Tag: math

Learning Math at Home in a FUN Way

Learning Math at Home in a FUN Way

We tend to focus a lot on early literacy around here, but I also believe math readiness is just as important for our young children. Whether your child currently loves math or not, we should try to make learning math FUN at home! 

For years, I’ve heard stories (tall tales?) about the battles over math flashcards between my husband and his mom. She would literally chase him around the dining room table, trying to convince him to sit down and practice. To this day, he shudders whenever I say the word “flashcards.”

Learning Math at Home in a Fun Way | math play activities, card games, number sense, hands-on activities, learning through play, place value, learning math for kids, learning styles

Learning Challenges

In all my years of teaching (both as a classroom teacher and as a homeschooling mom), I’ve realized no two children learn the same. Very often, we hold a child responsible for his/her own learning challenges. We might call them inattentive or lazy, rather than look at the curriculum or teaching style.

Over the last two years, I’ve watched my own daughter struggle with mastering her math facts. Her issues mainly stem from a lack of confidence and feeling pressured when being timed. To counteract her negative feelings, we spend a lot of time talking positively about math.

Learning Styles

Equipping our children to deal with math challenges often starts with learning about growth mindset. Discovering a child’s learning style can also help us (and them!) find specific, tailored strategies to attack the problem in a fun, fresh way.

Teaching my daughter (a visual learner) how to quickly draw a picture or make a diagram while solving word problems has made a world of difference. For the longest time, she thought she had to do all the work in her head!  

My other daughter is an auditory learner. She has quickly picked up her math facts, just by listening to her sister practice with me each day. We also listen to a lot of skip-counting songs while we’re in the car.


Want to learn more about learning styles? Click here!


Starting Early

I’ve realized that all children deserve a solid math foundation in the early years. Rather than starting with workbooks at the age of 3 or 4, we can bring in fun math games and activities. Young children often do best learning through play!

Learning Math at Home in a Fun Way | math play activities, card games, number sense, hands-on activities, learning through play, place value, learning math for kids, learning styles

Here are some of my favorite ideas for learning math at home in a fun way!

(Reminder: Rolling Prairie Readers uses affiliate links at no additional cost to you. You can see our full disclosure policy here.)

  • Math Games

UNO is a great game for number recognition! You can also use the cards for all kinds of “mix and match” learning activities.

Rack-O is fun for sequencing.

Pass the Pigs is fantastic game to practice adding!

Set is one of our favorite family math games. Everyone can play, from the 6-year-old to the 40-year-old. It’s great for sorting and problem-solving!

  • Math Play Activities

    • Cooking is a great way to learn more about math–both measuring ingredients and talking about fractions. If you are looking for an easy recipe for your kids to create, why not try making homemade playdough? Our favorite recipe calls for mixing dry ingredients together before adding in the hot water, so your children can help in a safe way.
    • Playing store can be a fun way to learn more about money–sorting coins by “type” and counting them by 1s, 5s, 10s, and 25s.
    • Grocery shopping and going to restaurants (or recreating the experience at home in your play kitchen) can introduce the idea of budgets and making change. For older kids, you can talk about percentages in choosing a tip for a server.
  • Math Books

It should come as no surprise that we LOVE math-themed books in our house! Here are some of our favorites:


See our must-have math toys here!


We also make learning math FUN by:

  • celebrating silly holidays like Pi Day
  • polling friends & family on Facebook (favorite color, favorite fruit) and then making a graph with the data
  • playing Todo Math on our iPad
  • creating STEM projects (check out our Pinterest board)

Want to learn more about doing math at home?

If you are:

  • the parent of a child ages 2-7
  • passionate about your child’s education
  • committed to making learning at home as FUN as possible, and
  • interested in child development…

then our Making Math Fun workshop is for YOU.

Learn 10 important math skills your children need to know for early math success AND fun ways to practice those skills at home.


Math Apps for Kids: Smartick

Math Apps for Kids: Smartick

About a month ago, Smartick reached out to me to try their math app with my kids in exchange for a review. Since we are always on the lookout for great educational experiences for our girls, I agreed! If you are interested in math apps for your elementary and middle school students, keep reading. (No affiliate links are used in this blog post.)

How Smartick works:

15 minutes a day approach: short daily sessions at maximum concentration. This helps create a study habit and routine, it avoids burnout and keep children motivated and coming back for more. Smartick recommendation is that children do their session at least 5 days a week to truly experience the benefits of the program.

Smartick is available to use with a computer or on an Apple/Android device. I set up our account on the laptop and then downloaded the app to our iPad mini.

Math Apps for Kids: Smartick Review | learning activities, fun games, technology for children, elementary, middle school {rollingprairiereaders.com}

Children can customize their avatar on Smartick. My girls also loved buying additional gifts (virtual clothing, typically) for each other using the rewards their earned doing their math exercises.

Math Apps for Kids: Smartick Review | learning activities, fun games, technology for children, elementary, middle school {rollingprairiereaders.com}

Addie saved up her rewards to buy this little dog she named Riley. The dog stayed healthy and happy as long as she was logging on regularly and playing her games.

Math Apps for Kids: Smartick Review | learning activities, fun games, technology for children, elementary, middle school {rollingprairiereaders.com}

The game monitors both time left (upper right) and progress (left). Children choose their answer and then press the blue button to submit it. This is an example from my fourth grader’s session.

