Does Your Daughter Lack Math Confidence? She’s Not the Only One.


A recent study by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) has highlighted the problem of girls’ lack of math confidence. From the report:

Girls “lack self-confidence” in their ability to solve mathematics and science problems and achieve worse results than they otherwise would, despite outperforming boys overall

Girls do worse at math and sciences than boys, even though they do better in other subjects. This gender gap occurs in the majority of countries who took part in the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) tests, but the gap in the UK, the US and Western Europe was much more noticeable.

A spokeperson from the OECD criticized the teaching of math in the UK which he says was “simple math wrapped in complex words,”compared to Asian countries where complex math is taught earlier and from first principles.

The report goes on to say that this gender gap is not because girls aren’t as clever or able as boys, in fact they do better than boys in reading tests, but their poor performance is due to a lack of confidence in their math skills and their belief that they won’t need math for their future careers.

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 12.04.44 PM

As the mother of a 15 year old girl, these results sadden me, but I know that looking at the make up of the advanced math groups in her school, the majority of the class are boys, with only 5 girls out of 20 in her class and only 6 girls out of 25 in my 14 year old son’s advanced math group.

The OECD also looked at data from parent questionnaires and found that parents were much more likely to expect their sons to work in careers that needed math than their daughters.

What can we parents of girls do to lift our daughters from the bottom of the math confidence pile?

Show them cool careers that need math



Research from the Universities of Pittsburg and Michigan found that many women who have strong math ability, also have strong verbal ability and therefore have a wider choice of of career options. Make sure your daughter is aware that, if she chooses,  she can use both her math and verbal abilities in many of math and science based careers.

Share cool math videos

9 Ted Math Talks

Who doesn’t love a funny or inspiring video? Make a point of sharing some cool, well-made math related videos with your child. You won’t go wrong with Ted Ed math videos and there are some really cool math and science You Tube channels out there. And don’t forget math related podcasts

Keep up with the latest math education research

The Pisa (Programme for International Student Assessment) tests whose results formed the basis of the girls and math confidence study, take place every 3 years. In between test years, researchers worldwide dissect the the test data to produce findings which parents can use to support their own children’s learning. Quality news websites such as the Guardian, The New York Times and the BBC are good sources for finding out about the latest math education research. Of course, Maths Insider also highlights research based ideas to help you help your child with math.

Let them read math

Research (and personal experience from my 4 kids) has shown that girls love reading books more than boys do. We’ve managed to sneak a few math books onto our daughter’s bookshelf over the years. You can find some engaging math story books in the Maths Insider Amazon store in the side bar. Also check out my blog post Go Read Some Math.

Find out what your daughter really thinks about math

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 3.07.48 PM


Kids, especially as they get older, are often experts at hiding their true feelings. After reading this post, you’re more likely to look out for signs which indicate the level of your daughter’s math confidence. A casual chat in the car, or at the dinner table will yield more insights. You should also check out my “How Confident is Your Child at Math?” quiz here on Maths Insider.


As a biased math fanatic, I’d love it if every child loved math, and as a mother of 4, I’d be content if my own children loved math all the time. In reality, that’s just not going to happen. However, as parents, we want our children to be confident in all their subjects at school, and especially in the core subjects of math and English. We also don’t want the fact that our child is female, to mean she has fewer future career options. The advice above will help raise the math confidence of your child, whether it be your son or daughter, but the research shows the problem is more acute for our girls.


Holiday Math and More


If you’ve read my Thinkster Math vs Kumon blog post a few months back, you’ll know that I’ve been working with Thinkster Math (formerly Tabtor), the personalized iPad based math program. I’m Thinkster Math’s instructor for many of their international students, and I’m also recording instructional videos which accompany each of the Thinkster Math worksheets as well as writing articles for their blog.

As a result, It’s been a bit quiet here at Maths Insider but after the holiday I’ll hopefully be back here with a vengeance.

I’ve still got plenty of ideas to share with you on Maths Insider over the next few months but in the meantime, here are some of the articles I’ve written recently over at the Thinkster Math  blog about holiday math, Kumon and Thinkster Math:

Want to Give Your Child a Math Boost this Holiday Season? Here’s How!

Fun, family, festivity and math? Believe it or not, the winter holiday period is the perfect time to give your child a boost in their math. Take a look at these 8 practical ideas to keep your child’s math skills fresh this holiday season………..


Advice from an ex Kumon parent

We’ve been asking our Thinkster Math parents to give us feedback on the program. This is the text of an email that one new Thinkster Math parent sent us last week……..

Yes, America Agrees! Math is the Most Important Subject of All

Tabtor holiday math

Math has never been seen as the coolest subject on the block, with math lovers being called geeks, nerds and worse! However, there’s no escaping the fact, even amongst the haters, that knowing your 1, 2, 3’s and your X,Y,Z’s is important.

And America agrees!

This week Gallup released the results of a poll which asked,

“Which school subject has been most valuable to you in your life”……….

