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Living Math

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As Oliver and I have noted often, the early years in TJEd are well-served in many families when the Charlotte Mason style is applied. This excellent article captures how one might incorporate math learning into kidschool in a Leadership Education home or classroom.

I found this cute  article on Squidoo and the author graciously gave me permission to publish it here. Of course, this means that the first-person references are not about me; but I really love Living Math and Charlotte Mason, and I think this has a lot of great ideas to inspire moms, dads, teachers and students to enjoy, learn and use math.

See my recommendations for math resources for kids and adults, and “What’s Math Got To Do With It?“.

The Yahoo Group “Living Math Forum” is a great place to discuss TJEd-friendly math and math resources with others. Join by clicking here.

Here’s the article:

Living Math

by Master Squidcaster “Jimmie

In a child’s early years, math is actually play. Counting, stacking, sorting, and balancing are all fun activities that develop mathematical reasoning.

Don’t separate math from fun. Don’t kill a child’s natural love of mathematical play by insisting all mathematical concepts be relegated to a textbook or a workbook once she reaches the elementary years. By using math in daily life, especially in games and playtimes, not only will your child avoid the “math dread” so many of us have, but he will also end up with proficiency in many math skills. Math will come alive and become living math.

Learning Math Through Play

Whether it’s deliberate on your part or not, these activities all benefit math comprehension. There are ideas on this list to suit everyone from preschoolers to upper elementary students.

Just look at the math display pictured below. In the eyes of a child, these are TOYS, not “math manipulatives.” Do you have attractive, engaging math toys in your home? Consider the list. Most of them are inexpensive.

fractions display

  • sorting buttons, counting bears, or beans
  • board games — any games that require moving pieces after a roll or spin, Monopoly, Battleship
  • card games — UNO, SkipBo, War, Rummy
  • math bingo
  • tangrams and other shape blocks or number rods
  • dice games — Yahtzee
  • following recipes while cooking
  • memory — matching the problem with its answer
  • sorting pom poms or dry pasta into egg carton sections
  • saving and spending money
  • dominoes
  • scales, tape measures, and rulers
  • hundreds chart
  • timers, clocks, and stopwatches
  • abacus


Living Math

a Charlotte Mason philosophy

fraction gameThose who homeschool with a Charlotte Mason approach often speak of living books, living science, and living math.

What is living math, anyway?

Simply put, living math is real math, used in daily life to solve actual problems or to play games. It is math outside of worksheets and textbooks and instead inside the context of solving relevant problems — how can we double this recipe or how much money will I have to save each week to be able to buy my brother a birthday gift?

living math (6)So with living math, textbooks or worksheets are never used, right? Well not exactly. As long as life is breathed into the curriculum, textbooks can still be part of a living math program. But to use a living math approach, you have to be very deliberate to add the daily use of math to solve life’s problems and to have fun.

To read more about living math, download the Winter 2007 Charlotte Mason Educational Review from Childlight USA. Look for the great, 2 page article called “Making Math Meaningful” by Dr. Milton Uecker. It offers seven great strategies that you can incorporate into your homeschool math experience.


The Best Math Resource

These books are for mom or dad to plan some fun games and activities for math learning. Armed with these ideas, you won’t hear groans “Oh no! Not math again!” Instead, you’ll hear, “Horray! We can play a game!” Or you get a note like this one that my daughter gave me after a day when we incorporated a game from Family Math.

math game

This book is a fantastic resource of math brainteasers, games, and activities all meant to be done by a parent and a child (or children). If you want to make math more fun, put away the textbook for a day and pull out this volume! This is the book that got me the sweet note above.

If you want to begin implementing living math, this is the ONE book I’d recommend.


More Math Resources

For Math Board Games


Helping Your Child Learn Math by Patsy F. Kanter with Linda B. Darby (Illustrated by Roberta Toth) is a modern book in the public domain. You can find it online at the US Department of Education. I’ve converted the main sections into PDF for easy printing.

A 2004 edition of this publication is here: A Parent Handbook for Helping Your Child Learn Mathematics.


by: Lorraine Hopping Egan

Get kids fired up about math with this big collection of super-cool reproducible board games that build key skills: multiplication, division, fractions, probability, estimation, mental math, and more! Each game is a snap to make and so easy to play.


Practical Math Ideas from Real Moms

These blog entries from real, homeschooling moms will inspire your math learning!

diceOur Journey Westward
Graphing poll results is rather engaging anyway, but Cindy makes it even more fun by having her children create graphs with leaves, candies, and math manipulatives! Read all of her math entries for even more encouragement.
Living Math Posts at Jimmie’s Collage
These are all of my own blog posts tagged living math.


Math Education Ideas

Let’s Play Math Blog

math gamesIf you want something meaty, dive into Lockhart’s Lament, a 25 page essay about math education. You will come away from it with a new perspective about how you were taught math and how you want to teach it to your children.

[RD: Lockhart’s Lament is a must-read!]

For a regular dose of living math fun, visit the Let’s Play Math blog. A few of the latest entries are below.

MTaP Titanium Edition
The new Math Teachers at Play blog carnival is open at math hombre for your browsing pleasure:

Math Teachers at Play #22

The carnival features a wide variety of posts about math and teaching, along with 6 puzzle questions and a warning about the “rare but deadly Blogcarnival Catch 22.” Enjoy!
If you would like to host a […]

Quotable: College Majors
Discovered this in my blog reader this morning, and I thought you would enjoy it, too.
[Note: Stu is not the person’s real name, but is short for “student.”]
Stu came to my office looking for a new major. Stu is bad at math and can’t handle the math sequence required of business majors. So Stu was […]
Prime Numbers Are like Monkeys
[Photo by mape_s.]
I’m afraid that Math Club may have fallen victim to the economy, which is worse in our town than in the nation in general. Homeschooling families have tight budgets even in the best of times, and now they seem to be cutting back all non-essentials. I assumed that last semester’s students would return, […]
Math Carnival Alert
The Carnival of Mathematics went up on New Year’s Day over at Walking Randomly. Check it out:The 61st Carnival of MathematicsThe Math Teachers at Play carnival is coming next week, at a new host blog, Math Hombre. Do you blog about teaching or learning preK-12th grade mathematics? MTaP would love to feature your post! Before […]


Living Math at My House

book with graphs

The Charts and Graphs page linked below describes and documents a way we used some living math alongside our classical music study! And we tackled fractions with loads of manipulatives and games.


Living Math Titles


These are just good books. But they happen to include mathematical concepts. So they are perfect for a living math curriculum.

For book lists of even more living math titles, visit Penny Gardner, Ohio Literacy Resource Center, McGraw Hill, or Living Math.

And for more about the use of literature in math instruction, see Mathwire.

by: Mitsumasa Anno

Smart Books has a lesson plan to accompany this book.

For free lesson plans and printables to accompany many of the Sir Cumference titles, visit Homeschool Share.

Visit Teach with Picture Books blog for some great ideas for this book.


Homemade Math Manipulatives and Games

Math Toolbox
A great site for clear directions for math manipulatives from household items.
Printable manipulatives!
Proteacher Forum
A discussion filled with lots of manipulative ideas.
Math Printables for Home
This is a “one stop” link. Here you will find loads of math printables — times tables, pattern blocks, hundreds charts, graph paper, place value charts, graphing paper, dot paper, and much more.
Inexpensive Math Manipulatives
Several good ideas from A Virtuous Woman blog.