10 Things I’ve Learned About Homeschooling Math (and 30 Math Activity Ideas!)
In this post, I want to share some of the things I’ve learned over the years while homeschooling math with my three kids. Plus, I’m going to share more than 30 different math activity ideas that were big hits with my kids… everything from the types of math manipulatives we used to various math games and activities we incorporated into our math time.
Very quickly, what are some things I learned while homeschooling math?
- Use a wide variety of manipulatives
- You are not a slave to your math curriculum!
- Make it Fun!
- Make math time active!
- Change things up, don’t do the same thing day after day!
- Keep reviewing those math skills!
- Play online games
- Take math outside from time to time!
- Use fun worksheets
- Make your own worksheets if your child needs more practice (don’t press on just because the math book has run out of problems!)
- An update to talk about tackling upper level math in our homeschool!!
1. Use a Wide Variety of Math Manipulatives
I found that we really got a lot of use out of math manipulatives when the kids were little.
One of the best investments was in a giant tub of mini erasers! We used those for everything from addition and multiplication (setting out skip counting rows) to tokens for our various games! The kids like choosing from the huge selection and we *still* use these for various bingo games and stuff!
Erasers for addition: (affiliate link)
Below I used stickers and had my daughter count out the right number of larger erasers.
Here, you can see we’re using those mini-erasers for addition practice!
Plastic Links for addition or subtraction practice (affiliate link)
You can get plastic links like these at Amazon for under $10. (affiliate link)
- Addition Facts Game – Get pairs that add up to a certain number (in this case we had 5 cards in our hand and would try to make 7. We’d lay down the number once we had a new pair.)
- What Comes Before and After Game
- Math Family Activities (Make 7… 6+1 2+5, etc.) — See our printable Addition Family Board Games here
- Math War (for addition or multiplication)
- Acing Math One Deck at a Time is free download from the Positive Engagement Project. It is 70 pages and has dozens of math games you can play with your child with a deck of cards.
Take it To the Dump: Have the kids make ten and find matching cards such as 5+5, 4+6. Or as they get older “make 12” or “make 15.”
Math Balance – We used this a bit for addition. We also used the balance for doing some science experiments… like this science experiment that air has weight!
We also got a lot of use out of our Montessori beads over the years. Here she is using the beads to build out the teen numbers.
We used dominoes for number recognition and for addition practice
You can get our free domino addition page at this post.
Die as a Math Manipulative
We used die for all kinds of games. One of our favorites was Bump. We first used this for doubles (1+1, 2+2, 3+3, etc.). Once the kids became pretty good at that, I made our own die with the numbers 4 through 9 so the kids could practice 4+4 through 9+9. Later we adapted the Bump Game to do squares, division practice and other things. I made you some Bump Board Games that you can download – for both Doubling and Squares! 🙂 Hope they are fun for your kids!
Free Bump Games – for Doubles (1+1, 2+2, 3+3…) and Squares (1×1, 2×2, 3×3…)
Click here to save this free printable on Pinterest.
2. You are not a slave to your math curriculum!
- We tried a wide variety of math curriculums over time… Right Start Math, Saxon Math, Horizon’s Math, Singapore Math, Spectrum Math Workbooks, different PreAlgebra textbooks, Geometry textbooks, Thinkwell Geometry. Plus, we checked out friend’s Abeka Math.
- Some things worked for a short while… other things didn’t. I purchased a number of these programs used, so I didn’t feel bad when I ditched (donated) the ones that didn’t work for us!
3. Make Math Fun!!
Make math silly from time to time! Here, we made some Skip Counting Hats!
Make a Math Lapbook: PreK, K — Free Printable at this post. One year ED and I I made a lapbook with a variety of games and skills that she was working on at the time!
This silly project helped the kids learn about gallons, quarts pints and cups!
Measurement Man Learning about gallons, quarts, pints and cups
4. Make math time active!
You can have the kids shoot the basketball each time they get a math fact right (with any type of math fact problem!
Tape math problems on the floor! Making Math Fun and Active:
I learned pretty early on that we could get lots of math fact practice in if I made a game out of it!
