit our store and check out our problem-solving and logic puzzle books!
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Brian and Melanie Fulton both earned doctoral degrees in mathematics at Virginia Tech. They formerly taught math at the university level, and now run a hobby farm while accuracy-checking collegiate mathematics texts. They homeschool their four children, frequently employing the aid of chicken, dairy goat, cat, and dog tutors.