Notice, Wonder, Create

Many homeschooling parents dream of a mathematical magic bullet — a game, app, or book that will help their children learn math and enjoy it.

As in life, so also in math, there is no magic solution.

Do you want your children to learn math and enjoy it? Teach them to be Math Makers.

When they create their own math, students build deep, personal connections to math concepts. They think about the relationships between numbers, shapes, and patterns. Math becomes personal.

Toys, hobbies, favorite stories — all can be fodder for math creation.

Where Do Math Makers Get Ideas?

Let the child choose something to think about.

Make an “I Notice” list. How does that item relate to math? What patterns or shapes can you see?

Or how would the story characters use numbers in their daily lives? Would they cook, or go shopping? Might they build something? Would they decorate it with a design? What would they count or measure?

Make an “I Wonder” list. How many different ways might you turn the things you noticed into questions? What else might you ask?

Then turn one of your noticings or wonderings into a math story, poem, puzzle, drawing, or game. Create your own math. Share your creation with family and friends.

Now Get Published

Join the Student Math Makers team. We’d love to add your math creation to our collection and share it with viewers all around the world!

Download a Math Makers Invitation and Submission Form below:

CREDITS: Feature photo (top) by MI PHAM via Unsplash.com.

Math Makers: Write a Poem

Last week, I mentioned my new project, the Student Math Makers Gallery where children and teens can share their original math creations with the world.

So this week, I’m offering inspiration to get your children’s creative juices flowing.

Let’s Write Math Poetry

April is National Poetry Month, and it’s also Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month.

What better way to celebrate than writing math poetry?

  • Write a poem about a math concept or idea, using your favorite style of verse.
  • Or write a poem about any subject, using a mathematical constraint.
  • Or both: write a poem about math, constrained by math.

Here are some examples…

Continue reading Math Makers: Write a Poem

New! Your Student Can Be a Math Maker

When children create their own math, they build a deep understanding of mathematical concepts and relationships.

And it’s fun!

So take a break from your normal math program to play with creative math. Students can:

Check Out the Gallery

We have a few entries already in the Student Math Makers Gallery.

Click Here To Visit the Gallery

Join the Student Math Makers

We’d love to add your students’ math to our collection and share it with viewers all around the world!

To submit a math creation, download a Math Makers Invitation and Submission Form below:

CREDITS: “Creating Math Puzzles by Sian Zelbo, the author of Camp Logic, via NaturalMath.com.

Math Puzzle from the Ancient Kingdom of Cats

It may look like Cimorene has lain down on the job, but don’t be fooled! She’s hard at work, creating a math investigation for your students to explore.

Cats know how important it can be for students to experiment with math and try new things. Playing with ideas is how kittens (and humans!) learn.

Cimorene wants you to know that the Make 100 Math Rebels Kickstarter offers a great way for human children to learn math through play. She encourages you to go watch the video and read all about the project:

Make 100 Math Rebels Kickstarter

Too often, school math can seem stiff and rigid. To children, it can feel like “Do what I say, whether it makes sense or not.” But cats know that kids are like kittens — they can make sense of ideas just fine if we give them time to play around.

Continue reading Math Puzzle from the Ancient Kingdom of Cats

Math Journals: Save the Cat!

Puck is concerned that some people don’t understand the idea behind the Math Rebel journals. He decided to create a journaling prompt so your children can experience the joy of creative reasoning (and save cats from their mortal enemy!)

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.

Many people know it’s important for students to do hands-on experiments in science. But Puck realized that most adults don’t know how to do a math experiment.

So Puck created this Cat Escape puzzle…

Continue reading Math Journals: Save the Cat!

Math Journals and Creative Reasoning

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.

Make 100 Math Rebels

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.

Puzzle from the free Math Rebel Sampler.

Continue reading Math Journals and Creative Reasoning

A New Resource for Playful Math

Are you looking for new ways to explore math with your kids?

Would you like an easy, no-prep resource for creative problem-solving, number play, math art, word problems, mini-essays, brainteasers, patterns, research projects, and much more?

Check out the Make 100 Math Rebels Kickstarter project, which just might transform your child’s experience of math.

What Is a Math Rebel?

Math rebels believe in Truth. We refuse to accept something just because the teacher or textbook says it. We want to see the connections between math concepts and to understand why things work.

Math rebels care about Justice. We resist society’s push for speed and conformity. We reject the cultural narrative that math has only One Right Answer.

Math rebels celebrate Creative Reasoning. We delight in finding new ways to look at math topics. We want to think deeply about ideas, and we are confident in our ability to figure things out.

Launch your family’s math rebellion today with my free printable PDF booklet, “How To Be a Math Rebel,” available only on the Make 100 Math Rebels Kickstarter page.

Here’s the link again:

Make 100 Math Rebels on Kickstarter

If you like what you see, I’d love to have your support. The more people we can get backing the project in the early days, the more likely Kickstarter will promote it to new readers.

Math Journals for Kids and Adults

Journaling is a fantastic way to learn and remember any topic — including math. That’s why I created my dot grid journals for kids and adults.

But I just discovered that my printer hates journals and blank books. They refuse to publish them any more.

How frustrating!

So from now on, you can only get my math journals from Amazon. The largest-river-in-the-world store doesn’t mind dot grid pages (so far).

Silver Lining: Because the books aren’t available to regular bookstores, I don’t have to allow for the traditional bookstore discount. Which means I can cut the prices. By a LOT — the new prices are 30% off the original cost of the books!

Continue reading Math Journals for Kids and Adults

Journaling Pages

This afternoon, I’ve been working on the printable pdf math activity booklets I’ll be sending out as stretch goals to the backers of my Math You Can Play Kickstarter campaign.

Some of the booklets include dot grid pages for student journaling.

I love dot grid pages for writing because I can start a line anywhere on the page, and the dots help me keep things in line. (They’re also great for doodling.)

As students wrestle their thoughts into shape and create explanations, they do the same sort of work that mathematicians do every day. It’s difficult for children (or anyone) to pin down a thought and put it into words. But it’s great practice for life.

Journaling is a great practice for adult learners, too — and don’t we all want to be lifelong learners?

So I thought I’d share the journaling pages with you all, in case you’d like to get your children writing about math. There are three styles, ranging from plain to ornate parchment. Enjoy!

Download the Journaling Pages

UPDATE: The Kickstarter deals have ended, but my playful math books are still available through your favorite online store or by special order at your local bookshop. (Except for the Prealgebra & Geometry Games book, scheduled for publication in early 2021. Sign up for my email list to get the latest news.)

Math Journals for Elementary and Middle School

This fall, my homeschool co-op math class will play with math journaling.

But my earlier dot-grid notebooks were designed for adults. Too thick, too many pages. And the half-cm dot grid made lines too narrow for young writers.

So I created a new series of paperback dot-grid journals for my elementary and middle school students.

I hope you enjoy them, too!

Click here for more information

Math Journaling Prompts

So, what can your kids do with a math journal?

Here are a few ideas: 

I’m sure we’ll use several of these activities in my homeschool co-op math class this fall.

Noticing and Wondering

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 problems and persevere in figuring them out.

Help your children learn to see with mathematical eyes, noticing and wondering about math problems.

Whenever your children need to learn a new idea in math, or whenever they get stuck on a tough homework problem, that’s a good time to step back and make sense of the math.

Kids can write their noticings and wonderings in the math journal. Or you can act as the scribe, writing down (without comment) everything child says.

For more tips on teaching students to brainstorm about math, check out these online resources from The Math Forum:

Problem-solving is a habit of mind that you and your children can learn and grow in. Help your kids practice slowing down and taking the time to fully understand a problem situation.

Puzzles Are Math Experiments

Almost anything your child notices or wonders can lead to a math experiment.

For example, one day my daughter played an online math game…

a math experiment
Click the image to read about my daughter’s math experiment.

A math journal can be like a science lab book. Not the pre-digested, fill-in-the-blank lab books that some curricula provide. But the real lab books that scientists write to keep track of their data, and what they’ve tried so far, and what went wrong, and what finally worked.

Here are a few open-ended math experiments you might try:

Explore Shapes
  • Pick out a 3×3 set of dots. How many different shapes can you make by connecting those dots? Which shapes have symmetry? Which ones do you like the best?
  • What if you make shapes on isometric grid paper? How many different ways can you connect those dots?
  • Limit your investigation to a specific type of shape. How many different triangles can you make on a 3×3 set of dots? How many different quadrilaterals? What if you used a bigger set of dots?
Explore Angles

  • On your grid paper, let one dot “hold hands” with two others. How many different angles can you make? Can you figure out their degree without measuring?
  • Are there any angles you can’t make on your dot grid? If your paper extended forever, would there be any angles you couldn’t make?
  • Does it make a difference whether you try the angle experiments on square or isometric grid paper?
Explore Squares
  • How many different squares can you draw on your grid paper? (Don’t forget the squares that sit on a slant!) How can you be sure that they are perfectly square?
  • Number the rows and columns of dots. Can you find a pattern in the corner positions for your squares? If someone drew a secret square, what’s the minimum information you would need to duplicate it?
  • Does it make a difference whether you try the square experiments on square or isometric grid paper?

Or Try Some Math Doodles

Create math art. Check out my math doodling collection on Pinterest and my Dot Grid Doodling blog post. Can you draw an impossible shape?

How Would YOU Use a Math Journal?

I’d love to hear your favorite math explorations or journaling tips!

Please share in the comments section below.

P.S.: Do you have a blog? If you’d like to feature a math journal review and giveaway, I’ll provide the prize. Send a message through my contact form or leave a comment below, and we’ll work out the details.