How to Homeschool Math

Far too many people find themselves suddenly, unexpectedly homeschooling their children. This prompts me to consider what advice I might offer after more than three decades of teaching kids at home.

Through my decades of homeschooling five kids, we lived by two rules:

Do math. Do reading.

As long as we hit those two topics each day, I knew the kids would be fine. Do some sort of mathematical game or activity. Read something from that big stack of books we collected at the library.

Conquer the basics of math and reading, then everything else will fall into place.

Continue reading How to Homeschool Math

Play Math with Your Kids for Free

One of the most common questions I get from parents who want to help their children enjoy math is, “Where do we start?”

My favorite answer: “Play games!”

And in this time of pandemic crisis, it’s even more important for families to play together. So my publisher agreed to make my ebook Let’s Play Math Sampler: 10 Family-Favorite Games for Learning Math Through Play free for the duration.

Continue reading Play Math with Your Kids for Free

8 Weeks of Playful Math for Families

Yes, your kids CAN learn to love math. Keep your children’s math skills fresh with my 8-week email series of math games and activities.

No purchase necessary! Just sign up for my email newsletter, and every week for the next two months you’ll automatically receive one of my favorite math club activities or an excerpt from my series of math game books.

Continue reading 8 Weeks of Playful Math for Families

Printable Activity Guides

Since my publishing house opened its online store last month, I’ve been busy stocking the shelves with printable math activities for all ages.

It’s a fun collection of low- or no-prep ideas for playing math with your kids.

And it’s still growing. I’m pouring through old notes of my favorite projects from years of playing math with the kids in our math clubs and homeschool co-op enrichment classes, looking for ideas.

Someday, I hope to combine these books into a creative math “uncurriculum” for homeschoolers. Stay tuned to this blog for more news about that. Eventually…

Which One Will You Try?

We’ve made a few of the guides free: the first two Geometric Coloring Designs books, and the beautiful sample games from my Math You Can Play Kickstarter project.

For the rest, we’ve kept our prices as low as possible to fit struggling family budgets — less than a cup of coffee at my favorite cafe, back when we could still go out for a sweet, creamy cuppa.

Just go to our online store and click the “Printable Activity Guides” button to check out all the mathy fun.

Click Any Title for Details

Here are all the books we’ve posted so far.

Free Books:

Math Art:

Games and Puzzles:

Problem-Solving Skills:

My eventual goal is to have enough

Not Attained by Chance

I’ve been collecting quotes about life and learning. They make great discussion-starters or essay/journaling prompts.

This is one of my favorites.

“Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.”

—Abigail Adams

[Aw, face it. They’re all my favorites. That’s why I collect them!]

If you like quotes, too, you might enjoy browsing my collection:

Math & Education Quotations

Make Sense of Math

So, I decided to rewrite the Standards for Mathematical Practice into student-friendly language.

Here’s the final installment…

Math Tip #8: Make Sense of Math.

  • Use the patterns you discover to help you solve problems.
  • Don’t get lost in the details of a problem. Look for general truths.
  • Apply common sense to math situations.
  • Think about how different things are similar.
  • Think about how similar things are different.
  • Remember that your mind is your most important math tool.
  • Pay attention to your thinking process. What patterns do you find there?

Continue reading Make Sense of Math

The Professor of Legend

The traditional mathematics professor of the popular legend is absentminded.

    He usually appears in public with a lost umbrella in each hand.

      He prefers to face the blackboard and to turn his back to the class.

        He writes a, he says b, he means c; but it should be d.

          Some of his sayings are handed down from generation to generation.

            • “In order to solve this differential equation you look at it till a solution occurs to you.”
            • “This principle is so perfectly general that no particular application of it is possible.”
            • “Geometry is the science of correct reasoning on incorrect figures.”
            • “My method to overcome a difficulty is to go round it.”
            • “What is the difference between method and device? A method is a device which you used twice.”

            George Pólya
            How To Solve It

            If you’re not familiar with Polya’s work, here’s a 4-page summary of his problem-solving method.

            Or check out David Butler’s wonderful Solving Problems Poster, which encapsulates Pólya’s system in a visual, easy-to-follow way that works with younger students, too.

            4 steps to solving problems

            CREDITS: “Professor” cartoon (top) by André Santana via Pixabay.
            THE FINE PRINT: I am an Amazon affiliate. If you follow the book link above and buy something, I’ll earn a small commission (at no cost to you).

            New Printable Puzzle Books: Diffy Inception

            The best way to practice math is to play with it—to use the patterns and connections between math concepts in your pursuit of something fun or beautiful.

            Diffy Inception puzzles have their own symmetric beauty, but mostly they are just plain fun. Students can practice subtraction and look for patterns in the difference layers.

            I just published four new activity books to our online store:

            Notes to the teacher include puzzle instructions, game variations, journaling prompts, and more. Plus answers for all puzzles.

