Get a Weekly Dose of Playful Math

Our leaves haven’t started to turn yet, but summer’s on the wane, farmers are busy with harvest, and the back-to-school rush has calmed down into a daily routine.

But if you’re like me, you keep tweaking that routine, constantly looking for the perfect balance for your family or classroom. I especially love to discover easy ways to add more playful math to our schedule.

So here’s a collection of sites that offer fresh math resources on a weekly or monthly basis throughout the school year.

Which one will you try?

KenKen Classroom

Every week, they’ll email you a set of free KenKen arithmetic puzzles for all ages. As the challenge level subtly shifts week to week, students develop their math and logical thinking skills without even knowing it.

Subscribe ❯

#MathStratChat

Pose an interesting math problem. How can you figure it out? What else could you do? How many different ways can you find? Which strategy do you like best for this problem?

Follow Pam Harris on your favorite social media site to get a new problem every Wednesday.

Choose a Problem ❯

The Parallel Universe

Dr Simon Singh, author of the No. 1 bestseller Fermat’s Last Theorem and The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets has created a set of weekly maths challenges – just 15-30 minutes of interesting, fun and challenging tidbits of mystery and history, activities and oddities, puzzles and problems.

Help students expand their mathematical horizons beyond the school curriculum and build strong mathematical thinking skills. Stretch your brain every week!

Learn More ❯

Math Game Monday: Salute

“Salute” is free on this website for one week only. It’s an excerpt from Multiplication & Fractions: Math Games for Tough Topics, available as an ebook at my bookstore (Thank you for cutting out the middleman!) and in ebook or paperback through many online retailers. Read more about my playful math books here.

Many parents remember struggling to learn math. We hope to provide a better experience for our children.

And one of the best ways for children to enjoy learning is through hands-on play.

Help children review times-table facts while they practice the inverse relationship between multiplication and division.

Salute may be the only game in my books where speed is a factor. Players should be closely matched in their skill level — or use the House Rule that calls for taking turns.

Salute

Math Concepts: multiplication, division, factors, inverse operations, speed of recall.

Players: three.

Equipment: one deck of playing cards, face cards removed.

Continue reading Math Game Monday: Salute

Limited Time Book Deals

Do you want to help your children master problem-solving skills?

Check out my temporary online store for anyone who missed the Kickstarter.

Through the end of September, you can place a preorder for the early-release edition of Word Problems from Literature, along with the Word Problems Student Workbook and exclusive Audio Commentary (or any of my other books or printable math activity guides).

I’ll lock down the preorder store when I’m ready to send the Kickstarter order to my printer.

Books will be delivered with the Kickstarter orders: Digital items in October, physical books by the end of December.

Shop Now ❯

Math Game Monday: Bango

This family-friendly game helps young children practice recognizing numbers as they learn how playing cards work.

“Bango” is an excerpt from Counting & Number Bonds: Math Games for Early Learners, available as an ebook at my bookstore (Thank you for cutting out the middleman!) and in ebook or paperback through many online retailers. Read more about my playful math books here.

The Math Game Monday posts will be available for one week only. If you missed this one, explore the Topic Tag links in the sidebar. There are more than forty free games scattered around the blog. Have fun playing math with your kids!

Math Game Monday: Make a Square

This game features strategic play for all ages and builds 2-D visualization skills.

“Make a Square” is an excerpt from 312 Things To Do with a Math Journal, available as an ebook at my bookstore (Thank you for cutting out the middleman!) and in ebook or paperback through many online retailers. Read more about my playful math books here.

The Math Game Monday posts will be available for one week only. If you missed this one, explore the Topic Tag links in the sidebar. There are more than forty free games scattered around the blog. Have fun playing math with your kids!

Final Countdown for Word Problems from Literature

There’s just over 24 hours left to get Word Problems from Literature and the Word Problems Student Workbook on Kickstarter.

Don’t miss out!

