Before I dive into some fun ways to overlearn math, you might be asking, why do children need to overlearn math? And what does it mean to overlearn something? Overlearning means that a skill is practiced far beyond the point of initial mastery, to the point where the skill becomes automatic. You don’t want your children counting on their hands when taking their timed tests for college, and neither do you want them to get ripped off as adults because they do not have their basic math facts down cold.
Cheryl Lowe, the founder of Memoria Press, explains why overlearning is so vital, especially for math: “Math is systematic, organized, orderly, logical and cumulative. In a cumulative study, each skill builds upon the previous one; nothing can be forgotten; everything must be remembered… Math begins with memorization, computation, fractions, decimals, percent, word problems, and proceeds to problem solving, algebra, geometry, trig, and calculus. Math is hard because it builds so relentlessly year after year through every year of the child’s education. Any skill not mastered one year will make work difficult the next year. It is unforgiving. It has to be overlearned. That is why few students reach a high level in math. They reach a glass ceiling because the cumulative nature of the subject catches up with them. Eventually they are over their heads and quit.”
So how can you drill basic math facts in a way that the kids don’t get sick of it? Here are some fun ways to overlearn math:
- Roll two dice and add, subtract, or multiply the numbers together. My kids loved doing this with extra-large foam dice that we rolled on the floor.
- Jump up and down on a trampoline while shouting basic math facts. The movement of the body causes the mind to remember the facts more clearly later.
- Make a large number line on the floor with construction paper and ask younger students to add and subtract by running the correct number of squares back and forth on the number line. You can also do this with skip counting, hopping over a square to count by two’s, or hopping over two squares to count by three’s.
- Play games like Yahtzee to learn to add quickly, since each player must add the numbers on five dice every time it’s their turn.
- Grab a deck of cards and make two piles, face down. Draw one card from each pile and add, subtract, or multiply the numbers.
- Buy many-sided dice that are colorful, and have kids shake all the dice and add them up. Go around in a circle, to see who gets the highest points for each round.
- Skip count using an abacus, pushing the beads across by three’s, or four’s, or five’s.
- Grab a set of dominoes and add, subtract, or multiply the two numbers on each domino.
- Place 4 matchbox cars in 8 plastic bags. Skip count by four’s by counting the bags. Place 9 matchbox cars in each bag. Now skip count by 9’s. (Use any toy or object to put in the bags.)
Overlearning math doesn’t have to be tedious, but it is necessary to help our children not to struggle with math in future years and on timed tests. Have your kids choose some of these hands-on ways to learn their basic math facts. Then give them timed drills, and reward each drill that they win with a special evening of fun for the family!
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