It’s been a strange year. On one hand, it feels crazy that it is already June. One the other hand, it seemed like a really long winter. Maybe that’s because we (in New England at least) skipped spring completely.
I don’t want to rush the year on too quickly, but for us summer is here. Our kids graduate their preschool classes on Monday and Tuesday, about two weeks before most other schools end their year and summer camps begin.
I’ve got a bit of Tiger Dad in me, so I’ll be picking up where the teachers left off. It won’t be too bad though because the kids have camp scheduled. We also have a lot of other fun activities planned.
My first academic love was always math. So far it looks like I didn’t pass the math gene on. It’s far too early to tell as pre-school math is mostly about counting and not much else. It can’t hurt to tilt their exposure towards experiences that focus on math.
I’m sure you are just dying to read about pre-school math curriculum. Hmmm, maybe you are not. While this may be a better fit for a parenting blog, let’s not forget that math is the foundation for personal finance. It’s not like this is a completely crazy topic for a personal finance blog.
Once we have a firm grasp at math the Warren Buffett’s Secret Millionaire’s Club Cartoon will make more sense. Bet you didn’t know that Warrent Buffet had a children’s cartoon about entrepreneurialism.
Teaching Your Preschooler Math
I don’t have a degree in education. I’m not known for my patience. I should be a horrible teacher. Maybe I am, but for whatever reasons my kids seem to get it. I’ve got a small sample size with similar genes, so this may not work for you.
Math is a very broad subject. For the 4-5 age group that I’m targeting, the focus is mostly on adding and subtracting. I’m throwing in fractions, because the concept of slicing a pizza is something that I think they can get. I’m also going to try to develop multiplication because… well… #TigerDad.
There are a lot of different ways to learn. I’m hoping by mixing a few different approaches, we’ll keep things fresh. I might as well start with possibly the most controversial…
… just kidding.
Learning Math Through Videos
Before I get to the good stuff, I should tell you that I’m linking mostly to Amazon versions of products. I will make a small commission if you buy product. However, you shouldn’t forget that your library can save you hundreds of dollars.
I get that kids are glued to their tablets nowadays. When I was growing up, it was controversial for kids to be glued to the “boob tube” (a.k.a. television). There is a lot of research that says that limiting screen time is for the best. I agree with that. However, research seems to show that tablets can be good and the same is true for television. The key is focusing on the quality of what is being presented. By the very nature of what I’m trying to teach, it’s going to be high-quality by almost any standard.
I’m going to start off with a few videos. These are short movies and something that be treated as a bit of a one-off.
- Donald in Mathmagic Land
Growing up I somehow missed this Academy Award-nominated film from 1959. I happened to find it on YouTube (not sure legally) and it was amazing. I think it’s exactly the movie to spark a child’s interest in math. It seems to cover everything, but I particularly like the focus on math in nature and music.
- Flatland and Flatland 2
I’ve never seen these, but they sounded extremely familiar to me. The original gets rave reviews. Some say that their high school class love it and others say that their 5 and 6 year old love it. My kids are doing well with basic geometry (flat and 3D shapes), but there’s always room to learn a little more.
- School House Rock Multiplication
I found this gem at my local library. It turns out that kids nowadays love School House Rock as much as I did. This focuses on multiplication tables taught through song. The interactive quiz part of the DVD was a great feature. My kids got every question wrong, but it was to be expected.
- Older Kid Videos
My kids are probably a few years away from some videos I found. However, rather than just move on, I’m include them here so I can research them in a few years. (This is another thing I love about blogging, looking back old ideas.) Let me know if you’ve seen or read anything good about Nova – The Great Math Mystery, The Science of Measurement, or The Story of Math
Learning Math Through Books
I’m still researching this area, but in the meantime I found a great series of math fiction books, Sir Cumference. These are fictional stories of knights and dragons with math spread throughout.
We’re still on our first book, Sir Cumference and the First Round Table and the results so far are mixed. I thought it was a great book, but they weren’t as interested as they are for other stories. Maybe I picked a bad night to read it? Maybe it is a year above their level.
I usually read to the kids before bed, so my hope was to get some mathy dreams percolating. We usually do two books a night depending on size). This is longer than most books we read, so I’m hoping we can stick with this series for awhile.
