Monday, April 18, 2016

Teaching Math: Home School for Cheap or Free

Even if you're bad at math, you can teach math well - for cheap or FREE!
In educating my daughter, one thing I know is that I want her to be better at Math than I am!

I was a victim of "New Math." By the time I was done with high school, I was pretty good at the logic that was needed for math, but horrible at computation. Simple facts like 7+3 or 8x6 required me to count or double numbers, rather than just know the answer. Which meant that when I took Algebra, I could do the equation properly, but still get the wrong answer. I lost my confidence, and became anxious when presented with numbers. I became very frustrated with math, and was convinced that I had an undiagnosed numeric learning disability.

From my own math experience, I can confidently attest that the "learn math reasoning and skip the drill" philosophy - which is central to Common Core, and is rewarmed "New Math" is a complete failure. Reasoning is important - but if you don't automatically know such facts as 8+4 or 7x9, you will never REALLY be proficient in math. Successful math instruction requires BOTH drill AND reasoning!

A few people have asked how I could possibly home school math when I'm bad at it. Well, there are three tricks, 1) I know good resources, 2) I learn WITH my child (just like we do for Greek!) and 3) In case of emergency, I have a husband who is smarter than me! ; )

As it happens, we haven't really needed to use the third trick much, because 1 & 2 are working so well. But, one day when we get to Calculus . . . .

Turns out, Math is pretty easy to teach - even if you're not good at it! There are so many wonderful resources out there! And they're cheap or free! : )

The great side effect? I am becoming better at math as my daughter learns math! Turns out there wasn't a learning disability, but rather there had been a teaching disability!
It never ceases to amaze me when home schooling parents talk about the high cost of "curriculum" - there are SO many free resources out there! 

These are the ones we use and love (okay, there are days my daughter doesn't always LOVE them - but she's learning math and as she masters new concepts, THEN she loves them. And I love them because I know that they're providing her with the skills and education that she needs in order to know and love math! : )

I glean homeschooling ideas wherever I find good ones, and I was impressed by Dr. Robinson's recommendation that children should spend about 2 hours a day on Math.  His children have excelled in mathematics, and this seemed to me to be a very helpful idea. We don't time each subject, and I'm sure that there are many days when we don't reach two hours, but the idea that we shouldn't just do 15 minutes of drill, but should really immerse ourselves in math for a long time each day has been a beneficial one. By using a variety of resources, we break up the time so that it is possible to focus. So, yes, we use ALL of the resources below (just not all on the same day)!

These are the resources that we have found most helpful thus far:

Counting Books - In infancy, I began reading my daughter baby books that taught counting. We counted babies, birds, toys - everything. On each page I would read the text, "9 baby ducks" for example - then count the ducks, one by one. This way, she learned how to count and one-to-one correspondence without any real work for either of us! Most of the books were gotten from the thrift store or were gifts. Sometimes they were even gifts that were bought from the thrift store!

Double 9 Dominoes - These (thanks to the recommendation of a friend) were one of our most helpful addition resources. My daughter would look at the two groups of dots and add them up. This taught her not only to know that 5+5=10 but to know what a group of 5 and what a group of 10 looked like. She could say the numbers at a glance without counting the dots. (I always discouraged counting to add - even from the beginning. We would count to understand the concept, but never for drill. These usually run about $10.

Skip Count Kid Bible Heroes- this is a favorite audio CD for the car. It teaches skip counting by every number from 2 to 10 - and ties each skip counting song in with a Bible story. In preschool, my daughter could skip count most of the patterns which meant that she could (unwittingly) do simple multiplication. For instance, she asked how many cans of food were in a case, and she could skip count three cans by four rows (or vice-versa) and figure out the answer on her own. When we started multiplication, she just sailed into it, thanks to this CD! Currently, this resource can be downloaded for under $10. - but it is priceless!

Starfall - as with reading, Starfall has nice, fun math games for little kids. And, part of their site is free.

Mnemonic tricks for addition - I created simple mnemonic tricks for each of the addition facts, inspired by The Memory Book by Harry Lorayne and Jerry Lucas. This way, there was never any counting on fingers, simply thinking of pictures and giving answers. Because I know from experience that counting is a VERY bad habit that leads to lots of wrong answers in higher math.

Xtra Math - Xtra Math is the source of everyday math drill. It is essentially just electronic flash cards, but timed by a machine, so that the answers must be given in 3 seconds for mastery. This is a great resource - and FREE!

