Do your kids move and wiggle and jump around during school lessons? Mine too! Naturally, that’s par for the course when you’re raising kids with ADHD.
But there are lots of kids who don’t have ADHD and are still active learners. Here’s the problem: Teaching math generally requires concentration and wiggly kids tend to have a short attention span, which can make math class the most grueling part of the day.
In our family, we try to keep math lessons fun, interactive, and hands-on, so today I’m sharing some of our secrets. Check out 3 ways to make math fun for active learners using some wonderful homeschooling resources from Rainbowresource.com!
Disclosure: I received the products shown in this post for free and I was compensated for my time. All opinions are my own and I was not required to post a positive review.
Image: c/o pressmaster via Deposit Photos
Why Use Ways to Make Math Fun?
Math has been the bane of childhood for centuries. There are some kids who take to it right away and master it quickly. Then there are others (mine included) who just don’t seem to “get it”. I understand. After all, I was a humanities major and math was not my favorite subject either.
If you remember your math classes in public school, you likely recall sitting at a desk trying to complete a worksheet full of arithmetic problems or trying to take notes as your teacher wrote equations (at lightning speed!) on the chalkboard. That’s not going to work if you’re homeschooling an active learner. In our house, my kids are out of their seats before I finish demonstrating one problem.
The fascinating thing about ADHD is that kids who have it are actually capable of paying attention for extended periods of time if they are interested in the material. Catch their interest and you can get them to stay involved in the lesson. That’s why it’s worth our effort as parents to make math fun.
3 Ways to Make Math Fun for Active Learners
1. Use Math Games
Math games are a wonderful way to make math into an interesting activity for kids. We got to try a Wooden Domino set from Rainbowresource.com. (Confession: I had never played dominoes before, so I had to do a little studying on my own.)
Learning to play dominoes is actually a great way to practice counting, number recognition, and doubles.
After I explained the basic rules of the game to the kids, we started playing!
They quickly matched the correct number of dots to the existing dominoes on the board.
Then they isolated the doubles by turning them vertically against the other dominoes. For Roo, that was his first introduction to the concept of doubles. Something that would have taken a handful of worksheets otherwise was learned in 20 minutes of play. 🙂
Word problems are one of the math concepts that give kids the most trouble, especially in early grades. So I was excited to use Rainbowresource.com’s Under the Sea Shells Word Problem Activity Set with my boys.
Inside the box are word problem cards, seashells, and stars and crabs for counting.
Kids read the problem, choose the correct color and number of manipulatives, and solve the problem.
Since there are “easy” problems and “advanced” problems, both of my boys could work on problem-solving at their specific grade level.
For Pooh, seeing the items in action made a HUGE difference. He was finally able to understand what we’re doing when we solve a word problem. We’re simply using numbers to represent what actually happened. Lightbulb moment! And since we were “just” playing, he learned it without the pressure of feeling like he had to meet a certain standard.
The boys loved playing dominoes and using the seashell game, but I was super excited about playing Equate: the Equation Thinking Game.
Do you love Scrabble? This is basically Scrabble with equations. So it’s a really cool way for kids to learn to form equations and to find ways to build on them.
Players start by forming an equation on the board.
Then they build on the existing equation by using pieces of it to make other equations.
See? What I loved most about Equate is that, since you can remove certain operations from play, all three of my kids could play the game together, even though they’re at different grade levels. To make the game accessible for my younger boys, I removed the multiplication, division, and fraction operations. But I’m saving those for a private game with Tigger later. 🙂
What really made this awesome is that Pooh, who is math-averse, actually asked to play this game the next day! That’s the power of using math games!
2. Use Visual Math
Another great way to make math fun is to make it into a visual activity. When kids can “see” what they’re actually doing by solving a math problem, they can understand the concept a lot better.
In the book Hands-On! Math Projects, kids can build structures, draw pictures, and play games that are all designed to reinforce math concepts. We started with the Value Your Digits! activity – a way to examine place value.
According to the instructions, kids are to draw out a grid of squares that represent the number values in certain digits. For example, with the number 31, they would draw a grid that had 30 squares in it and then draw a “3” inside the grid. Then they would outline a single square in which they would write a “1”.
The idea is to actually see the value of each place – that, in the number 31, “3” actually means 30 and the “1” means simply 1.
Tigger tried it with a three-digit number: 136. And that was the first time the boys really understood why the “1” is in the hundreds place!
Then we wanted to work with fractions a bit, so we built a “fraction wall” – another of the activities in Hands-On! Math Projects. Time to use our Fraction Cube Equivalency Set!
As you can see, the set includes fractions made into cubes in varying amounts. There’s a tower of 1/10 fractions, a tower of 1/6 fractions, 1/3 fractions, and so on.
To build our fraction wall, we started with the “1” tower, which is a solid rectangle representing 1 whole. Then we started building our wall by adding enough of each fraction set to equal 1.
As the kids learned, fractions are merely pieces of a whole. The actual fraction you use simply describes how much of the whole you’re talking about. So they all mean the same amount if you use the right number of pieces.
10/10 is equal to 6/6, which is equal to 3/3, which is equal to 1. Everyone understood that afterward and I was a happy homeschooling mama.
Ta-da! All finished! The kids learned equivalent fractions without a single worksheet! Plus, they actually learned the concept behind making equivalent fractions on paper, because they could see what they were creating.
3. Use Your Child’s Existing Interests
Really, the simplest way to make math fun for your active learner is to tie it in with something he or she is already interested in. For Tigger, that something is reading.
She, like her mom, is an avid bookworm. And that’s exactly the kind of person that the Life of Fred book series was written for. Since we’re covering both fractions and decimals in fifth grade this year, we were excited to try Life of Fred: Fractions and Life of Fred: Decimals from Rainbowresource.com!
In Life of Fred, kids follow the daily life of five-year-old Fred, a math professor (yes, you read that right) at Kittens University. In the Decimals book, Fred wants to build a robot, but he needs to weigh all of the parts together.
The spring weighs 0.007g, the gear weighs 0.09, and the motor weighs 13.3029 g. As the book so wonderfully (and nonchalantly) mentions, the key to mastering decimals is lining up the decimal points.
After Tigger read the section, she wrote down her problem and solved it correctly on the first try – all because she was actually interested in the story! She really wanted to know if Fred would be able to build his robot or not. Solving the math problem was just a step to finding that out.
Later we went on to fractions and we discussed Fred’s statement that you can reduce fractions by simply dividing the same number of objects into fewer groups.
In the book are practice problems to help kids see this in action. Tigger was asked to divide six pencils among two people, which works out to three per person. As she could see, three out of six (3/6) is the same as half (1/2) of the pencils.
Then the problem asked her to divide the same six pencils among three people. Working that out showed her that 2/6 is the same as 1/3 of the pencils.
Now that she had a grasp on the concept behind reducing fractions, I had her try a traditional math problem: reducing 7/21 by using the greatest common factor (GCF).
Success! That’s one math concept we can check off for this school year! And she understood the traditional problem because she had already gained an understanding by reading the story! She’s been asking to finish the books ever since. 🙂
As you can see, we loved every single product we reviewed from Rainbowresource.com! They were wonderful for helping our kids to love math class without having to force them to be still – something that would have made us all miserable.
To learn more about Rainbowresource.com‘s enormous product catalog, including even more products for families with active learners, keep up with the company using the social media links below!
Do you have any ways to make math for active learners? Share your tips in the comments!