There are also a number of great workbooks at our local Dollar Tree. However, this is a different kind of book than what I was originally thinking about with this section.
Learning Math Through Games
This was really the inspiration for the whole article. It seems there are so many tremendous board games out there for kids to learn math. I want to have game night a few times a week. We have to see how the summer scheduling goes with the wife’s work, camp, and night events like sunset concerts and baseball games.
I found a pile of sneaky ways for a Tiger Dad like myself to slip math into their brains. I’ve been trolling Amazon for discounts and cheap prices on all of the following:
- No Stress Chess
This isn’t strictly a math game, but I had to include this timeless classic. This version comes with cards and players draw a card to tell them which piece they can move. My 5 year old is getting pretty good and see a move ahead now. My 4 year old beat me a couple weeks ago with a series of great cards. Once everyone is comfortable with how all the pieces move, we can graduate to the real game.
- Sum Swamp
This seems like the gold standard in math learning games. I bought it a couple of weeks ago with the idea of it being a school graduation gift. I have to talk with my wife about that, because we are trying to pare down the excessive number of toys that have invaded our home. It seems just about the right age (5-6) to teach just the right skills (adding and subtracting).
- Math Dice Jr.
Portable, easy to learn, award-winning, and priced under $7. It might be a stretch for our 4-year old, but I think he can grow into it. This toy is in our waiting room downstairs as the current sale price made me jump on it.
- I Sea 10!
Go fishing for combinations of numbers adding to 10. It’s another 6+ game, but I think we can work it in this summer. Since I already have Sum Swamp and Dice Jr. waiting, I’ll see how those go first.
- Clumsy Thief
“The Crazy, Fast-Paced, Money Game”?!?! Now we are talking. However, with an 8+ rating, we’ll probably wait on this until next year, maybe even next Christmas when our 4 year old is closer to 6.
- Fraction Tower
This looks like a fun physical way to learn fractions, decimals, and percentages. It’s not really a game, but I’m sure I could make it into one somehow. I like the idea that kids can physically see and feel that 1/2, 50%, and 0.5 is the same thing. I’ve been waiting for the price of this to get back towards its historical $12 level, but it seems to be pinned in the $15-range.
- Pop For Addition & Subtraction
This seems a little like I Sea 10, but without trying to make the combinations of 10. I could see setting up a reward system for correct answers. It looks like it would travel well to use while waiting for the food at restaurants and things like that. I haven’t seen the price budget from $9.99 in awhile.
- Wrap-ups Multiplication Keys
I really don’t understand how this works at all, but a ton of reviews says they are great and there aren’t a lot of multiplication tools out there. I like the tactile aspect to this and it certainly seems like something that could work on a road trip. I suspect that kids will get bored of this quickly though. I’m watching this for a good price and we can probably wait a year or more. There are Addition keys as well, which would be more appropriate.
- Lake Shore Multiplication Machine
I don’t know if most kids would find this very fun, but I think my kids would for at least a little while. It’s better for older kids (again multiplication), but I think my oldest could probably start it.
Learning Math Through Television
I covered videos above, but there are a lot of television shows that cover math concepts. My kids are already watching a lot of them. I have personally watched many episodes and highly recommend:
- Peg + Cat
- Monster Math Squad (used to be on Netflix, but no longer, so I bought it)
- Team Umizoomi
I’d like to call out CyberChase, it’s very much “under the radar” because it is an older show (though they still make several new episodes each year). I think it’s on PBS once a week. I ended up signing up for PBS Kids on Amazon for access to that and a bunch of other shows. I hope PBS gets the vast bulk of that money, because supporting PBS is something I believe in.
Learning Math Through Apps/Websites
I haven’t scratched the surface on using apps to learn math yet. I certainly should. I’d love to hear your suggestions.
Final Thoughts and Your Turn
As you can tell there are nearly infinite resources out there in just about every fun way you could imagine. I wrote the bare minimum about a few of them and I still feel like this is the longest article ever. After all this typing, it feels like we’ll be spending 90% of our time on math, but that’s not the case.
Now it’s your turn to give your thoughts. Feel free to rave about a mathy resource, rant about the lack of personal finance focus in this post, or anything in between.