Prodigy Math Game Review and How I Gave Money to a Stranger on the Internet

Prodigy Math Game Review – Short version – I gave money to a stranger on the internet for an upgrade to Prodigy Math game, a math program that I wasn’t initially a fan of and for something that I already had the free version of.

Long version – I use Life of Fred math with my home schooled 10 year old. He loves it but the delivery of our next book had been delayed. So I decided to use this as a chance to test some online math programs in the meantime. Prodigy Game being one of them. Read on for my Prodigy Math Game review!

Introducing my Prodigy Math Game Review

I’d heard others rave about Prodigy Math but I’m not usually a fan of gamified math, as often kids spend too much time playing inside the game and not enough time “mathing” OR kids just think the games are lame because the game play is not as good as whatever the latest big game studio thing is they like playing.

After trying a few other programs – none of which impressed my son – I finally got round to setting him up on Prodigy Math. He spent 20 mins scoffing about how rubbish the gameplay was but then voluntarily came back to it later on in the day and played for another 30 mins, even tackling hated (for him) topics like long multiplication and decimal subtraction and learning new topics such as mean, mode and median. Each question has a built in hint which gives a brief explanation for how to solve that type of question but realistically students need to have studied the topic previously as the hints are brief and quite general or have a parent on hand to help them.

An addictive math game

The following day my son played for an hour and declared he needed the paid version. Now the full price is $8.99 a month paid monthly or $4.99 a month paid up front for the year. I’m happy to pay for educational stuff BUT I’ve also recently discovered the world of Group Buys – where a group of parents club together (usually on FB Groups) and get a discounted rate on a program. I’ve bought a few things in recent months this way (including a fab story app and a typing app). The Group Buy rate for Prodigy Game was $14 for the whole year.

So my son complained about how he can’t believe I gave money to a stranger on the internet and that how he’s going to have wait at least another 8 days to get the upgrade which will get him more coins, armour, pets etc. however, despite this he approached another hour on the game that day.

I was impressed! The gameplay is kitsch (think Pokemon) but is fast, smooth and addictive. The time spent on gaming compared to the time spent on the math is much better than on some other programs I’ve tried (Education City – I’m looking at you!) There are even You tube channels where you can watch kids doing Prodigy Game “Let’s play” videos complete with them solving math problems. What a time to be alive!

Setting up a free Prodigy Game account

Both parent and teacher versions of Prodigy Game are FREE. The paid upgrade is primarily for the kids so they can level-up faster – but the people  behind Prodigy claim that paid students end up playing for longer and making faster math progress because of the higher in-game rewards (my son’s single session record so far has been almost 3 hours on the game with me forcing him to stop!)

On both the free and paid teacher versions you can assign specific topics for your child to work on using the Planner tool. This is a great way to reinforce topic that your child is working on at school or to revisit some of their weak spots from previous topics. With the planner you can choose to add questions on topics from the US, Canada or UK curriculum.

Prodigy Game Group Buy

By the way, my Group Buy did come through! The US/International Group Buy I used  for Prodigy Game is at https://www.facebook.com/groups/256935961369124/ You’ll need to set up a Prodigy Game parent or teacher account first (it doesn’t matter which and you can switch between them.)

Do you agree with my Prodigy Math Game Review? Has your child tried Prodigy Game? Let me know in the comments below.

5 Best Maths Exam Revision Tips for Panic-Free Exams

I’ve invited Mark Maclaine, a London based super tutor specialising in maths, science and school admissions, to share his best maths exam revision tips for panic-free exams.


To really get to grips with your maths exam revision, you’ll need to use techniques that actively help you engage with the topics. Reading through notes and copying out questions will only get you so far, so for the times when you want to try changing up your revision plan, these are my 5 best maths exam revision tips.

1. Practise past papers

Working through past papers is the best way to get an understanding of the exam format and different types of questions that will come up. Remember that it’s vital you practise past papers under timed conditions! You won’t have unlimited time in the exam, so timing yourself will help you get to know what you’re capable of getting done in the exam. As you get used to the question formats, you’ll get more comfortable with the questions and quicker at knowing how to approach them.

Ensure you review the papers with a mark scheme and take the time to understand why your answer might be wrong instead of marking your work without looking over it properly. It might be frustrating initially, but you can’t always memorise your way to success with maths, so ensuring you have a thorough understanding is key. If the mark scheme provides more than one method for solving a question then ensure that you look over other ways you could have approached it. This can be a useful way to deepen your knowledge and challenge yourself to grow.

You should also always remember that there’s no shame in getting things wrong – in fact, making mistakes is one of the best ways to learn. Whilst it’s easy to put off the more challenging questions, it’s important that you focus on getting better in these areas as soon as possible. Doing past papers helps to identify questions that need some more work so you can prioritise these. After all, practise makes perfect.

2. Group revision

Two heads are better than one, and two people working together have a better chance of solving something than you on your own. Whilst you don’t need to limit yourself to working with one other person, make sure that you keep your group relatively small to help you stay on track with work.

Chances are the people in your group will each have different things that they’re good at, so there’ll be plenty that they can help you with, and equally a lot that you can help them with. One of the most powerful learning methods is actually teaching. Taking turns to explain concepts to one another will encourage you to solidify your knowledge and will very quickly expose areas you might need to work on. The more fun you make this the easier it will be to do! Try to challenge each other to find faster and more efficient methods if you can.

3. Write yourself instructions

If you can’t set up a study group, the next best way of reinforcing what you’ve learnt is by explaining questions to yourself. As with any skill, it takes time to get comfortable new concepts. Writing down the steps you have to take to answer a question will simplify the process for you, as well as help to make it stick in your memory. Order your instructions into a list or flowchart that you can refer to time and time again.

To avoid confusion when you come back to your instructions, make sure you explain it in as much detail as possible. Imagine that you’re explaining the process to someone else who has no knowledge in the area. This will help you when you revisit your revision and need some direction of where to start.

