A Subject Kids Love – Math?????

Do your kids love Math?  I know my son has grown to hate it, and so did my boy friend’s oldest when he was still in regular school (now at Windsor House Free School).

Last year, I wasn’t working due to a knee injury, and used some of my free time to volunteer in my son’s class.  Among other things, I did a program I dubbed Math Madness that aimed to get the kids more revved up about math by engaging them through various learning / processing types. My son’s and many other children’s experience around Math is that the innate curiosity they have as little ones to understand the world through counting, measurement, geometry, patterns and so, gets dulled through the rote, linear process of aural and written systematic instruction.

Some kids do love it that way because it suits their learning style or their way of understanding the world.  What about the others?

I tried introducing sound, tactile, manipulative, story-based, art, science, problem solving, games, and other ways of approaching and grasping the subject.  We focused on process, inquiry, self-awareness, experimenting rather than getting the right answer.  It was fun.  The teacher and I were both surprised by many discoveries and ahah moments.

So, here it is our first post on Math.  It’s pretty straight forward really.  Just a simple task to get you and your kid thinking about different ways to approach math….

I’m not sure if my son will want to do this one!! 😦 If your kid does, I’d be happy to post the results, so feel free to give it a whirl.

Here we go!

Let’s see how you’d solve this problem, which I borrowed from a Khan Academy Lesson, geared towards a Grade Three student.

– How do you feel about Math?

i really don’t like math.

– If you’re entering Grade Four this year (like my son), what do you remember from last years school math?

not much just a few things.

– Can you do addition with multi-digit numbers? 



Let’s try this one: 536 + 398 = ?  i seriously can not do this

I’d like you to try a few techniques and tell me which ones work best for you.


1) Guess-timating

Round the numbers up or down: is it easier to add 550 to 400? What does that equal roughly? Will the exact answer be a little higher or lower? 950

2) Adding in columns / Carrying

I’m guessing this is the way most of us have been taught in school.  Do you add the ones column first or the hundreds?  Does it help to write the numbers in each column in a different colour?  When you add the six and eight in the ones column, you get 14, which is more than 9, what do you do?

i start at the left and move to the right  thats all.


3) Manipulatives / Using Your hands to Move Things around

Sort coloured paper squares and strips like these ones made from graph paper into ones-red, tens-blue, hundreds-green.  Move them around so that they represent our numbers as shown. i don’t understand


5oo  +  30  +  6       300  +  90  +  8

Then add the hundreds squares in green, how many hundreds do you have?

dont understand

When you count up all the tens strips in blue, what do you get?

dont understand


And the red ones, how many are there, what do you do now?

dont understand

4) Counting Money

For many, counting money is simply more fun because it’s more real!  More useful!

Which bills and how many of each would you need to make $536?

5 hundreds 1twenty 1 ten 1 five 1 one

How many $500 bills?  How many $20 dollar bills, $10s, $5s, loonies etc.

1                                 1                       1     1 and     1

Now do the same with the $398.  You could write up a list or draw pictures of the bills, or


use real money (if you have that much kicking around! ;))

3 hundreds  4 twentys 1 ten  1 five  3 loonies

5) Word Problems

Now lets look at it one last way for today.  You’re saving up money to buy you own computer, and it’s taking forever.  You $900 dollars.   Your grandmother has given you $500, you got $30 for mowing the lawn next door, you found $6 in change on your bedroom floor – strange, you’ve been saving your weekly allowance of $10 for 9 weeks, and your little sister emptied her piggy bank for your birthday and gave you all she had – $8!  Wasn’t that sweet?!   Your dad has said he’s give you $300 for the cause.  How much more money do you need to get before you can buy your computer?

the question is not how much money you need to get before you can get the computer the question is  how much is the computer.

6) Khan Academy Video lesson

Follow this link to watch the video.  How does watching someone else’s instructions, hearing their voice help?  Does it help to be able to pause and rewind?


So, after trying these with your kid, or letting her/him try them themselves, I’d love to know which ways helped them the most?  Do they use other techniques?  which way is the most fun?  Which was is the most clear?  Which was is the most efficient?

I look forward to hearing from you.



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