Learning Math Through Play

The math games at calculators.org are a fabulous way for children and adults to hone their math skills.

If you know anything about me, or have read more than a few of my blogs, you know that my Grammy, my maternal grandmother, was and continues to be, an enormous influence on me.  Just put "Grammy" in the search box above and you'll see blogs about she and I regularly crafting together while listening to recorded stories.  She was legendary, at least to me, for her quilts, easter baskets, egg hunts and lamb cake.  As I reflect back on it now, it is incredible to consider exactly how much influence she had.  It goes way beyond the obvious; that I am someone who makes my living working with children and doing arts and crafts.  My love for reading, and now podcasts, and my "can-do" spirit truly began with her, and filtered down through my mom to me and my sister.

My Grammy was a teacher and her philosophy of learning is perhaps the single most important thing she instilled in me.  She believed and I firmly do as well, that children learn and absorb knowledge through play.  This has been a central theme in everything I do; in my business, with my family, in my life.  And again, as I have written often in the past, I worry, with the onslaught of technology, that children are losing that connection to creative play.  The video games they play transport them into different worlds, which are amazing. But what are they learning...I mean really?

The other day I got a note from the good folks at calcuators.org.  I love these sites, which provide users with a huge collection of online calculators to assist in budgeting, loans, retirement, etc.  They have all of those cool calendars - bookmark their site, you will most certainly need it in the future.  But they were suggesting I check out their section on math games.

Now, I have seen a lot of these online game sites.  It seems somewhat common to add a game section to a general informational site.  But let me tell you, calculators.org's is not only larger than a lot of the others but the games are really inventive - and let me tell you, not all that easy.  There are a ton of games directed at kids of course.  But there are also plenty that are fun and challenging for adults.  I have gone back and played a number of them a few times and my high scores aren't getting that much higher!

The largest section is dedicated to learning based activities for children. Some are more difficult than others.  There are multiple choice games which are great for the youngest of learners.  The other thing I really liked is most of the games allow you to choose the equation type - addition, subtraction, multiplication or division.  Knowing that most schools work through math in this order I found that very useful.  No use frustrating your little one with a multiplication problem when they don't yet understand the concept.

There are also some very clever games.  I was very taken by Feed Math.  In this game a chubby young fellow sits in front of a conveyor belt of sushi.  He has a number on his shirt.  The player has to choose the two plates of sushi that add up to that number.  Once you do - you guessed it - he gobbles up those two plates and another number appears.  The game is timed, but let me tell you, towards the end I was getting into the 70's and 80's with my answers.  My chubby pal ended up eating quite a bit!

In addition to the standard exercises there are some logic games and puzzles, which are clearly adult focused and challenging.  Sudoko, of course in many variations, and games that work like Connect Four but with numbers.  I must admit those sorts of games were never my favorite, but I know many folks really enjoy Sudoko and similar number challenges.

Although it wasn't listed as a logic game, I really enjoyed Guess the Number where you start with a number between 1 and 1000 and by guessing a number in between you narrow your parameters until you end up discovering the secret number.  The game tracks your moves.  I have yet to get below ten...(update, I played again after I wrote the first draft of the blog and I got down to 8 moves!)

I remain convinced that my Grammy was correct.  Perhaps the style and delivery mechanism of the games have changed, but this is clearly the best way to broaden your knowledge.  Sites like this, language learning programs like Duolingo, and other make learning fun.  Makes it feel effortless, like play.  Next thing you know, you have gained some knowledge.

I encourage you to try a few games yourself.  Play some with your kids, let them play some alone, and then try some yourself.  But maybe wait until they go to bed.  If you are anything like me you won't want them to see your reaction as you are trying to solve that last equation before the clock hits zero.