nav-left cat-right
cat-right

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.

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.

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!