Thinkster Math vs Kumon. An Insider’s Perspective.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post on my Maths Insider blog comparing Thinkster Math to Kumon Math. I used to run my own Kumon centre in the UK and 2 of my own children worked through the Kumon program for several years, so I’m in a unique position to compare Thinkster Math’ innovative math program with the well established Kumon program……..

Naturally the articles above are all written to promote Thinkster Math, but I hope you’ll find plenty of helpful information in them to help support your child’s math.

Pretend Mind Reading – A Way Of Learning Algebra by Lawrence Ball


This is a guest post by Lawrence Ball

Here’s a way to pretend you read someone’s mind.

It’s also a way to get familiar with algebra.

I want you to do some calculations for me, are you ready?

mind reading math


  • Think of a number between 1 and 5, don’t tell me what it is, but remember it for later. OK? Got one?
  • Now double it. OK?
  • Now add 10.
  • Now halve it (or divide it by 2 – same thing)
  • Now take away the number you started with.

Your answer is 5.

Well it should be, if it isn’t you made a mistake!

Lets try another one.

  • Think of a number between 1 and 5

The reason I keep it between 1 and 5 is because if you try this on someone who’s not so good at arithmetic, and they make a mistake, then it backfires on everybody, so keep the numbers small, many adults make mistakes on this, and younger humans too.

Anyhow, again

  • Think of a number between 1 and 5, (don’t tell me what it is, but remember it for later. OK? Got one?)
  • Now, multiply by 3. OK?
  • Now add 12.
  • Now divide it by 3.
  • Now take away the number you started with.

Your answer is 4.

Lets do one more, to show you more how the numbers can be varied each time, in fact you can make these up as you go along, which is what I am doing at this moment.

  • Think of a number between 1 and 5, don’t tell me what it is, but remember it for later. OK? Got one?
  • Now multiply by 5. OK?
  • Now add 10.
  • Now divide by 5.
  • Now take away the number you started with.

Your answer is 2.

Now, welcome to algebra…..

Lets see how this pretend telepathy actually works.

I often teach this at the beginning of learning algebra, partly as a way of entertaining my students, why not have fun learning?

We start off with a number we don’t know. Now in algebra, its actually useful to have a way of referring to something we don’t know. It might seem strange to you, but that’s what we do. This is a stage removed from maths so far, which we now refer to as arithmetic. Algebra is a kind of maths where we deal with not only numbers that we know like 6 or 3.2 or a quarter, but also numbers we don’t know (at least not yet). We use letters, often x, or another letter.

In this number trick, I think “x” when I consider your chosen number, and when I ask you to double the number in the first one, I don’t know what number you have now, but I do know that whatever it is, its twice the number we started with, so at this point in the trick we have


twice the number we don’t know. We still don’t know what it is.

Then I ask you to add 10. In algebra we represent this as


We still don’t know what the number is at this stage, but we do know, that whatever it is, it is twice what you started with, with 10 added on extra.

Now here’s the clever bit. What we now do, is halve the number you’ve got now, the 2x+10, and we can do that by halving the 2 pieces separately. Half of twice the number (2x) we don’t know is just the number (x), and half of 10 is 5.


Now this is clever because no-one really notices that the 10 and the 5 are connected (unless they know the trick), so we now take away the number you started with, which is the x, and guess what – you’re left with…


Apparent magic.

No matter what you started with, any uncertainty has now been removed. We now know exactly what the number you finished with is.

That’s how the first one works.

Now, lets look at the other 2 versions I created. Again you think of a number between 1 and 5, we write


A number we don’t know.

I’m very fond of this little phrase I tell my students, it makes them laugh (and me too). x is a number we don’t know, but we can still talk about it, even though we don’t know what it is!

Its easy to forget what x and these letters mean, we can end up with a pile of mumbo-jumbo and turns into a lot of nothing, if we forget the richness and clarity of what we’re doing.

Then I ask to multiply by 3, because I don’t know what the number is, (in fact you could have a whole roomful of people with different numbers). Its now three times the number you started with.


Now I ask to add 12, so we have 3 times the number I don’t know with 12 added on extra.


Now, cleverly we divide by 3, by dividing the 2 pieces separately. 3x divided by 3 is x. 12 divided by 3 is 4.


Then, we say take away the number you started with, (the x), and your answer is


Give people plenty of time to do this, as you’re trying to impress people, particularly people who don’t know the trick, you want to make sure the answer comes out right, because if someone sees this for the first time they can get a real fun shock at this point.

Lastly, again you think of a number between 1 and 5, we write


times by 5


add 10


divide by 5


Then, we say take away the number you started with, (the x), and your answer is


I hope that clarifies this trick, what you have to realise is that the number you multiply and divide by must be the same – 5 in the last case – otherwise its not going to come back to x at the end. The number you add on needs to be a number that that number goes into – in this case 10 must divide by 5, you couldn’t add 11 and have the answer come out to be a whole number.

You must always remember to take away the number they started with at the end. It may help to remember you have one of each of the 4 operations, a times, a plus, a divide and a minus, in that order.

For more clarity see my video on this trick:

Mind Reading by Algebra from Lawrence Ball on Vimeo.

If you havn’t seen this before I hope you found this interesting and fun, and hopefully now, or soon (you could always reread to clarify) you can play this trick on your friends and family, and even better your maths teacher which might impress them no end, and may even cause a creative diversion in the classroom.

Lawrence Ball, London, UK    July 4 2013

Find Lawrence on Adrian Beckett’s Maths tutoring site. 

Lawrence Ball is ( a long-term maths tutor (but also composer and musician), with a history of helping with motivation and difficulty, as well as with maths material. He has tutored privately including extended royal family, and all 4 children of Lady Helene Hayman, and has had big success in helping pupils with dyslexia.

He has developed ways to teach basic arithmetic which are innovative, and that promote relaxed concentration. He lives in North London.

Start Celebrating Maths: 5 Fun Resources for Learning Maths

This is a guest post by Clare Evans

Maths. It’s one of those subjects your children either love or hate.


For some, getting their head around number patterns, learning their times tables, and mastering long division is just too much to bear. But maths has been considered ‘boring’ for far too long.

It’s such a valuable subject, that teaches your children skills for life. Skills they will need to employ almost every day in their adult life. So it’s time to start a revolution. It’s time we started celebrating maths and making it fun.

Here, are five fun resources you can use – either at school or in the home – to make learning maths a blast:

1. Apps

Zoom app

We’re witnessing a technology boom, and children of all ages know their way around an iPhone or iPad better than many adults. If this sounds like your kids, you should embrace their tech-savvy nature and make maths fun with an app or two.

There are plenty of apps for children of all ages and abilities, making this a great aid for many parents. A quick browse of the app store on your mobile or tablet will bring up a plethora of free and paid for apps, designed at teaching different skills.

If you’re not sure what you’re looking for though, this post from Maths Insider lists some of the best.

2. The Internet

If you don’t own a tablet but still want to make the most of these more modern methods, the World Wide Web is by far your biggest ally.

There are a whole host of websites and online games designed to make maths fun; many of which, your children won’t even see as learning. Again, do your research and find out the best ones for your child’s age and ability, but you won’t be short on options.

Mashable recently posted their pick of ‘5 Fun Ways to Help Children Learn Maths Online’. You can check that out here for some inspiration and places to start.

3. The TV

Believe it or not, your kids can get clued up on maths by watching the TV.

Children’s television has always had a strong focus on learning, but this has only increased in recent years. Now, your kids can watch some great programmes that are all geared towards making maths – and other subjects – fun and interesting.

There are also a number of dedicated revision services and programmes available via your television which can be a great aid for older children. The TV is a great maths teaching aid as it doesn’t really feel like learning, but you’d be surprised at what your children pick up on.

(Check out Maths Insider’s cool and funky You Tube maths recommendations for Kindergarten kids.)

4. Games

Dino math board game

Some children learn better by ‘doing’, which is where these more tangible maths aids come in. Games like Times Table Snap, Primary Numbers Bingo and Fraction Towers are all great ways you and your children can play and learn together.

There is also a lot to be said for ‘playing shop’ with your children. Write a price list for things you can buy from their ‘shop’ and ask them to be shop keeper. Do your shopping and ask them to tally up the amount in their head. You can then get them to work out how much change you’re owned and what coins they could give you.

This is fun and something you can do for real if you take your children along when you do the weekly shop. These aids can be brought online or in local toy stores and are a must-have for parents looking to make learning maths more fun.

(Maths Insider shares some excellent parent tested maths board games here)

5. Books

Never underestimate the power – or fun – of a good workbook.

Some children will prefer this method of learning as it is similar to how they’re taught at school. You can get loads of work books aimed at different age groups online, and go through them with your little ones.

Choose ones with bright colours, loads of images and plenty of variety. If you can work through the more fun games and puzzles, you will be able to foster a love of maths. You should also buy puzzle books like Sudoku’s and other number puzzles for your children. They keep the brain active, and are a great way of learning new skills.

There are plenty of fun resourcess for learning maths that you can purchase for your children, and a whole host of ways you change your kids’ perception of the subject. Sure it can be hard at times, but it is a hugely important subject and one that can be fun when you look at it a new way.


Clare Evans is writing on behalf of Core Assets, the  largest private agency for fostering in the UK, and recent winner of the Global Diversity Award 2013.

Math Machine – A Beautiful Bilingual iPad Math App


Helen Littlewood is a busy mum of 3 who, along with her team at Gingerbread Kids, has developed a cool math iPad app called Math Machine.  The original Math Machine app came in English and Maori and the new Math Machine with Spanish app launched this week helps kids aged 5-11 years old, learn math in English and Spanish. Math Machine app The Math Machine app covers several important concepts from the Common Core for Math. While they’re playing, your kids are gradually mastering: • sequential counting up to 20, 40, 100 and 1,000, • instant recall of times tables, • the relationship between doubles and halves and how to estimate answers, • different representations of numbers: how a fraction relates to a decimal number and percentage. You’re able to choose which language to play the Math Machine in, with both the audio and written instructions presented in your language of choice. Math Machine app The illustrations on Math Machine are gorgeous and add a rich dimension to this easy to play app. Every level has the same format, numbers fall out of the cloud and need to be dragged into place . Math Machine with Spanish is FREE this week (20-27 September) on app store. The original Math Machine costs $4.19. Math Machine with Spanish comes with both the English and Spanish options built in. Grab this beautifully illustrated bargain of a math app for your kids!