This game was a HUGE pillar of our homeschool math program in the elementary years because you can use it to practice *any* math fact! You can print out a free version below and also you’ll find various themed versions of this game in our K-2 Math Bundle and our Multiplication – Division Bundle.
Below you can see my daughter using clocks (and moving 11 spaces around the board for 11 o’clock).
In this version, my younger daughter was using subtraction problems.
I learned that my kids could play the same game, but could practice different skills!
Click here to download the free Math Game Board
This version is for number recognition, addition and subtraction.
This version is for multiplication & division (the board is the same, the cards are different!): Free Math Game Board Multiplication & Division
Math Ladder Game — My kids *loved* playing games to help them learn their math facts. I made a fancy version of amath fact game we used to play. It’s free to download!
This game takes less than 10 minutes to play (though perhaps more if your kids are like mine and beg to play again and again!!).
- Your child goes first. Roll the die. Then add (or multiply) the number on the first rung of the ladder. If she/he gets the answer correct, move to the next rung and so forth. If she/he makes it to the top she gets 10 points (or as many points as correct answers).
- Now it’s your (the parent’s) turn. Roll the die. You are also trying to make it to the top adding (or multiplying) each number by the number on the die, but you have to make one mistake as you go up the row. If your child catches the mistake, she/he steals all of your points (from this round).
Visit this post to download this free Math Ladder Game:
5. Change things up, don’t do the same thing day after day!
For some variety, I purchased the comic-style math program called Beast Academy:
- Art of Problem Solving Beast Academy — These are really fun comic-style math books. We have 3A through 4A and the kids really enjoy reading through these. We have not used the practice books that accompany these.
Math Chains: Just a different way to practice skip counting or coins
Bring in some alternative type of math skills and build critical thinking skills along the way too!
Math Should Never Be Boring! More Math Brain-Teasers (Free Printable)
Critical Thinking Activities – Analogies, Logic & More
6. Keep reviewing those math skills!
Speed! Multiplication Card Game A skip counting card game set made by a homeschooling Mom!
There are also various math domino-style games. For example, we bought this Fractions Domino Game or slightly less expensive are these Fraction Domino Cards. (affiliate link)
7. Have the kids play online math games to build their speed and math fact abilities!
Free Online Multiplication Games This post has a number of other online multiplication games that my kids loved!
8. It’s fun to take math outside!
Here are some of the math activities we’ve enjoyed in our homeschool:
Math Monster Tag: For practicing math facts
I made sets of cards for each of my three kids depending on what they were ready for… for everything from number recognition and easy addition… to fractions, pre-Algebra problems! You can make this work for ANY math practice!
Math Sponge Toss: If it’s getting warm where you live, the kids might enjoy this activity. We hung math problems up on the garage door with painters tape. The kids took turns trying to SPLAT their card. If they hit the card AND solved it correctly, they got to take it down from the wall. As you can see, the kids each had their own color and their problems were different since they’re covering different things. You could even include your little ones by including cards with just a number, letter or shape (square, triangle, etc.).
Math Fact Hopscotch: We drew a hopscotch game and then put two numbers in the double squares. The kids had to either add (for ED) or multiply (for DD and LD) the numbers before they jumped on the number. They raced through as fast as they could once while I kept time. To “win” they had to beat their own time the second time through.
Math Bulls-eye Game: We created a bulls-eye with chalk. The outer numbers were drawn in green, the inner numbers in pink. The kids had to try to get a pom-pom on each color. They added or multiplied those numbers together. If they landed on one of each color they got a point and if they got the answer correct they also got a point.
9. Use fun worksheets
Over the years, I made a lot of fun math worksheets that went along with the kids interest. Over the years, I made the kids a variety of different printables which are all free here on the blog!
10. Make your own worksheets if your child needs more practice (don’t press on just because the math book has run out of problems!)
If you’ve followed our blog for a while, you’ll see that my kids fell in love with having their own worksheet sets! I would have my kids do a colorful worksheet practicing a skill they were working on in addition to working on problems out of their math workbook/textbook.
I have two big bundles with all kinds of colorful, fun worksheets I put together for the kids along the way.
K-2 Math BUNDLE — In addition and subtraction to TONS of addition and subtraction worksheets, games and activities, there are also files that cover the
- fact families,
- days of the week, months of the year
There are lots of seasonal packets from Fall themed pages to holidays, winter math fun, Valentine’s Day, Jelly Beans and more!
This is *amazing* value at just $5.50! I really have had fun making all these games, activities and worksheet sets!!
I have been adding new seasonal activities and packets to this bundle! 🙂
And of course there is also our popular Multiplication & Division Bundle which now has 20 pdfs! There are multiplication/division packets for each of the individual multiplication tables, 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s… 10s. Plus there are packets with mixed practice. There various games, skip counting activities, and lots of fun colorful worksheets in this huge bundle. You can find this entire set (of 20 pdfs) for $7.00 in Our Store or at this page: Multiplication – Division Page. There you can also ee even more pictures of the various pdfs and worksheets and games included.
11. Upper Level (high school) Math
I made a lot of assumptions when my kids were younger about how math would go once they were older. I assumed that they would be more independent. I assumed that they would be able to work problems out on their own and that they wouldn’t “need” me anymore. Of course, that’s because I was listening to what other people said about how things went in their homeschool. From what my sister said (she homeschooled her three kids who are 2, 4, and 6 years older than my oldest)… they were able to tackle math on their own. My close friend had her kids enrolled in an outside/online math class and she never had to do math with her kids.
I guess it always depends on the curriculum you use AND the personalities of your kids.
We settled on Thinkwell for math. We have used that for Geometry, Algebra II, PreCalculus and (next year) Calculus. My kids love it! And, so do I!
It is a program where Professor Burger spends 2-9 minutes teaching a math concept. Then there are about 4-5 math exercises to practice that concept. You then watch the next video and solve the next few problems. There are lots of exercises (as well as review problems) and the answers (and solutions) are provided. It’s a great program as far as I am concerned. if you are interested you can get 15% off through my referral link: Thinkwell 15% off: http://thinkwellhomeschoo.refr.cc/lieslm
What did I learn about teaching math with my high school age kids?
- My high school age kids want me to do math with them. Both my son and daughter started out doing Geometry alone, but they found it lonely and tedious doing it on their own. They also got frustrated when they were stuck and didn’t enjoy having to figure out what was going wrong on their own. So, I wound up making the time to sit with them all (separately) during our homeschool day. The others would work on other things on their own during that time.
- We like using a timer for math time. We set it for 45 minutes when they were in 8th/9th grade but by 10th grade+ we (almost) always did an hour of math each day.
- For Algebra II and PreCalc we split math time… we did 30 minutes of algebra type problems and the other 30 minutes doing the chapters on logarithms, trig and conic sections. This worked out well for us.
- Make sure your kids have a good background in right triangles. Have them memorize the main right triangles early on… 3,4,5 — 5,12,13 — 8,15,17 — 7,24,25 It is SO useful if they have those down!!
- Also, it was really useful for them to memorize the squares (13×13=169, 17×17=289). We have a free game and worksheets for memorizing the squares here.
- Use flashcards!
- It’s really helpful if you can hang some math posters that you use and refer to all year. We have some free high school math posters like the colored ones you see on our wall there here.
- Laminate and save the unit circle (for trig).
- If your kids take standardized tests be sure to go over Mean, Median and Mode! We have some free worksheet materials on mean, median and mode here. Also we found Khan Academy’s videos and practice on mean, median and mode quite helpful.
10. That’s all I can think of for now! Remember, every homeschooling family handles things differently… and different curriculums will work for different kids. These days there are a lot of options out there so be sure to ask around to see what has worked for other homeschooling families too!
See you again soon here or over at our Homeschool Den Facebook Page! Don’t forget to Subscribe to our Homeschool Den Newsletter. You might also want to check out some of our resources pages above (such as our Science, Language Arts, or History Units Resource Pages — Note, I just updated the Science Resource Page last week, so be sure to visit that page!!) which have links to dozens of posts. You might want to join our free Homeschool Den Chat Facebook group. Don’t forget to check out Our Store as well. ~Liesl
Happy Homeschooling, everyone!! ~Liesl
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