When Every Day Is Maths Playtime

living math homeschool

After I linked up our Pythagoras and the Knotted Rope activity at the Hammock Tracks Homeschool Review,  Savannah offered to interview me about our full-time living maths approach for this week’s Homeschool Review.  I jumped at the chance – I love talking about maths!

Tell me more about this full time living math approach

My children (aged eight and nine) don’t use any formal maths curriculum. Instead, we have a living maths routine.  The move away from curriculum was gradual. I’d always liked living maths – the fun my children have with it, and how it gives them a sense of maths in the real world – but in my head “real maths” was the curriculum, and living maths was an extra.  And we all know what tends to happen to “extras” in a busy homeschooling household!

Then I read Denise Gaskins’ book Let’s Play Math, which gave me the confidence to flip the balance. Let’s Play Math is one of those precious books which is both inspiring and practical – it makes you want to change, and tells you how to do it.

Here’s how our routine looks:

Monday – maths games like KenKen, Shut The Box or Yahtzee to practise arithmetic and maths facts.

Tuesday – oral story problems.  We grab a whiteboard and take turns making up problems for each other. They learn from watching me solve their (usually very convoluted!) problems, and I learn how their minds work from seeing how they approach each problem.  It’s a great opportunity for me to model, and the kids to practise, how to use notes and diagrams to solve real maths puzzles.

Wednesday – maths literature. We read aloud from a living maths book – maybe a mathematician’s biography or a maths picture book.  I allow time afterwards to play with the ideas we’ve heard about. For example, when we read What’s Your Angle, Pythagoras we knotted ropes to make our own right-triangles and proved Pythagoras’ Theorem using Lego.

Thursday – manipulatives and hands-on geometry. Recently we’ve played with pattern blocks and tangrams, made geometric shapes with toothpicks and mini-marshmallows, and used isometric graph paper to make Maori taniko designs when we were studying the history of New Zealand.

Maori taniko designs on isometric graph paper
Maori taniko designs on isometric graph paper

Friday – children’s choice of any of the above.

As I was writing this, I put the question to my nine year old daughter:”Tell us more about this full-time living math approach.” Her reply: “We do more real life maths and story problems, which are really funny because you can make up extremely crazy things.  And often we find maths in real life.”

What do you see as the benefits to this learning style?

Seeing my kids enjoy maths is very important to me, but in itself that wouldn’t be enough to satisfy me that a full-time living maths approach is right for our family. What does convince me is noticing my children beginning to think like mathematicians… Read the rest of the interview at Hammock Tracks


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15 thoughts on “When Every Day Is Maths Playtime

  1. I read this over at Savannah’s blog and really enjoyed it. Your children clearly enjoys how maths is done in your home!

  2. I just love your blog Lucinda. It is so full of joyous learning. I read this at Savannah’s blog too and loved it. You have some fantastic ideas and resources.

  3. I’m so dipsy. I started reading it and thought to myself ‘I’ve definitely read this before somewhere’ (!!) Duh! It wasn’t until I looked at the comments I realised you had posted the same interview I had read at Savannah’s. Again DUH!! And I left a message for you at Savannah’s. I’m not sure I’m fully qualified to teach my children……

    1. Now I’m being dippy – I cannot for the life of me find where to read comments on Savannah’s post! I can see how to leave one but not how to read them. Maybe it’s time to go to bed!

  4. don’t worry I think it’s me who’s unqualified …! I didn’t get it together to post it on the same day it was on Savannah’s site – I think I’ve confused a few people!

  5. This is fascinating. I have never thought to approach math this way, but it’s great and inspiring. I especially love the Tuesday approach, I think my kids would love that.

    1. Hi Theresa. I think my biggest surprise with this new approach was how much my kids love oral story problems. They’ve started making them up all the time, it’s hilarious!

  6. Love this! We are definitely NOT a math curriculum kind of family and have incorporated lots of living math into our approach 🙂

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