4. Flashcards

Flashcards are useful for more concise snippets of information. Use flashcards to refresh your memory on the topics you cover by writing a prompt or question on one side and the answer on the other. When you have your flashcards ready, go through them and keep track of the ones you get right and wrong. Make sure you put the ones you get wrong to the back of the pile so that you can review them and ensure that doesn’t happen in the exam. You could also experiment with putting them up around the house and answering them each time you see a card. Eventually, you will have seen the question enough to know exactly how to handle it.

You should also use your flashcards to help compile a last minute cheat sheet. A cheat sheet is essentially a flash card with all of the things you’ll want to look over right before your exam. Use your flashcards to compile the ultimate card with all of this information on, from formulae to technical vocab – anything you might need fresh in your memory for the exam.

5. Memorise (where possible)

Whilst maths is mainly about understanding topics and applying this knowledge to questions, there are a few things that you can memorise to help you out in the exam. Make flashcards for circle theorems and SOHCAHTOA equations. Looking over these regularly will help ingrain them in your memory and ensure you don’t miss out on easy marks.

Inputting numbers into a memorised formula is another one of the simplest way to boost your marks, so make sure you take the time to learn your formulae! To help remember these, try writing them over and over until they stick or put them up around your house.

If you’re still struggling with your maths revision, seek out extra help. Whether it be from a parent, teacher, or tutor, someone else might be able to explain an area you’re struggling with in a way that it suddenly clicks for you.

In need of a maths tutor in the UK? Look no further. Tutorfair is a website that allows you to find and book private tutors for face-to-face tuition. For every student who pays, Tutorfair give free tutoring to a child who can’t. With hundreds of verified tutors who specialise in Dyslexia, 11+, GCSEs, A-levels and degree level subjects, why not get in touch for some help with your maths?

Mark Maclaine is a London based super tutor specialising in maths, science and school admissions, and co-founder of Tutorfair. Tutorfair is a website where parents and students can find and book local tutors or online tuition.

10 Awesome Lego Math Videos for Creative Kids

Who doesn’t love lego bricks? This simple toy appeals to kids of all ages and even holds the title of being the “world’s most powerful brand.” Certainly in my household, my kids love to build with lego bricks and I love the fact that they are using math without realising it. For a more formal approach to using Lego bricks to teach math, check out these 10 awesome lego math videos for creative kids (and their parents!)

Blog Post Graphics

1. Lego Color Sorting Activity For Preschool Math and Fine Motor Development

Put your preschooler to work sorting their lego by color or size. Muffin tins or used egg cartons make excellent temporary containers for this activity. You could also buy sectioned containers so that the newly sorted lego stays organized for the long term.

2. The simplest way to explain Math to Kids with Lego

Fractions are best served with a helping of physical objects. Give those pizzas a break and use lego math to demonstrate basic fractions and addition and subtraction of fractions. This video also shows how to use lego to represent square numbers.

 

3. Maths with Lego: Improper fractions to Mixed Numbers

The idea of improper fractions is often difficult to demonstrate with real objects. This lego math video will walk you step-by-step through the process along with examples to solve alongside.

4. Three Prisoners problem – LEGO Star Wars Math

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away the force of mathematics was unleashed. Is the force strong with you? How can the prisoners work out which of them is to be executed. This video shows the solution to a classic  math problem – The 3 Prisoners Problem – acted out and explained using lego minifigs.

5. Lego Perfect Diagonals

Watch this video to learn how to use geometry to solve a common problem for lego builders – How to form perfect diagonals while still connecting to the studs.

6. A Lego Brickumentary Clip

In 1958 LEGO estimated six standard LEGO bricks could come together nearly 103 million ways. Professor Soren Eilers calculated the real number — 915 million ways. Discover how Professor Soren worked out the mathematical solution to tricky question.

7. Teaching Division Basics Using LEGO® Bricks – Brick Math Series

Dr Shirley Disseler walks through a series of division problems using lego bricks and shows how to form division sentences from the representations. Dr Shirley has also made videos in the Brick Math series with show how to use lego math to demonstrate factors, multiplication and fractions.

8. Geometry Activity # 1 LEGOmaniacs Have Fun Building Math Activities LEGO Homeschooling Lessons

Build a variety of square-based structures using lego bricks. This video introduces the concept of squares being shapes of equal length and investigates how squares can be constructed with different shaped lego bricks.

9. Pythagoras Theorem

Watch this video prove Pythagoras’ Theorem using graph paper and lego bricks. This is a fantastic hands on way to explore this important math equation using lego.

10. LEGO MATH : Fractions, Decimals, Tenths

Explore the relationship between place value, fractions, decimals and tenths with this lego math video which features lego bricks, lego minifigs and even a tidy up lego AT-AT.

Which is your favorite lego math video? Tell me in the comments below!

11 Hot Math Education Research Studies to Boost Your Child’s Math Skills

Have you ever wondered what makes some people into natural mathematicians while others seem to struggle with grasping even basic concepts?  Do you wonder whether there are things you should be doing to help your children reach their potential in math?  Here’s my rundown of recent math education research into how we learn, and how best to develop your child’s math skills.

11-hot-research-studies-to-boost-your-childs-math-skills

 

Babies’ spatial reasoning predicts later math skills.

Stella Lourenco, a psychologist from Emory University conducted a study showing that babies with a stronger interest in a video stream of mirrored images went on to have greater mathematical skill at age four than those with less interest.

This may be why some people seem to have a natural aptitude for math, while others find it difficult.  The good news is that spatial reasoning can improve with training.  Lourenco suggests that an increased focus on this area in early math education could be helpful.

Action Point:  Provide opportunities to develop spatial skills.  Traditional shape sorters, puzzles, and stacking toys are ideal for this.  Also, try some of my Short and Sweet Preschool Math Activities.

Math difficulties may reflect problems in a crucial learning system in the brain.

Procedural memory governs our mastery of non-conscious skills, things like driving.  In this research, Tanya M. Evans PhD shows that procedural memory is also important in developing math ability.  She suggests that problems with underlying brain structure could be at the root of math difficulties.

Action Point:  Storytelling can be a great way to support the development of procedural memory.  The structure helps children to remember what comes next, setting them in good stead for math concepts later on.

Parents’ math skills ‘rub off’ on their children.

