**Research out of Stanford University** suggests memorizing and drilling math facts damages our children’ chances to enjoy and understand math deeply. We have it wrong when we give our kids the impression that math is a set of procedures and rules to follow.

## Math Anxiety

I was anxious in our first year of homeschooling, afraid my daughter would not perform like other typical first graders. We used a dry math curriculum that stressed basic facts and rote memory, little problem solving and old-fashioned formulas. There was no adventure and no risk. My little learner gave me much push back. Midway through the year we started to play math and I saw a blossoming.

## No Flashcards

Yuck-flashcards. Yuck-sight words. Yuck-rote fact regurgitation. With my background as a language arts teacher I was completely confident that sight words (and reading and writing) would come about naturally as we continued to read, read, read as a family. No need to memorize. I wasn’t so confident about math but I started to wonder. I wondered if I approached math the same as reading if I would find a natural, developmental grasp of math concepts in my children.

## I did! I do!

Delayed? Different? Experience-based? Research? I’ll be up front–my husband is a mathemagician….he works in finance and in our house the kids hear him talk about going to work to “crunch the numbers”. So there is positive talk in our house about math which is a contributor to math achievement. We make time for games-math, strategy, logic–really any game will do. Fluency has increased significantly as we have played with a deck of cards, our games-based curriculum or manipulatives.

## Mental Math

Mental math is our friend. Due in most part to my~~ laziness~~ aversion to worksheet work, we do a great deal of math in our heads. Because of this nearly daily practice, my kids have increased their speed and fluency in problem-solving. We keep manipulatives nearby to move from concrete to abstract….and I sometimes need those more than the kids. 🙂

## More Manipulatives-More Connections

**The more your children can get their hands on math, the more math understanding they develop.** Look for and find patterns, build with shapes, group sets and categories, create sequences. Always move from simple to complex, concrete to abstract–and come back again and again to concrete. Get them down on the ground looking at math concepts, building models to show their understanding. Allow free exploration of the manipulatives you have on hand; this encourages kids to create and explore meaning. Suggest they show you their problem solving steps using manipulatives–an authentic way to open up conversation and math exploration. You want your **kids THINKING mathematically**.

## Brain Change

Kids’ brains do change as they begin to pull facts from memory. My wish for us to enjoy math, make it a natural part of daily life, and not build stress into our days with kill and drill, flash cards or timed tests, led me to explore what best learning practices and research has found. Natural math learning has given my kids confidence in problem solving and they can use basic facts effectively. Try to play and use manipulatives…see what math magic you can begin to create in your homeschool!

Tell me about it–what are your worries in math? Do you have math anxiety? How are you finding ways bring math magic to your homeschool? I’d love to hear your ideas! **Get in touch**. Find more mathtastic resources over at iHomeschoolNetwork on the **The Massive Guide to Homeschooling Math.**

Leah @ Love and Blues says

I love the concept of natural math. I read an article on it once that I can’t remember the link to, but it totally changed the way I plan to approach math instruction when the little one is old enough for it. I realized if I want to make learning fun, why should that be so different with math? I’ve always been kind of lousy at math, so it was a point of anxiety when considering homeschool… but articles like these help me to realize it’s totally not impossible. Thank you!

HWeller says

Leah-I love when we can see something with new eyes! I, too, didn’t love math but I sure do love learning it and playing it with my kids now. Learning is natural…and so is learning math! So encouraging to moms, right? Thanks for stopping by! Next week I will be sharing a post on all the great games and puzzles you can use. Hope you come back to check it out!

Krista says

Sorry if you’ve mentioned this before, but what are your favorite math games and manipulatives? We’ve done a workbook this year for my first grader but I know that he would love to do game based, hands on learning! Thanks so much!

HWeller says

Hi Krista! I am going to post about this next week…but there are so many out there. To start you off, my first grader loved playing war with a deck of cards, over and over again. You can change it up to deal out two cards at a time for addition war. Do you have pattern blocks, tangrams or dice? You can get outside with sidewalk chalk and just get those equations he might do in the workbook on the ground. Have him jump around identifying the answer to problems you call out. Just so you have some fun in the next few days. Check back on the blog or Facebook at the wellermommablog page, to see more fun ideas next week! Thanks for stopping by!