Math Apps for Kids: Smartick Review | learning activities, fun games, technology for children, elementary, middle school {rollingprairiereaders.com}   After completing the session, children have the chance to make corrections. What a great opportunity to reinforce to new skills!

Math Apps for Kids: Smartick Review | learning activities, fun games, technology for children, elementary, middle school {rollingprairiereaders.com}

Here, you can see that Addie got 99 questions correct, missed 8, corrected 4, and earned 14 “ticks” (rewards). Smartick also offers bonus ticks for playing consistently. By pushing the blue house, you can enter the virtual world.

Math Apps for Kids: Smartick Review | learning activities, fun games, technology for children, elementary, middle school {rollingprairiereaders.com}Both girls enjoyed accessing their Smart Club treehouse. They could write notes to each other and buy each other gifts. (I did not allow them to “friend” other children through the game.) Saving their “ticks” for animals and clothing gave them a goal to work toward and motivation to keep playing daily.


A Tale of Two Sisters:

  • Katie LOVES math and has enjoyed another (free) math app occasionally when the mood strikes her. I fully expected her to LOVE Smartick.
  • Addie is more reluctant when it comes to math, but she does love her screen time! I thought having a new game on the ipad would be motivating for her.

After explaining the Smartick process, I told my girls we would commit to playing for 15 days before deciding if we wanted to continue. They both agreed, and we got started with their first day.

Math Apps for Kids: Smartick Review | learning activities, fun games, technology for children, elementary, middle school {rollingprairiereaders.com}


Using Math Apps: Our Smartick Experience

Addie went first and struggled a bit as the session included concepts we hadn’t yet covered in her math lessons. As a perfectionist, she hates getting things wrong. I sat next to her and encouraged her to do her best. If she got a question wrong, the app showed her the correct answer and the reasoning behind it. Once she finished, she had the opportunity to go back and correct those missed questions for one additional “tick.”

Once her session was finished, she got to explore her virtual world and set up her avatar. Katie was immediately interested in all the options and asked for her turn with the game.

We logged Katie in under her account and got started with her first session. I was surprised to see my ultra-confident “math kid” immediately panic with the timer. She frantically pressed the “I don’t know” answer for each question. We paused the game and talked through her feelings, and she told me she was worried she would push the wrong button. I showed her the double check feature: choose the answer first and then “submit” it when she’s ready.

After her session, Katie also enjoyed setting up her virtual world and visiting the clubhouse with her sister. With both girls, I had to set a secondary timer to tell them when their “extra” time was up, or they would have continued for more than an hour.

Math Apps for Kids: Smartick Review | learning activities, fun games, technology for children, elementary, middle school {rollingprairiereaders.com}


Smartick Pros:

  • I LOVED that the girls had to do their math session before they could play in their virtual world. It was a strong motivator to get them interested in playing each day. Since Smartick is built on consistency, I appreciated this!  
  • The parental controls were easy to set up. I let my girls “friend” each other but no one else. I could see that it would be fun to trade gifts and communicate with classmates or cousins who were also using the app.
  • I was glad to see a variety of skills covered in each session (and in the tutorial section as well), including concepts not covered in our curriculum. Addie loved the problem-solving questions presented at the end of her turn. For a child who leans toward not liking math, she certainly enjoyed watching the extra tutorials and playing math games after completing her main lesson.
  • Smartick’s communication is top-notch. I received an immediate e-mail after each girl’s session with feedback about speed and accuracy. They also have a support team available via their website. It’s clear to me that the founders have a desire to see children be successful with the app and fall in love with math.

Smartick Concerns:

  • I’m going to be honest with you–Smartick is not cheap. Subscriptions start at $34.99 per month and go up from there. Realistically, that’s more than our budget can afford as a regular expense. However:
    • Smartick does offer a FREE 15-day trial. It’s a very generous opportunity to see how your children will benefit from the technology before making a commitment.
    • Smartick is built on the idea of consistency. If one of your children uses the program five days a week, the cost comes down to less than $2 per use, which is cheaper than other similar games.
    • Smartick offers a wonderful referral program. You can save $27 by referring a new customer, and your friend saves too!  

Math Apps for Kids: Smartick Review | learning activities, fun games, technology for children, elementary, middle school {rollingprairiereaders.com}

Gamification elements keep children engaged and improve concentration levels. All games in Smartick and scientifically designed to reinforce cognitive skills: perception, attention, memory and logical reasoning.

  • Another concern:
    My children were tempted to rush through their session (which is timed) in order to get to play in their virtual world. Since neither  girl had a particularly “bad” day , I’m  honestly not sure if children have to perform at a certain level to unlock the fun games and activities. On a few days, I had to chat with one of my girls about doing her best work after getting her status email from Smartick.

Final Thoughts

Smartick is a wonderful program. The technology is top-notch, and my children enjoyed their experiences. Overall, I feel the cost is prohibitive for our family, but I the value is comparable to a tutoring center for remedial support or enrichment for an asynchronous child needing more challenge in math. I would suggest trying the free 15-day trial to see if it’s a good fit for your family!

Does your family use math apps at home?