You try to make math fun for your homeschooled kids.
You try. And try.
Some nights you spend more time thinking about their math curriculum than sleeping. Is it just me?
One of the reasons I wanted to homeschool my kids was my desire to create learning experiences that nurture a love of learning. For me, it meant creating resources that actively engaged my kids in the learning process. Active engagement is so much more than just doing. It means being curious, actively thinking, and opening the mind so that learning can stick.
But sooner or later there comes a time when we have to practice repetitive and seemingly unexciting things like addition and subtraction with regrouping.
Practice is what makes mental math quick and fun, but practice can be boring.
I learned that keeping kids actively engaged means different things with different kids. When my kids were practicing double digit addition/subtraction with regrouping I tried a couple of different approaches.
I discovered that my daughter, who is a ball of energy ready to explode, loved it when I wrote a problem on an index card and held it over her head. She would jump and jump with her hands extended over her head trying to grab the index card. When she finally caught it, she would figure out the answer, sometimes while walking around the room, other times sitting on the floor. And then we would repeat it with the next index card. It was a joy to see her jumping up and down with all her might, a big grin on her face, squealing with delight, “It’s SO MUCH FUN!!! I LOVE IT!”
A few weeks after we were done with this topic and had moved on to something else, I offered my daughter the chance to read together from her favorite book The Last Dogs (link). Even though she is a good reader, being read to is something she adores. “No,” she said that time thoughtfully, ‘I would rather we did that jumping thing again.” “What jumping thing?” I wondered because I already forgot all about it. “You remember! You held the flashcards with problems really high, and I jumped and grabbed it. Then I solved the problem really fast and jumped again.” We have since made Jumping for Flashcards a regular part of our school!
My son is an entirely different kind of learner. He thought all of that jumping was silly and didn’t want anything to do with it. So what would be the most enjoyable way to practice, I asked him at the time. “Well,” he said after pondering it for a whole day, “I want mystery. I want Pirates of the Caribbean. And I want each answer to have some meaning.” “Hmmm… what sort of meaning do you have in mind for addition and subtraction?” I asked. “I want all that adding and subtracting to have a purpose. So that each time I figure out the answer, there would be something interesting to do with it.”
That’s exactly the kind of learning resources I love putting together when I have a few hours free. Which is never. But I asked. And I loved the idea of using a Pirates of the Caribbean theme! This movie is, in my opinion, much more than a colorful adventure story. “No matter how difficult, I will always prevail,” says Jack Sparrow and that’s exactly the attitude I want my kids to adopt in life. Or how about this pearl, “The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem. Do you understand?” How many times have I said that! But when Jack Sparrow says it too, those words become even more powerful to kids.
Pirates of the Caribbean Math
When I was younger I enjoyed doing cryptograms for fun. In cryptograms, each letter is representing a different letter and the only clue known is that a single letter is probably going to be I or A, and that a three letter word is very much likely to be “THE.” So I adopted a similar idea only bringing math as the main skill needed to solve the problems.
I could have made an ink-saving, black-and-white version of it like Star Wars Math, but this time I decided to go all out and make it beautiful. When I use resources that are pleasing to the eye the happiness I feel has a rippling effect on everything and everybody around me.
Pirates of the Caribbean Mental Math: double Digit addition/subtraction with regrouping was a great success with both my older kids. It ended up being a 16-page printout and it’s available to you for FREE for being a reader of my blog. Since I can’t seem to find a relatively cheap way to send each reader the resource they signed up for automatically and taking time each day to do it manually is just not possible, I added it to my digital library of resources. So, if you are a subscriber to my blog, you have the password you need to get into the library and find it there.
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What you will find
There are ten cryptogramed quotes from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Each letter in a quote is associated with a number and the only way to figure out the link is to solve the problem. So, there is a problem for each letter of the alphabet. The first ten letters concentrate on addition with regrouping, the next ten letters – subtraction with regrouping, and the last six letters are a mix of more difficult problems like 97 – 89 = x. At least my kids always found that taking something ending in 9 more challenging to do.
You can easily turn this math lesson into a full day of Pirate fun!
Pirates of the Caribbean Unit
- Depending on your kids’ math level you can ask them to do the calculations in their heads (mental math), on a piece of paper, with the use of 120-chart included in the pack or with the use of manipulatives (we use this set).
- Ask the kids to write down the quotes on the lines provided at the bottom of each quote page and it’s a writing exercise for the day. We are practicing turning print into cursive and it was a good excuse to do that.
- After the math and writing are done, offer them Pirates of the Caribbean Books to read. There are five books altogether and they are perfect for the 8-12 age range.
- Don’t forget about Science! Pirate Science, of course. We found 20 ways to play and learn science with pirates.
- End the day with listening to The Republic of Pirates, the true story of the Caribbean Pirates. My son listened to this nonfiction book five times and often quotes from it by heart!
Let’s help kids make the most of the brain power available to them. The more kids are actively engaged in learning, the more that they learn and the more they remember.
Looking for more Math Fun? Check out Star Wars Math
Pirates of the Caribbean Math is in my subscribers-only library of resources. If you are already a subscriber, just go to the library and enter the current password (it comes at the end of my newsletters). If you are not a subscriber, click here to become one or enter your email below.