# Math Encouragement Activities

I have a child that has no problem with figuring out math facts for addition and subtraction up to and below 100, but she finds the process somewhat boring. I was hoping for suggestions from some better math experts than I, about fun ways to practice facts for quicker operations and memorization of key facts like doubles.

Because of an answer below, it seems this clarification would be good to add:

She is still pretty slow and "counting it out" but hasn't crossed that threshold of really understanding how to reorder problems and Use symmetrical problems (also referred to as, fact families). I'm hoping for "fun" ideas to have her practice these while she builds familiarity and makes these critical connections. She is just starting to get the idea of rounding up to the nearest ten from nines and then calculating back as needed, she hasn't made the same connection for eights yet. I think she sees it as boring because at this time it is mostly just counting for her, not because she is quick and totally gets the ins and outs of it.

I have taught her a version of solitare that requires adding to ten in order to "get rid" of cards from the field and we have taken to playing cribbage together. We regularly play monopoly Jr. and make her the banker. I want ways to give her more practice that don't feel like drilling as well as techniques for helping to point out connections for her in understandable ways.

Any Ideas?

• It's not a proper answer, but have you ever heard of Chisanbop? I learned it when I was a kid and I thought it was really fun. Nov 16, 2012 at 20:15
• Isn't that for multiplication? Nov 16, 2012 at 21:55
• It's for anything you can use an abacus for. It's like having a calculator on your fingers. Nov 16, 2012 at 22:29
• I know where to look it up - I bet she'd love it! Thanks for the reminder and info. Nov 16, 2012 at 22:38
• @KitFox She is a Chisenbop fanatic now btw! Thanks. Wish I could give you more than an up arrow. It is actually even helping her to see relationships and symmetry in her math problems! Nov 26, 2012 at 18:55

You child has mastered a skill and finds it boring? Don't ask her to do drill on that skill, do something she'll find challenging, even if it's outside of her current curriculum.

For example, addition and subtraction are used all around us; when you go shopping, ask what change you should expect. Ask what notes and coins the change will come in (best representation), and what it could come in (combinations, permutations and equivalents). When baking, ask how much the mix will weigh after we add this next ingredient (a lot more definitive with a digital scale). Ask how much more we should add to get to a target weight. Start asking division and multiplication questions, like how many eggs are in a half-dozen, two half-dozens?

Time is another real-world addition and subtraction domain, but kids don't have a strong feeling for time - a moment, a few minutes, half an hour are all equal in length to a child (I suspect they all mean "an interminable delay"). Playing with a digital timer (you might find one on a microwave oven, a phone or a computer) is fascinating for kids, and helps given them a sense that there's a relationship between the magnitude of a number and the passage of time. You can ask questions about "what time will it be five minutes from now?" and "We're leaving at 8:45, how long have you got for watching TV? Is that long enough for an episode of Batman?".

My oldest has shown similar tenancies, and he found symmetry questions challenging: I'd ask what 17+2 is, and after a pause he'd give the right answer; I'd then ask for 2+17 and there'd be a longer pause. I kept asking questions of this format, and it took him a long, long time to realise that there was that symmetrical relationship. Note that I didn't point out the symmetry - I thought I was being pretty darn obvious just butting the questions up against each other, and discoveries that you make by yourself stick so much deeper than something that someone tells (or shows) you.

Multiplication is repeated addition, so questions like 11+11, 2x11, 11+11+11, 3x11, 11+11+11+11, 4x11 might light up realisation... but it might not. It also provides an opportunity to partition problems (11+11+11+11 == 11+11 + 11+11, which we solved earlier) and notice patterns (like the 11+ questions are really 1+ questions with the digits doubled up).

One thing I've noticed in my younger child is that he progressed fairly quickly from counting to "knowing", and I saw this when he was playing with (a computer game that featured) dice with pips. Extrapolating from this, I suggest playing some dice games with a couple of dice with pips, then - after she moves from counting to 'seeing' the numbers - to dice with digits. This will give her practice with numbers less than 7; you can also get dice with 10 faces (at hobby shops, or widely available online, search for "10-sided die", I've only ever seen them with numerals) and more. If you make whatever game you invent about getting the answer quickly, there'll be motivation to step up from counting to memorised relationships.

Boardgames often offer counting opportunities; snakes and ladders can be played by counting out the moves (1, 2, 3, 4) or by actually doing the maths and then moving (13 plus four is 17). We found Monopoly Junior a good teaching aid for a while, but the maths quickly moves from challenging to routine, but it does provide a grounding for moving up to Monopoly which uses larger numbers.

• I agree with your first statement entirely! Except she is still pretty slow and "counting it out" but hasn't crossed that threshold of really understanding how to reorder problems and Use symmetrical problems (as you outline above). I'm hoping for "fun" ideas to have her practice these while she builds familiarity and makes these critical connections. I think she sees it as boring because at this time it is mostly just counting for her. Thank You. Nov 17, 2012 at 0:00

This was my problem at primary school - my initial solution was to try and find practical problems that required arithmetic. This kept me interested for a year or so, and by that stage the school had realised what I needed and provided extra tuition in calculus and the more fun aspects of mathematics.

If your school can't or won't support a gifted child with extra tuition and challenge, you will need to try and work out what will re-ignite her interest. Taking a long time is probably part of the problem - she wants to see it working, and she knows how to do it, the rest is just mechanical now, so showing shortcuts for some of the basics (as described by KitFox and Josh) can help you get through this phase.