Patterns and Beads: Preschool Fun

August 17, 2012

Guess what my 4-year-old is doing that kept  him completely focused for over an hour this morning.

We borrowed some pony beads from his sister and a dug a few pipe cleaners out of the craft cupboard.

And since I suggested he try to make some patterns with the beads, we’re calling it ‘pre-school math’.

Don’t you love cute chubby fingers?  (Especially when he’s been painting nails with his older sister, who is the only girl in the family. :-))

The final result?  A proud boy with his necklace.

Supply ideas:

  • Pipe cleaners.
  • Pony beads or any other larger beads that little fingers can handle.
  • Round cereal like Cheerios, Fruit Loops, or Apple Jacks so you can eat your creation when you’re done.
  • One or more bored children.

Activity ideas

  • Start by sorting the different colored pony beads into their own containers at the beginning = more math!
  • Cut the pipe cleaners shorter to make bracelets and rings, or twist two together to make a necklace.  Bend a hook on one end to keep the beads from sliding off the edge.  To finish the piece, bend a small hook in each end and then tuck the sharp point under a bead.
  • Start with simple patterns and move to more complex ones.
  • Demonstrate new patterns and play the “What comes next?” game by starting a pattern and asking the other person what the next beads are.  Take turns so your child can try to stump you too.
  • Write a blog post about the activity so your little one can grin at his pictures on the computer.  🙂

Do you have any fun preschool activities that keep the kiddoes busy?  I can always use good ideas!


Posted under Homeschool Crafts, Math Curriculum

Math Practice a Little Boring? Try Candy Math

January 20, 2011

The Homeschool Freebie of the Day site has a fun .pdf available today:

Candy Math has some fun ideas to ‘sweeten’ math practice with your little ones.  (You can use cereal or something like goldfish crackers if you want to avoid the sweets).


Posted under Math Curriculum

Free High School Math and everything else you ever wanted to learn

January 19, 2011

I was looking online for some ideas to teach Algebra.  I stumbled on these great videos all done by a man named Salman Kahn.  In each video, he picks one concept and then walks the viewer through it step-by-step.

It turns out that Salman Kahn had a younger cousin who needed a bit of long distance math tutoring.  From that small start, he has created the Khan Academy with thousands of YouTube videos explaining math concepts plus a myriad of other topics in short 10 – 20 minute chunks.

Read the inspirational story of Salman Kahn (under the FAQ tab), the man behind all the educational videos.  His ambition is to provide a world-class university level education to the world for free.   Khan Academy provides lectures similar to online universities from some of the best colleges out there.  His work is really a great contribution of knowledge to everyone in the world.

On his home page, he has over 70 video explaining the Algebra I concepts in an organized list.  Directly below it are another 180 videos working Algebra I problems with step-by-step explanations.

It’s an entire video Algebra I curriculum, entirely free!  If you explore the tabs and rest of the page, you’ll find videos on tons of other topics as well.

After my son finishes his Math 7 curriculum in the next month or so, he’s planning on working his way through the Algebra I videos.  We’ll post an update about how it goes.

Has anyone else used the Kahn Academy videos?  How did they work for you and which ones did you like the best?


Posted under Math Curriculum, Math Websites

Fun and Easy Way to Learn All the Math Facts – Math Rider Review

November 8, 2010

I’m always looking for easy ways to get kids excited and learning their math tables.

Drilling math facts has got to be one of the more boring and arduous tasks of early math education.  It’s often as hard on the parents as the kids.

We just found something new to add to our math toolbox.  In return for an honest review, our family was offered a trial copy of a fun game called Math Rider.  My 9-year-old daughter sat down the first time and spent almost an hour jumping her horse, ‘Shadow’, over addition fact obstacles on the quest to save the princess.  She enjoyed the game so much, that the math practice was swallowed along with the ‘spoonful of sugar’ added by the game.  (See the end of the post for what the kids said about the game)

MathRider - A New Intelligent Math Game

Here is what we think:

The Math:

  • Drills all 4 sets of math facts from 1 – 12, starting with addition and progressing to subtraction, multiplication, and then division.
  • The game automatically figures out the speed to present the math and which questions to choose based on how the child is doing.  The faster they are answering, the faster the new questions come.  And they see the ones they have trouble with more often.  We found it to be very well adapted to the skill level of each child.
  • With easy, medium, advanced, and mastery levels for each type of math problems, the math facts are introduced in small chunks at a time, making them easier to learn.