A recent University of Pittsburgh study shows that we transfer our math skills to our children.  Math education researchers found that a child’s performance in standardised tests could be predicted by looking at a parent’s performance in similar examinations.  

Action Point: Your understanding is key to developing your child’s understanding.  If you’re not confident in your own abilities, try Khan Academy or a similar programme to boost your performance in the basics.

Math and me:  Children who identify with math get higher scores.

Self-talk influences our performance throughout life.  Math is no different.  Dario Cvencek’s study shows that performance in math tests links to stereotypes. This in turn determines how children think of themselves as math learners.  For example, girls who subscribe to the theory that ‘math is for boys’ will tend to have weaker mathematical ability.  

Researchers measured explicit and subconscious beliefs in children through a range of tests. They then monitored their results in standardised tests at the end of the school year.  They found that implicit, subconscious beliefs affected math scores while explicit beliefs did not.  

Action Point:  Cvencek says, “If we can boost children’s math self-concepts early in development, this may also help boost their actual math achievement and interest in the discipline.”  

Watching the brain do math.

Using MRI technology, scientists at Carnegie Mellon University have been able to see what’s happening in the brain while students are solving maths problems.  They identified four distinct stages of the thought process: encoding, planning, solving and responding.  Using MRI, they analysed how long respondents spent on each stage of the process.

Action Point:  Professor John Anderson hopes that his research will eventually lead to improvements in classroom instruction.

brain math

The brain performs feats of math to make sense of the world.

The orbitofrontal cortex, just behind the eyes, carries out a constant stream of calculations and computations. All this without us being consciously aware of what’s happening.  This process shapes our behaviour and reactions to situations.  Using a safari park simulation, researchers from Princeton University demonstrated that people could accurately decide which area of the virtual park a specific group of animals had come from, based on their previous experience in the game.  

This ability would have been important to our ancestors’ daily survival, and it’s just as crucial for us today.  Even those without confidence in their math skills can take heart from the fact that our brains have an innate ability to conduct complex mathematical computations.

Finger tracing can lift student performance in math.

Getting young children to trace letters and numbers with their fingers is a standard part of early childhood education.  Recent research by Dr Paul Ginns suggests that this benefit extends to other areas as well, specifically, solving math problems.  

A survey of children aged 9-16 in Sydney showed that using the index finger to trace over important elements of algebra and geometry problems helped to improve their skill in solving those problems.

Action Point:  If you have young children, you probably already encourage them to trace letters and numbers.  Try to find ways to maintain that habit as they get older.  One suggestion is to let them see you modelling the behaviour as you try to figure out measurements for DIY or craft projects.

Improving math in sixth graders.

Marije Fagginger Auer’s research shows that “children can benefit from writing down their calculations, especially the more vulnerable group with lower ability”.  Current trends lean towards a heavy focus on mental strategies that don’t require children to ‘show their workings’.  This research found that a written process of working out the solution resulted in a higher proportion of correct answers, although this took more time.  

Action Point: The results of this math education research will be used to improve teacher training programmes.  Meanwhile, it’s easy to encourage children to write down their process for answering questions. This will work especially well in areas they find more challenging.

Math study shows our brains are far more adaptable than we know.

This fascinating research shows that blind people have the same innate numerical reasoning abilities as sighted people.  It was previously thought that the basic number sense present in humans and animals was related purely to sight.  This study found that, in blind people, the visual cortex plays an important role in numerical reasoning.

Co-author of the study, Marina Bedny says that the findings suggest that the brain as a whole is far more adaptable than previously believed.  “If we can make the visual cortex do math, in principle, we can make any part of the brain do anything.”

Simple numbers game seems to make kids better at math.

Games are a great way to boost math learning, we know that already.  It’s also been known for a while that a highly developed sense of number in infancy can predict later math success.  Johns Hopkins University researchers have taken this a step further with a study that suggests that games can bolster an innate sense of mathematical awareness.  

Children were given a game to play on a tablet, where they had to decide whether there were more blue or yellow spots on the screen at one time.  This had to be done quickly, without counting.  Testing after the dots game found that those children who played the ‘proper’ version of the game (with questions progressing from easiest to hardest) performed much better.

Action Point: This study shows that even a small investment of time can pay dividends.  It is well worth adding a few number games and activities to your days.

10 Online gaming can boost school scores.

Research from RMIT University, Melbourne, shows that playing video games can sharpen teenagers’ math skills, while Facebook and other social networking sites can dull them.  Associate Professor Alberto Posso said, “Students who play online games almost every day score 15 points above the average in maths and 17 points above the average in science.”  

Action Point: One recommendation from this study is that teachers should try to incorporate popular video games into their classes, providing that they’re not violent games.  

11 Tutoring relieves math anxiety, changes fear circuits in children.

This research has found that one-to-one tutoring can not only improve math ability but also treat math anxiety itself.  Using fMRI scans on children with high math anxiety, researchers showed that, after an eight-week tutoring programme, the brain’s fear circuits and amygdala were no longer activated by exposure to maths.

Action Point:  If your child suffers from anxiety around math work, and you’ve been wondering whether a private tutor might help, maybe this is the confirmation you need.

It’s interesting to read math education research, especially when it backs up what you already know.  You’ll find plenty of math resources here at Maths Insider to help you encourage your children as they grow their math abilities.  I especially love reading research into how very young children learn. It’s fascinating to understand the science behind the things that most of us do instinctively.  

Have You Seen These 15 Awesome Math Toys and Games?

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Are you keen to help your children cement the math skills they’re learning, but finding them less than willing to spend their free time practising times tables or number bonds?  Hopefully, you’ve had a chance to look around here at Maths Insider to see some of my suggestions for ways to make math practice more fun.  Here’s a list of math toys and games with a definite emphasis on fun and a whole lot of math learning thrown in for good measure.

Number skills builders for preschoolers

Smart Snacks Number Pops – a fun way to encourage number recognition and fine motor skills at the same time.  Match the numbers to the dots and slide the coloured shell over the corresponding lolly.

Contains 10 ice cream pops.  Recommended for age 2+.

 

2 Melissa & Doug’s Stack & Count Parking Garage is a sturdy, colourful toy that will appeal to car-crazy toddlers, and teach them their numbers while they play.  Your kids will love dropping the wooden cars into the slot and seeing them fit neatly on top of the car beneath.

