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Multiplication Games and Activities

Traditionally, instruction in multiplication has focused on learning the multiplication facts using flash cards, dittos, workbook pages, and timed tests. However, it is becoming apparent to many that these methods are woefully ineffective, and children continue to struggle to memorize their multiplication tables.

So what can parents and teachers do to help their children/students learn these multiplication facts? The following are some very effective math games and activities that not only work, but are lots of fun! When was the last time you or your children said that about multiplication?!

1. Numbers and equations are far more interesting when they represent real-life specifics. For example, the problem “What is 3 x 4?” can be posed as “If there are 3 pods with 4 whales in each, how many whales are there altogether?” As kids begin to visualize whales swimming through the ocean, the math becomes much more specific, rich, and understandable.

When my granddaughter was in the 3rd grade, we would use travel time in the car to practice our multiplication facts. First, I would make up a problem (7 tricycles, how many wheels?), and she would have to give me the complete equation (7×3=21). And then I would ask, “Why isn’t this a 3×7 problem?” Too many times all we say is 7×3 is the same as 3×7. That can be very confusing.

Then it would be her turn to make up a question (5 cars, how many rear-view mirrors?), and I would have to come up with the entire equation, plus justify why it wasn’t a 3×5 question.
Sometimes we would discuss what might make a good 4×7 question, or a 9×6 question, etc.

The following are just a few of the situations we used:
• 3 weeks – how many days?
• 9 cans – how many round bottoms?
• 12 noses, how many people?
• 5 cows, how many legs?
• 8 sleeves, how many shirts?

2. Play “What Am I?” Say to children “Seven is one of my factors. The sum of my digits is 6. What am I?” (42). Repeat this activity with other numbers.

3. Use a blank multiplication chart. Ask the children to enter the multiplication facts that they are sure of. Then have pairs of students exchange charts and quiz each other on the facts that are on the chart. If a child misses a fact, ask the partner to make a small mark by the fact to indicate that they need to practice it further. Marking missed problems with a highlighter is a strategy that may benefit some students. Keep these multiplication charts around and continue to add to them and test each other.

4. Most children struggle with multiplying by 6, 7, 8, and 9. These are the ones that need the most practice. The following is a way to work on these factors:

Provide students with paper and crayons and ask them to draw six blue vertical lines on the paper. Now ask them to draw four red horizontal lines intersecting the vertical lines. Ask them to circle in purple each place there is an intersection and count the number of intersections. Challenge them to identify what multiplication fact they have just demonstrated. Tell them that in this model, the number of rows is given first. [4 ×6 = 24.] Ask them to turn their papers a quarter turn and name the multiplication fact now modeled. [6 ×4 = 24.]

Encourage them to generate other facts where one factor is 6, including 6 × 0 and 6 × 1.

Repeat with 7 as a factor.

It may be helpful for students to visualize the vertical lines as city streets, the horizontal lines as roads, and the intersections as marking where a stoplight is needed.

5. Distribute index cards to each pair and ask each student to make a set of 10 cards numbered 0 to 9, one to a card. When they have finished, ask them to shuffle the two decks together and stack them face down. Tell them to take turns turning over the top card, multiplying the number drawn by 6 and then saying the product. As each card is used, it should be returned to the bottom of the deck. Give students time to play, and then ask the class to skip count in unison by 6. Encourage them to do so without looking at the game board.

Repeat for 7 as a factor.

6. Number Drawings – great for helping to memorize skip counting!

What you need:
paper, pencil, and crayons

Give each child a blank piece of white paper. Tell the children that today they are going to be skip counting by 4’s to 40 and each of them would be making their own unique drawing.

Tell them they are going to start by putting the number 4 anywhere on their paper and putting a little dot beside it. The object is to scatter the numbers all over the page. Now what number comes next if we are skipcounting by 4’s? Keep going until you reach 40.

Now connect the dots starting at 4, going to 8, and so on. When you reach 40, connect it back to 4.

Now color the inside of your drawing.

Make a Number drawing for 2’s, 3’s, 4’s, 5’s, 6’s, 7’s, 8’s, 9’s, 10’s, 11’s, 12’s and so on.