Get It Now

The Kickstarter campaign is roaring along. We hit our funding goal and plenty more, paying for two extra chapters (one on decimals and the other on percents, rates, and proportional reasoning) plus a special section on making the transition to algebra.

That means Word Problems from Literature will truly be a thorough guide to mastering problem-solving in elementary and middle school math.

And we’ve got plenty of goodies besides the book:

  • The Case of the Mysterious Story Problem: A short treatise on how to solve math problems, written directly to the student by the master of deduction, Sherlock Holmes. Includes the printable poster, “Be a Math Detective” in full color and ink-saving black & white.
  • Audio Commentary (and annotated pdf): An exclusive mp3 recording to play on your phone or other device, with additional math tips and behind-the-scenes tidbits.
  • Make Your Child (or Yourself) a Character: Your child can be a character in a prealgebra story problem. Only 3 slots remaining: captive prince/princess (or the dragon), fantasy warrior king/queen, or a starship captain (or the ship’s engineer).
  • Math You Can Play: All my math games, journaling resources, and other playful math books are available as add-on purchases in ebook or paperback format.

So many great ways to play math with your kids!

Get Yours Before Time Runs Out

And as a bonus, anyone who pledges in these final days will get an extra printable activity guide: Diffy Inception. It’s a great way to get kids playing with fractions, mixed numbers, and decimals.

Math Game Monday: Random Walk Game

This game offers a fun introduction to a practical, real-world math concept.

“Random Walk Game” is an excerpt from 70+ Things To Do with a Hundred Chart, available as an ebook at my bookstore (Thank you for cutting out the middleman!) and in ebook or paperback through many online retailers. Read more about my playful math books here.

The Math Game Monday posts will be available for one week only. If you missed this one, explore the Topic Tag links in the sidebar. There are more than forty free games scattered around the blog. Have fun playing math with your kids!

Math Game Monday: Make One

This game helps students visualize and make sense of fractions, one of the most important foundational topics for success in algebra.

“Make One” is an excerpt from Multiplication & Fractions: Math Games for Tough Topics, available as an ebook at my bookstore (Thank you for cutting out the middleman!) and in ebook or paperback through many online retailers. Read more about my playful math books here.

The Math Game Monday posts will be available for one week only. If you missed this one, explore the Topic Tag links in the sidebar. There are more than forty free games scattered around the blog. Have fun playing math with your kids!

Playful Math: Getting Students To Write Their Own

To wrap up our week of exploring the resources from Word Problems from Literature, let’s talk about getting students to write their own math.

Check in on the Kickstarter

First up, I’m sharing an excerpt from the Word Problems Student Workbook. The “Story Problem Challenge” is one of my favorite math club activities.

Following that, you’ll find an amazing online mathemagical adventure for middle school: The Arithmetiquities. It’s great fun, and a great inspiration for students to create their own math stories.

Have fun writing math with your kids!

The Story Problem Challenge

What do you get when you cross a library book or favorite movie with a math worksheet? A great alternative to math homework!

The rules are simple:

(1) Choose a worksheet calculation to be the basis for your word problem.

(2) Solve the calculation.

(3) Consider where these numbers could make sense in your book or movie universe. How might the characters use math? What sort of things would they count or measure? Do they use money? Do they build things, or cook meals, or make crafts? Do they need to keep track of how far they have traveled? Or how long it takes to get there?

(4) Write your story problem.

To make the game easier, you may change the numbers to make a more realistic problem. But you must keep the same type of calculation. For example, if your worksheet problem was 18÷3, you could change it to 18÷6 or 24÷3 or even 119÷17 to fit your story, but you can’t make it something like 18−3.

Remember that some quantities are discrete and countable, such as hobbits and fireworks. Other quantities are continuous, such as a barrel of wine or a length of fabric. Be sure to consider both types when you are deciding what to use in your problem.

Then share your problem with friends, and you try their problems. Can you stump each other?