6 Incredibly Useful High School Math Apps for iOS

This is a guest post by Christine Maddox

Technology is a huge part of teenage lives today. Modern high school students are comfortable with technology, and just about every one of them has access to a smartphone, tablet or computer. Technology also has something of a negative stigma. Parents are usually looking for ways to limit screen time. This technology, however, can have positive uses and impacts on student lives. There are a variety of useful math apps students can download for free or very cheap to their iPhone or iPad.


1) Graphing Calculators

There are a variety of apps, some free and some for a few bucks, that turn an iPhone into a full graphing calculator. Gone are the days when parents were forced to spend $80 or more on graphing calculators for their students’ algebra and geometry classes. This math app for high schoolers does everything you would expect from a graphing calculator, including draw functions and perform advanced calculations.

2) Algebra Touch

This $3 app gives students an algebra tutor right on their phone. The Algebra Touch math app provides a series of lessons and practice problems that explore the concepts of middle and high school algebra. The app is great for visual learners because students can swipe to manipulate the problem right on their screen. The app also provides step-by-step instructions for students who are struggling to learn the concepts.

3) Math Pro

This $2 app is like downloading an interactive math textbook to a smartphone. The app covers all areas of high school math, including algebra 1 and 2, geometry, probability, statistics, trigonometry and calculus. The app has an incredible amount of information and content for its price. While it is not as game-like as other teaching tools, it does give students the tutorials, examples and practice they need to be successful in their math classes.

4) SAT Up

While this free app is not strictly a math app, SAT Up covers math, critical reading and writing as presented on the SAT exam. The SAT is an important part of any high school student’s life, and its scores have a large impact on that student’s access to colleges and chance of academic scholarships. Math is a key area on the SAT, and preparing for the math section of the test usually takes some hard work on the student’s part. This app gives students hundreds of practice SAT questions so they can get accustomed to what the test contains and get an idea of how they might score. It will also help them identify weak areas where they could use some more practice or tutoring.

5) Formulas Free

This free app is a database of important math formulas covering all areas of high school math and beyond. Students often struggle with math questions because they cannot recall the proper formula or are unable to find that formula in their textbook. This is an excellent companion study too to help students who may be drowning in formulas.

6) Math.

This high school math app is free and has an incredible level of useful content. The app covers all areas of math with multiple courses and hundreds of lessons per course. The lessons are delivered via video recording, so students can listen to instructions and watch examples as if they had a live tutor. This is a great option for students who may be struggling to learn from textbooks alone and need more instruction beyond their class time.

Apps can be a great way to support your child’s learning. Rather than taking technology away, reinforce that there are positive and constructive ways to use that technology. Especially if you have a struggling student, these apps and others like them can put your child back on the path to success.

Author Bio:

This post is contributed by Christine Maddox. Currently she is pursuing her Master’s degree from University of Texas as well as blogging for She loves to write anything related to parenting, kids, nanny care etc. She can be reached via email at: christine.4nannies @


Back to School Math Goodies Giveaway!


My 4 kids went back to school this week.

I’m glad that we’re back into some sort of a routine, but am wondering how I’m going to survive yet another 9+ months of getting up super early.

Whether you’re homeschooling or sending your kids to school, it’s likely that you’re reading the Maths Insider blog to find out how to put some spice in your child’s relationship with math!

Well as a Back to School gift to you, I’ve got together once again, with Bon Crowder, fellow math blogger extraordinaire, from  Math is Not a Four Letter Word to bring you some math inspiration freebies.

Once you’ve signed up (oh! and btw we won’t share your email with anyone else!) You’ll get 9 days of fresh math ideas including:

The Maths Insider Interviews – steal ideas from real life maths teachers

The Four Facts of Math Video – If you don’t put these 4 facts into action you risk another year of maths hating

If You Give a Man Some Hands – the coolest little hand drawn cartoon ebook to share maths ideas with your child

Bumper High School MatBumper Preschool Math Pack

The Super Math Giveaway Preschool and High School Packs – the coolest apps, You Tube channels and podcast for teens and apps, hands-on activities and toys and games for little ones

and much more…..

Click through to the Super Math Giveaway website to find out more and to start receiving your free maths gifts!

p.s. Don’t forget to like and share this on Facebook and Tweet out this rockin’ offer!

p.p.s. If you’re already signed to Super Math Giveaway  from 2 years ago, you’ll get the additional content sent to you. No need to sign up again!

