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 a quarter-century 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.

Learning math is an adventure into the unknown. The ideas we adults take for granted are a wild, unexplored country to our children. Like any traveler in a strange land, they will stumble over rocky places and meet with unexpected detours.

Many parents long to find a perfect math curriculum that will smooth over those rocky places. There is no such thing. Stumbles and detours are a necessary part of learning.

But you can help your children along the journey. Here are my top five tips for navigating the mathematical wilderness:

  1. Start with Play.
  2. Read Books Together.
  3. Consider Your Own Perspective.
  4. Listen to Your Children.
  5. Focus on Making Sense.

Click those links for a variety of ideas and resource links to help you with each of these areas.

Do you want to get started right away? Download a free copy of my Sampler ebook featuring ten family-favorite math games you can enjoy with your children today.

Join the Conversation

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you!

  • What are your most pressing questions about helping your children with math?
  • Or what tips would you share with other parents?

Please add your ideas in the Comments section below.

Photo by Simon Rae on Unsplash

CREDITS: Photos generously supplied via Unsplash.com by Sandy Millar (top) and Simon Rae.

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

Shop Now

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.

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

Update 1: 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.

Update 2: I’ve added a downloadable PDF file to the BookFunnel link, for those who prefer a printable format.

Reader Reviews

“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.

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.

Top Playful Math Posts of 2019

Here are my most-visited posts and pages in 2019. So many ways to play with math!

#12

I love books, don’t you?

Math with Living Books

Do you want to enrich your mind with the great ideas of mathematics? Are you looking for a good book to whet your child’s appetite? Then the following pages of “living” math books are for you…

#11

A logic challenge that doubles as addition practice. Or is it the other way around?

Math Game: Thirty-One

Thirty-One comes from British mathematician Henry Dudeney’s classic book, The Canterbury Puzzles

#10

Turn a regular deck of cards into math flashcards. Adaptable to any operation.

Review Game: Once Through the Deck

The best way to practice the math facts is through the give-and-take of conversation, orally quizzing each other and talking about how you might figure the answers out. But occasionally your child may want a simple, solitaire method for review…

#9

Seasonally popular enough to make the list every year. You’ll find even more mathy fun in my updated Holiday Math Carnival.

Christmas Math Puzzles and Activities

We interrupt our regularly scheduled math program to bring you the following Christmas links…

#8

A counting game for all ages.

Math Game: Fan Tan (Sevens)

Fan Tan may also be called Crazy Sevens. Like any folk game, it is played by a variety of rules around the world…

#7

The updated post (which ranked at #18 for the year) is better: My Favorite Math Games. Eventually I hope it will surpass this old one.

20 Best Math Games and Puzzles

Over the years, Let’s Play Math blog has grown into a sprawling mess, which can make it very hard to find the specific math tip you’re looking for…

#6

What a wonderful, inspiring movie! You may also enjoy the related Women of Mathematics Carnival.

Hidden Figures Teaching Resources

Before computers were machines, computers were people who computed things. This complicated task often fell to women because it was considered basically clerical. That’s right: computing triple integrals all day long qualified as clerical…

#5

One of my all-time favorites, still helpful after all these years.

Number Bonds = Better Understanding

Number bonds let children see the inverse relationship between addition and subtraction. Subtraction is not a totally different thing from addition; they are mirror images…

#4

I intended to write a follow-up series based on this post. Maybe in 2020?

How to Read a Fraction

Fraction notation and operations may be the most abstract math monsters our students meet until they get to algebra. Before we can explain those frustrating fractions, we teachers need to go back to the basics for ourselves…

#3

A dark horse in third place! I never expected this post to draw much interest.

Puzzle: Factoring Trinomials

My high school class ended the year with a review of multiplying and factoring simple polynomials. We played a matching game, and then I gave them this puzzle worksheet…

#2

A perennial favorite: widely adaptable, easy to learn, and kids enjoy it.

The Game That Is Worth 1,000 Worksheets

Have you and your children been struggling to learn the math facts? The game of Math Card War is worth more than a thousand math drill worksheets, letting you build your children’s calculating speed in a no-stress, no-test way…

#1

A well-deserving winner, with activities for preschool through middle school.

30+ Things to Do with a Hundred Chart

Are you looking for creative ways to help your children study math? Even without a workbook or teacher’s manual, your kids can learn a lot about numbers. Just spend an afternoon playing around with a hundred chart…

CREDITS: “Sparkling 2019” photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash.

Math That Is Beautiful

One of the sections in my book Let’s Play Math: How Families Can Learn Math Together — and Enjoy It encourages parents to make beautiful math with their children.

Do you have trouble believing that math can be beautiful?

In “Inspirations,” artist Cristóbal Vila creates a wonderful, imaginary work studio for the amazing M.C. Escher. You’ll want to view it in full-screen mode.

How many mathematical objects could you identify?

Vila offers a brief explanation of the history and significance of each item on his page Inspirations: A short movie inspired on Escher’s works.

Read about the inspirations, and then try making some math of your own.

“I looked into that enormous and inexhaustible source of inspiration that is Escher and tried to imagine how it could be his workplace, what things would surround an artist like him, so deeply interested in science in general and mathematics in particular. I imagined that these things could be his travel souvenirs, gifts from friends, sources of inspiration…”

—Cristóbal Vila
Inspirations: A short movie inspired on Escher’s works

Updated Geometric Coloring Designs (Free)

I created these coloring pages for my homeschool co-op math kids, and then collected them into a downloadable 42-page PDF coloring book for your family to enjoy.

The booklet includes several ready-to-color designs, a wide assortment of graph paper, advanced create-your-own tessellation pages, and links to all sorts of online math art resources.

But when I posted the link to Twitter, a friend noticed that several of the resource links were broken. (Thanks, Mark!)

While I was fixing those, I added some new links (to the wonderful School of Islamic Geometric Design pattern templates and classroom resources).

So even if you’ve downloaded the file before, you may want to pick up this new-and-improved edition.

Click to Visit My Free Printables Page

More Ways to Play with Math Art