Khan Academy - Mr. Khan is a wonderful teacher. He introduces math concepts like Perimeter, Area, Angles, Place Value - and on and on. And, there are practice questions, mastery questions, and all sorts of virtual badges and awards for progress. My daughter enjoys this program and finds the awards very motivating. One serious flaw is that Khan Academy has no drill. It teaches reasoning well, but cannot be a stand-alone program because it is lacking in this vital area. It is central to our math instruction - and we love it - but it cannot stand alone. Khan Academy is free for everything from introductory addition to college level math, science, and lots of other subjects.FREE!

ICT Games - I love these games. They're older and slower so are less about eye hand coordination, and more about math. There are great ones about bonds of 10, and making change at the grocery store, and many others. And, they help make the school day a little more fun! And, it's FREE! 
I cannot speak highly enough about this site. There is a short video with a mnemonic to teach each of the multiplication facts by memory, a puzzle or two to reinforce the fact, and lots of fun video games to practice. This is a site that my daughter looks forward to visiting, and has even been known to spend time on when it was her "day off!" And, it's FREE

ABCya  - has lots of great games - even some for upper elementary like games that work with calculating fractions and decimals. Also a great "Christmas Lights" game for the holiday season. FREE!

Peter Pig's Money
Your kid can learn to count counts without making a mess all over the floor! Can't beat it! And, it's FREE! 

20 FREE math questions a day on a variety of topics and levels.

Math Songs
Mr. R's World of Math & Science. Free Site with helpful songs. My favorites are Fraction Songs for teaching things like numerators & denominator. FREE!

Tick Tock Clock - 
Practice telling time by matching a digital & analog clock. FREE!

Workbooks from the Thrift Store
Although I'm not a huge workbook fan, they are handy while traveling. Also, there's something to be said for getting used to doing math on paper with a pencil : ) I find many wonderful workbooks at the thrift store. Families buy them, use a couple of pages, and fail to stick to it. Then, they donate a nearly-new book, and I find it for - usually - under a dollar : ) Right now, we're using a Kumon Multiplication book that I got for 99 cents. 

Just another site for basic math drill. It's a nice, prettier alternative to Xtra math some days. It has a "fun" look to it. And, it's FREE!

Soccer Math
Fun practice for adding two, two digit numbers. After you get the right answer, your player gets to try to kick the ball into the goal. FREE!

Sheppard Software
This site has lots of free, helpful games for learning math skills. One of our favorites is Fruit Splat. The games are enjoyable, but well designed so the student is actively learning. FREE!

elearning for Kids Math
Lots of great stand-alone lessons here to introduce or practice math concepts. My daughter really enjoys this site. The lesson on Mean, Median & Mode was great. I find that this is a great site to plug into for variety on those days when we lack motivation, or energy for a more traditional approach - like on sick days or snow days. FREE! 

Multiplication Quick Tricks from ABC Teach
This is a downloadable booklet that helps hone quick multiplication tricks. It has been quite a blessing to us! FREE!

Divisibility Rules Printable from ContentedatHome
Need to know at a glance if a number is divisible by 3 or by 8? This Chart will be a HUGE help! FREE!

Free Math Worksheets
When we travel & don't have internet access, sometimes we have used worksheets like the ones on this site. This is also a great help in preparing a portfolio - since it provides a "paper trail."

If you liked this, Check out my other Homeschooling Posts:
Teaching Music: Homeschool for Cheap or FREE!
Teach Reading with Confidence: Homeschool for Cheap or Free
Design Your Own Mini Unit Study 
Home School for Cheap or Free: Why Greek is Better than Latin!
Home School for Cheap or Free: Greek Reading
Home School for Cheap or Free: Greek Conversation
2 1/2 Minute Homeschool Lesson Planning
10 Homeschool Lessons from ACE Curriculum 
The Perfect Homeschool Organizer  

This is being shared on:
The Art of Homemaking Mondays
Merry Mondays
Modest Mondays 
Monday Mish Mash
Tell It to Me Tuesdays
Anti-Procrastination Tuesday
Teaching What Is Good
Trivium Tuesday
Monday of Many Blessings
Tuesdays with a Twist
Penny Pinching Party
Coffee & Conversation
Hearts for Home
Frugal Fridays


  1. Wow! What a great listing of math resources. We use a handful of these and focus both on understanding and on drill was well.

  2. Wow! What a great listing of math resources. We use a handful of these and focus both on understanding and on drill was well.

  3. Thanks for sharing these math resources with us at Merry Monday. I'm glad some are free to help out homeschooling families.

  4. Thankfully I missed the new math. My 3rd grade teacher drilled us in the facts like crazy. This is a wonderful list of resources to use! Thanks for compiling it. :-)

  5. This is exactly what i needed! Thank you for this!


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