The Game:

  • All my children can have their own accounts with different log-ins.
  • Controls are easy.  You only need to type in the numbers and hit enter for the horse, Shadow, to jump the obstacles.

  • The quest is broken up into ‘rides’ that last 30 questions, which is a nice chunk to keep interest without getting bored.  Then each ‘ride’ is plotted on a section of the map, so the player can see their progress in the quest.

  • The story is fun and there are rewards for each completed level that the player gets to keep in their home field.

The Feedback on how the math is going:

  • If you miss a problem, your horse Shadow stops, and the problem and the answer appear in big numbers on the screen while a voice recites the math fact.
  • After each ride, there is a row of bars for each problem attempted.  Green bars mean you answered the problem faster than previously.  Yellow is slightly slower and a red bar is a lot slower.  The kids can easily see how they’re doing visually.  Mouse over any bar to get details about the specific problem.

  • There is a statistics page showing all the facts currently being attempted with details about each.

  • A running score and percentage of mastery is kept.  Further visual feedback of your progress is given by how high your flag is on the flagpole
  • Prizes are earned for each level completed.


  • Current sale price is $37 with 30 day money back guarantee for any reason.


  • The story line is the same for all four math operations, although the prizes do change.  My son was a little disappointed that the quest didn’t continue with a new storyline when he advanced to subtraction.
  • My oldest son is spoiled by state-of-the-art graphics and thought the drawn characters were a bit ‘kiddie’ looking.
  • There is some frustration at about the 85% mastery level where two of my kids seemed to get stuck, completing ride after ride, but not reaching mastery level.  I think this may resolve with a bit more practice typing numbers accurately.

What the kids think:

Review by Alex, 11-years-old

“I liked how he turned simple flash card problems into a computer game and made it with a medieval storyline.  I think it’s a fun way to do my math.  I like that it has all four types of problems, addition, subtraction, multiplication,and division.”

Review by Brooke, 9-years-old.

“I really love it.  It puts fun things in a game, but it’s really just math.  I like how it tells stories to you about math.”

Review by Chris, 7-years-old.

“I like it because it’s pretty easy and it’s kind of fun . . . and it’s easier than my other math :-)”

In summary, I found MathRider to be highly beneficial to my kids – mastering fundamental math is a key to all the math they will learn in the future.  If you have kids who are struggling with math or could use a boost in their abilities and/or confidence, then I recommend you give MathRider a try.  Here is the link once more:  Math Rider.

Posted under Math Curriculum, Math Websites

Why Don’t We Teach Kids to Be Entrepreneurs? Great Homeschool Ideas!

April 23, 2010

In grade school, I saw a display of “Bonkers” marked down to $0.10 each, since the candy was being discontinued.  The going rate for a candy bar was $0.25 at the time.  I went home, got every cent I had saved, $20, and bought 200 of them.  I took them to school and sold them for $0.20 and doubled my money.  As a kid, I had already come up with ideas about making a profit while also pricing my product under the competition. 

I loved this talk by Cameron Herold with great ideas to encourage our kids to be entrepreneurs, to be innovative, leaders, problem solvers, business founders instead of employees.  If you have a kid with an interest in business, making money, being a leader, go grab him or her and spend 20 minutes enjoying this video:

Posted under Math Curriculum

Fun Multiplication Tips and Tricks – 5’s and 10’s

February 2, 2010

photo by woodleywonderworks

The idea that you simply add a zero to a number when you multiply it by 10 is probably one you already know, but it’s a fun one to teach beginners.

After that, however, did you stop to think that just as 5 is half of 10, when you multiply a number by 5, it is half of what it is when it’s multiplied by 10?

Here’s what I mean – something like this:

  • 5 x 5 . . . I know 5 x 10 is just 5 plus a zero on the end = 50, so 5 x 5 is half of 50 = 25.
  • 7 x 5 = half of 70 = 35.
  • 16 x 5 = half of 160 = 80

Or you can think of it this way – divide the multiplicand in half and then times 10:

  • 5 x 5 = half of 5 is 2.5 . . .2.5 x 10 = 25
  • 7 x 5 = half of 7 is 3.5 . . . 3.5 x 10 = 35
  • 16 x 5 = half of 16 is 8 . . . 8 x 10 = 80

It is an extra step, but it’s definitely faster than counting by 5s on your fingers to get to the answer.  Plus, it’s a big help once you move up into the bigger numbers you don’t have memorized.  It also help teach relationships between numbers, another fun trick.


