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Summer Math for the Fun of It!

Summer is coming. What are you going to do to keep your child’s math skills from losing ground? Research has shown that there is clearly a case for use it or lose it with math. Teachers know that students return to school in the fall with a 1 to 2 month loss in math skills. Not good, and definitely not necessary.

Carrie Launius, a veteran teacher, has this to say in her article titled, “Keeping Kids Busy During Summer”, “Card games like solitaire are very good for kids to practice mental math and math thinking as well as Gin, Rummy, or Spades”.

It is essential that, over the summer vacation, parents create active and memorable learning experiences for their children in math. “Children learn more effectively when information is presented through the use of active learning experiences instead of passive ones”, reports Marilyn Curtian-Phillps, M. Ed.

Parents often get caught up in having their child do workbook pages from some expensive book that they order or buy from a teacher store. Just give them authentic, real world experiences where learning can take place naturally. Math games are much more appropriate and engaging than workbooks, dittos, or even flashcards.

Children throw themselves into playing games the way they never throw themselves into filling out workbook pages or dittos. And games can help children learn almost everything they need to master in elementary math. Good, child-centered games are designed to take the boredom and frustration out of the repetitive practice necessary for children to master important math skills and concepts.

Playing math games is even more beneficial than spending the same amount of time drilling basic facts using flash cards. Not only are games a lot more fun, but the potential for learning and reasoning about mathematics is much greater, as well. In a non-threatening game format, children will be more focused and retention will be greater.

Math games for kids and families are the perfect way to reinforce, sharpen, and extend math skills over the summer. They are one of the most effective ways that parents can develop their child’s math skills without lecturing or applying pressure. When studying math, there’s an element of repetition that’s an important part of learning new concepts and developing automatic recall of math facts. Number facts (remember those times tables?) can be boring and tedious to learn and practice. A game can generate an enormous amount of practice – practice that does not have kids complaining about how much work they are having to do. What better way can there be than an interesting game as a way of mastering them?

Here’s an example of a great game for children who need to sharpen their multiplication skills:

Salute Multiplication

What you need:
2 players
deck of cards, face cards removed

Shuffle deck and place face down in a pile.

Player #1 turns over the top card and places it face up on the table for all to see.

Player #2 draws a card and does not look at it. Player 2 holds the card above his or her eyes so that player #1 can see it, but he can’t.

Player #1 multiplies the 2 cards mentally and says the product out loud.

Player #2 listens and decides what his or her card must be and says that number out loud.

Example: Player #1 turns over a 6 for all to see. Without looking at it,
player #2 puts a 4 on his forehead. Player #1 mentally
multiplies 6 x 4 and says, “24”. Player #2 must figure out
6 x ? = 24.

Both players decide if the response is correct. If it is, player #1 gets 1 point.

Players reverse roles and play continues until one player has 10 points.

Math Games and At-Risk Kids

As an elementary mathematics specialist, I work in K-6 classrooms all the time. Time after time teachers ask the same question, “How do I help floundering students who lack basic math skills?” In every class there are a handful of students who are at risk of failure in math.

What can be done for such students? How can we help children be proficient at the basic skills.

Struggling math students typically need a great deal of practice. Math games can be an effective way to stimulate student practice.

First graders and second graders need to have the addition facts to 10 in long-term memory. When they hear 6+4, they immediately know (without counting fingers) that the answer is 10. Using fingers to count is a good, early strategy but with practice, those facts should be automatic.

Family Fact Feud is a great game for achieving that goal.

What you need:
2 players
deck of cards, face cards removed

Players sit side by side (not across from each other)

Teacher/parent decides the particular fact to practice (i.e. +1, +2, +3, etc.) Once the constant addend is determined, that card is placed between the two players. Players then divide the cards evenly between themselves. Each player turns over one card and adds that card to the constant addend in the middle. The player with the highest sum collects both cards. Players must verbalize the math sentence.

Example:
Teacher/parent decides the constant addend will be +1.

Player #1 turns over a 5, and says, “5 + 1 = 6”.
Player #2 turns over an 8 and says, “8 + 1 = 9”.

Player #2 collects both cards.

In the event of a tie (both players have the same sum), each player turns over one more card and adds this card to the 1. The player with the greatest sum takes all four cards.

When the deck is finished up, players count their cards. The player with the most cards is the winner.

Third graders and fourth graders need to have all of the multiplication facts to automaticity.

Multiplication Fact Feud is great for that.

What you need:
2 players
deck of cards, face cards removed

Teacher/parent decides the particular multiplication fact to practice (i.e. x7, x4, x8, etc.) Once the constant factor is determined, that card is placed between the two players. Players then divide the remaining cards evenly between themselves.

Each player turns over one card and multiplies that card by the constant in the middle. Players must verbalize their math sentence. The player with the highest product collects both cards.

Example:
Teacher/parent selects x5 as the constant.

Player #1 draws a 4 and says, “4 x 5 = 20”.
Player #2 draws a 7 and says “7 x 5 = 35”

Player #2 would collect both cards.

In the event of a tie (i.e. both players have the same product), each player turns over one more card and multiplies that by the constant factor. The player with the highest product wins all four cards.

When the cards are all used up, the player with the most cards wins the game.

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.

Understanding and Mastering Multiplication

Many children struggle to memorize their multiplication tables, and many adults have bad memories of trying to learn them.

Why should children learn the multiplication facts? Because children without either sound knowledge of their facts or a way of figuring them out are at a profound disadvantage in their subsequent mathematics achievement. Students without multiplication-fact fluency spend more time determining routine answers and less time on more meaningful applications. Students who know their facts build on these fundamental concepts which ultimately benefits their later mathematical development.

For years, learning to compute has been viewed as a matter of following the teacher’s directions and practicing until speedy execution is achieved. There has been little or no emphasis on understanding the concept. Memorize 7×6=42, and so on.

When skills such as multiplication facts are taught for conceptual understanding and connected to other mathematics concepts and real-world meaning, however, students actually perform better on standardized tests and in more complex mathematics applications.

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.

Keeping with the idea of making multiplication facts understandable, you might try a math game such as Bubbles and Stars.

Bubbles and Stars (Beginning Multiplication)

What you need:
2 players
1 die
paper and a pencil for each player (fold it in quarters)

Player #1 rolls the die and draws that many bubbles (as big as he/she can in one of the quarters).
Example: Player #1 rolls a 5 and draws 5 bubbles.

Player #2 rolls the die and draws that many bubbles.
Example: Player #2 rolls a 1 and draws 1 bubble.

Player #1 rolls the die and puts that many stars inside each bubble.
Example: Player #1 rolls a 3 and draws 3 stars inside each of his/her 5 bubbles

Player #2 rolls the die and puts that many stars inside each bubble.
Example: Player #2 rolls a 6 and draws 6 stars inside his/her 1 bubble.

Both players record how many bubbles and stars they drew and then record how many stars they have altogether.
Example: Player #1 – 5 bubbles x 3 stars = 15 stars
Player #2 – 1 bubble x 6 stars = 6 stars

Player #1 rolls the die one last time.
If the roll is odd – 1,3,5 the player with the most stars wins.
If the roll is even – 2,4,6 the player with the least stars wins.

Parents and teachers who use these kinds of activities with their children, will help them master their multiplication facts. Resultingly, these students will have a more positive attitude about their mathematics abilities and further mathematics experiences. Teaching for understanding equals a formula for success.

Parents Help Their Children with Math!

We live in a world of numbers. In fact, we use numbers constantly as a way of describing our lives. And yet, some will say that learning mathematics is difficult, and some will even say that they are not interested in learning it. However, mathematics is more than just learning about numbers. It is also about learning to think strategically and solve problems.

We want students to view mathematics as an enjoyable experience and to value mathematics. To do so, they must find it in places that they least expect it, such as in real-life situations that are non-threatening and fun. Games provide endless opportunities to experience mathematics, and when children are doing something they enjoy, they tend to spend more time doing it and pay better attention to what they are doing. As a result, they will get more practice with a skill by playing a game than by simply completing a traditional worksheet or using flashcards.

This is where parents can become involved. The parent’s job is to find a game that emphasizes a skill their child needs to master and begin to play. The role of the parent is to be supportive, play along with their child, make sure that the rules are clearly understood, ask questions (not give answers), and share their thinking either while they play or after the game.

As an example, one of the biggest concepts third graders need to master is multiplication. The following is an effective game for helping your second, third, or fourth grader do just that:

Terrific Tens

What you need:
2 players
deck of cards (remove face cards)

Take out one “10” card and lay it face up between the two players. This “10” card becomes the multiplier in each face off. Shuffle the rest of the cards and deal them evenly between both players. Both players put their cards face down in a pile in front of themselves.

Both players turn over the top card of their pile. They say the number, then multiply it by the “10” card and say the product. It is very important that each player say the entire equation out loud. For example: “7 x 10 = 70”
The player with the greatest product wins both cards. If there is a tie (i.e., both players have the same product), players turn over one more card and multiply that card and add it to their previous product. The player with the largest sum, takes all four cards.

When all the cards have been used, players count their cards. The player with the most cards wins.

Variations:
• Nifty Nines – the “9” card becomes the multiplier in each face off.
• Excellent Eights
• Super Sevens
• Sensational Sixes
• Fantastic Fives
• Fun Fours
• ? Threes
• Terrific Twos
• Wonderful Ones

Learning the Multiplication Facts with Games

Too often, children are asked to memorize the multiplication facts without discovering what they really mean. Teachers need to teach multiplication for understanding. One of the many ways I did that was to ask questions such as:
2 cars – how many mirrors?
7 tricycles – how many wheels?
4 spiders – how many legs?

Once students have grasped the meaning of multiplication, they need to develop speed in the recall of the facts.

For many years, I have been using games instead of worksheets or timed tests after the students developed the logic of multiplication. The results were encouraging. The students began to memorize the facts more easily, and when tested at the end of the school year, had retained the facts. In other words, the multiplication facts had gone into long-term memory!

Motivation to learn the times’ tables must come from within, but the teacher has much to do with this motivation. Students can be motivated to learn the multiplication combinations because games are fun and there are a variety of them. See my 3rd grade multiplication games.

One of my favorites is Salute Multiplication.

Salute Multiplication

What you need:
2 players
deck of cards with face cards removed

Shuffle deck and place face down in a pile.

Player #1 turns over the top card and places it face up on the table for all to see.

Player #2 draws a card and does not look at it. Player 2 holds the card above his or her eyes so that player #1 can see it, but he can’t.

Player #1 multiplies the 2 cards mentally and says the product out loud.

Player #2 listens and decides what his or her card must be and says that number out loud.

Example: Player #1 turns over a 6 for all to see. Without looking at it, player #2 puts a 4 on his forehead. Player #1 mentally
multiplies 6 x 4 and says, “24”. Player #2 must figure out
6 x ? = 24.

Both players decide if the response is correct. If it is, player #1 gets 1 point.

Players reverse roles and play continues until one player has 10 points.

Take some of the frustration out of getting your students to memorize the multiplication tables – give a game a try!

Multiplication Games

More and more in my teaching career, I see that children struggle to memorize their multiplication tables. I’ve even worked in many 6th grade classrooms where it was perfectly evident that a majority of the 6th graders had not yet fully memorized their multiplication tables.

Simple multiplication is usually introduced into the math curriculum in 2nd grade, so it is important that 2nd and 3rd graders begin to get a strong handle on their multiplication facts. If they don’t, understanding division becomes ever more difficult.

I’ve found that multiplication games are wonderfully useful. Multiplication games put children in exactly the right frame of mind for learning. Children are normally very eager to play games. They relax when they play, and they concentrate. They don’t mind repeating the multiplication facts over and over.

Teachers and parents are partners in this process, and both can offer greater opportunities for their students/child to succeed in memorizing the multiplication tables. Multiplication games fit the bill wonderfully!

One of my favorite multiplication games is Multiplication Fact Feud. It’s a great way target and practice certain facts.

Multiplication Fact Feud

What you need:
2 players
deck of cards

Teacher or parent decides the particular multiplication fact to practice
(i.e. x7, x4, x8, etc.) Once the constant factor is determined, that card is placed between the two players. Players then divide the remaining cards evenly between themselves.

Each player turns over one card and multiplies that card by the constant in the middle. Players must verbalize their math sentence. The player with the highest product collects both cards.

Example: Player #1 Player #2
4 5 7
“4 x 5 = 20” “7 x 5 = 35”

Player #2 would collect both cards.

In the event of a tie (i.e. both players have the same product), each player turns over one more card and multiplies that by the constant factor. The player with the highest product wins all four cards.

When the cards are all used up, the player with the most cards wins the game.