7 Ways to Help Kids with Math — Dallas Family Photographer — Me Ra Koh Portraits
We’ve had such a big response to homeschooling tips and tricks I’ve been sharing in our weekly newsletter, like 5 Ways to Help Kids with Writing. I’m so glad they’re bringing encouragement to you! To keep the encouragement coming, Brian and I sat down with the kids this weekend and brainstormed our best homeschool tips for math.
7 Ways to Help Kids with Math
1. Create Stories Around Math Principles
If you’re not a natural storyteller, use the Waldorf gnomes for K-2nd grade! Remove the numbers and focus on stories that teach math principles.
When the kids were little, I introduced the basic math principles through a story about four gnomes; Mr. Minus, Mr. Addition, Mr. Multiply, and Mr. Divide. I can’t draw to save my life, but I took a piece of construction paper and drew a mountain with these four little stick figure gnomes at the bottom. Each of one had their math sign on the chest.
The kids drew their own four gnomes. On the table, I spread out a pile of “gems” the gnomes mined in the mountain. Each gnomes had ten gems, but they handled them differently.
The kids placed ten gems on each of their gnomes.
Now we were ready for the stories! Mr. Minus had holes in his pocket, so he was always losing gems as he came down the mountain. The kids would slide X amount of gems away from Mr. Minus.
Mr. Addition seemed to find extra gems everywhere and was always adding one gem at a time to his stash. The kids moved the lost gems to him.
Mr. Divide wanted to make sure every dwarf always had their own gems, so he would divide them and share. (Over the years, I’ve wondered if Mr. Divide’s benevolent personality is what gave them extra excitement for division.)
Mr. Multiplication, well, he was CRAZY! Somehow he would end up multiplying his gems every time he mined the mountain. Instead of adding one gem at a time, he’d have two more, then four, then eight, and the gems kept coming! If he had twenty gems, he’d somehow come home with forty! The anticipation grows as your creating ways to help your kids with math.
You can take it a step farther and make your own math gnomes with the kids. I love this tutorial by Daily Colours. She has a number of darling DIY tutorials to make learning fun for little ones.
To this day, my Aerospace Engineering daughter LOVES the story of the gnomes and their gems. Instead of thinking about math with numbers, she was introduced to math through stories. We were planting a seed to future story problems.
2. Beanbag Toss with Times Tables
The basics of math need to be memorized, like your times tables. Before publishing books and becoming a photographer, I was a high school English teacher for 7 years. Growing up, I struggled with several learning disabilities. As a teacher to my students and then homeschooling my kids, I wanted to make learning fun and involve movement. I think we memorize things best when we attach physical movement to it.
With lavender scented beanbags, I’d have the kids sit five feet away on the dining room floor. We’d toss the beanbag back and forth, starting real slow at first, for each step in the times tables; 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, and so on. As they got better, I’d speed up the toss. Over a decade later, I can still hear them collapsing into giggles as I pelted them with beanbags making it impossible to say their times tables.
3. Tears Today Don’t Determine Tomorrow’s Results
Both the kids laughed about how math went from being magical to a nightmare in middle school. Between their changing hormones and more disciplined schedule, they both broke down crying several times between the ages of 10-12 years old. Pascaline swore she’d kiss math goodbye after high school (and then she decided to major in Aerospace. LOL!)
Blaze and Pascaline want to encourage all parents of middle schoolers. They said if you’re middle schoolers are crying about math, don’t worry. Today’s tears don’t determine tomorrow’s results. It’s just a middle school thing.
4. First Thing Every Morning
Brian is the math wizard in our home. I was great with magical elves, gems and beanbag tosses. But once we got into Algebra, forget about it! LOL! I’m so thankful for Brian because he sees numbers as a different type of creativity. And yet, he always said math is a daily discipline. You’ve got to do it first thing in the morning because of how much it works a certain part of your brain. Well, we took this to another level and didn’t even let our kids eat breakfast until they finished their math. Ha! We could see how sugar cereals, bagels, even jam on toast slowed their brain down when trying to focus on numbers.
We also noticed how GREAT their attitude was for the rest of the day when they started it with math. This became a family practice, especially when we were traveling. This photo is when we were in Thailand sharing a one room bamboo bungalow on the water. Pascaline had her calculator and was working away on math. When the kids started their day with math, working that specific part of their brain, they weren’t needing us to entertain them or stimulate them for the rest of the day. (It was like magic! Try it!)
5. Legos are Sequential Practice
A wonderful woman who has a doctorate in math once told me to always have Legos available for the kids. “Start them as early as you can,” she said. Legos are one of the best practices for teaching sequential order.
Best advice! Your kids will LOVE this way to help with math!
6. Algebra is the Foundation
The kids and Brian were discussing at dinner how Algebra is the foundation for higher math. I like how Pascaline said “Algebra teaches you the rules and how to move numbers back and forth on the scale.”
“Up until this point, numbers are moving from top to bottom in multiplication and division. But now you see how they can move from right to left and left to right,” said Brian. Learning the rules is never fun. Think of all the times you’ve sat through the rules being read before you could play the board game. Let’s just start the game already! But you have to know the rules to play the game.
7. Golden Rule
Hear me when I say this because it’s the one thing that matters the most. It is the most important way to help kids with math and every other subject. If your kids are falling behind, losing steam and interest in school because of all the worksheets, hit the Pause button. Step away from it all and find new ways to make learning fun for your kids. Cultivating a desire to learn is the most important thing of all. If your kids graduate from high school excited to keep learning for the rest of their life, you’ve done it!
The beauty of homeschool is that you can move slower when your kids are struggling or speed up when they’re ready to move on. You make those decisions based on what will feed their desire for learning. Protect that desire. Don’t let anything take it from your kids. It’s a gift that will serve them for all their days.
Was This Helpful?
Was 7 Ways to Help Kids with Math helpful? Would you like more homeschool tips on other subjects? Let me know in the comments and our family will brainstorm the things that worked best when the kids were younger!
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