Making Math Fun!

Because I struggled with math when I was younger, I have learned that some people just learn it differently.  I am not so good (at least I wasn’t then) at reading directions in a book and then applying them to solving problems.  I have to have an experience to which to apply the math.  Once I have that, I am a calculating fool.  So when I noticed Littlest still having problems doing basic multiplication and division within more complex problems, I fretted and brooded about why he couldn’t get the basic memorization.  I made up worksheets that showed how each times table is basically counting by the number given.  3, 6, 9, 12, etc.  I printed off copious worksheets from other sources for practice.

Still… he wasn’t getting it.  So I brooded some more.  I watched how he behaved while learning other subjects.  And, as always happens when we homeschooling mamas put our minds to a problem, an epiphany occurred.  Littlest learns best with hands-on tools.  Games are his favorite things in the world.  Board games, dice games, card games, video games.  He never has a problem doing math when faced with a game.

A game.  I was saved.  Now I just had to come up with a good one.  I web-surfed a bit but didn’t find anything that I thought he would like or that applied to multiplication.  So I took an amalgamation of ideas and made this glorious multiplication game (glorious because–at last–it worked!):


The basic board I made out of the foam sheets you can buy at the dollar store.  I cut them in half, rolled them into a cup, and stapled them closed.  Then I wrote the answers to many different multiplication problems on them (mostly the ones he still struggles with).  Then I grabbed my bag of handy-dandy craft sticks–and if you’re like me, you always have thousands on hand–and wrote as many problems for each answer as I could think of.  On the other side of the stick, I wrote the same problem in reverse to demonstrate the commutative property of multiplication.  I arranged the cups on a foam board and put him to work.  His job was to match the problems with their answers and place them in the correct cups.

He loved it.  Immediately.  He looked forward to math, even.  Of course, the first time he used it, every time he placed a stick in a cup, the cup fell over.  So I spent that evening sewing (yes, I said sewing) the cups to the board.  If you look closely in the picture, you can see the threads at the front.  Next day, the cups stayed upright.  Within a week, he was flying through multiplication.

Then I had to think of a way to make division a fun game.  I didn’t want to do the exact same thing, because I know my Littlest; he would have quickly gotten bored.  A couple of hours of thought later, I came up with this gem:


Not quite as time-consuming as the foam cups, I simply took some old bingo chips we had laying around, and traced them in rows onto a 12×12 sheet of cardstock.  I wrote a division sign in the circle, and the dividend and divisor on either side.  Then I wrote the answers on the bingo chips in permanent marker.  His job is to place the right chip in the circle of each problem.

Again, he loved it.  It’s bright, shiny, has plastic, and he can make it into a contest.  It’s only been a few days, but he’s already getting much faster.

Why?  In both cases, he’s starting to memorize.  FINALLY!  After he plays each game in the morning, I give him worksheets to practice on, and he is not stumbling like he was just two weeks ago.  Just wait till he sees what I have planned for fractions using dice…!

Feel free to use these ideas for your own littles or to adapt them to suit your students’ learning styles.  As a matter of fact, if you think of a cool adaptation, please let me know about it.  And if you know any other hands-on math games that might make my Littlest happy to learn, Please pile them on me!

Love wins,



1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Love Wins | Lit Mama Homeschool

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