Math was not my favorite subject as a child. In fact, it's still not. While I was a great student in the eyes of the public school system, I never felt liked I "owned" math. I was never comfortable manipulating numbers or figuring things out beyond the equations that were similar enough to the examples provided in a proceeding lesson. I had tricks and algorithms to aid me in solving a problem, but I didn't understand why it worked or what to do if it didn't. I slid by. I survived math. Barely.
Now that I homeschool two beautifully inquisitive, fun-loving, adventurous, thoughtful learners (Big Sis & Lil' Sis), I desire to give them more when it comes to math. I want them to develop a strong foundation that helps make math a tool they wield easily and without reservation for any purpose they choose, rather than seeing math as a weight or obstacle to fight against, struggle through, or fear.
Every person is different and some minds seem to grasp mathematical concepts more easily than others, but I believe that plenty of practice and having a complete understanding can help anyone be, at least, comfortable with math. To develop that, I feel that it is necessary to approach the concepts with multiple methods, to see how math applies to various situations and life in general, to make connections rather than compartmentalize, and to seek the beauty and purpose in it all. But what does all that mean, or matter, to a young early elementary aged kid? That, I think, is where PLAY comes in. It is through play that they can begin to discover more about math.
There are numerous studies and articles that assert the benefits of play for children, so I won't go into them here. What I will say, however, is that play has been a major factor in how well my children learn and how much they retain. Any time we make a game out of a new topic or concept, they remember more. And anytime they learn something new that they are interested in, they use that new idea, concept, or fact in their free play.
Math is no different. The more fun we make it for my kids, the more they grow in their math skills. I used to think worksheets were a necessity when doing math, even in the early years. I thought that was the only way. But not any more.
Amazingly, despite doing very few worksheets over the last six months, Lil' Sis, who has technically only recently finished kindergarten, has blossomed in her core understanding of math concepts. She still writes her numbers backward fairly frequently, but she is confident in basic math skills and has demonstrated the ability to apply that skill in various situations - not just on paper. I attribute this to having had a lot of hands on practice, including math play and math games.
We are constantly finding new ways to incorporate pretend play, dancing, singing, being outdoors, games, crafts, and creativity into our homeschool days (and everyday life too)! Of course, Pinterest is a great tool for ideas. And there are lots of games that use numbers too. But even with all that, it is often our spontaneous ideas that lead to some of my daughter's favorite learning moments, in math or any other subject.
Lil' Sis has been using RightStart Math, Level A for about six months now. The program utilizes a lot of manipulatives and hands on materials, as well as lots of games (mostly card games). There hasn't been a game with RightStart that she hasn't liked. Some are clearly her favorite and she asks to play them again and again, while others are fun, I think, mostly because of the novelty of them (they are a new way to approach a math concept, but less interesting after playing them a few times). I value the low workbook use and high frequency of manipulative use and/or games, even if it does take more time to play the game or demonstrate a concept than to just fill out a workbook page.
But even with all the games included in RightStart, we are constantly finding even more ways to play. The manipulatives and cards seem to inspire my daughter with creative ideas. She'll often take a lesson concept we covered recently and use them in her pretend play in some fashion. Sometimes I don't want to take the time to play the math games and am tempted to skip them to save time. Other times, I don't want to join in with Lil' Sis in her pretend play because I have so many other things on my to-do list that need to be accomplished. But I have no doubt that it is those very games and moments of time spent playing with my daughter that she has gained the most - and so have I.
I'm a homeschooling mom of two, enjoying our time in Hawaii and hoping to share some of that experience with you, including ideas, reviews, resources, and information.