How to Make Math Fun for Homeschoolers

Go shopping and put their math skills to use

Working as a math tutor for the past four years has brought me into contact with a lot of homeschooled kids. In fact, over 30% of my business consists of homeschooled children who need extra help in math. For many of my students, math is their least favorite subject, and the same is true of the parents of many of my homeschooled kids. Many parents have privately confided to me over the years, “I know my son/daughter hates math, and it’s probably because I hate it, too.” This can make math lessons almost physically painful as both the child and parent struggle to get through them. If you’re in a similar situation, try these tips to make math a little more fun.

1. Go shopping. When my mother would go shopping with me as a child, my job was to calculate the price on any item that was on sale. If my answer was wrong, I didn’t get the item. I learned about multiplying, percentages, and subtraction. By experimenting with different ways to solve the problem I also learned a lot of great problem solving skills.

2. Build something. Even a simple project like a plastic building-block car can be used to teach patterns and counting. For older students, try building an enclosure for a pet that can teach perimeter, area, multiplication, and basic algebra skills.

3. Plan a trip. The family vacation contains a wealth of potential math problems. Have your child calculate the amount of time a trip will take by car and airplane, and compare the total time with the total amount of money that will be spent. Put him or her in charge of finding a hotel; this teaches budgeting, percentages, and algebra skills. Also have him or her plan meals for the family; comparing the prices of groceries with the cost of eating out. Make sure he or she takes into account the extra cost of getting a hotel room or vacation home with kitchen facilities.

4. Play games. There are a variety of math board games on the market for younger kids that teach basic math skills such as patterns, counting, and operations. There are computer games for older kids looking to learn higher math skills, but some trial and error will be needed to find a fun game that is also educational.

Having fun while learning math isn’t too hard to do with younger students, but older students who are learning more complex skills might need extra encouragement. I typically recommend that parents avoid overly long math lessons and assignments; try to limit math lessons to one hour a day or less. I also recommend frequent review of old lessons by giving short quizzes; just one or two problems per skill, and no more than ten problems per quiz. Reward high scores with a small treat or reward such as extra play, phone, or television time. Talk with high-school aged students frequently about careers that use math to encourage them to study hard and work towards their personal goals.

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Mark Cruz
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Posted on Apr 8, 2012