squares and mazes, wahoo!

Oct 12, 2015 by

If you are anything like me, you pin things and then never do anything about them or flat out forget about them. Recipes, learning ideas, and home cutification ideas get pinned and forgotten on a fairly regular basis.

BUT, there is hope! I printed out two of my pins and introduced them to my children last Monday and they were both a huge hit! Then I took them to my Math ALIVE! class on Wednesday and my students gobbled them up and begged me to let them take the games home with them. So, now that I have tested them with nearly 20 children, I can say with absolute confidence that your children will love them as well…at least I am pretty darn sure they will! With the goal of creating more math lovers out in the world, I must share these winners!

The first is a spin-off of the dots/complete-the-squares game with multiplication problems added in. My dear boy did about 400 multiplication problems CHEERFULLY while we played the game. And his speed increased dramatically. The totally awesome Mathified Squares Game can be found here. My math students would have happily played it all hour if I would have let them. Instead, I taught them about Eratosthenes and blew their minds with how he measured the circumference of the earth within 200 miles of the measurement we have today.

We printed out lots of copies, grabbed a pair of dice, a cookie sheet, and two different colored pens, and dove right in. Now that I know my kids love it bunches and bunches, I might laminate them and use wipe-off markers, but I am a bit worried we would accidently erase some of our lines with our wrists as we move across the page. The same woman has several other different versions – addition, subtraction, factors, and more, but I am pretty sure those games need to be paid for. If she has a multiplication sheet for 12 sided dice, I will buy it, if not, I am going to make my own, so we can practice up to 12 x 12. (Fisher just told me he wants me to make one up to 20 x 20!)

The second is a large set of Skip-Counting Mazes. Annesley worked through about twenty of them in one sitting and pulled them back out today to do even more. Fisher discovered an error on one of the counting by 5 mazes, but even that error added to his learning as he triple checked all the numbers and possibilities before declaring with confidence that there was a mistake and the number 245 was missing.

Both of these activities are wonderful for cementing in those basic math skills we all need while not making it seem like the drill-n-kill approaches that so often shut little ones brains down.

We are on a math roll around here lately. Annesley finished her math book last week and started a new one today. She decided she wants to do 11 pages a day! And today she did it! I decided to introduce a new game to them today and it was a huge hit as well. Corners is from the RightStart Card Games Kit and is a fabulous game for working on multiples of 5 and addition. I wasn’t sure if Annes could handle it, but with a little bit of help once her score got into the 200s she did just fine.

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math=life lessons

Apr 21, 2014 by

Our little man has what I lovingly call the “leave me alone and let me build things and find bugs and for heaven’s sake, don’t make me sit still and do workbooks syndrome.” He does love me to read to him and he will sit for hours while I do so. He also sits still whenever he is focused on something of his own choosing. Lately it has been learning to draw bugs, race cars, and space ships.

He is really good at math. His minds gets math. I love watching the wheels turn in his mind as he ponders something and figures it out. But he doesn’t really like doing math. He especially doesn’t like to be cheerful as he does it. I was about to pull out my hair with all his grumpiness and flat out refused to help him whenever he turned into a whiney mess of “I can’t do it, I hate math, why can’t I go outside?” Richard talked to him. I talked to him. But nothing really helped for more than a day at a time. I thought about it. I prayed about it. Then I put a plan into action.

About four weeks ago I made him a deal. I told him if he could cheerfully do math with me and get done with his current math book and the next math book by the end of April, I would buy him the remote control rat he had been dreaming about since last fall. He had me count up all the pages in both books and help him figure out a schedule of four pages a day, three days a week.

But then I went to California with my dad…and then my mom and sister came…and we got behind on his schedule. We had to revamp it to seven pages a day, four days a week. And he cheerfully worked hard and learned a gob of new information and increased his skills and wowed me with how smart his little mind is. Somedays he got through eight pages, sometimes nine, but usually seven tuckered him out.

This morning he woke up and came and snuggled in bed with me and asked “How many more pages do I have in my math book?” I said “I don’t know, let’s count them up.” Well, he had 28 more pages so I said “You are doing great buddy! You are going to make it to your goal, I am so proud of you!”

He thought about it for a few minutes and then asked ever so sweetly, “Mom, can we do all 28 pages today? I want to finish today.”

“Of course! I will help you out and put in the time if you are willing to put in the time.” And so we started.

Nearly five hours later we finished. He was exhausted, but quite pleased with himself. He almost gave up a few times, but he stuck it out and pushed himself to do hard things. When he finished the last page, he gave me a heartfelt look with his big blue eyes and red eyelashes and said “Mom, thank you for helping me.”