The 16 Best iPhone and iPad Math Apps for Preschoolers


My 2 youngest children aged 4 and 6 have a heap of  iPhone and iPad apps that they love to play, including some math ones. Last month I put a call out on my Maths Insider Facebook page and my personal Facebook page for cool and educational iPhone and iPad apps for preschoolers. I’ve gathered the best suggestions, our household favorites and recommendations from other websites to compile this in-no-particular-order list of 16 of the best iPhone and iPad preschool math apps.

1) Intro to Math by Montessorium

Help your child learn he basic foundations of math with this beautiful app from Montessorium. Your child can get a head start with reading, writing and understanding the numbers from 0 to 9, including sequencing, odds and evens and spatial relationships. The help also introduces basic problem solving and fine motor skills. Intro to Math is a Universal app that will work on the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. Exercises are based on classic Montessori equipment and include:

  • RED RODS –  understand length, by arranging the rods from longest to shortest.
  • NUMBER RODS – an introduction to the idea of quantity, and how it corresponds to numbers.
  • SANDPAPER NUMBERS – concentrating  on the symbols of the numbers, and how to write them.through a number of guided tracing exercises.

Intro to Math by Montessorium

2) Team Umizoomi Math: Zoom into Numbers

One of the most enthusiastic math apps that I’ve come across! Game instructions are delivered by the voices of Milli, Geo, and Bot so your child can’t fail to get excited about math while using this app.

Your child will use mighty math powers to explore Umi City by playing five math games:

•Toy Store – A counting game

•Number Bubbles – A number identification game

•Race Around Umi City – A number comparison game

•Up! Up! And balloons! – An addition/subtraction game

•Rolling Toy Parade – A number line game

umizoomi iPad math

These cool games are leveled, and designed to increase in difficulty. Appropriate hints are given to support your child as they practice and build their math skills. There are also player profiles that allow more than one child to play and save their progress.

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

3) Counting and Addition!

The free version of Counting and Addition! covers addition up to 6,  but parents can upgrade within the game to unlock the adding to 10 and adding to 15 levels. The game also features:

  • Self adjusting levels of difficulty
  • Unique progress tracker for parents
  • Detailed stats for your child that can be compared with children the same age
  • Recommended learning path personalized for your child
  • 27 fun rewards and medals to motivate your child to learn

counting and adding app

4) Numberlys

The Numberlys app is more of a “short film” experience rather than a game. It presents a fanciful depiction of the origins of the alphabet in a land where only numbers exist. Numberlys is huge in scope. According to Moonbot, the creators of this Universal app:

“It’s an adventure! A mystery! A game! And a story! It’s a new way to entertain, learn and rediscover our storytelling “golden age””.

5) iWriteWords 

Primarily an app for writing letters, this app features a number writing section. Your child will help Mr. Crab collect the numbered balls by dragging him with their finger – and drawing the letter or number at the same time. Once all the letters or numbers are drawn properly, a cute drawing appears. Your child can then tilt their device to slide the letters/numbers into the spinning hole and advance to the next level.

My own kids have spent many a session practicing their number and letter formations on this cute app. The perfect blend of visual and audio cues and rewards make this an effective yet relaxing game for preschoolers. Need more convincing?

from A Touch of Learning:

“Its got an intuitive interface for young children. It has high quality graphics and effects. I have no hesitation in recommending this app for children ready to start learning to write. To me, this is exactly the sort of app I am looking for in my quest to have apps that are fun, but teach my kids something really useful in the real world.”

from AppStruck:

“The whole app is delightful to behold. Bright background colors are juxtaposed against equally bright and scribbly child-like artwork that convey the word being spelled. You and your child will enjoy tracing your finger along those necessary building blocks of language. With its memorable artwork and way cool physics engine, it is sure to entertain and teach your child.”

Watch this review from Chris from IPad in Canada:

6) Shape Builder – the Preschool Learning Puzzle Game

Perfect for building up fine motor skills and spatial awareness with easy to move shapes that snap into place on top of silhouette puzzles. Each puzzle has 5 to 10 pieces & after positioning all of the pieces, the real image is revealed along with a professional voice recording of the word spoken by a licensed speech therapist that specializes in early child development.

Shape Builder encourages cognitive thinking and introduces preschoolers to animals, produce, objects & numbers and the alphabet in a fun & engaging format with great sound effects! Shape builder features a total of 158 puzzles including the numbers from 1 to 20.

Take a look at some of the puzzles (and a singing preschooler!) in the video below:

7) Count TV – Sesame Street

Your preschooler will join Count Von Count from Sesame Street in this cool app full of classic Sesame Street counting videos! The Count teaches your child to touch the screen and count along with Cookie Monster, Ernie, Grover and other Sesame Street characters.

Curriculum skills covered include number recognition, counting and making choices.

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

8) Monkey Math School Sunshine 

A fun and shiny game for your preschooler, Monkey Math School Sunshine is a great, easy to use math game for your little one. A cute cheeky monkey guides the child through game play with animated celebrations for correct answers and gentle redirection for incorrect ones.

The game automatically adjusts the challenge levels to each individual player. Your child collects prizes to fill their very own interactive aquarium.

