I love listening to podcasts during my morning walk with the dogs. One of my favorites over the past year has been Pam Harris and Kim Montague’s Math is Figure-Out-Able podcast.

Figure-out-able. What a great word!

Figure-out-able sums up what I mean when I tell parents that math is “applied common sense.” Kids can use the things they know to figure out things they don’t yet know.

And figuring things out like that is fun, like a mental game where we play with the ideas of numbers, shapes, and patterns.

Usually, the podcast targets teachers, and the hosts try to show how they can help students learn to mathematize — to think mathematically. Over the past few weeks, however, Pam and Kim have been talking directly to parents about how to help their children learn math.

Learning math requires more than mastering number facts and memorizing rules. At its heart, math is a way of thinking.

So more than anything else, we need to teach our kids to think mathematically. To make sense of math concepts and persevere in figuring things out. To notice the numbers, shapes, and patterns all around. To wonder about big ideas.

Journaling is a great way to help children learn to see with mathematical eyes. Not just to remember what we tell them, but to create their own math.

Get started with creative math journaling today. Visit the Make 100 Math Rebels Kickstarter page to download the free “How To Be a Math Rebel” sampler pictured above, which contains one of my all-time favorite math prompts.

It doesn’t matter whether your students are homeschooled or in a classroom, distance learning or in person. Everyone can enjoy the experience of playing around with math.

At some point during the process of teaching multiplication to our children, we really need to come to terms with this question:

What IS multiplication?

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“What’s my answer? It’s not one that society’s going to like. Because society expects — demands, even — that mathematics be concrete, real-world, absolute, having definitive answers.

I can’t give a definitive answer.

Multiplication manifests itself in different ways. So maybe the word ‘is’ there is just too absolute. And it’s actually at odds with what mathematicians do.

Mathematicians do attend to real-world, practical scenarios — by stepping away from them, looking at a bigger picture.”

Continuing on my theme of times table facts, here’s the inimitable James Tanton:

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“If our task is to memorize this table, please make it about mathematics — about thinking your way through a challenge, and what can I do to make my life easier.”

You may also enjoy my blog post series about working through the times tables, paying attention to mathematical relationships (and a bit of prealgebra) along the way.

A comment from a friend got me playing around with multiplication. I found a few videos from some of my favorite math people, so I’ll be sharing over the next few days.

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“When students have to drill multiplication facts, it’s frustrating, unproductive and it makes them hate math. A better way to master the multiplication table is work on the skills that allow students to multiply quickly and efficiently.”

Making doubles and halves are a great foundation for all sorts of math.

Do you ever play the doubling game with your children? One player picks a starting number, and then you take turns doubling it until your mental math skills run out. How far can you go?

Or try the halving game: One player chooses a starting number, and you take turns cutting it in half. How tiny can you go?

As Sonya demonstrated, these skills help your child master their multiplication facts. And they are fantastic preparation for exponents and logarithms, too!

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.

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!