Saturday, January 6, 2007


AJ walks into my room every morning at 7 a.m. on the dot. The first thing he asks for is his good morning hug. The second thing he asks for is a glass of juice. The third thing he asks for are math problems. AJ’s brain seems to be at its most mathematically oriented first thing in the morning. Unfortunately, I need truckloads of coffee before I can think about numbers. What’s a mother to do?

While we play a lot of more active math games at other times of day – things like multiplying window panes while I wipe off fingerprints or doubling and halving cookie recipes – in the morning we’ve been turning to the internet to assist us. Here are some of the websites we’ve found particularly helpful. Our criteria for what makes a good math website is somewhat flexible, but generally 1. It has to be fun; 2. There has to be some kind of reward (fake applause, points, cheering) for doing well and 3. The website is set up in such a way that it allows AJ a certain amount of autonomy. This last criterion is key, not so much because we’re not around to help – I’m generally just a few feet away, if that – but because AJ needs to feel like he’s in control of the technology in order to feel like he’s in control of the math.

To give you some idea of the level of the websites we’ve been looking at, AJ’s currently pretty solid on addition and subtraction, including borrowing. He does okay with multiplication, but still has to count it out sometimes. We’re working on fractions and division and also on how to convert word problems into equations. He’s also getting interested in geometry, God help me. Mostly the latter interest seems to lie in a more artistic direction – he likes drawing cubes. Many of these sites offer a variety of math games and quizzes at a variety of levels. My brief reviews, however, are based solely on my experience with AJ’s level.

1. Math is fun!. This website is pretty low-res as sites go and its name always serves to remind me of the Barbie flap from a few years back (“Math is hard!”). But the basics are there. AJ likes “Who wants to be a mathionaire” game especially. There are other, glossier versions of the mathionaire (or mathonaire) game elsewhere, but most are higher level math – more complicated equations, algebra, etc.)

2. Math Arcade at Funbrain. This site is a little confusing to navigate, requiring more intervention from me than is ideal, but AJ likes it because the progress is marked through a board game. What AJ doesn’t like, however, is that you are expected to go through the game in order. He doesn’t like going in order – whether on websites, or in workbooks. He likes to find the most interesting-looking things first. He is coming around to working in sequence in his workbooks as he learns that jumping ahead often means you’ve missed something important. But on websites he still expects free play. Still, the games are good and the graphics are more sophisticated than mathisfun.

3. Cool Math 4 Kids Arithmattack at Cool Math 4 kids offers a range of customization – choose your operation, the largest number, and the level of difficulty. You then solve as many problems as you can in two minutes. There are other games too, but we have yet to explore them. This requires a little adult supervision to get it set up, but once he gets going, AJ can manage this site on his own.

4. Maths Year 2000 This site is relatively new to us and many of the games require a knowledge of more complex math than AJ can handle at the moment, but the Maths Activity Pack and Maths Circus are both entertaining and have more compelling graphics than the typical online math games.

We have discovered some of these sites through other sites with good lists of educational websites for kids.

Internet 4 Classrooms is a well-organized list of sites organized by topic and grade level aimed at teachers looking for ways to supplement classroom learning with computers.

This site is run by the Mifflin County School District in Lewiston Pennsylvania. If you click on the “Curriculum” button at the top of the page, you can access site lists for other subjects as well.

Any of these sites should have enough math activities to keep your child busy through at least one cup of coffee. Maybe even two.


Christina said...

Harriet -- When my kids were younger they absolutely loved a video game called M and Ms : The Lost Formulas. It's mostly M and M's racing down a road and then through a factory (I think), and occasionally you need to solve math problems to keep going. You can google it -- I think the math itself is not all that exciting, but the combination appealed to them.

Claudia said...

I want to write a review of two Eleanor Estes books for this blog. If it actually happens soon, I'll email it to you for your blessing, agreement, posting, whathaveyou. Perhaps I can conjure up a review once a month? Is there an age-limit? Meaning, should I only review books that might appeal to elementary school aged kids? Books that would be read by our bright children - or/and books that they would enjoy hearing read to them (which denotes a higher reading level)? What are your thoughts? Because I know you are giving over all your brain to this new mission, right? :)