One night cleaning up, I found a timed math test that my youngest daughter (7) had recently taken. It had a horrendous score on it, something like 56%. Asking her teacher I found out that it was just the first timed test of the year, and that most students have a score like that, and it improves over the school year because they take this timed test multiple times. The dad that I am, I was not satisfied with that explanation (I’m a borderline copter parent). I knew I had to do something….
I can’t have my daughter being bad at math, and although the teacher doesn’t seem worried, I’m still kinda freaking out. Now…. at her age she is doing pretty simple math on these timed tests, stuff like (x+x=?) where x is a number from 0 to 9. They just have 100 questions and only 60 seconds to do it. And then there is the other side which is (y-x=?) where y is a number from 20 to 5-ish. They don’t have to do them all, but my oldest daughter did when she was her age.
I obviously want to help her get better and faster with these quick math problems. The best way I could come up with, to make it possible for the ‘math lesson’ to stick, was to make a game out of it. So here we are:
Components – 2 Ships (I made mine out of LEGOs), d10, paper and pencil
On the paper, make a bunch of squares in one column, numbering them from 1 to 20. You may have to put two sheets down next to each other to make one long column. I had my daughter do all the work here, just to get her invested mostly.
The Rules – Each player places their ship on opposite sides of the square path, one ship on the 1 and one ship on the 20. On a separate piece of paper, give each player 15 health points. You’ll use this to subtract any damage they take.
Then on your turn, you indicate a direction you are flying and roll the dice, moving that many squares the direction you called out. If you pass the other player’s ship, then they take damage equal to the number of squares that you had left when you first flew over them and you continue on. If you would go off the edge of the board, you instead turn around and take 2 damage.
First player to damage the other player’s ship to zero wins.
…..And that’s it.
But here is the kicker: Every turn comes with multiple opportunities for her to do math:
- Subtract or add your d10 roll to the number space you are on at the time.
- Subtract the number of spaces from your roll to apply the damage to the other player. (or add it from counting up past flying over them)
- Subtract the damage from your health points on the main scorecard.
I make her do all the work, and have her do the math every time the die is rolled, whether it is her turn or mine.
That’s a quick and easy game that we’ve now played multiple times. I just have a ziplock bag with my ships and die in it. We just get paper from wherever we are. The picture above is just at a restaurant while waiting for our food.
She of course deduced that I had ‘tricked’ her into doing math about halfway into the first game, exclaiming, “You are just making me do math!” My response: “Yeah, and at this game, I’m currently winning, what are you going to do about it?” And she continued rolling and adding and subtracting. She is very competitive after all. 😉
I always have a goal when I play with my daughters, and overall, I am trying to teach them to keep going and pressing on no matter if they win or lose. I feel that mental toughness to continue when ‘beat down’ is something that has to be taught over a long period of time. I’ve seen it working in my oldest daughter, and I hope this recent move on my part pays off with my youngest. We’ll see if this math game gets results as the rest of the school year unfolds.
David Gerrard – @dagerr