How To Make Time for Exploration

Perhaps the most common objection I hear to using math games and enrichment activities is, “I don’t have the time. I can’t even get through our regular math book!”

Well, here’s one possible solution: Use a “Minimalist Math” outline to guide your instruction, turning your regular textbook into a backup resource, teaching only the topics your children don’t already know, leaving more time free for exploration and playful discovery.

Minimalist Math: Getting Down to Basics

Michelle at ResearchParent.com condensed the elementary math curriculum down to 360 problems per year, just 10 per week.

Take just a few puzzles each day, and talk math with your kids:

  • What do they notice in the problem?
  • Does it remind them of anything?
  • How might they try to figure it out?
  • Does it make them wonder about numbers, shapes, or patterns?

Use colorful markers on a whiteboard for low-stress exploration. If your children can solve a problem and explain their reasoning, you don’t need to study that topic. When they get stuck, ask leading questions to help them think it through.

If you’re both stymied, that’s when you pull out your regular textbook (or look the topic up online).

Practice with Games

Of course, children still need plenty of practice to master the math facts and solidify their knowledge.

Since you’re not spending as much time on lessons and homework, you can plan on playing lots of math games. Games are a fun, low-stress way to firm up math skills.

Check out My Best (Free) Math Games for All Ages, and follow the Math Game Monday posts on my blog.

Read Library Books

To enrich your child’s mind with the great ideas of mathematics and whet their appetite for learning, nothing beats a “living” math book.

A living book is one that brings our minds into direct contact with the great ideas of life.

Check out my Math with Living Books lists to get started, and ask your librarian for more suggestions.

For Older Students

Michelle’s Minimalist Math Curriculum goes through 5th grade (so far). But you could use the Corbettmaths 5-a-Day problems in the same way for older students.

And for enrichment activities to fill up your free math time, I can’t think of a better resource for all ages than the NrichMaths website.

“When I first started homeschooling, math became the most overwhelming, unpleasant part of our day. As someone who loves math, I didn’t want to continue on a path that was leading to such bad attitudes.

“My Minimalist Math Curriculum covers the same breadth of topics as a traditional curriculum without all the repetition. You are welcome to use what I created in whatever way serves your family.”

Michelle, Research Parent
Mathematics Activities for Kids

CREDITS: Photos by Aron Visuals, Andrew Ebrahim, and Melissa Askew via Unsplash.com.

Math Game Monday: What’s My Rule?

“What’s My Rule?” is free on this website for one week only. It’s an excerpt from Prealgebra & Geometry: Math Games for Middle School, 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.

This game challenges upper-elementary and middle school students to reason about number properties.

What’s My Rule?

Math Concepts: Venn diagrams, factors and multiples, divisibility, prime numbers, and other number properties.

Players: two or more.

Equipment: pencil and paper, or whiteboard and markers. Calculator optional.

Continue reading Math Game Monday: What’s My Rule?

New to Playful Math? Start Here

Do you want your children to enjoy learning math? Teach them how to play!

After the troubles of recent years, it’s even more important for families to play together. So I’ve made the ebook version of Let’s Play Math Sampler: 10 Family-Favorite Games for Learning Math Through Play permanently free.

What a great way to introduce your child to the joy of learning!

With excerpts taken from my most popular books, the Let’s Play Math Sampler features ten kid-tested games covering math concepts from counting to prealgebra.

Pick up a copy today, and make math a playful family adventure.

Download Your FREE Copy

Or Shop Your Favorite Online Store
… or request a copy from your library or local bookshop.


“Math is so many things — beauty, structure, problem solving, communication, language, creativity — but here’s what I’ve learned as I’ve tried to help my children develop positive relationships with math: It All Begins With Play. Anything by Denise Gaskins is a fantastic place to start. These books are filled with the perfect combination of perspective and practicality.”

—Michele Johnson, Instagram post

Math Game Monday: Target Ten

This equation game for elementary students builds creative, flexible thinking about addition and subtraction.

“Target Ten” is an excerpt from Math You Can Play Combo: Number Games for Young 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: Clock Math

This game encourages players of all ages to think creatively with numbers.

“Clock Math” is an excerpt from Let’s Play Math, 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: Odd–Even–Prime Race

This game challenges upper-elementary and middle school students to practice strategy and mental math as they race across a number chart.

“Odd–Even–Prime Race” 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!

Don’t Miss Playful Math Carnivals #155 and #156!

Here is SOOOOO MUCH GREAT MATH!

Each monthly carnival brings you a new collection of ideas for playing math from preschool to high school. It’s like a free online magazine of mathematical adventures, helpful and inspiring no matter when you read them.

Explore with your kids or on your own:

John Golden put together an awesome carnival, featuring puzzles, games, slow-reveal graphs, geometry, algebra, math art, puzzles, videos, mobius strips with zippers, and lots more fun. Wow!

Johanna Buijs found a delightful assortment of math tidbits from around the world, inspirational quotations, games, activities, videos, books to check out, and all sorts of mathy fun. Love it!

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!

CREDITS: Feature photo (top) by Vitolda Klein on Unsplash.com.

Math Game Monday: Blockout

In this game, players practice multiplication facts and use strategic planning as they build 2-D shapes to block their opponent.

“Blockout” 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!

Math Game Monday: Domino Fraction War

This game offers upper-elementary and middle school students plenty of practice doing estimation and mental math with fractions.

“Domino Fraction War” 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!

Math Game Monday: Nine Cards

This game helps young children build mental math skills. And it’s fun for older kids or adults to play along!

“Nine Cards” 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.