7. Play a game.

Rectangles

What you need:
2 players
2 dice
12×12 grid or graph paper for each player
pencils and crayons

During a series of rounds, players toss the two dice that determine the length and width of rectangles that are constructed on 12×12 grid or graph paper. Points are scored by finding the areas of the rectangles.

Players take turns. During a turn, a player tosses the dice and constructs a rectangle by making its length on a horizontal line on the graph paper according to the number thrown on one die, and marking its height according to the number thrown on the other die. The player then outlines the entire rectangle, writes the equation within the rectangle, lightly colors it in, and calculates his score by determining the number of squares within the rectangle.

The rules for placing rectangles are as follows:
• All rectangles must be placed entirely within the graph.
• The edges of rectangles may touch (but do not have to).
• Rectangles may not overlap each other.
• No rectangle may be placed within another rectangle.

Players drop out of the game and calculate their cumulative score when their throw of the dice gives them a rectangle that will not fit on their graph. The game ends when all players have dropped out. The player with the highest score wins.

Kids Who Love Math Homework!

This school year Faleycia Moore is spending more time on her math homework than her teacher demands. Sound unbelievable? Does this ever happen at your house? What’s going on?
Her assignment is: Spend at least half-hour playing math games on an iPod Touch.

Searching for a way to help students who scored below grade level on the math portion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test last year, Faleycia’s school in Clearwater decided to experiment with the iPod Touch.

Is it working? There has been a noticeable improvement in such things as students’ comprehension of multiplication tables. Kids are willingly spending two hours a night on math homework.

Is it the use of technology or the use of math games that is making the difference? Undoubtedly it is some of both.

There is no doubt in my mind that, as the Internet continues to play a larger role in education, a growing number of online sites will host free math games, most of which are challenging, exciting, fun, and age-appropriate. That’s all well and good.

But above all else, children crave time spent with their parents. Because learning is a social process, children learn best through fun games and activities that involve interaction with other people.

Stanley Greenspan, M.D., a clinical professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at George Washington University School of Medicine and author of many influential parenting books, says playing games with parents helps children develop the social skills necessary for getting along with others and is core to their healthy development.

“When you play games with your children”, Greenspan says, “you’re not only connecting and engaging, you’re exchanging back- and-forth emotional signals, which are helping the child regulate mood and behavior, learning to read social signals and learning to communicate. Each of these abilities contributes to a child’s sense of security.”

Seize this opportunity to teach them your values, and indulge them with your own undivided attention. Try a math game with your kids. A price cannot be put on the quality of the time you will have spent with your children. They will have fun while learning, and they will remember those times with greater fondness than the times they spent playing the educational computer game.

And lastly but of great importance, among the obvious benefits of sitting down and playing a good game with your children is the opportunity that games provide to apply and solidify the mathematical reasoning and calculating skills your children are learning in school. When children play on-line or video games, parents may know how the child scores, but do they know where they made mistakes and why? Playing games with your child offers you, as a parent, a greater opportunity to know what your child’s strengths and weaknesses in mathematics are.

Playful Ways to Help Your Child Learn Math

A parent’s involvement in a child’s education is the single most important factor in that child’s academic success. The single most important factor. Decades of educational research tells us that an involved parent contributes overwhelmingly to his/her child’s grades and test scores, school attendance and quality of homework, positive attitudes and behavior at school, likelihood of graduation, and desire to enroll in higher education. In many ways, as I’ll describe, you’re the essence of your child’s education; you’ve got the power!

Don’t Laugh – That’s Math
by Judith A. Zaino

Many times I’ve heard a parent say,
“I can help my child in any way,
But don’t laugh –
I can’t do math”.
I think for a minute before I say,
Let’s look at this another way.
Have you ever said, “Wait a minute:
Here’s a box with four things in it,
Let’s take turns; you first then me”,
Helped your child count branches on a tree?
Then you’re on the right path.
Don’t laugh – that’s math!
Have you taught your child left and right?
Counted her toes in bed at night?
Repeated his favorite nursery rhyme?
Said good night just one more time?
Have you ever split a cookie right in half?
Formed a pattern on a snowy path?
Well, don’t laugh – that’s math!
Have you ever played a game?
Measured for a picture frame?
Have you cut chains for your Christmas tree?
Noticed a butterfly’s wings have symmetry?
Did you ever check the miles into town?
Have you counted stairs both up and down?
Did you ever measure to see how tall?
Find the weight of her favorite doll?
Well, don’t laugh – that’s math!
Math can be seen in everything,
Even in the songs we sing.
Math isn’t just adding and subtracting,
multiplying, dividing, or even protracting.
Math exists all around us;
We didn’t find it – it found us!
Now remember, when this little poem is done,
If it has given you a small fraction of fun,
Don’t laugh – that’s math!

