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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.

When you’re stuck at home and getting bored, it’s a great time to play math with your kids.

Math games meet children each at their own level. The child who sits at the head of the class can solidify skills. The child who lags behind grade level can build fluency and gain confidence.

And both will learn something even more important: that hard mental effort can be fun.

The Let’s Play Math Sampler contains short excerpts from my most popular books, including a preview of two games from my work-in-progress Prealgebra & Geometry Games.

Don’t miss it: Download your copy today.

Free Online Preview

Ebook available FREE at most bookstores:
Amazon-logo google-play-badge Barnes-Noble-logo kobo-logo apple-books-badge Scribd_logo and other online retailers.

NOTE: Has your favorite store refused to adjust its price? (I’m looking at you, Amazon!) Try this link, and the good folks at BookFunnel will help you load the ebook file to your reading device (phone, Kindle, etc.): https://bookhip.com/SAATAW.

Or you can order the paperback by special request at your favorite local bookshop.

“Denise Gaskins is that sound voice of reason that comes into my head when I get agitated teaching. This isn’t performance — this is play. My kids aren’t on trial, they are learning to learn.”

—Sonya Post

“By exploring math in a playful way, your kids will be happy to learn and will discover an enjoyment of math in the process. You might even have fun, too! ”

—Olisia Yeend

NOTE: In many locations, you can get the rest of my playful math books free if you request them on your library app or through your local librarian.

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.

Plus you’ll get a free download of my 24-page booklet How To Solve Math Problems: A Common-Sense Approach. And I’ll send you occasional news updates with playful math tips, resource links, and book sales or other promotions.

Click Here To Sign Up

Don’t like email? Then check out my new Let’s Play Math Sampler: 10 Family-Favorite Games for Learning Math Through Play. For the price of a cup of coffee Now FREE for the duration of the pandemic crisis, it’s a great way to get started with playful math.

Or grab them both: There’s very little overlap between the free email series and the Sampler book. So try them both and discover more than a dozen ways to play math with your kids!

PHOTO CREDITS: “The smiling sisters” photo by Caroline Hernandez and “Puddle Jumping” by Rupert Britton via Unsplash.com.

Math with Young Children

The question came up again:

“What is the best curriculum for my children? They are four and six years old, and I’m afraid of letting them fall behind.”

I remember being a young parent, eager to start homeschooling. I used to get mad (without letting it show, like a true introvert) when people told me, “They are young. Just let them play.”

Now I see the wisdom in it.

The most important thing for your children right now, by far, is for them to enjoy learning. The joy of learning is a child’s natural state. As a parent, your primary job is to keep yourself from stomping it out.

But our parental fears can push us into joy-trampling before we realize it.

And our own experience of school makes it hard for us to see how much of our children’s play really is learning. We expect education to look like schoolwork, but natural learning looks nothing like that.

Natural Learning Looks like Conversation

“The lesson here is that children are brilliant. They build math out of their everyday experiences, and when you offer them opportunities they apply the math they know to make further sense of their worlds.”

—Christopher Danielson
Counting in downtown Saint Paul

Natural Learning Looks Listening to Your Children

It Looks Like Free Play

“The children who receive the least instruction from parents, volunteers, or me are the most likely to persist. These are the children who will spend 20 minutes or more exploring the possibilities. But when we tell kids to ‘make a pattern’, we are asking the children to fill that carton with our ideas, rather than allowing them to explore their own.”

—Christopher Danielson
Let the children play

Let children play with blocks or other math toys, or with anything they find around the house or outdoors.

Free play, without any direction or instruction from you.

And Playing Games Together

“If you play these games and your child learns only that hard mental effort can be fun, you will have taught something invaluable.”

Peggy Kaye
Games for Math

CREDITS: “Two children” photo (top) by Kevin Gent on Unsplash.

Playful Math Carnival #135 at Find the Factors

Check out the latest carnival of playful math for all ages:

Iva Sallay put together this collection of mathematical links — art, geometry, poetry, games, picture books, math history, probability, and much more.

Each monthly Playful Math Education Blog Carnival brings you a great new collection of puzzles, math conversations, teaching tips, and all sorts of mathy fun.

It’s like a free online magazine of mathematical adventures, helpful and inspiring no matter when you read them. Enjoy!

Click Here to Read the Carnival Blog

Help Us Keep the Carnival Going

The Playful Math Blog Carnival wants you!

The carnival is a joint effort. We depend on our volunteer hosts to collect blog posts and write the carnival each month.

