An astrophysicist—and mother of three—shares tips and resources for making math fun for kids.
As kids head back to school, the thought of math may send shivers down their spines. But it doesn’t have to be that way. “Kids should love math like they love dessert,” says Laura Overdeck, a Short Hills, N.J., mother of three with degrees in astrophysics and an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania.
Overdeck began doing easy math problems with her kids as part of their bedtime routines when her youngest daughter was 2. When her other children starting asking for their own problems, she decided it was time to share her success.
Now her nonprofit website, bedtimemath.org, offers nightly math stories—where anecdotes about space travel and rubber ducks end with age-appropriate questions—to tens of thousands of parents. Inspire a love of math in your children with some of Overdeck’s fun tips.
5 Fun Ways to Learn Math
- Create spirograph art! Artistic types will love to create symmetrical flowers and designs, and children can count points while exploring patterns and geometry.
- Play games! Chutes and Ladders and Candy Land show number sequences and build math skills naturally. Older kids can play Scrabble, where they double and triple points.
- Learn with LEGOs! How many dots does this block have? How much of this piece will cover up the other one? Children add, multiply and get comfortable with numbers in a playful, under-the-radar way.
- Start a project! Overdeck acquired her positive view of math by cooking with her mother and doing carpentry with her father. Counting money, grocery shopping and real-life projects are great math moments.
- Explore interests! Add math to whatever your children discuss at dinner, like their fascination with ninjas or video games. “It’s not stressful when you’re mixing math into everyday life,” she says.
Best Math Apps
Three apps that Overdeck’s children find engaging:
- Bedtime Math—Kids can click the math problem of the day or explore over 400 additional math problems with various zany topics, from electric eels and chocolate chips to roller coasters and flamingos, at three skill levels.
- Dragonbox Algebra—This award- winning educational game secretly teaches young kids algebra in a low-stress environment as children ages 5-12 learn the basics through 200 levels of puzzle-style games, and, more than 350 levels cover more advanced topics for children age 12 and up.
- Math Ninja—Say goodbye to traditional flash cards and hello to ninja stars, smoke bombs and ninja magic in this action-packed, customizable game in which kids use addition, subtraction, multiplication and division skills to defend their tree house castle from a hungry tomato and his robotic army.
Take your fun math lesson one step further and serve it up for breakfast.
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