Family involvement is an essential element for a child’s success in mathematics and school. You are one of your child’s most valuable resources.

Math is all around us. The following math games and activities are just a few of the things you can do with your children which will nurture their mathematical development while being just plain fun!

• Count, count, and count! Young children love to count and will count everything and anything. Encourage your child to count out loud the number of steps climbed, spoons in the silverware drawer, french fries in her kids’ meal, buttons on all her shirts, etc.

• Practice classifying by separating toys into sets, such as things with wheels, things that have red on them, things that have numbers or words on them, things that roll, etc. Ask questions related to size or quantity: Which is larger? Which is largest? Which is smaller? Which is smallest? Do you have more dolls or more animals? Are their fewer dogs or fewer cats?

• Find two and three-dimensional geometric shapes, such as circles and spheres.

• Let your child help set the table. Fold napkins as rectangles one day, then as triangles the next. Find the number of legs on the chairs and table needed for everyone to eat.

• Let your child sort the laundry. Before washing, have your child sort the piles by colors or by family members. How many zippers? How many buttons? Are there more buttons or more zippers?

• Practice counting and making change. Ask your child to help you figure out how much money you have in your pocket or purse. Sort the coins. Let your child pick out the paper money and change needed when making a purchase, and have your child tell you how much change you should get back.

• Use sharing to reinforce division concepts and fraction skills. How many cookies will each child get if two children need to share 8 cookies? How many cookies will each child get if two children share 5 cookies? How can we cut the birthday cake so we can feed at least twenty people?

• Incorporate measuring during everyday activities, such as cooking, gardening, crafts, or home-improvement projects. Practice measuring things with a ruler, yardstick, tape measure, measuring cups, and scale.

• Use the kitchen to reinforce mathematics concepts and skills. Your child can practice sorting by helping put the groceries away and can practice measuring ingredients by helping cook meals, bake cookies, etc. Measuring cups are great for the sandbox or beach, too! Older children can determine how to adjust the ingredients to halve or double the recipe. After meals, your child can practice spatial reasoning skills by determining the appropriate size of containers to use for leftovers.

• Numbers are all around us! Look for numbers in the environment (e.g., addresses, sports statistics, weather forecasts, license plates, prices), and talk about what they mean and how they are used.

• Keep charts or graphs to help your child organize information and keep track of data. A child who is saving his/her allowance to buy an item might create a chart or graph to show how much he/she can save.

• Open a savings account. Work with your child to keep track of deposits, withdrawals, and interest and to compare this record with the monthly bank statement.

• Encourage a child who is a sports enthusiast to keep track of scores and statistics.

The following are two great games for young children:

Speed!

What you need:
Each player requires their own full deck of cards.

Each player holds their deck of cards until the parent says “Go”. Each player then proceeds to sort the complete deck into piles according to the same numbers as quickly as possible.

Piles MUST be put into consecutive order from smallest to greatest value. The first player to sort all their cards accordingly wins.
Play this one over and over again!

Blast Off!
What you need:
2 players
2 dice
1 set of cards 1-10 for each player

Each player arranges their cards in front of themselves in order:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

Each player must get rid of their cards in sequence starting with the 10 and going down. Players must first roll a 10, then 9, etc.

Player #1 rolls the dice. Players have two rolls per turn. If player #1 does not roll a 10 in his/her 2 rolls, he/she loses the turn.

Player #2 does the same.

The first player to eliminate their cards in sequence, and is left with only the 1 is the winner.

Mathematics Learning in Early Childhood

You’re never too young to start learning, and now one school program teaches the basics of math to toddlers.