Joyce Lewandowski says

This concept is very interesting! I hated math growing up, and developed a strong aversion to it. Maybe it was all the memorizing, it was all so boring, and dry. I always wished there was a more organic, fun way to learn math!

HWeller says

I felt the same way; I loved my teachers but math was no fun. Most mathematicians aren’t speedy in their computations. This surprised me since we focus so much on speed for kids. But mathematicians love the beauty and fun of math–I want that for my kids! Thanks for stopping by!

Alison says

I never memorized my math facts (addition/subtraction/multiplication) as a child despite drills and flashcards — it has definitely hindered me as an adult. While I do believe that understanding concepts is more important than mere memorization, it is still very important to me that my children DO memorize math facts. Understanding THEN memorization.

Memorization doesn’t have to look like flashcards and anxiety though. We have enjoyed using manipulatives (we use Math-U-See which is heavy on manipulatives/understand AND mastery), games, and most recently Times Tales in math.

Memorization in just about all subject areas is a HUGE part of our homeschooling during the early elementary years. Memorization does not equal “drill & kill” in our home, it is taking advantage of the natural bend of a young child’s mind to memorize and organize into categories. And it’s fun too 🙂

HWeller says

Yes. I was fascinated by the science behind brain change…that our childrens’ brains actually change as they come to put those math facts into long term memory. I like how you liken memory work to your children organizing ideas into categories. Thanks for reading!

Annie says

Love that you homeschool and don’t just go with the masses! Such a great worldview you have! Thank you for sharing!

Mother of 3 says

We tend to a variety of everything from mental math to workbooks to games to applying math in real life while cooking or whatever. I want my kids to understand math and they do but I do expect them to memorize facts too; I don’t drill them or anything but assume that in time the repetition of facts we use often will sink in on their own.

Esther says

This is a really interesting approach. My daughter has struggled with math facts, and really does not enjoy the repetition type of memorization. She DOES memorize stuff all the time – but it’s stuff that she is interested in and has a reason to want to know about.

We switched this year from Saxon to Life of Fred for math, and that has already made a HUGE difference in her enjoyment of the subject! She is a highly right-brained learner, so I’m interested to learn more about methods that will work with her learning style.

HWeller says

My kids memorize, too…just not under my directive; flash cards did not work for us save to bring on tears. Games, puzzles, brain teasers and good old getting out of our seats and getting active–all of these ways activates the brain to learn! I’m gathering a list of resources to share–probably next week. Hope you can check back!

The How-to Guru says

Interesting thoughts about Math – my nemesis! I’m a Grammar Nazi-Literature-loving nerd. Teaching kids the “why” behind Math and how it works in the real world are what works for us to!

blessings,

Shan

JoJo Tabares says

My son was able to do higher math even before he memorized math facts. Couldn’t do 6×6 but he could do higher math he wasn’t even really being taught.

Anne @ The Fitly Spoken Word says

Manipulatives are so important for young learners to help them understand the concepts. I do think math fact memorization is essential, but it can be done effectively and not in a dry and boring way. I like the Saxon approach that categorizes the math facts according to how they’re solved and gives mental clues to help solve them. For example, doubles + 1, (5+6 or 7+8), skipping (+2), etc. Each type of math fact subset has a little clue to help you solve it. I also teach my son to think in tens.

HWeller says

Anne-Thanks for sharing what you have found works! Grouping is such a smart way to get kids thinking and visualizing facts.

Amanda - Raising da Vinci says

I always hated math because it felt pointless, this is why I strive to teach my kids in a real world way. We are currently using Math-U-See and LOVING it!

Carrie Bowers says

I LOVE math and crunching numbers! I hope my girls are as good at math as I am! They are 3 and 1 so I guess we will find out soon enough! Thanks for linking up at Friday Funday and please come back again this week!

Gladys says

My children haven’t been assigned math facts to memorizes. I was surprised and was actually gonna start working on that at home. This post was really helpful and everyone’s comments too. Thanks.

Rachel @ Smart Mom Smart Ideas says

I do insist that my children memorize their math facts (I guess I’m old fashioned). But I think this is an important conversation to have and there are many different perspectives. I like your emphasis on mental math. I need to work on this more with my oldest child.