Friday, March 10, 2017

Making math fun


Hello March, I can't believe you are here! These days, life has been so full, and it's been hard to find time to do any writing. However, amidst the mess and mayhem of each day, we've been making slow, steady progress with regards to homeschooling, and these days both Junior J and Lil J do a certain amount of seat work on weekdays.

For those who have been reading this blog for awhile, you would know that we've been using Math U See for our main curriculum (you can click here to read more about the curriculum). Math U See has been great for helping them to get a good foundation in Math, but I admit it is pretty dry. Junior J more or less just bulldozes through his math work each day, and he's currently learning multiplication (we are at the Gamma level for Math U See now).

Learning multiplication can get pretty boring, and I felt like math these days was starting to feel like a chore. I really wanted to make math more interesting, so I went searching for ways to make multiplication more fun for Junior J. In my search, I came across the concept of multiplication circles (from this post), which lets kids make patterns based on the times tables, using yarn. It seemed like an interesting way to let the kids practice their skip counting and multiplication (the younger kids can just wrap the yarn by counting in 2s/3s/4s etc without having to memorize the actual numbers for skip counting), so I made our own circle using an IKEA cork coaster and small nails. Most DIY multiplication circles are made using a piece of wood or an embroidery hoop, but I thought a coaster would be easier, since this meant I could push the nails in without needing to hammer them. The older two had fun making the patterns, and I loved that it was a kinaesthetic way of learning how to skip count! (And in case someone asks, the multiplication target circle worksheets pictured above are from this site.)


That aside, I introduced the concept of spirolaterals to Junior J (this is probably suitable for older kids from six and up). Spirolaterals basically are spiral patterns that are drawn using the times table, and different times tables yield different patterns (you can get a good guide to drawing them from this post). Junior J was fascinated, and couldn't wait to work out all his times tables so that he could see what kind of patterns would result! It was really interesting to see the different patterns slowly forming, and the boy really loved colouring them.

And since we were on the topic of spirals, I decided to introduce the concept of Fibonacci numbers for the fun of it. We mapped out the sequence on graph paper and I showed Junior J the spiral that resulted. He was intrigued and was really excited to see how this spiral is found in so many natural structures in nature, and how frequently Fibonacci numbers appear in nature (eg. the number of petals in a flower). (This is a good read if you would like to find out more.)


All in all, we (myself included) had quite a bit of fun working on these activities, and it made learning math pretty fun as well as more meaningful. I'm hoping to do more of such activities in the future!

PS: These activities aside, we've been supplementing our math learning with the Life of Fred books (you can read more here). Life of Fred has been great, since it introduces math through stories, but do note it cannot be a stand-alone curriculum for teaching math. 

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