I’ll never forget the moment I thought I hated math. I was in fourth grade trying—and failing—at understanding long division. My teacher was by the book, a worksheet loving, stand-at-the-board teacher who was less than inspiring when it came to math. I just couldn’t get the process down and felt like a total failure every time I was called to the board to solve a problem.
This scene played out over and over again until I hit seventh grade and had a math teacher who made math fun. That’s right, he made it FUN to solve for X and utilize FOIL. That’s when I realized I wasn’t bad at math, I just hadn’t been taught well.
Many homeschool parents struggle at teaching math because we teach it the way we were taught, use the curriculum we’ve always used, and fail to show our students how important and fun math can be in the real world. I am determined, despite the fact that I’m more of a history and English lover, to teach math well. Here are my favorite methods to make homeschool math fun and easier for all.
Teach to Learning Styles
If you’re not teaching math using your child’s learning style, you’re already missing the boat and setting yourself and your student up for a needless struggle. Find out how your child learns best, and use that method in teaching math—and every subject—to fully engage their brain while maintaining their attention. Learning in the way our brain absorbs information best is often the key to retaining concepts, making new memories, and enjoying what we learn.
Just because you’ve always used Saxon math doesn’t mean it’s going to be the right choice for every one of your learners. Some kids thrive on math worksheets, others need hand-held manipulatives. Take this learning style assessment to better understand how you and your children learn, and what homeschool math curriculum and method you should be using to best fit their unique learning styles.
Make Homeschool Math a Game
Think about how your children first interacted with math: sorting buttons, building towers, solving a shape sorter. These are all math activities, but they’re also fun games. When we teach our preschoolers, we don’t call homeschool math activities “math,” and perhaps that’s the key to making math fun for elementary students. Remove the stigma that doing math can bring by starting each lesson or new concept with a game.
If you’re learning about money, try playing Monopoly Junior. If you’re beginning fractions, bake cookies together. You can also purchase more formal math games, but it’s not necessary. Simply think about the fun ways we interact with math every day, like shopping, cooking, telling time. Engage your students in a fun math game before you even begin the lesson. Encourage older students to play with a Rubik Cube or solve the patterns in Sudoku. You’ll have them enjoying math concepts in no time.
Show the Real World Application
We’re all more apt to follow along if we understand the “why” behind what we’re learning. If your students grasp how math will be necessary in the future—or impacts them right now—they’ll more likely stay focused and engaged in the lessons. This is easier for simple concepts like addition, subtraction and fractions. Engage your older students with the Ted Talks series “Math in Real Life.” Giving each of your children a vision for why homeschool math matters will help make it more fun.
Make Those Devices Work for You
One of the easiest ways to make math fun is to take it online or on a device. Load your student’s handhelds with math games, puzzles and apps that reinforce the concepts you’re learning in your homeschool math curriculum. Consider Kahn Academy, Prodigy, ABCYa and Mathville. Who says screen time can’t also be school time?
Discover, Don’t Drill Homeschool Math
Nothing kills a student’s passion for math (or anything really) like drilling and fact memorization without first having fun and exploring the concept. Start each math lesson with a game, exploration or discovery time. This could take the form of manipulatives that are placed in your learner’s hands, or a math enigma where the student is presented with a problem and challenged to come up with strategies to solve it.
Need a few ideas for learning math facts in a fun, discovery-oriented way that eliminates drilling? Check out these 10 Fun Ways to Learn Math Facts from The Measurement Mom. Make math more about discovering solutions to problems than drilling on facts and formulas so you’ll both have more fun.
It’s never too late to make homeschool math more fun for both you and your learners. Who knows, you may even find math becomes a family favorite when you inject a little fun.