Recommended for age 2+.

Cool math for young kids

3 In this Math Explosion Game, the math side of things takes a very definite second-place to the excitement of exploding a volcano!  The game uses customised math facts making it suitable for a range of ages to play together.  Math practice and volcanic eruptions – what’s not to like?

2-4 players.  Recommended for age 5+.

The Magnetic Apple Fractions toy helps link important math concepts with everyday experiences.  Colour-coded plastic pieces are held together by magnets to create a fun toy that helps develop awareness of fractions.  Comes with an activity guide to help you get the most out of it.

Recommended for age 5+.

Sequence for Kids looks just like a normal board game, it doesn’t scream ‘I’m an educational toy’, making it ideal for those of us with more cynical children.  A strategy-building game that can be played by non-readers but which is engaging enough for adults as well.  Throw in a side order of unicorns and dragons, and you’re sure to find this one a crowd-pleaser.

2-4 players.  Recommended for ages 3-6.

The Maths Insider Guide to the  Best Parent - Tested Math Products

Engaging math games for older kids

Do you fancy being a Super Math Spy?  Use your super-fast mental math skills to carry out secret missions.  Complete with spy goggles and finger-print cards, this is a fun game that’s never the same.  A great way to encourage the kind of speed and automatic recall of facts that we all know is so important for later math success.

2-4 players.  Recommended for age 7+.

Make-a-Monster Math Test Prep Games.  Spin the spinner, answer math questions, and race to build your own funny monster.  Specifically designed to target skills needed for standardised state and national tests.  This link is to the Grade 3 set, but it’s available for Grades 3-5.

2-4 players.  Recommended for age 8+.

8 The best games are easy to learn but challenging to play.  Flip 4 fits right into this category.  A fun way to practice basic math skills and develop strategic thinking at the same time.

2-4 players.  Recommended for age 8-12.

9 Build space rockets and explore the solar system in Xtronaut: The Game of Solar System Exploration.  This game offers an awesome introduction to rocket science and space exploration while developing strategic thinking and planning skills.  Developed by the leader of the NASA OSIRIS-REx mission, it contains a wealth of real-world learning.

2-4 players.  Recommended for age 7+.

10 An irresistible curiosity that is bound to attract young and old alike.  The Clever Catch Multiplication Ball is a large inflatable ball covered in math problems.  Perfect for either organised game-play or informal exploration.

Recommended for Grades 3-7.

11 Think Fun’s Gravity Maze has 60 challenges across four play levels, so it will keep your kids (and you) puzzling for a good long time.  Use your logic and spatial reasoning skills to figure out how to create a path that will take the marble to the target tower.  A simple concept with endless variations

Single-player.  Recommended for ages 8-15 years.

12 The Ozbot Bit is a tiny (just over 1”) robot that you programme yourself.  Start with basic colour-coded commands, and progress to OzoBlockly, which allows you to fully programme your robot.  Coding is the latest buzz in STEM education, and this is a fun way to back up what your kids are learning at school.

Recommended for age 8+.

13 The Laser Maze Logic Game, also from Think Fun, is another game designed to develop sequential reasoning and hone those planning skills.  Arrange the mirrored tokens to reflect the laser beam onto the targets in 60 different challenges at a range of levels.

Single-player.  Recommended for ages 8-15 years.

14 Do your kids like to play to an audience?  Are they budding performers and entertainers?  If so, the 4M Math Magic Puzzles and Games set could be the perfect addition to your rainy-day cupboard.  They’ll learn to perform 15 math tricks and amazing speed calculations to wow friends and family.

Recommended for age 8+.

Fabulous geometry fun for the whole family

15 K’NEX is a classic toy that works on many levels.  This Elementary Math and Geometry Building Set tallies up with national standards and common core requirements.  Use the teacher’s guide and building instructions, or simply play and experiment – they’ll be learning without even realising it.

Set suitable for 3-4 children to use together.  Recommended for ages 2-16.

If you’ve liked these math toys and games ideas, click on over to my list of Brain-Building Math Board Games for Curious Kids for even more inspiration.

8 Things to Love About Thinkster Math (formerly Tabtor)

MATHS INSIDERS blog

By far the most popular post on Maths insider is my post,  8 Things to Hate About Kumon! As a former Kumon instructor who now works as an instructor with Thinkster Math (formerly Tabtor) I’m writing this post to give a unique perspective as someone who has worked for both companies.

At Thinkster Math I look after many, many ex-Kumon students including a family with 4 kids who switched from Kumon so that their children could explore the wider curriculum that Thinkster Math offers. So whether your kids are currently doing Kumon, another math program or you’re just starting to look into math programs to support your child’s math, let me share with you the 8 things to love about Thinkster Math.

1. Thinkster is great value

Thinkster Math pricing compares brilliantly to Kumon, Mathnasium and personal tutors. Prices start from $60 per month which includes one-on-one math coaching as well as unlimited worksheets.

More details here

And don’t forget there’s also the cost of your time as the parent who has to take your child to the tutor/learning center each week.

2. Thinkster Math Instructors are qualified teachers

Thinkster Math actually uses qualified educators. I’m a Cambridge University educated qualified high school math teacher and many Thinkster Math instructor have spent many years as teachers. Kumon prioritises business experience over teaching experience when it comes to choosing franchisees to run their centers. Thinkster Math focuses on math teaching experience and ability.

3. Thinkster Math actually teaches your child

The Thinkster Math program contains built-in instruction videos for each topic – not just a few written examples. Step by step solutions are also shared when students get questions wrong. Students have regular one to one tutoring sessions so that their tutor can review questions they got wrong with them, introduce any tricky concepts in the upcoming worksheets or even help with school homework.

4. Thinkster Math offers a broad and varied curriculum

Thinkster Math’s world-class curriculum is based on Singapore Math and other world-class curricula. It is then customized for each country according to the state/provincial standards. As a result it contains a confidence building mix of arithmetic, word problems and logic problems to build important skills for future mathematicians

5. Thinkster Math takes personalization seriously

Thinkster Math is a US based company with instructors around the world but our work is overseen by senior staff who we meet with regularly online and are available to help instructors, parents and students alike. Also, Academic Advisors take care to match new Thinkster Math families with instructors based on their specific needs. In the rare cases where parents want to change instructors, they can do so quickly and easily.