            Available with 8 1/2 by 11 (letter size) or A4 pages.

            Click for a Preview

            My publishing company runs this online store, so you can find all my playful math books there — including an exclusive pre-publication ebook edition of my newest title, Prealgebra & Geometry: Math Games for Middle School. Click here to browse the Tabletop Academy Press store.

            Have a Mathematical Thanksgiving Dinner

            With the pandemic still raging, most of us will have to adapt our normal holiday traditions to fit the new reality. We may not be able to have a big family gathering (except over Zoom), but we can still enjoy great food.

            So for those of you who are planning ahead, here is a mathematician’s menu for next week’s Thanksgiving dinner.

            Optimal Potatoes

            Green Bean Matherole

            Borromean Onion Rings

            Thanksgiving Turduckenen-duckenen

            And for Dessert

            May I suggest some of Don Cohen’s Infinite Cake?

            Click here for cake

            CREDITS: “Thankful” photo (top) by Pro Church Media via Food videos by mathemusician/doodler Vi Hart.

            Discern Patterns

            I’m almost done rewriting the Standards for Mathematical Practice into student-friendly language.

            They say mathematics is the science of patterns. So here’s…

            Math Tip #7: Discern Patterns.

            • Look for patterns in numbers, shapes, and algebra equations.
            • Notice how numbers can break apart to make a calculation easier.
            • Number patterns morph into algebra rules.
            • Adapt math situations to make the structure clear. (For example, by adding new lines to a geometry diagram.)
            • Step back from a situation to see it from a new perspective.
            • Try to find simpler patterns within complex equations or diagrams.
            • Not all patterns continue forever. Test your patterns. Can you trust them?

            Continue reading Discern Patterns

            Exciting New Homeschool Math Program

            Homeschooling friends, check out this new homeschool math program that’s fun, rigorous, and engaging — a delightful, hands-on course that helps parents (and their children) understand math.

            Introduction to Cuisenaire Rod Structures Course

            I had the privilege of previewing this class as Sonya and Lacy put it together. I highly recommend it to anyone who struggles with math, or who wants to take a non-traditional approach.

            By focusing on making sense of number relationships, and by teaching algebra before arithmetic, this course provides a stress-free path to rich mathematical mastery.

            And for all they provide, including weekly live workshops and a slew of printable math journal pages that prompt deep thinking, the price is a steal!

            Continue reading Exciting New Homeschool Math Program

            Say What You Mean

            Continuing my project of rewriting the Standards for Mathematical Practice into student-friendly language.

            Here’s my version of SMP6…

            Math Tip #6: Say What You Mean.

            • Words can be tricky, so watch your language.
            • Label drawings and graphs to make them clear.
            • If you use a variable, tell what it means.
            • Care about definitions and units.
            • Pay attention to rules (like the order of operations).
            • Use symbols properly (like the equal sign).
            • Understand precision. Never copy down all the digits on a calculator.

            Continue reading Say What You Mean

            Math Teachers and Homeschool Bloggers: We Want You!

            Do you have a favorite blog post about math activities, games, lessons, or hands-on fun? The Playful Math Blog Carnival would love to feature your article!

            We welcome math topics from preschool through the first year of calculus. Old posts are welcome, as long as they haven’t been published in past editions of this carnival.

            Click here to submit your blog post

            Don’t procrastinate: The deadline for entries is this Friday, November 20. But if you wait that long, you’ll forget. So send in your submission today!

            The carnival will be posted next week (or maybe the first week of December) by Sonya at Arithmophobia No More blog.

            Since this carnival wraps up a rough year, Sonya is looking especially for holiday math posts. Or anything that sparks math joy!

            Have you noticed a new math blogger on your block that you’d like to introduce to the rest of us? Feel free to submit another blogger’s post in addition to your own. Beginning bloggers are often shy about sharing, but like all of us, they love finding new readers.

            Need an Idea-Starter?

            If you haven’t written anything about math lately, here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing…

            • Talking Math with Kids: Children often have surprising insight. Even when they’re confused about math, their point of view can open our adult eyes to new understanding. Share your kids’ stories.
            • Games or Activities: Do you have a game, activity, or anecdote about teaching math to young students? We’d love to play along.
            • Lesson Ideas: This section is for arithmetic explorations, geometry puzzles, trig investigations, contest-preparation tips, and more. Can you make math topics come alive, so they will stick in a student’s mind?
            • Teaching Tips: Other teachers’ blogs are an important factor in my continuing education. The more I read about the theory and practice of teaching math, the more I realize how much I have yet to learn. So please, fellow teachers, don’t be shy — share your insights!
            • Mathematical Recreations: What kind of math do you do, just for fun?

            Explore the Other Math Carnivals

            While you’re waiting for next week’s carnival, you may enjoy:

            CREDITS: “Chica usando ordenador” sketch (top) by Olga Berrios (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr.