New Printable Puzzle Books: Diffy Inception

The best way to practice math is to play with it—to use the patterns and connections between math concepts in your pursuit of something fun or beautiful.

Diffy Inception puzzles have their own symmetric beauty, but mostly they are just plain fun. Students can practice subtraction and look for patterns in the difference layers.

I just published four new activity books to our online store:

Notes to the teacher include puzzle instructions, game variations, journaling prompts, and more. Plus answers for all puzzles.

Available with 8 1/2 by 11 (letter size) or A4 pages.

Click for a Preview

My publishing company runs this online store, so you can find all my playful math books there — including an exclusive pre-publication ebook edition of my newest title, Prealgebra & Geometry: Math Games for Middle School. Click here to browse the Tabletop Academy Press store.

PUFM 1.4 Subtraction

Photo by Martin Thomas via flickr. In this Homeschooling Math with Profound Understanding (PUFM) Series, we are studying Elementary Mathematics for Teachers and applying its lessons to home education.

When adding, we combine two addends to get a sum. For subtraction we are given the sum and one addend and must find the “missing addend”.

— Thomas H. Parker & Scott J. Baldridge
Elementary Mathematics for Teachers

Notice that subtraction is not defined independently of addition. It must be taught along with addition, as an inverse (or mirror-image) operation. The basic question of subtraction is, “What would I have to add to this number, to get that number?”

Inverse operations are a very fundamental idea in mathematics. The inverse of any math operation is whatever will get you back to where you started. In order to fully understand a math operation, you must understand its inverse.

Continue reading PUFM 1.4 Subtraction

Game: Target Number (or 24)

[Photo by stevendepolo.]

Math concepts: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, powers and roots, factorial, mental math, multi-step thinking
Number of players: any number
Equipment: deck of math cards, pencils and scratch paper, timer (optional)

Set Up

All players must agree on a Target Number for the game. Try to choose a number that has several factors, which means there will be a variety of ways to make it. Traditionally, I start my math club students with a target of 24.

Shuffle the deck, and deal four cards face down to each player. (For larger target numbers, such as 48 or 100, deal five or six cards to each player.) The players must leave the cards face down until everyone is ready. Set the remainder of the deck to one side.

Continue reading Game: Target Number (or 24)

Do Your Students Understand Division?

Cheerios by sixes
[I couldn’t find a good picture illustrating “division.” Niner came to my rescue and took this photo of her breakfast.]

I found an interesting question at Mathematics Education Research Blog. In the spirit of Liping Ma’s Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics, Finnish researchers gave this problem to high school students and pre-service teachers:

  • We know that:
    498 \div 6 = 83.
    How could you use this relationship (without using long-division) to discover the answer to:
    491\div6=?
    [No calculators allowed!]

The Finnish researchers concluded that “division seems not to be fully understood.” No surprise there! Check out the pdf report for detailed analysis.

Continue reading Do Your Students Understand Division?

Contig Game: Master Your Math Facts

[Photo by Photo Mojo.]

Yahtzee and other board games provide a modicum of math fact practice. But for intensive, thought-provoking math drill, I can’t think of any game that would beat Contig.

Math concepts: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, order of operations, mental math
Number of players: 2 – 4
Equipment: Contig game board, three 6-sided dice, pencil and scratch paper for keeping score, and bingo chips or wide-tip markers to mark game squares

Set Up

Place the game board and dice between players, and give each player a marker or pile of chips. (Markers do not need to be different colors.) Write the players’ names at the top of the scratch paper to make a score sheet.

Continue reading Contig Game: Master Your Math Facts

30+ Things to Do with a Hundred Chart

[Photo by geishaboy500 (CC BY 2.0).]

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 (also called a hundred board or hundred grid).

My free 50-page PDF Hundred Charts Galore! printables file features 1–100 charts, 0–99 charts, bottom’s-up versions, multiple-chart pages, blank charts, game boards, and more. Everything you need to play the activities below and those in my new 70+ Things to Do with a Hundred Chart book.

Download Free “Hundred Charts Galore!” Printables

Shop for “70+ Things To Do with a Hundred Chart” Book

And now, let’s play…

Continue reading 30+ Things to Do with a Hundred Chart

Hit Me! (A Math Game)

Photo by paparutzi.

Math concepts: addition, subtraction, negative numbers, mental math, absolute value
Number of players: any number
Equipment: math cards (two decks may be needed for a large group)

Set Up

One player (the dealer) shuffles the math cards and deals one card face down for each player, beginning with the player on his left and proceeding in turn around the table. Then he deals one card face up beside each face down card.

Continue reading Hit Me! (A Math Game)

How to Teach Math to a Struggling Student

photo by MC Quinn via flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Paraphrased from a homeschool math discussion forum:

“Help! My daughter struggles with arithmetic. I guess she is like me: just not a math person. She is an outstanding reader. When we do word problems, she usually has no trouble. She’s a whiz at strategy games and beats her dad at chess every time. But numbers — yikes! When we play Yahtzee, she gets lost trying to add up her score. The simple basics of adding and subtracting confuse her.

“Since I find math difficult myself, it’s hard for me to know what she needs. What’s missing to make it click for her? She used to think math was fun and tested well above grade level, but I listened to some well-meaning advice and totally changed the way we were schooling. I switched from using workbooks and games to using Saxon math, and she got extremely frustrated. Now she hates math.”

Continue reading How to Teach Math to a Struggling Student

Subtracting Mixed Numbers: A Cry for Help

Photo by powerbooktrance.

Paraphrased from a homeschool math discussion forum:

“Help me teach fractions! My son can do long subtraction problems that involve borrowing, and he can handle basic fraction math, but problems like 9  -  5 \frac{2}{5} give him a brain freeze. To me, this is an easy problem, but he can’t grasp the concept of borrowing from the whole number. It is even worse when the math book moves on to 10 \frac{1}{4}  -  2 \frac{3}{7} .”

Several homeschooling parents replied to this question, offering advice about various fraction manipulatives that might be used to demonstrate the concept. I am not sure that manipulatives are needed or helpful in this case. The boy seems to have the basic concept of subtraction down, but he gets flustered and is unsure of what to do in the more complicated mixed-number problems.

The mother says, “To me, this is an easy problem” — and that itself is one source of trouble. Too often, we adults (homeschoolers and classroom teachers alike) don’t appreciate how very complicated an operation we are asking our students to perform. A mixed-number calculation like this is an intricate dance that can seem overwhelming to a beginner.

I will go through the calculation one bite at a time, so you can see just how much a student must remember. As you read through the steps, pay attention to your own emotional reaction. Are you starting to feel a bit of brain freeze, too?

Afterward, we’ll discuss how to make the problem simpler…

Continue reading Subtracting Mixed Numbers: A Cry for Help

Nim Revisited

Photo by Sister72.

Dave at MathNotations offers another version of Nim that will give your students something to think about:

[1,2]-3-[4,5]-6-[7,8]…21 Helping Children Devise and Understand Winning Strategies

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