Yesterday, I mentioned that we’ve added a new portion to our math day. For much of the fall, the kids were simply doing math problems from their math book and they were complaining that math was B*O*R*I*N*G. What? Oh NO!! It was true, though, with everything else going on they were doing straight-forward stuff; you know fraction problems like this…
or long division… or a good meaty problem like 5789 x 673… but honestly I could understand the kids’ complaints. There’s so much more to math than the plain old arithmetic from their books! We really needed to make sure that math was relevant, engaging, challenging and even a bit fun!
As you probably know, the American students rank 25th in math among the 49 industrialized nations that were involved in the study. Here’s a question from the 4th grade test:
From: The Nation’s Report Card
This kind of question definitely goes beyond straight arithmetic, right?!!
As I started looking around, I read about something called Math Circles and saw collections of Math Circle problems. I was intrigued… just what was that? There’s a tradition in Russia of hosting math contests where students compete to answer various word problems. The contest itself was designed to get students intrigued and excited about mathematics. There’s something similar here in the US called the Math Olympiad.
I started looking into some of books on Amazon and decided this “math circle” approach really might be a good fit for our homeschool. The math riddles I shared just a couple of days ago are examples of the types of questions that get kids thinking. I’ll share the answers to the brain-teasers I asked:
The questions from the other day were… 1) Three matchsticks are laid out like in the picture below. Moving just two matchsticks, make six. 2) 8 matchsticks are laid out to look like a fish swimming to the left. Moving just three matchsticks, make the fish swim to the right:
Did you get the first solution for the first challenge (III)? My husband got it right away! And my 8 year old wondered if the solution was XI… That got my son thinking — and they figured out the answer (they said IV first, but when I told them that was 4 they quickly figured out VI is six).
For the fish puzzle, the picture on the left shows which match sticks to move, the picture on the right shows the final solution:
These are the types of questions you’ll find in Mathematical Circle Diaries. (This is an affiliate link.) This is one of several books I bought recently and the kids absolutely LOVE the questions and challenges in this book!! It’s quite challenging for both my 8 year old and 10 year old, but they BEG for more math time!!! I love that!
Math Circles for Elementary School Students is another we’ve added that I plan to use with the kids this semester. These have problems that really have them think in an analytical way!
I also searched the internet for some math puzzles and we’ve worked through this set of problems as well. My kids really enjoyed these — and maybe you can challenge your kids to answer these over the Thanksgiving break!! The answers are available if you click on the picture below.
Download and print the Math Riddles Page:
Have you heard of Pascal’s Triangle? I made this printable for the kids and will be going over it with the kids in the next few days. The relationship between those numbers is really neat (and we haven’t talked about this in a long time, so I think the kids will find this neat too!)
One book we use from time to time are the critical thinking puzzles from the Critical Thinking Company’s book, Building Thinking Skills® Level 2. (affiliate link) This thick book has both math puzzles and activities as well as various language and science activities. My kids also really love Mind Benders (also by Critical Thinking Co.) (affiliate link)
Another book we have used is Primary Grade Challenge Math. (affiliate link) DD went through the whole book are really enjoyed them.
If you have any great suggestions of math resources that go beyond the traditional math book, I’d love to hear from you over on my Homeschool Den Facebook Page! The kids will be grateful too!!
You may be interested in reading the Harvard Study: Achievement Growth: International and State Trends in Student Growth which explains how math scores are improving in the US and internationally.
You might also be interested in the Nation’s Report Card: 2013 which shows the progress US 4th and 8th graders are making in Math and Reading.
You might also be interested in these related posts:
Critical Thinking Skills – In this post I talked a bit more about Math Circles and some other critical thinking materials we have used (including links to some free Soduku puzzles we used)
Family Games Night: Several games our family enjoys.