And just what, exactly, is at the heart of this effort at a Corpus Christi school? Math games!

Do young children naturally engage in mathematical thinking and learning before they begin mathematics instruction in Kindergarten? From a developmental point of view, is there really any point in trying to foster mathematical thinking and learning in the preschool years?

Research over the last twenty-five years suggests that preschoolers engage in all sorts of everyday activities that involve mathematics, and as a result, develop a considerable body of informal knowledge.

Young children have an inherent need to make sense of the world and master it. They have an intrinsic desire to search for patterns, explanations, and solutions.

Use math games to prompt interest and development. Play is one of the most important ways children learn about their world and master skills for coping with it. Games are a particularly useful form of play that help children develop mathematical concepts and reasoning and practice basic mathematical skills. In addition to being challenging, interesting, and enjoyable for children, games provide a means for structuring experiences to meet children’s development needs.

Games can also serve as an invaluable diagnostic tool. By observing a child playing a particular game, parents and early childhood educators can detect specific strengths and weaknesses in mathematical concepts, reasoning, and skills.

The Kindergarten games manual has many games appropriate for preschoolers.

Kids and Addition and Subtraction

If you are a first or second grade teacher or the parent of a first or second grader, you have undoubtedly observed that children find addition easier and more natural than subtraction. Children struggle with subtraction even when they learn “fact families” (1+3=4, 3+1=4, 4-1=3, 4-3=1) that ostensibly help them understand the relationship between addition and subtraction.

Given that children continue to find subtraction difficult despite the use of time-honored practices, I suggest that teachers and parents de-emphasize fluency in subtraction until their children become fluent in addition. Once children’s knowledge of a sum is solid, the related subtraction is easy for them. In other words, fluency in subtraction is dependent on fluency in addition.

The educational implication is that teachers and parents must de-emphasize fluency in subtraction in grades one and two and heavily emphasize addition. Permit children to learn sums first and then deduce differences from their knowledge of sums.

It is imperative that children have, in long-term memory, all the combinations of numbers up to and including 10.

Example: Students need to know all the combinations of 9 – 0+9, 1+8, 2+7, 3+6, 4+5, 5+4, 4+5, 3+6, 7+2, 8+1, 9+0

There is an easy and fun way to get children fluent in addition – math games! Children are intrinsically motivated to play games and to play them well. If they learn arithmetic in the process, they learn it for their own use. When teachers or parents instruct children to complete worksheets or pressure them to do well on timed tests, the children’s motivation to learn comes from external sources, and workbook pages, dittos, and timed tests aren’t nearly as much fun!

Here’s one of my favorite math games for first graders and second graders:

Add-em Up
What you need:
2 players
2 dice
counters
Add-em Up game board for each player – take a piece of 8 1/2 x 11 paper and cut it in half horizontally. Write the numbers 1 through 12 at the bottom of each paper.

Players place a counter above each number.

Player #1 rolls the dice and adds the 2 numbers. He/she may then remove the counter over the sum from the game board or the counters over any 2 numbers that add up to that same sum.

Example: Player #1 rolls a 3 and a 4. He/she may remove the
counter above the 7 or the counters above any
combination for 7, such as 1 & 6, or 2 & 5, or 3 & 4.

Players take turns rolling the dice and removing counters. When a player cannot remove counters that match the sum rolled or a combination, he/she loses that turn.

Play continues until neither player can remove counters. The player with the most counters removed wins.

Fostering Your Child’s Success in Math

What does math mean to you? Do you remember math as a bunch of rules to memorize, concepts that did not make sense, and assignments unconnected with everyday life?

Regardless of your own experiences, you play an important role in your child’s attitude toward, and success with, math. A strong mathematical background is essential for every child’s future. A solid mathematics education is essential for an informed public, our national security, a strong economy, and national well-being. Mastering challenging mathematics is not just a classroom skill – it’s a life skill.

The following is a National Council of Teachers of Mathematics’ list of what families can do to help their children succeed in and enjoy math:

1. Be positive! If you have a negative attitude about math, chances are your child will, too. Help your child have a “can do” attitude by praising your child’s efforts as well as his/her accomplishments. Acknowledge the fact that math can be challenging at times and that persistence and hard work are the keys to success.

