* Math Playground

If you haven’t yet visited Math Playground, you are in for a treat!  Designed by Colleen King for her classroom in 2002 and continuing to grow, Math Playground has now over 450 games and activities.  The site is organized by grade level (1-6+), math topics, and includes excellent math videos and an entire page of games and videos aligned to Common Core standards.

Math Playground provides ample practice on just about any skill you can name, with games that are not always timed, which can be a helpful feature for struggling students.  About 130 games are also available as apps from iTunes.  The site is certified kidSafe, so ads are benign.  Math Playground also donates to Donors Choose, a terrific site I’ve used in the past.

One of my favorite features of Math Playground is the accessibility of 28 interactive math manipulatives, such as “thinking blocks” for solving word problems on multiple topics.  Teachers, parents, and students can explore fraction bars, geoboards, fraction scales, probability spinners, tangrams, function machines, simple programming, and much more.  These manipulatives are a bit more difficult to find, so bookmark the link!

chalkboard kids.jpg

Math Playground has many logic games and a cool section on the interaction between math and art.  “Equation Creations,” for instance, may appeal to students who are into video games and graphic designs.  For movie creation, there are 3 fun “sets”: a picnic site, rock band, and alien adventure.  If you’re a parent who needs a boost for supporting homework assignments, this site is also for you.  Finally, there are reading, spelling, and geography games, plus just-for-fun activities.

Math Playground is a 5-star site!

 

* Math Is Fun

Math is Fun logo 2

Math Is Fun (mathisfun.com) is an amazing, free online resource for parents, teachers, and students alike.  In the years since I first discovered it, this site has grown phenomenally.  It is continuing to grow with the contributions of folks who like to teach math (all contributors are named).  Math Is Fun is designed for users from kindergarten through high school.  Math content includes numbers, algebra, geometry, measurement, and data.  Each topic is clearly described, with well-designed visuals (without clutter), and many topics have interactive features to aid learning.  At the conclusion of each topic, there are questions to test your knowledge.

To give you an idea of the scope of manipulatives on this site, here’s a glance at the index:

Math is fun manipulatives 4

The site is designed for both US and UK users; it includes the variations of terminology between our countries (such as trapezoid vs trapezium).  For parents who want to provide support for kids with homework, this site is a plus.  If there are math skills you’ve forgotten, check out the clear descriptions and practice exercises.  For students who struggle to process information in a large group setting, Math Is Fun enables them to review a topic with excellent visuals.  Here’s an example of the first lesson on decimals:

decimals

Math Is Fun also provides math games and puzzles in a section called Mathopolis.  Mathopolis

The games are not elaborate but provide effective practice of skills with immediate feedback and explanations.  By registering, you may keep track of your scores.  Registered users may also post comments and questions in the math forum which is not a chat room; all comments are moderated before being displayed.

As you can tell, I am a big fan of this site!  Have you tried Math Is Fun?  Please share your experiences with it.

* Multiplication.com

Multiplication.com is a classic.  The site is packed with well-organized, brain-friendly content.  And virtually all of it is free. There are five basic sections: student games, four blogs, student assessment and specific fact practice (LEARN), teacher resources for using stories and pictures to learn times tables (TEACH), and resources for teachers to purchase.

Let’s start with the teacher resources.  Videos and step-by-step instructions describe the process of helping kids memorize times tables through a picture/story process.  Alan Walker is a long-time educator (I would call him a “braniac!”) who created a language-based approach for memorizing times tables.  His work was researched in the article: When Multiplication Facts Won’t Stick: Could a Language/Story Approach Work?  I can’t describe this methodology better than the site:

  • The system uses current brain research to maximize memory.  It taps the underlying way the brain remembers.  The brain’s cataloging system has a difficult time categorizing numbers because they are abstract.   Yet pictures, being concrete, are relatively simple for the brain to store and retrieve effectively.
  • Each number is represented by a picture (2 = shoe, 3 = tree, 4 = door). The answer is another picture based on the two pictures in the problem.   It sounds confusing, but it is very easy.
  • Here is a quick example.  Let’s take 3 x 4 = 12.
    • 3 = tree
    • 4 = door
    • 12 = elf
  • When a student sees the problem 3 x 4 they ‘picture’ a tree (3) and a door (4).  The answer will be a picture based on a tree and a door.  The picture they remember for tree and door is elf.  They visualize an elf (12) peeking from behind the door (4) in the tree (3).