Putting together a blog carnival can be a lot of work, but it’s a great opportunity to share the work of bloggers you admire and to discover new math-friends online. I love that part of being a host!

Classroom teachers, homeschoolers, college professors, unschoolers, or anyone who likes to play around with math — if you would like to take a turn hosting the carnival, please speak up.

And if you’re a blogger, be sure to submit your blog post for next month’s carnival!

Playing with Math @ Math Misery Blog

Check out the latest carnival of playful math:

Manan Shah put together this collection of mathematical fun targeted primarily at high school teachers and students.

Each monthly Playful Math Education Blog Carnival brings you a great new collection of puzzles, math conversations, teaching tips, and all sorts of mathy fun.

It’s like a free online magazine of mathematical adventures, helpful and inspiring no matter when you read them. Enjoy!

Click Here to Read the Carnival Blog

Help Us Keep the Carnival Going

The Playful Math Blog Carnival wants you!

The carnival is a joint effort. We depend on our volunteer hosts to collect blog posts and write the carnival each month.

Putting together a blog carnival can be a lot of work, but it’s a great opportunity to share the work of bloggers you admire and to discover new math-friends online. I love that part of being a host!

Classroom teachers, homeschoolers, college professors, unschoolers, or anyone who likes to play around with math — if you would like to take a turn hosting the carnival, please speak up.

Playing Math with A.A. Milne

Halfway down the stairs
Is a stair
Where I sit.
There isn’t any
Other stair
Quite like
It.
I’m not at the bottom,
I’m not at the top;
So this is the stair
Where
I always
Stop.

Halfway up the stairs
Isn’t up
And isn’t down.
It isn’t in the nursery,
It isn’t in the town.
And all sorts of funny thoughts
Run round my head:
“It isn’t really
Anywhere!
It’s somewhere else
Instead!”

—A.A. Milne
When We Were Very Young (affiliate link, see details)

The Stair-Counting Game

Play on any set of stairs where you won’t get in other people’s way. Start at the halfway step.

  • Roll one 6-sided die. Go up that number of steps.
  • Roll again. This time, go down that number of steps.
  • Keep rolling the die, alternating movements up and down.

Will you ever escape the stairs?

Fill the Stairs Game

Each player draws 11 stair steps (counting the top and bottom floors) on a piece of paper. Write zero on your middle step.

Remove the face cards and jokers from a deck of playing cards. Mix the remaining cards face down in a fishing pond.

  • On your turn, choose one card. Red cards are negative numbers, and black cards are positive.
  • Write the number from your card on one of your stair steps.
  • Then mix your card back into the pond.
  • The first player to fill their stairs with numbers in order wins the game.

The numbers have to grow as you go up the stairs and get smaller going down. But you can skip numbers. For instance, you could put +2 on the stair above zero, if you like. Or you could write −4 two steps below zero, leaving only one blank in between.

If you draw a card that will not fit on your stairs, you lose that turn. Mix the card back into the pond without writing anything.

If you make a mistake — like putting +9 too close to the middle, so there’s no way to fill the higher stairs — you can use a turn to erase one number on your stairs. You don’t get to choose a new card on the same turn as erasing a number.

Fill the Stairs Variations

Help young students understand negative numbers. A stairway makes an excellent number line visual.

Download the place value version (no negative numbers) of the stairway game from Math for Love.

Or discover variations for all grade levels at Math Hombre blog. I especially like John’s Decimal Point Pickle game. And the exponential version looks like a fun challenge.

Your Turn

Do you play stairway math? Please tell us your games and variations in the comment section below.

Or share other ideas for playing math with children. I love to hear new ways to play!

2020 Mathematics Game — Join the Fun!

New Year’s Day

Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.

Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink, and swore his last oath. Today, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient shortcomings considerably shorter than ever. We shall also reflect pleasantly upon how we did the same old thing last year about this time.

However, go in, community. New Year’s is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls, and humbug resolutions, and we wish you to enjoy it with a looseness suited to the greatness of the occasion.

— Mark Twain
Letter to Virginia City Territorial Enterprise, Jan. 1863
quoted in Early Tales & Sketches, Vol. 1: 1851-1864 (affiliate link)

If you’d like to enjoy a mathematical New Year’s Resolution, may I recommend Evelyn Lamb’s Math Reading Challenge? I haven’t decided if I’m going to follow along, but it does look like fun.

Meanwhile, I do resolve to challenge myself with more math puzzles this year. Would you like to join me?

Here’s a great way to start: with the 2020 Mathematics Game!

Click here to continue reading.