He immediately called his papa and told him the good news and asked him to go pick up the rat. We found out a few hours later that the rat was only available at Halloween time and had been gone from the store for months. The poor boy! He was so disappointed. I found one online and offered to get it for him and have it arrive sometime next week, but in the end he decided to get a little lego set he found on clearance at our local variety store with his papa tonight.

I don’t believe in bribing children. I DO believe in helping them learn better skills and behaviors by occasionally creating a plan with them that involves a tangible reward. Fisher didn’t have to do x and then he got y. He had to overcome his desire to complain about his math book for weeks on end, treat me respectfully, learn a lot of really tough stuff, and stick with it day after day. In my mind, that is totally worth $14.

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fiar: humphrey the lost whale

Jan 14, 2014 by

fiar: humphrey the lost whale

Annes and I started our FIAR adventure again this week. We took December off and just got into the swing of things with FIAR again. I wanted to read All The Places To Love, one of my all-time favorite books, but she chose Humphrey The Lost Whale


This is the endearing, true story of a humpback whale who made a mistake and traveled under the Golden Gate Bridge, into San Francisco Bay, and up the the Sacramento River in 1985. Scientists, the U.S. Coast Guard, and people from all over the world worked together to help Humphrey get back out to the deep waters of the ocean.


Miss Annes thoroughly enjoying this book. The whole time we were reading it she kept asking, “He doesn’t die does he? He makes it back to the ocean, right?” Today we talked about salt water vs. fresh water, the Golden Gate Bridge, blowholes, different types of bridges, whale sounds, and the maps in the book.

Great times with my little one – so grateful I have this time with her.

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book bonanzas: the perfect square

Sep 16, 2013 by

book bonanzas: the perfect square

Perfect-Square We checked this book out from the library and love it! The Perfect Square is a delightful little book full clever captions, and lovely artwork by Michael Hall. It is about a square who is taken apart in a different way each day of the week. After he is cut up, ripped apart, or shattered, he makes himself into something new. So fun! This week we are going to cut up our own squares and make them into the objects in the book and probably some objects of our own creations as well.

Perfect Square 07a

“But on Monday, the square was cut into pieces and poked full of holes. It wasn’t perfectly square anymore.”

On the next page, these pieces are turned into a fountain with all the holes making the bubbles. So, so darling. One day the pieces make a river, another a bridge, another a mountain. It is brilliant and has got the wheels turning in my two little ones minds. I can’t wait to see what they create!

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here come the bugs

Mar 16, 2013 by

I have two avid bug collectors in my home. They crack me up.

Here are some comments from today.

Annesley: Oh MY goodness! Signs of bugs! (I totally thought she was going to say “signs of spring,” but I was wrong.

Me: Hmmm, what do you have? (Seeing a whole pile of bugs in her hand right above my head.)

Annesley: Look, mom! Look! I have found bugs! Look at my worms and my big, fat slug! Ahhh, I am SO happy it is bug time again!

Me: Yes, that is exciting.

Then she put her cheek next to the bugs and sighs the way you would over a new baby.

She runs back outside to find more bugs…thirty minutes later she and Fisher are back with more bugs to show me.

Fisher: We are the only ones that love bugs. We are the only ones who find bugs. The rest of our family don’t really like bugs. Look at our giant pile of worms!

Annesley: Mom! Do you see our bugs? I am so excited to find bugs. I love my little wormies. Do you want to see my big, fat slug? Here it is! Look!

It seems the days of having my little ones inside with me for the winter are about to be over. We are back to exploring nature, digging in the dirt, playing in the mud, and housing hundreds of bugs in jars all over the house.

Welcome spring.

p.s. If you or your children like watching nature films, this one is really good. Annesley can’t stop talking about it after she watched it in her Where The Wild Things Are class at iFamily on Wednesday.

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math alive!

Feb 11, 2013 by

math alive!

I decided to teach a semester of everyone’s favorite math class, Math Alive!, because there are quite a few children that weren’t able to take it when I taught it in 2010 – 2011 and they will be too old to take it when I teach it for Fisher in 2014 – 2015. I hemmed and hawed because it is a GOB of work, but finally I decided I had to do it so Jacob and Rachel and the other twelve year olds who missed out the first time would be able to have the chance to discover math in a whole new way.

We have met two times so far and I am in love with these kids! The first week we talked about what math is, introduced them to my super-fun Challenges of The Week, and read The King’s Chessboard which is all about the risks one takes when one doesn’t understand math.