There are 9 interactive games that teach kids about sequencing, patterning, counting, adding and subtracting:

?ADD IT UP and TAKE IT AWAY Use addition and subtraction skills to solve math problems with multiple-choice answer options.

?PATTERNS Monkey has a problem: Objects keep popping out of his bucket, creating a pattern – but one piece is missing! Help Monkey by completing the pattern with the choices provided.

?SHAPES Is it an octagon? Or maybe a hexagon? Count each side of these shapes and help Monkey figure it out.

?SEQUENCES Monkey has a group of numbers in the right order, but some are missing. Help him complete the sequence with the correct numbers.

?LESS/MORE Monkey loves to blow bubbles, when he does, groups of shells, fish or turtles are inside each bubble! Use your expertise to figure out which bubble has either the most or least objects inside.

?BIGGER/SMALLER Which bubble has the bigger number? Which bubble has the smaller one? Help Monkey figure it out by popping the correct bubble.

?CONNECT THE DOTS Baby Turtle is stuck on the beach and she needs your help to get to the sea! Connect the dots to show her the way.

?WRITE IT UP! Help Monkey learn his numbers by tracing them in the sand.

?BUBBLE POP Monkey is running out of time! Pop all the bubbles that have either the right number or the right amount of objects inside before the time runs out!

9) Numbers with Nemo by Disney

This Disney Learning interactive app that helps kids practice essential early math skills. Children join Nemo and his undersea friends in lots of fun-filled activities that reinforce early math skills, including: counting and tracing numbers, counting and matching the number of objects in different groups, number identification, and sequencing.

Parents can track progress and results for up to four children in the parents’ section. They can also record all the numbers in their own voice. The game also includes activity suggestions that can be played offline.

10) Motion Math: Hungry Guppy

The developers at Motion Math have a whole suite of excellent, high quality, engaging math apps for kids, and Motion Math: Hungry Guppy is no different. Aimed at kids aged 3-7 years, it’s easy to play with kids just needing to drag and drop bubbles to feed their fish.

Hungry Guppy encourages learners to build a strong sense of addition and understand what numbers represent – for example, “???” and “3” have the same meaning.

• In the Dots levels, young children who don’t yet know number symbols can practice addition. They’ll learn, for example, that ? + ?? makes ???.

• In the Mixed levels, kids will learn number symbols. For example, ??? and 3 have the same meaning, even if the dots are in a different alignment or in funny colors.

• In the Numbers levels, learners can practice adding numbers up to 5, seeing the many different ways to make a sum.

11) Curious About Shapes and Colors: Curious George

Who doesn’t love Curious George? The Curious About Shapes and Colors app is a great for curious preschoolers to explore shapes and colors.

Little ones are introduced to:

• Basic shapes like circles, squares and triangles

• More complex shapes including pentagons, hexagons, diamonds, rectangles, and ovals

• Primary and secondary colors, along with varying tones

• Pattern recognition and sequencing • Skills like sorting, constructing, tracing, and coloring

Watch the cute game play in the video below:

12) Bugs and Buttons

Bugs and buttons is a beautifully executed app which lets preschoolers and beyond practice primary math skills such as counting and sorting and secondary skills such as pattern finding, tracking, path finding and fine motor skills.

There are 18 skill adaptive games and activities including:

• Flinging bees at a target flower.

• Flying a butterfly through butterfly valley (tilt to steer).

• Playing tic-tac-toe with a dragonfly.

• Sorting and packing buttons fresh off the factory conveyer belt.

• Racing roaches across the finish grate/line.

• Removing and sorting bugs infesting the button production.

• Catching bugs frantically scurrying about.

• Picking apples while dodging bees.

• Catching buttons falling off Uncle Bob’s button truck.

• Helping bugs find their way through mazes.

• Interactively count bugs.

13) Bugs and Numbers

From the same developers as Bugs and Buttons, the Bugs and Numbers universal app provides an extensive collection of unique games focused on helping kids to learn and practice a wide range of math skills in a non-traditional way.   The game is organized into three basic stages, the app grows with your child through 18 games ranging from basic counting to early fractions.

Designed around a bug city, activities include serving bugs food at the local diner that happens to spin on an old vinyl record, or helping ferry ants across water in an egg carton. It’s fun, unique, as well as being educational.

Math skills taught in the 3 stages are :


• Number and shape identity at the circus

• Practice left and right on an old arcade machine

• Seek and find while counting at a junkyard

• Tap and count while serving food at the local diner

• Paint by numbers at the gallery

• Match numbers and shapes at the hotel


• Count to 100 at the garage

• Trace numbers and shapes at school

• Arrange sequencing on a xylophone

• Comparisons at the theater

• Sort, count, and tally at the store

• Math with 10 on the ferry


• US currency on the old claw machine

• Practice time at the train station

• Find patterns in the zen garden

• Work with fractions at the pizzeria

• Measure length and weight in the lab

• Addition and subtraction on the gameshow

The video below by Children’s Technology Review tests out the Bugs and Numbers app.