6. Problem solving is at the core of the Thinkster Math program

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Most students join Thinkster Math with weak problem solving skills, even if they are strong at math in general. Problem solving is so important when it comes to math. Computers are able to process numbers far more quickly and more accurately than humans can, and those who have strong problem solving skills will be the ones in demand in the workplace. Thinkster Math puts problem solving at the core of it’s curriculum, including basic problem solving even in it’s Kindergarten worksheets.

7. Thinkster Math supports and extends kids school math

Thinkster Math worksheets use the math methods and techniques which have been proven to lead to a deeper understanding of math. With 1000’s of worksheets available, Instructors able able to build a specially tailored study plan to support and extend the student’s school math learning.

8. Thinkster Math builds mathematicians not just arithmeticians

If you put a Kumon student head to head with a Thinkster Math student and give them 100 arithmetic questions – the Kumon student will win (the Thinkster Math student will still be ahead of the rest of the class though).

However – if you give a Kumon student a series of logic or problem solving questions – the Thinkster Math student will come out top.

One of my Thinkster Math students was lamenting that in the weekly timed times tables tests at school he always finishes in 3rd place, slightly behind the Kumon kids. I offered to add in some concentrated times tables worksheets into his worksheet queue, even though we had moved beyond that stage in the curriculum, but he said, “No thank you Caroline. My teacher actually said that everyone in the class needs a lot of practice with word problems except me – so I don’t mind continuing with the work you’ve given me!”

Have you tried Kumon and/or Thinkster Math? Tell me in the comments below!

Click below for a 10% discount for 3 months:

Read more about  Kumon and Thinkster Math:

8 Things to Hate about Kumon – A Review

About Kumon The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Is Thinkster Math a Real Alternative to Kumon?

12 Brain Building Math Board Games for Curious Kids

12 Brain Building Math Board Games for Curious Kids1

With summer coming up, I’m on the lookout for a new game or two to liven up quiet afternoons.  It’s an added bonus if I can sneak a little math practice in without anyone noticing what I’m up to.  Here are my top twelve picks for fun games with math skills at the core.  Take a look at this previous post on math board games for even more inspiration.

1. Smash-Up Game

Aliens, Ninjas, Pirates, Dinosaurs and more battle to smash more bases than the opposing team.  Eight different factions and dozens of combinations to try.  ‘It’s really fast setup, it’s really fast play … It’s easy to pick up the rules.’  

2-4 players, recommended for age 13+.

2. Melissa & Doug Shut-The-Box

A deceptively simple game, this is a favourite for all ages in our house.  An easy way to practice number bonds for younger children, with plenty of strategy to keep everyone else interested.  ‘This a great coffee table game for adults, as well as beginning adders!’  

2-4 players, recommended for age 6+.

3. Educational Insights Shelby’s Snack Shack Game

A counting game that will appeal to pre-schoolers and slightly older children alike.  Simple number recognition, and beginning addition and subtraction skills are used to help Shelby find the bones she’s buried at the beach.  ‘Parents (or relatives or friends) of pre-schoolers: Look no further, this is a perfect gift!’ 

2-4 players, recommended for ages 4-10.

4. Prime Climb 

A blend of strategy and sheer luck makes this an appealing game regardless of your mathematical ability.  You’ll practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division using the colour-coded board to scaffold the learning.   ‘Engaging and challenging enough that no one was bored but easy enough to understand that no one was frustrated.’  

2-4 players, recommended for age 10+.

12 Brain Building Math Board Games for Curious Kids2

5. Clumsy Thief 

A fast-paced card game to practice addition skills.  A winning mixture of luck and tactics make this a fun and engaging game.  ‘As a homeschool mom, I love anything that has my kids learning but makes it so much fun, they don’t even realize that they ARE learning!’  

2-6 players, recommended for age 8+.

6. Brain Quest Smart Game

Different question levels mean that this game works well for mixed age groups.  Race to answer questions on Science, Math, Arts, Reading, and The World.  ‘One thing that is so great is you can start playing with your 1st grader and go all the way through 6th grade.’  

2-4 players, recommended for ages 6-12.

7. Task Cards: Word Problems Grade 3 Board Game

Contains 100 different task cards for word problem practice.  Write-on/Wipe-off cards are always appealing to children, and these are linked to Common Core Standards to help you target specific areas for improvement.  

Suitable for individual and group use, recommended for ages 7-8.

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8. Make 7

A simple game to encourage familiarity and speed at additon.  The aim is to get your number tiles to add up to seven in any direction.  ‘The strategy is very deep. Something like a chess game but much quicker.’  

2 players, recommended for age 7+.

9. Farkle 

Quick set-up, and super easy to learn.  Like all the best games, strategy and chance both play their part.  ‘Great game, tons of fun, easy to learn.’  

2+ players, recommended for age 8+.

10. Teacher Created Resources Jumpin’ Chips Multiplication

 Five different games in one.  Master multiplication facts to 12×12 in these checkers-type games.  ‘Students love this game. They ask to play all the time and even ask to borrow it to bring home.’  

1-4 players, recommended for ages 7-11.

11. City of Zombies Maths Board Game 

Roll the dice and try to stop the zombies in their tracks.  A flexible cooperative game that can be easily adapted to focus on different areas of math.  ‘What price would you be willing to pay for a bit of argument-free time, knowing that your kids are totally absorbed in a game that does not pit one child against another but makes them combine forces against a common enemy?’  

1-6 players, recommended for age 5+.  (Please note, this game only ships from the UK).

12. Times Square – A Fast & Fun Times Tables Maths Game 

Play this as a standalone game, or use it to expand the City of Zombies game above.  Easy and fast to learn, and provides hours of fun.  ‘The game comes fully differentiated with a range of different play modes, and tips to make it easier or harder, which can be swapped in and out at a moment’s notice.’

1-6 players, recommended for age 7+.   (Please note, this game only ships from the UK).

