In elementary school, I’d do pages of math worksheets—and ask for more! This was back when the copies were printed in blue and smelled of the peculiar ink used in the copy machines. There were no fun, colorful pages with pictures, just problem after problem of math—and I loved it!

Perhaps some of you can relate, but I imagine most of you are wrinkling your noses in disgust. My daughter is in that latter category. In kindergarten, the brightly colored pages of her math workbook didn’t lure her into the excitement of learning. In fact, because of math, she pretty much hated homeschool. If we did math first, that’s all we’d get done before her little brother woke up from his nap. It was like pulling teeth! If we did it last, it ruined our time together because she dreaded it. I felt like a failure as a homeschool mom—because of math!

When I thought of attempting to teach her brother (who was more likely to fall off the chair than sit on it) and doing it for the long haul, I wanted to hide in a closet and not come out for at least twelve years. In fact, I was sorely tempted to take my daughter and walk her up the street to that beautiful edifice of learning with the shiny new playground she admired and leave her there. After all, they had a dinosaur jungle gym, so their math had to be more exciting, too, right?

I wanted my children to love learning, particularly math. I wanted their eyes to light up when I announced it was time for “school.” I wanted us to have fun learning together, enjoying each other, growing in our relationship. This was not working!

I started doing some research. Unfortunately for me, other homeschoolers I knew also did workbooks for math. A kindergarten teacher I talked to encouraged me to “plow ahead” and she’d eventually get it. I saw worksheets of addition problems on the refrigerator of our public school friends, all with big red “A’s” on them.

My epiphany came when I asked my daughter’s public school friend, “What was your favorite thing in math this week?”

“We counted Teddy Grahams and ate them,” she replied.

Aha! That had nothing to do with paper and pencil (which I later found out my daughter was “allergic” to). Perhaps that’s the key.

So I set about changing her diet of math problems. My grocery store forays brought all sorts of math nibbles. We changed our math to snack time and called it “snack math.” It was a huge hit with both children! We counted, grouped, added, subtracted, graphed, and ate! There was not one tear or pencil involved.

We were having fun, but to be honest, I still felt guilty that she wasn’t doing workbooks.

Around this time, I found Ruth Beechick’s little gem, An Easy Start in Arithmetic. She freed me from guilt and encouraged me to branch out. She suggested this kind of learning through 3rd grade!

We used colored straws to count tens and bundle together. We made a “store” with 15 Bean Soup (after we sorted, counted, and graphed a cup of beans). She sold beans to her stuffed animals and gave them change. We used those beans for years! I think they’re still around here somewhere.

I bought a set of giant foam numbers we used on the stairs. We made a number line out of a roll of paper towels that we used for skip counting. We used dice to play games with numbers. Did you know you can buy blank dice or dice that go up to 15? Or you can make a giant die out of a large square box.

Playing cards and the game of War taught my children multiplication. They’d have a multiplication chart up in their room, but we’d play downstairs. If they didn’t know the correct answer for the two cards they laid down, they’d have to run upstairs, find the answer, and come down to announce, “8X7=56!” before the game could go on. A set of dominoes with a minute timer is also helpful for learning facts.

Does your child like sports? Write numbers on a soccer ball and toss it. Whoever catches it has to multiply the numbers his thumbs are on. Play basketball while they multiply the number of the day by what number they’re standing on when they throw.

Think about how math can integrate with other subjects. Venn diagrams with plastic or stuffed animals could help in science. Making a game including a castle, a knight, and math facts could connect math with your medieval history. Join a Yahoo group or other group that specializes in making games for more ideas.

So, cut a SNICKERS® in ½ and ¼, make 3-D models with toothpicks and gumdrops, be a clock out in the driveway, play Rummikub®, Blokus®, MONOPOLY, Bingo, The Game of Life®, O’NO 99™, UNO®, RACK-O®, and other games.

Have fun with math! Engage your kids and enjoy learning together!

Copyright 2018, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in the Summer 2018 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms.