With much of the world sheltering in place, I thought now might be a good time to blog about working on math during the downtime. These ideas also work during summer vacation…and throughout the year.
Show Your Child Math Around the House
Look for simple ways to show your children math concepts in action around the house. Here are a few ideas.
- Baking can use fractions—including multiplying them if you halve or double a recipe.
- Many games use basic counting and number skills—especially if you have your child be the score keeper or banker. They can also provide an opportunity to talk about probability with older students.
- Finance skills can be taught by using the down time to show your child how you keep a budget or balance a checkbook.
- Crafting uses various math skills. Making cards, sewing, woodworking, etc., involves working with fractions in measuring out the materials.
- Music involves fractions; after all, we use quarter notes, half notes, etc.!
For more ideas of how to reinforce arithmetic concepts, take a look at Revealing Arithmetic. It explains how to look at each concept biblically (and why different methods work!), offering many practical real-life ideas (along with a few worksheets) you could use with your children to show them the concept in action. Many of these ideas (such as designing and using an abacus) would make great (and fun!) shelter-in-place activities.
Use Worksheets for Trouble Areas
I’m cautious about publishing a list of drill worksheets, as while drill worksheets have their place, there’s a problem if math becomes only about fact memorization or drills. Students need to see why they’re learning what they’re learning and have opportunities to really apply the concepts they study outside a textbook! Drill worksheets are like scales and technique exercises in music. They help students master a skill, but they’re not a song. And just like most students would hate practicing music if all they played were technical exercises without any songs, so most students will hate math if all they do are drill worksheets.
Nevertheless, math drills serve their place. Some students need extra reinforcement on specific problem areas. (Although make sure they really understand the concept before throwing too much drill at them; sometimes students struggle to remember because they don’t really understand why the method works or why they need to learn it.) With that in mind, here are some internet resources for printing out worksheets.
- Math on the Level ($5 monthly or $35 yearly fee) – Developed by a friend specifically with homeschoolers in mind, 5-a-Day-Review Online Essentials will custom generate problems based on your choices of skills that need tested. A list of the concepts it covers can be found here. While designed to go alongside the math program the company sells, the software would really work for any elementary through pre-algebra program. The beauty of this program is that it lets you pick different skills—you can review fractions, finding the area, and addition all in one worksheet, for example—and specify exactly what aspect of each to review! And the software will often be able to combine concepts into one problem, meaning your students can keep more skills fresh in their minds without a ton of busywork. Easily customize a completely tailored worksheet–and print out the answer key too!
- IXL Math – I appreciate how this site is organized. You can find problems by topic or by grade (spanning all the way from pre-K to calculus!). Rather than worksheets to print, these are online interactive problems; if a student gets one wrong, the system will tell them (and explain why).
- Worksheet Works – Worksheet Works offers a variety of slightly customizable worksheets on a variety of topics. Note that some worksheets require a $14.95/year membership.
- Math Drills – Math Drills offers just what the name implies: math drills. These are a bunch of free, old-fashioned printable drill sheets. There does not appear to be a way to customize them, so it may take you a bit longer to find what you need—and you might not need to have your child complete the whole sheet (depending on how many problems you felt they really needed to solve).
Again, please remember to use drills like you would technical exercises—in small doses to help strengthen skills, not as your main teaching device. Please see the first section above for ideas on actually helping students see why they should bother mastering math’s mechanics. If all students see are the mechanics, they’re completely missing out on understanding math as a way of describing God’s creation and a real-life tool they can use to serve Him. And, to return to the music illustration, they might just decide they hate math, only because they’ve only seen the “exercise” part of math without ever getting to “play a song.”
Have a favorite math worksheet site? Did you try out one of these sites? Have you found other ways to reinforce math during this down time? Please share in the comments!
And please join me for a free webinar on Math from a Biblical Worldview? next Tuesday! Learn more/register now here.