General Homeschooling    
Posted: May 5, 2014, 7:30pm by Bill Hobbs

Homeschool Math: "Thinking Outside The Box"

In doing your homeschooling sometimes you need to think "Outside the Books".  I'm not advocating never using textbooks or changing programs, but rather, suggesting that there are many ways to "show what you know".  It is also important to help your children see that real learning happens all the time, not just when they are filling out worksheets or sitting at our school table.

One way to add a bit of spice to your homeschooling is with a weekly Math Lab day.  On one day a week plan to leave the math curriculum on the shelf and do some hands-on learning with games, crafts, etc.  Math Lab days are also great for using math software you have sitting around, but may never get around to using.  Or how about those math games you have purchased, but usually remain on the shelf collecting dust?

Just what kinds of things can you do on Math Lab Day?  I'm glad you asked!

Young Children

  • Counting games with candy, Legos, or anything else you might have lying around.
  • "War" with a regular deck of cards or make your own deck with numbers to 100 and maybe a "wild card" or two to make things more exciting.
  • If you have them, Snap Cubes (a popular manipulative) are great to play with, making "trains" of different color patterns.  You start the pattern, and your child adds on to the train following the pattern.  Then let them start a pattern and you finish it.
  • Any board game that requires dice and counting.
  • Use standard and non-standard items to measure things around the house.  "Hey, Mom, did you know the cat is 50 paper clips long?"
  • Kitchen - baking involves using lots of real life fractions - while you're at it,how about sharing the "fruits" of your math lesson with a neighbor!
  • Play store

Elementary Thru Middle School

  • Math with Literature!  We love Sir Cumference, A Place for Zero, Equal Schmequal, and other titles in the math adventure series.
  • Math games like S'math and Knock Out! from Muggin's Math.
  • Board games, including Monopoly, PayDay!, Sequence and more.
  • Card games like UNO and War.  Use flashcards with math facts as a "war" deck.
  • Videos: Multiplication Rock, Money Rock
  • Play store and many of the other activities from the above list.
  • If you have any of the handheld, electronic math toys, Lab Day is a good time to make sure they are put to use
  • Computer games - Money Town, Math Blaster, etc.
  • Use activities from "Family Math", "Math for Smarty Pants" or "Games for Learning Math."
  • Plan an imaginary trip and use a map to figure how many miles you will travel.
  •  For kids interested in the Stock Market, you can use Lab Day each week to track and check on a couple of stocks, plotting their progress on a graph.
  • Visit one of the fun, free math game sites online like the Math Arcade at  There are lots more free websites for online learning in my book, Using the Internet In Your Homeschool.

One other idea that you can implement, not just for Lab Day, but as a way to add some more real life application toy our math lessons is the "Mommy Bank".  Give each child a blank check or savings registry book.  Their allowance is "direct deposited" into their Mommy Bank account.  They must add the amount each week.  They also deposit money received for their birthday, odd jobs, etc.  When they purchase something, they pay for it and deduct it from their account in the Mommy Bank.  Of course, older children often prefer to keep their money with them, but this works well when they are younger or for those kids who are not yet ready to carry around cash.

The above lists are just a few of the things you can do on Math Lab Day. So make tomorrow an "Outside the Book" kind of day!

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