2. Link math with daily life. Every day, people face situations that involve math, such as deciding whether one has enough money to purchase a list of items at the store, reading a map to find out where one is, building a budget, deciding on the shortest route to a destination, developing a schedule, or determining the price of an item on sale. Help your child realize that math is a significant part of everyday life.

3. Make math fun. Play math games, solve puzzles, and ponder brain teasers with your child.

4. Have high expectations. You would not expect your child not to read; similarly, you should not expect your child not to do math. Your attitude and expectations are crucial to influlencing the future opportunities for your child.

5. Support homework, don’t do it! Homework is an area that can cause trouble in many households. Relax, and remember whose homework it is. If you take over doing homework for your child, you encourage him/her to easily give up or seek help when working on a challenging problem.

Playing Math Games with Children

Question most adults about what it would take to get kids hooked on math, and many would ask, “Is that possible?”

As a veteran elementary teacher, I know that kids can get hooked on math at an early age, and if you miss that window, it’s harder to get them into it later.

What can parents and teachers of young children do to get their children excited about math? Well, you could buy a $200. program. Or you could buy a deck of cards, a couple of dice, and/or some board games and begin to play math games. I can guarantee that the latter will be a lot less expensive and a great deal more engaging.

I tried to teach my child with books.
He only gave me puzzled looks.
I tried to teach my child with words.
They passed him by, unheard.
In despair I turned aside.
“How will I teach my child?” I cried.
Into my hand he put the key…
“Come” he said, “and play with me”.
Unknown

The Importance of Play
There are many math games and activities that have a great deal to do with having fun as you learn. One of the things we positively know about children (and adults) is that if pleasure is not a part of what you are doing, you will not be willing to do it very much or for very long.

Many parents regard play as rather trivial in the lives of their young children and would much rather see their kids get involved in “educational” activities. To parents, it often seems that all children do is play! They play until they are five or six, then they go off to school and start to learn. They play until they are big enough to really begin to do things.

The act of playing is an important tool that influences a child’s life. The primary goals of childhood are to grow, learn, and play. It is often through play that children learn to make sense of the world around them. It is a child’s “job” to play to develop physical coordination, emotional maturity, social skills to interact with others, and self-confidence to try new experiences and explore new environments.

Play to a child IS learning! They learn to play and play to learn. Play is terribly important to a child. It is not a distraction. It’s not something they do to take up time. It’s a child’s life.

So, begin to “play” with your child. Playing math games is a wonderful way to learn as you play.

A Math Game for Third Graders

Math games are a highly effective and engaging way to get students involved in practicing basic math skills. The following double-digit addition math game is great for second graders, third graders, and fourth graders. It not only addresses addition but forces students to look at the importance of place value.

Get Close to 100

What you need:
2 – 4 players
deck of cards, 10s and face cards removed
paper and pencils for each player

The object of the game is to make a two-digit addition problem that comes as close to 100 as possible.

Shuffle cards and place them face down in a pile.

Player #1 turns over 4 cards and moves the cards around until he/she has created a problem whose sum will be as close to 100 as he/she can make it. Player #1 records this problem on his/her paper.

Player #2 checks for addition accuracy.

Example: Player #1 draws a 4, a 7, a 2, and a 5. He/she moves the cards around until she/he decides that 47 + 52 = 99 is the closest that he/she can get.

Player # 2 draws four cards and does the same.

The points for each round are the difference between their sum and 100.
Example: A sum of 95 scores 5 points and so does a sum of 105.

Players compare scores at the end of this first round. They put their four cards in a discard pile and player #2 begins first and turns over four more cards for the second round.

After six rounds, players total their points and the player with the lowest score wins.

Variation: Make this a triple-digit addition game called Get Close to 1000! by drawing 6 cards and creating two triple-digit numbers which when added together, get as close to 1000 as possible.

Real-Life Math in Elementary School and Beyond

Elementary school students in three of Kingsport, Tennessee’s four high school zones took some weekend time this school year to learn practical, hands-on applications of math in the “real world”.

My question is, why isn’t their regular, everyday math curriculum talking about math in the “real world”?