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The Complete Guide to Faster Times Tables in Just 31 days.

Quotes - Alice in Wonderland

I’ll try if I know all the things I used to know. Let me see: four times five is twelve, and four times six is thirteen, and four times seven is–oh dear!”-  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

 

If, like Alice, your child is struggling with remembering their times tables, you’re not alone!

Ask a random selection of kids some of the trickier times tables and you’re going to get quite a few “Ums” or “It’s….well…it’s…….”

The thing is – it’s not necessarily your kids fault that they’re not comfortable with the times tables facts. Perhaps:

  1. They weren’t given time to thoroughly learn them
  2. They haven’t had time to practise them
  3. They don’t see the point of being fast at them

 

In this article I’m going to share with you:

  • Why it’s important at all for your child to learn the times tables
  • The best age to start learning the times tables
  • What your child’s needs to know before tackling this important task
  • The DIY system that parents around the world are using to guide their children in the times tables success
  • The resources you need and where to get them.

Are you ready to get started?

Great! Let’s begin!

Why is learning the times tables so important anyway?

So, why is learning the times tables important? Why can’t your child just get by? Well, High School math is filled with questions that require the use of times tables. Algebra is a lot easier if your child isn’t constantly reaching for their calculator.

Also, when your children grows up they’ll be:

Managing their finances

Splitting checks at the restaurant;

Working on a recipe conversion;

Trying to figure out if that price really is a good deal in the sale.

Using the times tables

All these require a good level of comfort with the multiplication facts.

In a BBC survey only 40% of the adults surveyed could give the correct answer to 8 x 9 but among the over-55’s in the survey, the number of correct answer rose to more than 60% so numeracy skills are definitely declining.

In a survey of California, Algebra 1 teachers, they reported that 30% of their students do not know their times tables.

So actually if your child can learn their times tables it’ll not only help them be more confident with math, it’ll put them ahead of the general population!

 

So what age should the children start to learn the times tables?

In this age of competitive parenting where we race to toilet train our kids soon after birth, this is a valid question.

Well, there are some five year olds that know their times tables, maybe even you were this young when you learned yours, but six or seven years old is a good time to start learning the times tables, even if it’s starting with skip counting by 2’s, 5’s and 10’s.

However, even teens who are still shaky on their times tables still have time to straighten out those multiplication facts. It’s certainly not too late.

 

The one thing your child really should be good at  BEFORE starting their times tables

Whatever age your child is, there’s still one thing they should know before starting the times tables:

They need to be confident at addition and subtraction;

and if they’re not, then this needs to be sorted first.

Fluent addition and subtraction skills will make the whole learning-the-times-tables process much easier, since not only are times tables just repeated addition, but some times tables shortcuts depend on addition and subtraction.

Click the image for a color or black and white printable Times Tables Cheat Sheet

 

cheat1

If you ignore this piece of advice then the whole learning in the times tables process is not necessarily doomed to failure, but it’s just going to be a more difficult. So if at all possible – sort  out the addition and subtraction first.

 

So how long will it takes for your child to learn their times tables?

Well, if they are working on it daily – only about 10 minutes a day –  then it’s only going to take them a month or so.

Start selling that to your child, “Hey – you could learn the times tables in a month if we did 10 minutes practise a day”

Can you find 10 minutes a day?

How to get to started?

Well, the first thing, the really important thing, is to plan in advance what time of day your child will be working on their times tables. Choose a time when both you and your child are free. You might not be doing anything more reminding your child to practice their times tables, but still it’s important to set aside this “reminder” time.

A great time to get on with this type of practice is first thing in the morning after breakfast, before school. If you walk or drive your child to school, this is another good time to review.

After school as a warm up to school homework also works well, but whichever time you pick, pick that time and let that be the “times tables time”.

So, what is it you actually need to do? What system do you need to use?

Well , let me tell you what I usually do with my students. I start at the beginning. I start with the two tables.

Now maybe you’ve got an older learner, so you might be tempted to start with the six times tables because they are fine on the 2’s 3’s, 4’s and 5 times tables, but my advice is just start with the two times tables.

Let them whizz through the easy tables, and then they can spend more time concentrating on the higher tables with their renewed confidence.

If you really want to rush the process, you can start AT THE LAST TIMES TABLES THAT THEY KNOW WELL.

But my advice is just to start at the beginning.

Let’s break down the 31 day times tables system

Now it would be great if your kid can do a 100 times tables questions each day – that is  definitely worth aiming for. If they can do 100 questions in just five minutes then brilliant! They are fluent and fast in their times tables and they can move on. If they are doing 100, two times tables in five minutes then great, they should move on to the three times tables.

With the multiplication facts, we are aiming for them to actually answer each question in about three seconds, so if you’re using audio, or you are reading out questions to them use the rhythm of three seconds per question.

If it’s taking them 10 minutes for 100 questions, that’s still fine. But you need to just check – are they taking 10 minutes because they’re staring out of the window or fiddling with their pencils, or are they actually taking 10 minutes to concentrate on each of the questions and answering the questions?

If they’re hesitating on each question or using their fingers, it’s worth repeating these early tables to get them to lose the habits that could be hijacking their chances of success.

I would advise that they probably need about  3 to 4 days for each of the times tables. So if they take them 10 minutes the first time, let them repeat that particular times tables, for a 2nd, 3rd or maybe even a 4th day to see if you can get their timing to closer to five minutes.

If after 4 days on that set of times tables facts, they’re still taking 10 minutes that’s fine – let them move on.

If they’re taking 15 minutes or more, then step back to the previous times table (or to the last times table that they were fluent in) to help them build up their speed, then go back up to the problematic set.

Now while most people think the process goes like this:

3

Which can definitely work:

I prefer to run through the times tables so it plays out like this:

4

But my kid HATES times tables worksheets

I hear you on this! My 2 older kids ploughed their way through times tables worksheets and learnt them that way with no fun and games, but my younger 2 are worksheet-a-phobes!  

Everyone learns in different ways. I’m very much a be a visual learner and maybe your child is a hands on learner and your child’s times tables efforts will get better results if you can tailor their work to their learning style.

