Part 4- back to reality
First, we use a paired DVD and workbook program called Math-U-See, which does a very good job of simplifying math for children. It even tries (at least temporarily) to correct our linguistically overly-complex number naming system. Why do we have “eleven”, “twelve” and “thirteen” instead of “one-teen”, “two-teen”, and “three-teen”???? Malcolm Gladwell’s book entitled “Outliers” has a good discussion on this and why math linguistics holds our children back in math relative to some other cultures.
OK, aside from formal math training I use several different ‘fun’ resources. In general I LOVE School Zone flash cards and School Zone computer math and computer reading games. The School Zone games are fun, easy for the little guys to start and understand, and encouraging as they get to play mini-games when they finish a lesson. School Zone workbooks are also good, and sometimes will contain a CD-ROM with puzzles or connect the dots or mazes or some other logic-development tool.
There are a few other good titles, but let’s stick with this for now. I try to get them to play as many board games as possible so they realized WHY it might be good to be good at math. Some of the board games such as Risk, Life, Monopoly and Trump even include a glimpse at learning negotiating skills. And your reputation follows you. If you are mean and impractical on one game, that reputation sticks with you.
We also searched EBay and found the old 1970′s war games such as Skirmish and Battle Cry to get some historical perspective on the American Revolution and the Civil War, in addition to math practice.
For those less interested in the money or war games I try simpler games such as Pop-o-matic or Sorry. I also get them some math while cleaning the sunroom or the dreaded basement. Piles of Barbie clothes or beanie babies or Legos can easily be used to illustrate addition, subtraction or division. Haven’t tried exponentials yet—could get messy.
We also use School House Rock, a collection of all those old funky songs dealing with math, grammar, government and law. Pretty good flashback, but I should have avoided the more recent music disk remake by bands like Moby and Blind Lemon (what was I thinking?).
What I did last week was made a $40 investment that should reap big returns over the next few years. I went to the bank and changed it into coins: 2 $10 quarter rolls, 2 $5 dime rolls, 4 $2 nickel rolls, and 4 $0.50 penny rolls.
Now we are making piles and lumping them to multiple, or making smaller piles to divide. Also helps quick math for 5′s, 10′s and 25′s. Plus, great start for Michigan Rummy and other fun card games (but Daddy keeps the coins in the end to have ‘math ammo’). Card games are also good “stealth” math trainers.
During fair weather, I roast our own coffee from green beans we buy through our Greencoffee.coop (it’s a long story), and it has been suggested that we let the little ones count the beans….
“Honey! Tell the truth – you DO NOT let them touch the coffee beans! Even I only get to smell them! That is, until I get to drink the wonderful coffee!”–Robyn
True, Robyn, true. But they can IMAGINE counting them, though I am not sure if it helps to get to sleep…
I always TRY to keep it fun and entertaining. This week we borrowed from the library a History Channel DVD called “Engineering an Empire” and it reviewed the Aztec empire, the rise of the Greek City-State and Navy, and the Hellenistic period with Phillip II and Alexander the Great after the fall of Athens. Pretty cool stuff, but not as engineeringly detailed as I had hoped. Nonetheless, the boys seemed to be pretty up on it.
Some other math computer programs we have enjoyed are Jump-Start numbers, Math Missions, “Timez Attack” from Big Brainz, and, of course, School Zone (again).
Finally, when they have completed flash cards, computer math, Math-U-See programs, and the house is clean, they can have time to play ‘free form’ games on the computer. These tend to have more “secreted” math buried into the game engine. Resource management matching soldiers to terrain conditions and estimating the odds of victory play into it. Sid Meyer Gettysburg/Civil war, Stronghold, Mastersof Orion, Cultures, Zoo Tycoon, DQ Tycoon, ER Tycoon all mix logistical and cultural variables to create interesting games.