14) Bert’s Bag by Sesame Street

In this game brought to you by Sesame Street, Bert teaches your child to count the surprising things he finds in his bag including marbles, bottlecaps, and even Ernie’s rubber duckie! Your child gets to count along with Bert while improving their number recognition, counting  and following instructions skills.

Bert's bag app

15) Memory Train

Your little one gets to hop on the train with Spacey the elephant and help him focus his memory while on the way to the circus. Memorize the characteristics of objects passing by and recall them to earn stars, badges, and peanuts.

Memory train app

Kids will be challenged to remember things like:

“What color was the shape?”

“Which one was green?”

“What number just passed by?”

“What 3 things just passed by?”

The game supports up to 4 different player profiles so multiple children in the family can play.

16) GazziliMath

GazziliMath is a great choice for children who are just starting to understand how numbers and math covering numerals, counting, addition and subtraction and more. This universal app features 6 engaging, exciting math-based activities that help build the foundation for understanding basic math concepts for little ones!

Gazilli math app


When your child completes each concept/activity, a portion of the ‘GazziliFunPage’ come to life.

GazziliMath also builds hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills as children.

and here’s a bonus app recommendation: Monkey Preschool Lunchbox

Monkey Preschool Lunchbox is a collection of 6 educational games for your preschoolers aged 2 to 5 .

It features 7 different games that teach kids about colors, letters, counting, shapes, sizes, matching, and differences:

1. COLORS. This picky monkey only likes fruit of a certain color, touch only the color they like to pack the lunchbox. Teaches colors, color names, and grouping.

2. MATCHING. Match pairs of fruit hidden behind the cards to pack lunch for this monkey.

3. COUNTING. Count off the fruit the monkey is looking for to fill up the lunchbox. Teaches numbers and counting.

4. LETTERS. This monkey only wants fruit that starts with a certain letter, pick the fruit that starts with that letter. Teaches letters and letter sounds.

5. PUZZLE. This monkey’s fruit broke into pieces!  Put it back together for them. Teaches shapes and pattern recognition.

6. SPOT THE DIFFERENCE.  Help the monkey spot the fruit that looks different, or is a different size. Teaches patterns, bigger, and smaller.

7. SHAPES.  Help the monkey find the fruit in the shapes.

Monkey Preschool lunchbox is a universal game and works on both the iPhone and iPad.

Check out the video below which shows the gameplay on the iPhone:

What are your preschoolers favorite math apps? Tell me in the comments below!

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

How to Make Friends with the Times Tables


I’m Lawrence Ball, I’m a veteran maths tutor in London, and I’d like to show you a really effective way to learn times tables, that I’ve used for over 30 years with my students. It’s a way to make them easy to remember, but also to help you learn to relax whilst concentrating, and for that to develop further in all situations.

Here we go. Lets use the 2 times table as an example.
There are 2 phases to this: “Sequences” and “Jumbles”.

Numbers...Getting friendly with times tables sequences

  • Write down all the numbers from 1 to 12 in a column
  • Next to each of these write down the result of multiplying that number by 2
  • If you get stuck you can always add 2 to the previous number, but as you practice this repeatedly, you’ll find that the need to count disappears, memory works like the magic bubbles it works best as.
  • Practice this often, until it becomes really easy.

In my book, ease is most important, followed by pace and accuracy next, although they are all important.
I find that students can get the time down (yes, do time yourself) from often as high as 90 seconds to 15 or even 10 seconds.

When the sequences have become easy, fast and accurate, move on to jumbles.

Getting friendly with times tables jumbles

  • Write down the numbers from 1 to 12 in a column, but this time write them mixed up, so as to ensure no number comes below its predecessor. (eg in this order 2 7 4 9 10 1 6 5 12 8 3 11).
  • You can make your pen dance up and down as you write 1,2,3,4, &c (“boing, boing, boing”).
  • Beside each number write the result of multiplying by 2.
  • This is more difficult, as it forces you to rely purely on memory, so its tougher at first, but if you got to finding the sequence easy, it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch.

By the way, do cover up the previous tables as you go along (I call the paper that covers the previous tables a “tablecloth” ? ) to avoid “cheating”.

Making the times tables friendship firm

Timing the times tables is also a good idea. You can see how much quicker you’re getting, you can measure your brain muscle, so as to speak. The jumbles also will start slower (probably!) but my students can get times down to 15 and often 10 seconds as with sequences.

Master each times table before you move on, starting with the lower tables (or wherever you aren’t absolutely sharp), and the 5s could be learned before, say 3 and 4… its not critical, but it can be encouraging to learn the easiest first. Some folk find that 5, because it divides into the base for our number system (10), is good to do after the 2’s.

This is a flavour, a feeling for what you need to do. It may help to write templates for sequences and for jumbles, and print them out, saving you a lot of time. Maybe get your parents or computer to make them, or you could hand write one sheet and have many photocopies?

That’s it. It can be very relaxing and effective, the idea is to create and promote ease within yourself. One thing schools don’t emphasise enough is that learning should be easy. (Maybe they’re worried that you might slacken off if you pursue ease?) But its much better for you to enjoy the process (and why not I say) and to learn to be happy and joyful while using your mind in a focussed way.