Worksheets are a great way to learn the times tables if your child takes to them, but after doing worksheets all day at school, the last thing your child may want to do is more worksheets!

There are some children who do find worksheets terribly grown up, and you don’t necessarily need to avoid worksheets altogether.

In my 31 Days to Faster Times Tables program, you’ll find printable games, audios, activity suggestions AS WELL AS worksheets to suit different learning styles.

If your child responds well to visuals, you can get them to read out the questions themselves and then shout the answers and then YOU write down the answers (or just keep a running check on whether they’re getting the answers correct).

Or you can read the questions to your child and and she writes down the answer.

You can even print out copies of the worksheets and then have a race against your child – if they like a bit of competition!  

For auditory learners you can use audio instead of worksheets. There are audio CD’s that you can buy or if you look on YouTube you’ll find plenty of times tables raps, rhymes and songs.

Your kids could even make their own times tables audio that they can listen to!  

Want some resource ideas? Grab my 31 Ways to Practise the Times Tables FREE PDF eBook

Click here to grab the FREE ebook

Games, games, games

Remember I told you that my youngest kids are worksheet-a-phobes? Well the one thing that’s really helped them with their times tables are times tables games.

My kids love playing the printable games that I printed out and laminated. Some needed dice and counters but they seemed to love the ones that used those washable whiteboard pens!

You could even make up your own games with just a pair of dice, a pack of playing cards, or a random number generator (Google will be able to help you out there!).  

You can have your child play an online multiplication game or download a times tables app and give your child a smartphone or tablet to play on. Sentencing your child to 10 minutes a day on a smartphone won’t be such a bad thing on their eyes! 

There’s plenty more ideas in the FREE 31 Ways to Practice the Times Tables eBook

So where can you find these resources?

Well, bookstores are a good starting place. They’ll have plenty of workbooks, CD’s and also some pre-packaged games or flashcards as well.  

A YouTube search will give for times tables resources will yield a huge amount of results. When I looked up “times tables raps” there were over 300 YouTube videos for times tables raps and time tables songs, as well as instruction videos showing how the times tables work.

Google is also a great resources, whether for buying times tables products or looking for free worksheets, you’ll get  plenty of choices, but the difficulty is how to choose between all these resources.

Of course you can also grab my 31 Days to Faster Times Tables program

Choosing the right resources

Whether you choose ready-made resources or you are writing your own worksheets, make sure you start with the easy questions first. So don’t just go straight into 8 x 9

Start with 2 x 2, 2 x 3, 2 x 4 etc. then make sure the questions increase in difficulty gradually.

Make sure the questions have some built in review, so for example if  they learned the five times tables, once they finish practising those, then make sure to include some questions on the 2, 3 and 4 times tables before moving on to the 6 times tables.

More importantly, choose a resource that fits with your child’s learning style.

If your child is a hands-on learner, then you probably want to spend more time playing games. Worksheets are fine with these types of learners, but supplementing these by playing some hands-on games will help to fix the multiplication facts.

If you want a way to get started immediately. I’ve developed the 31 Days to Faster Times Tables program which contains all the worksheets (including built -in review), audio, printable games and activity ideas to guide your child to faster, more confident times tables in one month.

Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 4.05.56 PM

You can find out more about the faster times tables program here.

In the meantime let’s go over the main steps:

  1. Start once your child has great addition and subtraction recall
  2. Begin easy and master each times table before moving on
  3. Build in review
  4. Use resources suited to your child’s learning style

Now whether you’ve choose to use the DIY system that I’ve just laid out for you or whether you choose to go ahead and purchase the done-for-you 31 Days to Faster Times Tables program at www.fastertimestables.com it  is really, REALLY important that you start to develop a plan, tomorrow or in the next couple of days, to really tackle those times tables with your child.

Once you get started, it will only takes 10 minutes a day to help your child to faster more confident with times tables!

Click here to grab the FREE ebook

11 Award Winning Math Books to Share With Your Child

Are you looking for some fantastic books to help boost your child’s love of math?

collageWhen done poorly, a book about math can be dull and confusing. However, when done well, and accompanied by unique perspectives and colorful illustrations, math books can be fun!

The following list of number-crunching books will prove this to even the most dubious of readers. All titles are winners of the 2016 Mathical prize, which honors books that cultivate a love of mathematics in young readers.

Whether you want to introduce a young child to their very first math concepts or supplement an older child’s math curriculum, this list is for you:

1. Just the Right Size: Why Big Animals are Big and Little Animals are Little, by Nicola Davies

Using animals to explain math concepts is brilliant, because, which kid doesn’t like animals? In “Just the Right Size”, the author seeks to amuse children with animal trivia while using these familiar creatures to explain geometry concepts such as size and surface area.

Children are drawn to the cartoon characters, and parents enjoy learning new math and science trivia at the same time. The fun presentation makes it an ideal way to introduce concepts to inquisitive learners and reluctant math students alike.

2. The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel, by Deborah Hopkinson

Primarily a historical medical novel, The Great Trouble sneakily introduces math to young readers in the form of money.

While following the heroic adventures of the main character, who is struggling to support himself, readers are plunged into the world of economics.

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Suitable for both fun and classroom, readers describe ”The Great Trouble” as:

” …historical non-fiction for kids that is also interesting for adults…”
“…perfect for young scientists.”
“…educational, yet by no means boring.”
“…a fascinating look at money, poverty, survival and illness in Victorian London”

3. An Animal Alphabet, by Elisha Cooper

Both a counting book and an alphabet book. The pages are filled with illustrations depicting over one hundred animal species (along with animal facts) and pages of counting opportunities (up to the number eight, the author’s preferred number.)

Definitely not a traditional counting or letter book, but one any preschooler will treasure, ”An Animal Alphabet” is :

“Illustrated with joy…an alphabet book to pore over, worth adding to any collection.” — School Library Journal, starred review

4. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

A classic book that introduces abstract mathematical concepts, and personifies both math and words as literal characters. The Phantom Tollbooth has delighted readers for over three decades, and continues to pique mathematical interest in readers of all ages.

Many parents today describe “The Phantom Tollbooth” as their first favorite book, and enjoy it even more as adults. What better book to share with a child?

