I’ve been wanting to share this little collection of books for a long time, and today is finally the day! I discovered Denise Gaskins’ Let’s Play Math blog a few years ago now, and I frequently peruse it for ideas to add a little sparkle to our Fun Fridays and, this year at least, the math games class I’m facilitating at our homeschool co-op. When I saw that she was coming out with a couple of books, I purchased them over the summer in preparation for the math games class and because after teaching math at home for six years, I could use some fresh inspiration, especially for my kindergartener.
These two volumes have definitely not disappointed. Counting and Number Bonds: Math Games for Early Learners contains instructions for over twenty different games, with countless variations. The games are divided into four sections:
- Early Counting
- Childhood Classics
- Number Bonds
- Bigger Numbers
The target age range for the games in this book is preschool through grade two. I have played several of these games with the DLM, and each one was met with delight on his part and the sharing of delightful conversation about numbers and thinking between us.
Addition and Subtraction: Math Games for Elementary Students also contains over twenty games, also with countless variations. This book is divided into four sections:
- Tens and Teens
- Numbers to One Hundred
- Mixed Operations
- Logic and Probability
The target age range for this volume is kindergarten through grade four, which is admittedly a pretty big range. However, these books are deceptively simple, as my introduction of several of them to our math games class at co op has attested. The children in this class are in grades three through six, and I have yet to use a game that the oldest students have scoffed at.
Both volumes include so much more than just math games instructions! Each one is about 120 pages in length and follows the same format. The first section is entitled “A Strategy for Learning” and includes an introduction and a short section detailing the supplies needed to play the games. In the introduction Gaskins both builds a very convincing argument and promises inspiration:
Math games push children to develop a creatively logical approach to solving problems. When children play games, they build reasoning skills that will help them throughout their lives. In the stress-free struggle of a game, players learn to think things through. They must consider their options, change their plans in reaction to new situations, and look for the less obvious solutions in order to outwit their opponents.
Even more important, games help children learn to enjoy the challenge of thinking hard. In the context of a game, children willingly practice far more arithmetic than they would suffer through on a workbook page, and their vocabulary grows as they discuss options and strategies with their fellow players. Because their attention is focused on their next move, they don’t notice how much they are learning. (3-4)
The supplies needed for the games are simple, mostly household items: playing cards, game boards that can be affixed to file folders or the like after being downloaded and printed from Denise Gaskins’ website, tokens or small toys to use as markers, etc. Following the games section is a section entitled “Playing to Learn Math” that goes into bit more detail about the philsophy behind this method. She begins with a convincing argument entitled “Diagnosis: Workbook Syndrome,” which she defines as “a distressing malady that afflicts children in public, private, and home schools across our country. A child suffering from this disease has learned to do calculations on a school math page but cannot make sense of numbers in real life” (82). She works to strike a balance between rote learning versus more conceptual math by removing the versus and presenting them as components of a well-rounded education that will “grow together” (85). In the end of this section she makes a very appropriate and encouraging comparison between learning math facts and learning to type. The very last section of the book is Resources and References, and both of these are plentiful and helpful. She gives some basic game-playing instructions, lots of books and websites for further investigation, and (perhaps most interesting of all for this quote lover), a list of sources for the quotes on mathematics and education that are sprinkled liberally throughout the book. The indices in these volumes are thorough and useful.
I fear that I’ve gone and on with the details to the point that I’ve buried the wonder and beauty of these books. I have never had a homeschool resource that more closely matches my own philsophy and enthusiasm about making mathematics learning connected, engaging, and yes, even fun. I love what Gaskins has to say about working with your children as opposed to simply assigning them work to do:
Real education, the kind of learning that sticks for a lifetime, comes through relationships. Our children learn more from give-and-take of simple discussion with an adult than from even the best workbook or teaching video. (6-7)
This sums up the philosophy that I try to keep forefront in our home, and it’s the thing that makes these books such a valuable addition to our library of educational resources. I cannot recommend them or Denise Gaskins’ other resources enough. She is a homeschooling mother with decades of experience, and she is very accessible to those of us who are still in the trenches. She not only shares math games, she also shares a whole philosophy as well as endless variations and ways to approach teaching math. These books would be useful to any homeschooling parent, no matter the ages of his or her children–the games are fun ones and, as Gaskins points out in the book, it’s better to play an easy game with joy than a hard game under duress. The easy game played joyfully will
reap many more benefits. It would also be useful to a classroom teacher looking for new meaningful activities for his or her students. These books are available in both print format (linked above), which is what I purchased. They’re also available in a combo bundle for the Kindle, linked here. Gaskins has several more titles in this series coming out in the future, and I cannot wait to get my hands on them! Highly, highly Recommended. (Tabletop Academy Press, 2015)
Denise Gaskins has very generously agreed to give one copy of each of these titles to a couple of Hope Is the Word readers (who are U.S. residents). To be entered to win, please do the following:
- Leave a comment telling me which of the two books you’d like.
- In your comment, tell me if you play math games in your home, and if so, which one is your children’s favorite. I’d like to add to our repertoire!
- Be sure to include your email address in your comment. If your name is chosen but I have no contact information, I’ll have to pick another winner.
- Share this giveaway on the social media of your choice and come back and tell me about it in a separate comment for another chance to win.
This giveaway will end Sunday, October 18, at 8 p.m. CST.