At the beginning of each class we have a ten minute math activity where we build things, solve puzzles, play math games, or create something…a get-your-brain-on-fire activity. The first week I took my magic blocks and the kids had a blast. The second week we made designs on Geoboards. At the 9 1/2 minute mark, the race begins and all the students work as fast as they can to put their supplies away and get ready to learn about our mathematician of the day.

Here are the awesome blocks.




Last week we learned about Thales and built pyramids out of golf balls. It is always a huge hit and super challenging to solve the puzzles. Drat it all, I forgot my camera! This week we will continue to learn about Thales and will figure out how he measured the Egyptian pyramids.

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the legos

Nov 6, 2012 by

Fisher: Do you want to know how it all began?

Me: YES! (Having no idea what he was going to explain to me…perhaps the origin of the species?)

Fisher: Wellllll, I started with my first idea. It didn’t work at all. There were a lot of problems with that idea.

Me: Oooohhh. (Figuring out that he is telling me about his newest lego airplane).

Fisher: Then I tried my second idea. It worked a little bit, but not that good.

Me: Oohhhhhh.

Fisher: So, then I tried my last idea and it worked pretty well. So, now I have an airplane. I guess that is good. Don’t you think we need to FaceTime Grandma so she can see how my idea worked out?

This little guy cracks me up. He thinks and thinks and thinks. He isn’t quick on the draw – he likes to twirl things around in his mind for a good long while before he speaks. Most people aren’t willing to wait around to hear what he has to say, but trust me, if you do, it is worth the wait. He will either amaze you with his depth or crack you up with his innocent ponderings.

Fisher LOVES legos. I never wanted a lego house and refused to buy any of them. First of all, they make a mess. Second of all, they hurt terribly when I step on them in the middle of the night. Thirdly, they are expensive. Jessica always told me how much her boys loved legos and tried to get me on the lego bandwagon, but I resolutely stayed far away from the little plastic pain inducers.

But now we have a lego house. One Christmas a few years ago, some wonderful Christmas angel gave Fisher an awesome set of legos. He played with that set everyday for the next many months. He went through the instruction guide step by step and slowly figured out how to follow the directions. He spent about a month on the first guide. After that he got much faster. Now he whips out creations left and right. He builds while I read to him, he builds during family read-aloud time. He builds while he listens to the scriptures on his CD player. He builds and builds and builds. The next Christmas he was given more legos from another Christmas angel (or maybe the same one – we have no idea who loves us so much to do this for us, but we pray for them to be blessed one hundred fold for their generosity to us!) and he started saving up all his pennies to buy little sets here and there. Now he has about five sets and is constantly thinking and creating more buildings and vehicles.

Thank you to the lego giver who started this great journey of learning for my little guy. Our home has been so blessed by the thinking and creating these ingenious blocks have brought into our lives.

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cards + math = learning

Jul 26, 2012 by

cards + math = learning

I am a huge fan of learning games. My house is full of them and my children love to play them. We have long loved the Math Card Games Kit from RightStart Math and I think every family, homeschooling or not, should buy it and play the games.

Today I learned about a free e-book, Acing Math:One Deck At A Time and it looks fabulous. I downloaded it and am going to buy Fisher and Annesley their own card decks for our upcoming camping trip. Then on rainy afternoons, we can pull out our instructions, and cards and familiarize ourselves with a hundred new games!

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go to the dump

Sep 13, 2011 by

I cannot rave loudly enough about the RightStart Game Pack. Can you hear me shouting?


Okay, back to my normal voice now. We have owned it for many years and I consider it indispensable. It is probably the best $50 I have ever spent. I love these games and more importantly, my children love these games. Jessica over at Balancing Everything recently did a whole write-up about the RightStart materials. I don’t have time to write about everything right now, but I did want to share our love affair with one game.

Today I introduced Fisher to Go To The Dump. I loved seeing his eyes light up as he figured out the numbers in his head. Go To The Dump is just like Go Fish, except a pair is any two cards that add up to ten. So if you have a 4, you ask for a 6. If the other person doesn’t have it, they say “go to the dump” and you draw from the pile in the middle of the players.

5 + 5
6 + 4
7 + 3
8 + 2
9 + 1

We played one round and he begged for more, but then it was time for lunch. It is time for Annesley to learn how to play it as well so the two of them can play with each other without me.

Other favorites are Corners, Skip-Count Memory, Difference War, and Multiplication War. I need to spend more time playing these games with my children because inevitably once we start we spend several hours exploring mathematical concepts and everyone get oodles of practice with their math facts.

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