Planning a New Math Club

[Photo by Waponi.]

A few years ago, I had several (potentially) future engineers in our homeschool math club, and we enjoyed the challenge of MathCounts and AMC puzzles — but the current crop of local homeschool students is another story.

Last year’s contest-based club meetings dwindled to one student. Even before the recent MathCounts rule changes, I knew I needed a new plan. The final straw was Kitten, whose moaning complaint that she “hates math” has begun to drive me crazy.

So, what’s a homeschool math teacher to do?

Inspiration

Maria’s interview with Don Cohen opened my eyes to a whole range of challenging puzzles for students of all ages. I had glanced at Don’s first book many years ago, but to see everything spread out in his marvelous interactive map fascinated me.

And I thought about how much Kitten enjoyed doing algebra in kindergarten — trying calculus in middle school ought to have some appeal for her.

Then Sue’s math salon video reminded me of our earlier days, when Math Club consisted of my older kids and their friends playing around the dining table. I could get a copy of the Math Without Words book Sue uses and empty my cabinet of math games and manipulatives — and since we meet at the library, I could clean out their shelves of math books.

Surely we could make math fun again, right?

The Exploding Math Club

So I put a notice on the local homeschool networks, to see if there was any interest at all. Kaboom! After several days of flying emails, I have 24 students (and their parents) signed up for the Calculus for Young People class, and 30 kids (plus parents) eager to play with math games & activities.

Now I’m nervous! The calculus class starts tomorrow, and the more playful math club meets next week. I’ve never tried to teach so many kids with such a wide range of ages in one room. I’m hoping I haven’t created a migraine.

Thankfully, most of the parents agreed to stay and help out.

8 thoughts on “Planning a New Math Club”

1. Usually I look for anonymous children on Flickr to illustrate my posts, but that is the actual Princess Kitten, at 5 or 6 years old, with her algebra “homework.”

2. That’s AWESOME! Let us know how it turns out!

Love the photo. 🙂

3. O_O That sounds like a very interesting task, let us know how it turns out! (Incidentally, it was a slight coincidence to me to see the picture of the Frustration board game you included. I ran into one of those peg games just last week at a restaurant. Right away I figured out the mathematician’s solution: work it out backwards from one piece and memorize the backwards-solution as you go, then reverse it. But of course, that would require some time and a very sharp memory, and in practice, I couldn’t get below 4 pegs! Meanwhile my girlfriend got it to 2 pegs, much to my chagrin!!)

4. Ooooh – I hope it goes well! We’re all rooting for you and waiting for your report! This is something that’s going to inspire a lot of people.

5. Hello math clubbers! Almost all the math games on sheppardsoftware.com have a “email your teacher” feature – enabling a contest between club members. Most games are targeted at elementary school students but there are variety of higher level games as well. I find that for me the math mahjong games are highly addictive. Of course, the games require internet access.

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