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Okay, my family is a little biased.  We actually like math!  Thus I felt it was important to blog solely about math.  I’ve seen others bash math, especially algebra.  Others try to point out that upper level math is not needed.  And another group claims that they are “no good at math.”  I truly believe that it’s not that people are not good at math but maybe they were not taught math well or were taught by people not interested (or not knowing).   In fact there are fun and different ways to teach math than just textbooks or the traditional school sequence such as: videos, games, math circles, stories and online games or tools.   Sometimes its the change in format and method that can make all the difference.  Math does not need to be boring but rather should be fun!

I must add I know my child is unique in that he is 8 and he loves the Joy of Math lecture series.  However, I think he demonstrates that young kids can be presented with higher level math ideas.  They are not necessarily going to get the answers or understand it all but rather the point is to excite them about why math is interesting and what it could lead to.  In addition, people often underestimate their own math understanding.  There really are lots of great educational math videos out there.  And, yes we have seen 13 of the list below with our son.  On top of these, I am sure you can find math themed mainstream/Hollywood movies too.

Math videos:

Joy of Math The Story of Maths
Donald Duck in Mathmagic Land The Story of One
N is a Number What the Ancients Knew
A Mathematical Mystery Tour 3D Mandelbox Flythrough
Fractals in Science, Engineering, and Finance The Beauty of Diagrams
Fractals: The Colors of Infinity Fermat’s Last Theorem
Imagining the Tenth Dimension Solving for X with Bill Nye
The Science of Disney Imagineering series Multiplication School House Rock
Schlessinger Media Math for Children series Cosmos
Power of 10 Vi Hart videos on youtube

Younger kids should be exposed to numbers.  This way math doesn’t seem scary.  There really is no reason to fear math.  And, I have to admit there are 100’s of math toys/games out there that really make math fun.  You don’t have to follow suggested age ranges.  And, in some its okay to make up your own game or rules.  Even better, many of the games are fun and don’t even seem like you are doing math.  This list is not exhaustive, but rather just a sampling of some of the math games out there.  You don’t need all of them.  You can make some of them yourselves and there are most likely online or app versions too.  The point is playing with math can be fun and goes beyond the traditional math instruction way.

Math Games:

Monopoly Jenga Sorry SET
Pay Day Money Bags Three Corner Yahtze
Colorku Cribbage Rummy Snap it Up
Mancala Chess 7 Ate 9 Mummy Math
Prime Climb Square by Square Monkey Math Make 7
Logic Links SmartGames Tangoes Katamino
Tanagrams Square Up Math Slam Pixy Cubes
Izzi Qwirkle Blink Rummikub
Q-bitz Qubits Lego K’Nex
Zometool Zoom Equate Sumoku
Head Full of Numbers Think Fun Math Dice Farkle Caterpillar Dice Game
Sum Swamp Sudoku Colorful Caterpillar Pattern Blocks
Play Nine Card Game for Golf Zingo 1-2-3 Connect 4 Candy Land
Chutes and Ladders Hi Ho Cherry-O Sequence for Kids Sequence Numbers

On top of games and videos there are even math stories out there.  Yes, seriously, math reading books do exist.  They are a great way to get kids interested in math.  In fact there are several websites dedicated to making math come alive.  Living Math has math history lesson plans that can be purchased and has math book lists:  http://www.livingmath.net/LessonPlans/BooksC1U1/tabid/447/Default.aspx  and  http://www.livingmath.net/LessonPlans/BooksC1U2/tabid/871/Default.aspx .  They even break their lists into beginner, intermediate, and advance levels.  On Good Reads there is a list of 82 top rated math books for children under age 11 (I admit we’ve read 70 of them): https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/14440.Top_Rated_Educational_Math_Books_for_Children_.  For those on pintrest you can find lots of boards like this https://www.pinterest.com/cece09/math-and-children-s-literature/ which highlight even more books than Good Reads.  There are a few other good math series out there that are not on the above lists but deserve mention: Murderous Math Series (from the UK–huge hit with my son as well as their other series Horrible Science), Life of Fred Series (this series has elementary, middle school, high school, financial, and beginner college level), and Dr. Math Books (middle and high school).  Like the videos and games, there is no reason you have to follow or stick to suggested age ranges.  If your kid wants to learn more or wants the higher level math stories, go for it!

Money math is another way to make math more fun and interesting.  There is no reason money math has to be only for high school or college students.  Instead, start in the elementary years or even younger. A Google search of money math games or consumer math games will get lots of various online games. Here are the most common money games:

Allowance Game Little Spender Game Presto Change-o Game
Money Bags Value Game Moneywise Buy it right money game
Made for trade Let’s go shopping Teaching Cash Register
Lemonade Stand Game

You could also consider running your own lemonade stand.  The Lemonade Day occurs yearly http://lemonadeday.org/  and is a great way to get started.  Of course you could do it on your own time frame too.  Quickstart Home School has a great list of online resources including free curriculum and resources on money: http://www.quickstarthomeschool.com/2011/02/teaching-kids-about-money/. Even the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago has free money lessons & resources https://www.chicagofed.org/education/econ-classroom/index.  And, there are even programs out there to teach kids about saving, spending, and giving (aka spend, save, share & invest) such as the following: Three Jars, Moonjar Moneybox, Money Savvy Pig, and Dough Main.  Again, learning about money math shouldn’t have age restrictions.  Money maths are real life skills and are perfect for demonstrating why we really do need math.

Another fun way to learn about math is through math circles.  When I was a kid, I never participated in one.  In fact in college and graduate school I had never heard of them.  I first learned of them through a gifted support group for our son.  Here in Texas several of the state’s big universities have them.  You will need to check with a university near you to see if there is one.  Some have a minimum age restriction and others don’t.  Most of the math circles I’ve seen near us target high school level maths and beyond but are open to younger students participating or watching.  Here is an article about math circles: http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2015/02/playing-with-math-how-math-circles-bring-learners-together-for-fun/ for more information.  Many see them as a place for math geeks to play and go beyond what is taught in school or traditional textbooks. The National Association of Math Circles has resources for starting your own math circle : http://www.mathcircles.org/content/getting-started-new-organizers .   For yournger kids I highly recommend Mobius Noodles http://www.moebiusnoodles.com/ for their natural math online course.  It really is like a virtual math circle targeting preschool and elementary students.  In addition they have some other cool math resources.  Our son loved learning multiplication models and incorporating the lessons into Scratch and Minecraft.  Again, math circles are just another way to make math fun!

Lastly, online programs can help teach math in a more fun/interactive way.  Like I said earlier, sometimes its the format that can help students “get” math.  Here are some of the available online programs (some are even free):

Kahn Academy IXL Timez Attack
Reflex Moby Max Scootpad
Coursera Teaching Textbooks Mathletics
Mathematics Enhancement Program Art of Problem Solving Math Apprentice

This blog is not an exhaustive list of math resources.  I know there are even more than what I listed.  The point is to guide you into discovering math differently.  I hope I’ve inspired others to view math as interesting.  At a minimum, maybe some parents or teachers found resource ideas they can use.  More importantly, math really can be fun!