Math is a subject that I have always found intimidating. Well, actually, I don't remember having any negative associations with math at primary school, but my secondary school experience certainly made up for that. I found the secondary school math content so mind numbingly boring and was led to believe that it was completely irrelevant to my life. I burned all of my school books as soon as I passed my final exams as I was so happy and relieved to be done with them!
What I've come to understand about math is that so little of what I learned at secondary school has been of use to me in real, adult life. I understand enough math to work out the area of my bathroom floor and order laminate. I understand enough math to work out the best deal on cat food. I understand enough math to run my own business. Math is not my strength, but I'm no longer intimidated by it. I'm keen for my daughter to foster a love for math and my priority is that she has a concrete understanding of how math relates to life.
Math Through Play
Bean is newly 8 and her interest in math is strong. She takes great pleasure in counting and solving mental math problems, and would be working at age related expectations for number and calculation if she was able to record her findings on paper. Almost everything that she has learned to date in relation to math has been learned through play and through real life experiences.
We do not follow a math curriculum, and never have, although we have dipped our toes in a few. I am yet to find a 'pick up and go' curriculum that meets the needs and interests of my kinaesthetic learner, while also being affordable and simple to follow. What I have invested in is some lovely, tactile math materials, which Bean has free access to from an Ikea Raskog Trolley in our dining room. I set out these materials as part of our toy rotation, and offer more structured sessions during our main lesson blocks.
Below are some of the math materials that we will be using this year, along with a few of our favourite math books and games.
Montessori Hundred Board
I bought ours a few years ago from Absorbent Minds Montessori, and it proved to be a great investment, as has been very well used. We started using it with numbers 1-10, then progressed to 20, and so on. The tiles are wipe clean, so you can mark out patterns, e.g. odd and even numbers. Bean's favourite activities are to order the numbers on the board, and fill in the missing numbers.
Montessori Place Value Cards
I bought these at the same time as the Hundred Board, but we've only recently been utilising them for their intended purpose. Until recently, they've been used a lot during play, as tickets, prices, labels and signs, all of which have contributed to Bean's developing number sense.
Wooden Cuisennaire Rods
Again, we have had these for a few years, and they have been well used during play. This past academic year I've been beginning to explore how they can be used during lessons, but haven't been able to source a decent book of lesson plans. There are, however, lots of video tutorials on YouTube.
Wooden Base 10 Set
I bought this set a few years ago (and rather impulsively) from Absorbent Minds Montessori, and it's been gathering dust as I didn't really know how to use it. This summer I tracked down this Base Ten Activity Book from Learning Resources, so we'll be giving these activities a try this coming year.
Mathlink Cubes Activity Set
We've had a set of these Mathlink Cubes from Learning Resources since Bean was a toddler, and they are so tactile and versatile. This summer I have sourced some activity cards to use alongside the cubes which we have already begun to work our way through.
This January I introduced pocket money for Bean. She gets £2 on a Monday. Occasionally we'll walk down the road to our local newsagent where she can spend a bit of it on penny sweets, but more often than not, it goes in her piggy bank until she has saved enough for something more substantial, like a magazine or toy. Pocket money has been such a game changer for us, and I've been blown away by the improvement in her mental maths.
In addition to pocket money, we regularly set up shops or cafes, and role play shopping with our Wooden Till filled with real money. We also really love this Learning Resources 'Exact Change' Card Game
We also have a Spielgaben set, which I bought about 6 years ago when it was on offer as part of a Kickstarter campaign. We used it daily during the early years (2-5 ish) but not so much in recent years. I need to find a spot to store it so that it's more easily accessible, and have a look through the digital materials in advance of the new school year to see if there is anything that Bean might find enticing. It is such a beautiful and versatile resource. You can read more about Spielgaben here.
Math Books and Tools
Lastly, it wouldn't be our home 'school' without books, and math is no exception. We've got a lovely collection of story books with a strong math link which I'll write a whole other blog post about another time. These are our current favourites for math...
Totally Brain-Busting Number Puzzles This is an activity book, which wouldn't usually appeal to Bean, but this one just happens to be about the right level academically, and the activities are fun and don't require too much written work.
Games For Math by Peggy Kaye Bean is beginning to outgrow the activities in this book, but the games are great, and you can usually find one that will help to teach your child a specific math concept.
Usborne Lift-the-Flap Times Tables and See Inside Maths are both fabulous. We're big Usborne fans here.
Our Favourite Math Games
For counting and addition: Orchard Toys 'Scaredy Cat' Game
For number bonds to 10: Learning Resources 'I Sea 10!' Math Game
For multiplication and division: LogicRoots 'Pet Me' Game
For money: Orchard Toys 'Pop to the Shops' Game
For Shape: 'Quirkle' Game
We also really love Uno
This is the second of five blog posts sharing our plans for the upcoming school year. You can read the first in the series, on Language and Literacy here. Next week I will be sharing with you our plans for Science and Nature Study, then posts will follow on History and Geography, and lastly, Extra Curricular (all the other enriching activities that form part of our home education journey)…
With love, Rowan x
This blog post contains affiliate links. If you do click through, Bean and I will receive a small amount of commission which will contribute to new books and resources for her home education. You can, however, find all of these resources elsewhere, including other online retailers, second hand selling pages and your local library.