Many educators contend that children must go beyond memorizing rules—they need to know when and how to apply the rules in real-world situations. Many also argue that realistic problems can serve as a powerful motivator in the mathematics classroom. They go on to conclude that the curriculum should consist of real-world problems because students will naturally learn mathematics by solving such problems.

The basics are changing. Arithmetic skills, although important, are no longer enough. To succeed in tomorrow’s world, students must understand algebra, geometry, statistics, and probability. Business and industry demand workers who can-

solve real world problems

explain their thinking to others

identify and analyze trends from data, and

use modern technology.

The mathematics students do in school should prepare them for the new basic skills necessary for their futures.

Instead of problems done with no context using worksheets, dittos, and workbook pages, students should be working on problems to investigate that are related to real life, such as investigating salaries, life expectancy, and fair decisions, for example.

Giving students opportunities to learn real math maximizes their future options.

Using money, counting change, etc. is a real-life skill that children need to learn. Play the following game with your second graders, third graders, and fourth graders.

Money Race

What you need:
2 players
1 die
pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters
sturdy paper plate for “bank”

The following coins (which equal $1.00) are placed in the “Bank” between the two players. A paper plate makes a great bank.

10 pennies, 5 nickels, 4 dimes, and 1 quarter

Each player also takes the same combination of coins for a total of $1.00.

Money Legend:
1 – subtract a penny and put it in the bank
2 – subtract a nickel or 5 pennies and put it in the bank
3 – subtract a dime or a combination of coins that equals 10 cents
and put it in the bank
4 – subtract a quarter or a combination of coins that equals
25 cents and put it in the bank
5 & 6 – choose any one coin from the bank

Player #1 rolls the die and either adds or subtracts the appropriate coins.

Player #2 does the same.

Play continues in this manner until both players have completed 10 rolls. Players total their own coins. The player with the greatest amount wins.

Teaching Young Children About Money

There are many math games and activities that help children learn about money.

Helping your child learn the value of coins is a real-life skill that can be taught and learned easily if you use the following activities which are educational and fun:

Free Exploration

Give your child a small tub of real coins and allow him/her time to explore. This might be a good time for you to watch your child and note what is happening. Does he/she already know the names of each coin? Does he/she know the values? Do they notice likenesses and differences? Do they sort the coins? Make patterns (i.e. penny, nickel, penny, nickel, or dime, dime, quarter, dime, dime, quarter)?

Alike and Different with a Magnifying Lens

Children need to be able to identify coins before they can learn their values. This activity gives children the opportunity to examine pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters closely and think about what things are the same and different among them. Noticing likenesses and differences is important in math and reading for young learners.

You will need a magnifying lens and 1 penny, 1 nickel, 1 dime, and 1 quarter.

Allow your child to experiment with the magnifying lens first.

Begin with the penny. Have your child look at it closely and tell you what he/she notices. I usually start with the heads side. Identify the year and place the coin was minted, the other words on the coin, and so on. Then look at the tails side. Don’t forget to examine the edges. You might want to have them cut out a large circle and draw pictures of both sides of the penny.

Look closely at each coin in turn, noting how they are alike and different. You might take a blank piece of paper and draw a vertical line down the center, dividing the paper into two columns. List Alike at the top of the first column and Different at the top of the second column. Begin to write about what you discover. Some things appear on every coin; some do not.

Talk about size and value. This can be confusing for young children because the nickel is larger than the dime but worth less.

What Are the Coins?

You’ll need some coins for your child to use to solve the problems.

Ask your child the following questions:

I have three coins in my pocket. They are worth 7 cents. What do I have? (a nickel and 2 pennies)

I have three coins in my pocket. They are worth 16 cents. What do I have? (a dime, a nickel, a penny)

I have three coins in my pocket. They are worth 11 cents. What do I have? (2 nickels and 1 penny)

I have three coins in my pockets. They are worth 30 cents. What do I have? (3 dimes)

I have six coins in my pocket. They are worth 30 cents. What could I have? (1 quarter and 5 pennies or 6 nickels). This problem has more than one answer. It is challenging for children to experience problems like this.

I have coins in my pocket, which have a value of 11 cents. How many coins could I have?

Teachers – these activities can be used successfully in the classroom, and I think the secret to their success is using real coins.

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