Summer Time Math Fun

I enjoy using games in my ABC123 Tutoring program that help students reinforce things that they have been learning and practicing.  Since many students are visual and kinesthetic learners I have a set of go-to activities that I incorporate in their program.  With summer approaching, I’ve decided to include a list of games that can be used at home over the break to keep math interesting and to keep kid’s engaged.  This list is great for parents who are looking for ideas to enrich their child’s summer and for teacher’s getting ready to teach summer enrichment camps.

Math Jenga

In this activitjengay, students play with a partner(s) and answer math questions.  Once they have checked their answer they can add their game piece to the tower.  I have one side labelled with addition questions and the opposite side with multiplication so there are two levels of play.  Once the tower has been constructed students can play Jenga.




I have a cup, 5 dice and a Yahtzee gamyahtzeee sheet downloaded from the internet.  Students play take turns rolling dice and playing Yahtzee.  This game is great because students get to practice their time tables and their addition facts.  They also need to use strategy to come out on top.




This game is the best game for teaching coordinates.  Student’s take turns trying to sink each other’s ships by calling out coordinates.  I’ve had a few student’s tell me after “Wow – now I understand coordinates!”  It’s a fun game and no one realizes that they are practicing their math!

Electronic Battleship (4)

Card Games – Greater/Less Than/Addition War/Multiplication War

I havewar playing this one with my own son since he was 4 years old.  We started off as playing greater than-less than war and progressed to addition war.  You split a deck, decide what your Jack, Queen, King and Ace will be worth and each player then places a card on the table. If playing greater–than war; the person with higher card wins.  If playing addition war  I have students take turns answering the math problem in order to remove the competitiveness and allow for extra time to process the answer. I always have counting cubes on hand close by to help as well.  This game can be played as a multiplication game as well for more advanced students.  If both players draw the same card it’s time for war!



Dice Games

Dice games are versatile.  You can play war much like with cards or you can play multiplication or addition games.  Vary the amount of dice to change the degree of difficulty.  My student’s love dice play – it’s a great way to practice their math.



Dominoes are great for teaching math.  You can use them for war like cards and dice or you can play “What’s Missing”.  I take two dominoes and place one right side up and one side down.  I give the student the total and they need to solve how many dots are on the domino.  This makes for a fun subtraction game.



We all played Monomonopolypoly as kids and you’d be surprised how much kid’s today enjoy playing this game too.  A lot of strategy is used as well as number sense to play the game.  Activities like rolling a die and moving the game piece on the board as well as counting out money help with addition practice.  I play this game with my son and my nieces on rainy summer days.  It keeps them interested and I love that they are practicing their math.


These are a few of my favourite activities that my student’s enjoy – there are so many more out there.  Math practice doesn’t have to be about math worksheets or computer games.  Children love playing games and I cannot think of a better way to have them practice their math skills this summer!  What are some of your favourite math games?

When the Math Doesn’t Add Up: Math Anxiety and Learning Disabilities

Parents: Does your child struggle with math?  Completely shut down and become paralyzed when working on math homework?  Do they tell you that their mind goes blank and that they cannot remember anything? Teachers: Do you have a student that avoids math class and tends to flee by repeatedly asking to get a drink of water, or to go to the bathroom during that time?  ImageDoes your student exhibit helplessness and disorganization while math problem solving?  All of these behaviours are typical of math anxiety. Mark H. Ashcraft, Ph.D. defines math anxiety as “a feeling of tension, apprehension, or fear that interferes with math performance”.  Some students that suffer from math anxiety may also have Dyscalculia.  Dyscalculia is defined by as: “a term used to describe a specific learning disability in mathematics. Individuals with dyscalculia have significant problems with numbers: learning about them and understanding how they work”.

Some common signs of Dyscalculia include:

  1. Understanding the one-to-one correspondence between number symbols and objects (4 cookies, 4 cars)
  2. Counting and calculating rapidly
  3. Learning/memorizing basic math facts (addition, subtraction)
  4. Learning counting strategies (such as by 2, by 10, by 100, etc.)
  5. Learning multiplication tables, formulas, and rules
  6. Making comparisons such as more than/less than
  7. Telling time
  8. Understanding spatial directions (such as left and right)
A more comprehensive list can be found on the website: Click here

Individuals that have math anxiety may not necessarily have Dyscalculia, however, individuals with Dyscalculia usually tend to have some form of math anxiety.  Two researchers Michael Eysenck and Manuel Calvo found that “the intrusive thoughts and worry characteristics of high anxiety are thought to compete with ongoing cognitive tasks for the limited processing resources for working memory.

ImageWhat this means is that students with math anxiety have negative thoughts and anxieties competing with working memory that is needed for solving mathematical problems.   If a student already suffers from poor working memory (which many students with learning disabilities do) being successful in math poses a challenge.  Interestingly, this study showed that students with severe learning disabilities suffered from poor working memory and that poor working memory contributed to a slow acquisition of mathematical skills even when the student had high intelligence.

 What can help my child/student with math anxiety?

ImageOne of the most beneficial things a parent or a teacher can do for a student with math anxiety is to reassure them they have do the ability to do math.  I have heard students say that they don’t have a math brain or that they are terrible at math!  This bias towards math ability contributes directly to math anxiety.  There is a wonderful book written by John Mighton called “The Myth of Ability: Nurturing Mathematical Talent in Every Child”.  In his book, John explains that all of us have a natural ability to do math.  Somewhere along the way in school, that ability gets distorted into an inability that can lead to math anxiety.  The philosophy behind The Myth of Ability is that when mathematical tasks are broken down and concepts described clearly, all students regardless of skill can understand them.  John is also the founder of JUMP (Junior Undiscovered Math Prodigies) program that we are currently using in our ABC123 Tutoring Program with great success.


Initially, JUMP was started as a tutoring program but has since then been implemented as a main teaching tool in hundreds of Canadian schools.  This program has helped many students to overcome their fear of math and thus improve their math ability.   I have seen improvements in my student’s math ability and more importantly improvements in their confidence and their perceptions of their own math ability.   Concepts are easily broken down in ways that students understand them.  With this understanding comes the confidence many students lack.  The books are easy to follow and align with Ontario’s math curriculum.  I have been using the program with my own son for the last two years with great success.   Using the teacher guides has enhanced my teaching of math as well.

The struggle that some students face in mathematics may be attributed to a combination of issues or one specific underlying concern.  What is important to understand is that math anxiety can have a negative affect on learning mathematics.  Helping students overcome their fears and anxiety is the first step to helping them be successful.  Celebrate the successes, no matter how small.  Each positive step will build confidence in your student and help them face math with a more positive outlook.  Breaking down math problems into easy to understand steps and using concrete tools such as manipulatives and pictures can help a student have a better understanding of mathematical concepts.  We are all capable of achieving success in math and as parents and educators we can help build that confidence in our kids!