# Making arithmetic interesting to kids (just teaching for 4 days)

So it looks like I’ll be teaching basic arithmetic to a classroom of young kids for four days. Never taught math before; any way to make this stuff interesting to kids other than the trite “So if you have five apples, and I give you three more apples, how many do you have now” delivery line?

A lot of this, I guess, can only be done by rote memorization (i.e., the 9x9 multiplication tables,) at this sort of building-block level. How to make memorization more fun? Games?

Any suggestions much appreciated.

What age of kids? What exactly are you teaching? What guidance do you have?

I have a ton of suggestions, but you gotta be way more specific as to what you’re trying to accomplish :).

Make a math game. When a kid gets a problem right, his team gets a point or advances a square (depending on the game).

Unfortunately I am still very much in the dark as well. My guess is kids mostly in the range of age 5 to 8 and I’ll be pretty much entirely on my own, not even any curriculum. Probably only the four basics of arithmetic to teach (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.)

Sounds good but I don’t want any kids feeling bad/blamed if they let their team or themselves down by failing to score.

Get fake money and work with that.

I’m not trying to be difficult–but teaching basic arithmetic is a huge amount of the work of kindergarten through third grade. Obviously you’re not planning to condense four years of early childhood education into four days, so you need to have a little more focus. Five-year-olds and eight-year-olds are at vastly different points in their understanding of math, with few exceptions.

All that said, YouCubed has some fantastic resources for what they call “a week of inspirational math.” Look at this lesson for some real beginner activities (seeing patterns when counting, distinguishing between different fingers as a tool for one-to-one number correspondence). For 8-year-olds, or advanced younger kids, this lesson is great. I’ve taught it before; it’s a fantastic way to start noticing recurring patterns in numbers (e.g., multiples, squares, primes).

If your goal is to have a week of games to reinforce what these kids have learned so far in school, that’s doable; I’d recommend having a variety of games and activities.

But check with whoever’s organizing this, for at least this information:
-How many hours a day will you have these kids?
-How many kids?
-What ages are in the group, and how many of each age?
-What are your objectives for the week?

That’s the bare minimum information you need for something like this, IMO.

I know this was just an example, but there’s a really fun trick you can show kids for the 9x multiplication facts:

Hold up your hands with fingers outstretched. Number your fingers from 1 to 10, left to right.

Choose a number to multiply 9 by, and put that finger down. For example, if you choose four, then your fingers will look like this:

|||_| |||||

Got it?

So the trick is this: the number of fingers to the left of the down finger is the tens place. The number of fingers to the right of the down finger is the ones place. Here, you’ve got three fingers up on the left side, and six up on the right side. 9 x 4 = 36.

You don’t want kids doing this by the time they’re in fifth grade, of course, but when kids are learning their nine times facts, this is a handy bit of scaffolding for them.

I was never told to memorize the multiplication table. There was a large 12 x 12 table on the side wall of my 3rd grade classroom and we would be given some multiplication problems to do a couple times a week. We could use the table freely and, sure enough, by the end of the year we had it memorized. Of course this cannot work in four days, but just thought I’d mention it. I think games are a good idea.

4 days? Go with the fun facts:

E.g., 16/64 = 1[del]6[/del]/[del]6[/del]4 = 1/4

They’ll have a whole 'nother take on arithmetic for the rest of their lives.

Uh…then they’ll think 17/74 equals 1/4…

I first got interested in numbers as a kid because of the apparent magical properties of the number 9. Multiply it by anything, add the digits together, and you will always get 9. This is, of course, the core of great tricks like the one that ends with the grey elephant from Denmark.

I still remember my Dad astonishing me with how to multiply most two digit numbers by 11. Add the digits together and put it in the middle of the other two (only works if the two digits added together are nine or less). So, 11 x 53? 583. 11 x 26? 286. And so on.

Or try this one. Think of a number between 1 and 50 where both digits are odd.

[Spoiler] Did you think of 37?

The vast majority of people do. Obviously the number has to be in the teens or the thirties. Most people don’t consider 1 to be odd, so that leaves the thirties. It also eliminates 31. 33 doesn’t feel “odd” because of the symmetry. 35 doesn’t feel “odd” because 5 feels half way to ten and therefore feels even. 39 again doesn’t feel odd because of the relationship of the two numbers - one is the square of the other. That leaves 37. Doesn’t always work, but it’s a fun exploration of numbers and their relationship. [/spoiler]

Card games are good. Casino and Casino Royale are great.

Years ago I wrote up a simplified version of Casino that I called “Scoop.” Here are my rules for it. It works not only to teach addition facts, but also to teach some basic number recognition.

Recipe conversion (If I have a recipe that makes 3 servings, but I need 6 servings, how much do I need of each ingredient? If a pie serves 6 people, but I have 10 coming over, what do I need, and more important, who gets the extra 2 slices of pie?)

Sports are full of math. Adding up golf scores. Olympic scoring ( look at the 5 judges scores, drop the top and bottom, average the middle ones.) Teach how to score bowling? I’d stick away from tennis scoring. That stuff is just random.

Some small kids love counting change. So adding up different denominations of coins could be fun. Just be ready to lose some of the coins.

I teach English to that age of kids, and help my third grade daughter with her homework.

I can’t stress how much I second Left Hand’s suggestion of finding out that information.

Velocity - why are you doing this? How many kids? Is this a summer school situation? It might help to know a little bit more about the group and the goal.

Thanks for the suggestions everyone.

Update: So now I’ve been told that I only have to tutor one kid in math, as opposed to teaching a classroom of them. So that is a big change. Other teachers will deal with other stuff. I don’t know anything about the kid in question yet, but it does mean that things like group games don’t apply. But now I can tailor the teaching approach towards one person only. Just hope he/she doesn’t get bored.

It’s just volunteer work. I think most of the students (I’ll only be teaching one, but there are others being taught by others) are from low-income backgrounds and from a rural area. Not sure if it can really be called “summer school” but it is summer, and it is school, so…

Tennis scoring is not random at all, it makes very good sense. The trick is, love-fifteen and forty-thirty and so on are not scores - they’re NAMES of SUB-scores. Love-fifteen is the name for a sub-score of 0 to 1, and forty-thirty is the name for a sub-score of 3 to 2. But if the sub-scores were called by ordinary numbers, then they’d sound just like the main scores, and it would be confusing.

Four days, consecutive? For how many hours? How old is the kid?

You gotta know these things.