For more clarity watch my vimeo video “Making Friends With Times Tables”

Times Tables learning made super-friendly from Lawrence Ball on Vimeo.

Lawrence Ball is a long-term maths and dyscalculia tutor in London ( (but also composer and musician), with a history of helping with motivation and difficulty, as well as with maths material. He has tutored privately including extended royal family, and all 4 children of Lady Helene Hayman, and has had big success in helping pupils with Dyscalculia
He has developed ways to teach basic arithmetic which are innovative, and that promote relaxed concentration. He lives in North London.

Is Thinkster Math a Real Alternative to Kumon?


Each month thousands of people come to the Maths Insider blog looking for unbiased information about Kumon. When it comes to math tuition, Kumon have cornered the market for center based tuition, but if the high cost and the mixed reviews from parents and teachers alike have you searching for an effective alternative, then Thinkster Math could be exactly what you’re looking for.

About Thinkster Math

Thinkster Math is an online program which, like Kumon, offers an individualized K -Grade 8 math program, except using digital worksheets and video tutorials. One of the major added benefits of Thinkster Math is that a real life math tutor not only checks over your child’s work, but provides feedback to you weekly about their progress. The Thinkster Math content is aligned to the Common Core which all states in the USA use in their math programs. It’s also based on the Singapore Math program which is one of the world’s most respected math program. There are also worksheets tailored for the UK and  Australian curricula.

Tutor feedback tight shot

I tested the Thinkster Math program for 2 weeks with my 6 and 12 years olds. Initially I was cynical, as to how Thinkster Math would be any different from the thousands of math apps available, but my kids are used to being guinea pigs for testing out new math programs, and the fact that they could do their work on an iPad while slouching around the house really appealed to them.

How Thinkster Math worked out

After signing up and my kids doing their diagnostic tests, a welcome email from my kids Thinkster Math tutor landed in my inbox giving me some insightful feedback on their tests and inviting me to connect on Skype to discuss my kids study plans. Cool! Throughout the trial any questions I had about Thinkster Math and my kids work were answered quickly and efficiently. It was obvious that my kids Thinkster Math tutor was personally overseeing their work and making adjustments to their study plan when needed. [edit: The Thinkster Math program now also offers one-to one coaching sessions with experienced math coaches]


Being a busy mom, I didn’t read all the detailed instructions on how to use Thinkster Math, but the simple interface on the iPad made it easy for my kids to work it out for themselves. I was worried that the lack of game play and avatars that many online math programs and apps have, would be a turn-off for my kids, but there are a few unexpectedly simple things that my kids liked about Thinkster Math: 

  • they seemed satisfied with the simple audio and big tick that announced a correct answer,

  • they loved the second chance they got if they got the answer wrong first time and the chance to go back and try questions they’d missed out.

  • they appreciated the immediate feedback that the app gave at the end of the worksheet,

  • they liked the personal feedback from the tutor the next day after she’d reviewed the work,

  • my 6 year old also loved the detailed breakdown of how long it took to answer each question, looking to see his fastest time! 

My kids didn’t use this, but there’s the ability to “flag” a question so that they can get more detailed feedback and help on that particular question.


Other things we liked about Thinkster Math

Our Thinkster Math tutor spotted that although he’d got all the questions correct, my older son had used an over-long method, and suggested he watched the video tutorial before the next worksheet. Also she could see that my younger one did know his number sequences, even though he got the last few wrong, because he wanted to go out to play and just typed random numbers to get the worksheet finished! The things that make Thinkster Math a good alternative the Kumon are:

  • No marking your kids work, the system does it

  • The clear video tutorials that your child can watch if they want

  • It’s half the price of Kumon

  • No traveling to a center (Yay!)

  • Thinkster Math covers the whole math curriculum including problem solving. Math is more than just arithmetic and algebra

  • The flexibility to discuss and change the study plan

  • A real math tutor to guide your child through the program, way cheaper than the $30+ per hour for a private tutor and $80 per hour at a specialized learning center

  • A system that tracks the speed of work to show your child’s confidence level for every question, just as teacher observes students in class

  • The individualized but flexible study plan based on your child’s actual work as well as on their results



Thinkster Math free trial

Thinkster Math offers a 1 week trial, which is definitely worth checking out if you have a 5 – 14 year old. Over that 1 week period you’d get a pretty good idea whether Thinkster Math would suit your child’s learning style. After the free trial Thinkster Math plans start from $60 but Thinkster Math are offering Maths Insider readers a 10% a month discount on their subscription for the first 3 months. To grab your free trial and 10% discount for 3 months, click here 


Disclosure: After writing this Thinkster Math review, I was invited to join the Thinkster Math team as a part time instructor. (I might even be your child’s Thinkster Math instructor if you sign up from Europe) After seeing behind the scenes of the Thinkster Math system I’m even more impressed, but I’ll still be continuing to share plenty of other cool math ideas and resources here on Maths Insider!  

Click here to grab your FREE 13 page sampler of The Ultimate Kumon Review