A Note about Copyright and Trademarks

Old books are in the public domain, so you can always use characters like Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes, or Winnie-the-Pooh (but not the newer Disney version with the red jacket). But most books and movies are the protected intellectual property of their authors or estates, or of the company who bought those rights.

When you write problems for your own private use, feel free to use your favorite characters from any story. That’s like fan fiction, secret, just for your own pleasure.

But if you decide to share your creation beyond your own home or classroom, then be sure to “genericize” it first. Change or remove the proper names, using general descriptions instead.

For example, if you love the Harry Potter series, you might want to use Harry or Hermione in your story problems. Instead, write about “the boy wizard destined to fight an evil sorcerer.” Or “the bright young witch who can master any spell.”

Or if you like the Star Wars movies, you might write about “an interstellar justice warrior with an energy sword.” Or “an alien master of martial arts training a cocky but inexperienced apprentice.”

We’d love to add your story to the Student Math Makers Gallery.

The Arithmetiquities

When the world of Sfera is threatened by the machinations of a malevolent sorcerer, it will be up to a band of unlikely heroes to become the brightest light in the darkness.

The adventurers fan out across the land to find and retrieve the Arithmetiquities, a set of ancient mathemagical artifacts.

The Arithmetiquities is a fantasy adventure story told through a sequence of 36 mathematical puzzles.

Join the Adventure

“Though it is still before sunrise, Lumparland Harbor is already bustling. Sailing ships moor at the misty docks, bringing travelers and goods to the seaside town. Three dwarves disembark from different ships, each adventurer returning home from some faraway locale. The three women gather at the end of the pier.

    “The strangers discover that they all live along the main road that leads from the harbor, so they decide to split the cost of a wagon. Egga lives 10 miles away, Floora lives 20 miles away, and Greeta lives 30 miles away. The wagon ride costs $1.50 per mile regardless of the number of passengers.

      “How much should each of the adventurers pay so that each one has a fair fare?”

      —Jason Ermer, “Lumparland Harbor,” The Arithmetiquities Chapter I

      CREDITS: Feature photo (top) by Hannah Olinger via Unsplash.com.

      Numberless Word Problems

      As I mentioned yesterday, my new book includes links to online resources to help you play with word problems. So this week, I’m sharing a few of my favorites.

      Visit the Kickstarter

      Today we examine a time-tested method to help kids reason about math: Leave out the numbers.

      First up, there’s Brian Bushart’s numberless problem bank for young students. Then we’ll look at Farrar Williams’s modern revision of a math teaching classic with problems for upper-elementary and middle school students.

      Have fun thinking math with your kids!

      Word Problem Bank

      Word problems are commonplace in mathematics classrooms, and yet they regularly confound students and lead to frustrated teachers saying things like:

      • “They just add all the numbers! It doesn’t matter what the problem says.”
      • “They don’t stop to think! They just start computing as soon as they’re done reading the problem.”

      Brian Bushart offers a collection of ready-to-go slide presentations that walk through the steps of making a word problem make sense.

      Visit the Site

      Math With No Numbers

      Discover Farrar Williams’s book Numberless Math Problems: A Modern Update of S.Y. Gillian’s Classic Problems Without Figures, available in ebook or paperback.

      Williams writes: “In order to answer the question, they’ll have to explain it, because the problem doesn’t give you anything to calculate with. The only way to answer is by explaining your process. See how sneaky a numberless problem is? It makes students really think about the process of solving the problem.”

      Find Out More

      “When students face a word problem, they often revert to pulling all the numbers out and “doing something” to them. They want to add, subtract, multiply, or divide them, without really considering which operation is the right one to perform or why.

        “When you don’t have numbers, it sidesteps that problem.

          “For students who freeze up when they see the numbers, this can be a really good way to get them to think about their process with math.”

          —Farrar Williams, Math With No Numbers

          CREDITS: Feature photo (top) by saeed karimi via Unsplash.com.