5. Count With Maisy, Cheep, Cheep, Cheep by Lucy Cousins

This preschool book provides a fun reason for counting–they must help Maisy the Dog find all of the baby chickens before bedtime!

As a lift-a-flap book, it’s already interactive, and parents can make it more so by using the bright illustrations to teach numbers, colors, and farm animals.

“…Count With Maisy is an adorable book that my toddler loves.”
“Counting baby chickens with Maisy is my daughter’s favorite part of bedtime.”

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6. Secret Coders by Gene Luen Yang

Here is a book that offers a modern take on the importance of math. Not only is it a mystery novel filled with old-school learning concepts, such as logic puzzles, it focuses on one of the most progressive uses of math in our world today–computer coding.

A perfect gift for a child who is into computers or robotics, or who just needs some proof that STEM academics can be fun.

Parents and teachers both agree that this book is engaging, encouraging and enjoyable (for all ages!)

“… it encourages my daughter to read AND think about math, its a win-win in my book!..”

“…Such a fun and geeky book. It appeals to the kid in all of us, and my math-whiz kid loved the puzzles.”

7. Max’s Math by Kate Banks

Follow Max and his brothers as they set off on an adventure to find Shapesville. Their path is littered with numbers and shapes, and along the way they learn about counting, problem-solving, and basic geometry concepts.

The book is wonderful for the story itself, and presents numerous opportunities for parents to introduce new math games (such as finding hidden numbers).

8. The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos by Deborah Heiligman

A biography of the mathematician Paul Erdos, who was astonishingly brilliant with numbers, yet could not perform simple tasks like making his own bed. This story is for any child (or parent) who sees the world differently and strives to create their own learning environment.

The bright illustrations and joyful character can teach young readers that math is not something to be feared, since we see Paul so ecstatically happy about his numerical adventures.

One reader says:
“…thanks to this book, my child now dreams of becoming a mathematician.”

9. Math Curse by Jon Scieszka

“You know, you can think of everything as a math problem..”

That is the prompt that sets the book in action, as a student realizes she is “cursed” by being surrounded by math problems.

A clever and excellent way to drive home the importance of why math skills are important and how we use them everyday to solve a variety of issues. (And also some silly, yet charming, mathematical philosophizing as the narrator laments why a person who has 10 cookies must have 3 taken away as her whole life becomes a series of word problems.)

With the addition of some “silly math” the author also teaches readers that there are some problems that one cannot solve with math.

10. Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones

Again, a book that takes math beyond the school room and into real life. Cunningly hidden inside the story of a city girl who moves to the farm and rather reluctantly becomes a chicken farmer, are everyday math problems she must solve. Such as how to calculate the amount of water needed for a certain number of chickens per day, and how to measure for roosting poles.

For children who don’t dream of being physicists or engineers, its helpful to show how math is still useful in their own real world lives. Little math problems are just as important to your success, no matter which undertaking you choose.

Parents have described this book as funny, diverse, thought-provoking, powerful, and worth reading over-and-over.

11. Leonardo da Vinci Gets a Do-Over by Mark P. Friedlander

This is the book to perk up reluctant teen math students.

This adventure story links multiple academic subjects together (much as the Master himself did). Follow the three young characters as they help a resurrected da Vinci on his quest to better humanity.

“..a great book for merging math and science together. We read it as part of our homeschool curriculum, and my daughter loved it.”

Along the way the 3 young characters play the role of both students and teachers to the grand master; an empowering way to show children that what they learn today, they can use for teaching others tomorrow.

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Math Homework Without Confusion

How can I make sure I'm not confusing my child when they ask me to help with their math homework?

“The teacher didn’t do it that way!!”

“So which way did they do it?”

“I can’t remember!”

Find out how to rescue this frustrating situation and help your kids tackle their math homework without confusion with the 3 simple tips in the video below. The transcript of the video is also below. Click here to watch the video on You Tube complete with subtitles.

Hello, I’m Caroline from Maths Insider, www.mathsinsider.com and today I am going to answer a question from a Maths Insider reader who asked, “How can I make sure I’m not confusing my child when they ask me to help with their math homework?”

1. Find out what math they know

So I’ve got three tips, No.1, have a look at the homework and ask them to explain to you what they actually do understand, and if that draws a blank and they give you that look like, “I actually don’t understand anything, I don’t get it at all,” then try to ask them an easier example to see if they’ve got any understanding at all of the topic. For example if they come home with 247 divided by 23 and they don’t understand it, ask them, ”Okay so, how about if it were 24 divided by 3? Well how about if it were 243 divided by 3?” Try an easy example and see if they can actually explain to you how they would get the answer with an easier example. 

2

 

2. Google the math

No. 2, the next tip, because sometimes even that tip doesn’t work, is to actually Google it and not just Google “long division” but actually put “long division year 4 Australian curriculum” or “long division year 5 UK curriculum” or” long division grade 4 curriculum” and you’re going to get some very good results hopefully. Now you’ll probably get some websites, but also look at the video results because you might get some good YouTube videos and click on images as well because especially the images result might bring in some really good results from Pinterest which might be just some visual short cuts of what method to use, so that’s another good tip.

3. Phone a friend

And the last tip No. 3, which is kind of a last resort, but it might work, is to ask somebody. So ask on Facebook, because people like to be seen to be good at maths, and so if you just put a quick call out on Facebook to say “Hey, my child’s come home with long division and yea I know how to do long division, but it looks as if they’re using a division type of method and I don’t know what method they’re using” and you’ll likely get somebody, some people, who will respond and will know what current method is being used in schools. You can also look on forums as well or Facebook groups, but even amongst your Facebook friends you’ll likely to have somebody who may actually want to help out and say ,”Well, they’re doing this,” or “This is the method my child used last year.” So it’s always worth asking.

  • So tip No. 1. Ask your child to explain to you what methods they’ve been taught and perhaps with an easier example than the actual example they’re stuck on. Also have a quick look at the homework and see if there’s a question they’ve managed to do and ask them to explain it to you.
  • No.2. Google the topic plus the curriculum 
  • Number 3. Ask perhaps on Facebook