P.S.  Here are some previous tips and math reviews:

Posted under Math Curriculum

Fun Multiplication Tips and Tricks – 6’s

January 28, 2010

photo by pshutterbug

I don’t know about you, but when I memorized addition and multiplication facts as a kid, it seemed that the 6’s, 7’s, and 8’s always seemed the hardest to remember.

Well, here’s a fun trick to help remember the 6’s:

  • When multiplying 6 by an EVEN number (sorry, it doesn’t work on the odds), the answer ends in the same final digit.
  • Some examples:  6 x 2 = 12, 6 x 6 = 36, 6 x 8 = 48, 6 x 12 = 72 and yes, even 6 x 472 = 2,832 if you really wanted to know.  🙂

Hope that helps a few of you out there.  Do you have any math tricks that helped you memorize the facts?

P.S.  Here are some previous tips and math reviews:


Posted under Math Curriculum

Fun Multiplication Tips and Tricks – 9’s

January 15, 2010

Make the times tables a little fun for little ones with this ‘handy’ trick for doing the 9’s:

  1. 9 x 6 =
  2. Hold up both hands, 10 fingers, starting at the left, bend down the 6th finger.
  3. Count the numbers to the left of the bent finger = 5, and the fingers to the right = 4 and you have your answer = 54.
  4. This works for multiples of 9 up to 10.

For the ‘do it in your head’ crowd, try this:

  1. 9 x 6 =
  2. Take the multiple (6) and subtract 1  . . . 6 minus 1 = 5
  3. Then figure out how much you need to add to the 5 to get up to 9.  5 + 4 = 9.  There’s your answer = 54
  4. Again this works for multiples of 9 up to 10.

If you’re looking for some fun free games to practice multiplication, try these:


Posted under Math Curriculum

Practice Grade-Level State Math Requirements by Playing Online Games!

September 9, 2009


photo by Jo Jakeman

Math is supposed to be fun, right?

At our house, math work seems to inspire the most creative moans, physical contortions, and excuses why it doesn’t need doing.  angry_smiley  So, we’re always looking for new ways to play the old math game.

Here’s our new twist on a math curriculum:

Internet 4 Classrooms has gathered TONS of links to website resources for teaching, and their math section is awesome!

Here’s what we’re doing:

  1. Go to their math page.
  2. Click on appropriate grade level under “State Assessed SPI’s”
  3. Tadah!  You’ll now find every state required math skill sorted and listed down the left side of the screen and to the right are lots of links directly to websites with games, lessons, and more that teach that exact skill.
  4. Have your kids either work on a certain number of skills, just ‘play math’ for a length of time, or join in and encourage their interest until they get so involved they forget they are doing MATH!

Even if you already have a math curriculum, this site can give you some fun online games to help drill play with a math concept that is particulary difficult.

I’m also looking for good math websites to compile a free E-Book Math Guide to the Internet, so I’d love to hear (in the comment section) what your favorite sites are. 

Please share!

Posted under Math Curriculum, Math Websites

Venn Diagrams – A Fun Math Lesson

June 24, 2009


Venn diagrams sound like a fancy and difficult math concept, but instead they make a great math activity for toddlers and up:

  1. Grab a handful of candy, colorful cereal, a set of toys, or anything else you can think of that can be classified into groups.
  2. Make two circles with shoelaces, cut-out from card stock, chalk on the sidewalk, etc.
  3. Have your child start describing characteristics of your set:  colors, sizes, shapes, number of legs, clothing, etc.  Pick two.  Then start sorting them into the appropriate circles, with items that have BOTH characteristics in the middle where the two circles intersect.

Here are a few examples:

  • Colors:  Blue candy in the left circle, red candy in the right circle, purple candy (it is BOTH red and blue) in the center where the circles intersect.
  • Shapes:  Shapes with straight lines in the left circle, shapes with curved lines in the right, a shape like a heart that has both in the center.
  • Toy animal:  Animals with hooves in the left circle, animals with tails in the right, and animals with both hooves and tails in the center.

More fun ideas:

  • Eat the ones in the middle when you’re done.
  • Close your eyes and the other person moves one item to the wrong section – see if you can figure it out.
  • Sort without telling the other the criteria and see if they can guess your sorting rules.
  • Add a third circle to make it more tricky.


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Posted under Homeschool Activities, Math Curriculum