Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Learning All Summer Long - Math

We Are That Family is hosting a special boredom busters edition of Works For Me Wednesday this week. We keep boredom at bay around here with lots of games, preferrably educational ones. Over the next week or so, I plan to write a series of posts about how we keep learning all summer long.

Did you know in Singapore children attend school 25o days of the year? Japanese students log 243 days, while those in Scotland, The Netherlands, Israel, South Korea, and Thailand total 200 or more. Heck even the French spend more days in school than Americans, and their countrymen are on vacation for more than a month out of every year. Is it any wonder our students lag behind the rest of the world in so many areas?

Call it "brain drain" "education eraser" or "loss of learning" the 2-3 month summer break students so look forward to only makes matters worse. It's estimated the average student loses 2 months worth of learning each summer. As homeschoolers, we could easily school year-round, but we don't. I admit, I like my summers and haven't been able to give them up completely although they do keep getting shorter. : ) Our summer break officially started last week, but being the sneaky mom I am, I continue to sneak in all kinds of educational activities for Sport and Spice. Sometimes they're on to me, other times they're clueless. This post will focus on the subject that seems to suffer from "brain drain" the most...math.

Sport will be reviewing his multiplication and division facts everyday. We could go the boring old flashcard drill route, but why do that when you can have FUN! Here are some of the ways we practice basic facts (any of these games can easily be adapted for addition, subtraction, or division):

Target Practice: Choose three (or more) multiplication facts for your child to practice (sixes, nines...) and write each of those numbers on a separate sheet of paper. If you want to go all artist like, draw a bull's eye on each piece of paper and write the number in the middle. Remove all of the number cards from a deck of cards. If you have a deck for each person, even better. Players stand behind a line and take turns trying to hit the targets with their cards. If a card lands on any part of the target, the player has to multiply the number on the card by the number on the target. If correct, the player earns that many points. If incorrect, the opposing player gets a shot. Set a number to play to and the first player to reach that # wins (200 works well for multiplication). As the child improves, make it more fun by adding in the jokers as wild cards. It's tempting to use the joker to create an easy equation, but a thinking student will realize a harder equation likely adds up to more points!

Football: Draw a rectangle on a piece of paper. Mark off 2 end zones and 10 yard lines. Randomly label the yard lines with the numbers 1-10 (or whatever facts you want to practice). Make several footballs out of cardboard or heavy cardstock and label each with a #. Player 1 selects a football (without peeking). Starting at one end of the field, the player multiplies the # on the football by the # on the field. If correct he continues across the field. His turn ends after scoring a touchdown (and earning 7 points) or committing an error. Player 2 then takes over with a new football from his end of the field. Set a time limit in advance to keep things exciting and keep the game moving quickly. The player with the most touchdowns at the end wins.

Multiplication War: Using only the # cards from a deck of cards, two players flip their cards over at the same time. The first player to correctly multiply the two numbers together and call out the product wins the pair. The player with the most cards at the end of the game wins.

Use a clock to practice the fives times tables. Point to a number on the clock and have the student quickly call out the number of minutes it represents.

There are tons of websites and software programs that offer fun math practice as well. One of our favorites is Quarter Mile Math. Sport loves to race against his previous scores to try and set a new personal best time. Students can choose horse or auto racing. Parents get to set parameters to determine exactly what is practiced, for example addition facts for the numbers 1-5. The best part about it is both of my kids can use it. QMM topics range from kindergarten to 9th grade. At the kindergarten level, letter recognition is covered as well as numbers. Spice often practices finding what letter comes before/after another and identifying vowels or consonants. Sport has tried everything from multiplication, to fractions, decimals, division, and estimation.
QMM is offering a $5 discount to anyone who orders the software using the following link:

Another favorite around here is Timez Attack. This program offers a truly entertaining way to practice times tables, but at $30 or more, is a bit pricey considering it only tests multiplication. We have enjoyed the free basic download available from the website though.

Hope this post gets you to thinking about how to sneak in a little learning this summer. Check back tomorrow for a look at some of our favorite educational boardgames.

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