Alan Walker also addresses the first question that has already popped into your head: Doesn’t this just confuse kids?  His answer is obviously “no”; in fact, his own success with this program seems to be replicated by parents and teachers who use his method.  I have used similar strategies successfully for helping students memorize “instant” words which cannot be sounded out.

The student games section is fantastic.  There are multiplayer and single player games for addition and subtraction facts as well as multiplication.  My all-time favorite for learning times tables is Sketch’s World.  Sketch's worldIt’s a single player game with seven levels of play.  Students may select their choice of facts to practice; they must complete ten correct responses to start a level.  The game has catchy music, an adorable character, and dreaded erasers who may knock you out of action.  One excellent feature is that the answers for each fact appear in the same place every time.  That does not reduce the challenge of getting correct answers but does provide a visual cue for improved accuracy.  Like all the games, the related curriculum standards are listed, along with clear directions for play.

For students learning their times tables, there’s an online printable assessment.  Working time and errors are recorded.pre-test

Students select the facts they want to learn and then follow the sequence listed below, using Walker’s methodology.  learn a factThe section on blogs is equally robust.  Four writers contribute ideas, resources, and abundant freebies for readers.  Our blogs

Finally, Walker’s materials are available for sale, with inexpensive downloads of student materials as well as additional teaching tips and activities.  I am going to start Walker’s method next week with a student who has not been able to memorize ANY facts in over a year’s time.  I will keep you posted!

* KizMath

I am new to KizMath but wanted to try it out since I have enjoyed a sister site, KizPhonics.  The KizMath site is also quite extensive, providing math materials for pre-kindergarten through 8th grade.  For each grade level, there are placement tests; worksheets; printable board games, card games, and puzzles; online quizzes; online games; 25 videos; and links to “supplemental” online math games (not KizMath created).  A single user fee for a year is reasonable, depending upon teacher usage.

KizMath

The following graphic is representative of each grade level.  Each of the bulleted items is an active link to the same long page for that grade level.  There are also separate links to games, videos, and printables under the “Supplements” tab.KizMath 5th grade

Videos:  The 25 videos are categorized as “basic, medium, and high.”  As soon as you open the page with videos, a voice calls out, “Today we are going to learn about graphs” (see Cons # 9).  That same video plays automatically EVERY time you open the page.  There’s a “slide show” of 6 videos available  If you want to play any of those in full screen, you must click on the gray tool bar above the video.  For all the other videos, I finally learned to double click on the video itself to view it in full-screen mode.  A typical video is shared below.

What kids get:  Older elementary and middle school students could access quizzes and games by topic under their grade level (See Con #1 before releasing them on this site).  They could also view any videos appropriate for that topic.  Younger students would need to be placed in an activity or game.  The online quizzes are all about 6 to 8 problems long and provide immediate feedback.  The final screen indicates whether a student passed (above 80%), otherwise the screen indicates “You did not pass.”

What teachers get: As noted above, you have access to worksheets for multiple grade levels, along with placement tests and many printable and online practice quizzes.  These quizzes are basically a partial-audio version of a worksheet (as you select an answer, there are keyboard sounds, along with sounds for correct and incorrect responses).  For some kids, online worksheets are better than paper, but this site is all about drill.  Under the “Supplements” section, there are “extra” math printables, including puzzles (such as magic squares and crossword puzzles), card games, drills, and “secret” trails (maze-like activities for practicing basic facts).  Two board games are provided in Word format to allow teachers to individualize the games.

Pros:

  1. The wide range of grade level materials means that teachers can provide practice on skills at grades below (or above) their student’s actual grade level.
  2. Each grade level covers a typical range of math skills.
  3. Most of the online KizMath games are very engaging (but see # 1 below).
  4. The videos have good graphics and natural sound (but see # 8 below).
  5. The print-your-own feature for two board games is useful (but see # 6 below).
  6. Each grade level page is organized identically, which makes access simple.  There are 2 columns of links: quizzes on the left and games on the top right (with other quizzes continuing underneath), followed by printables at the bottom of the page.  All resources are identified by topic.

Cons:

  1. There are some really inappropriate games linked to KizMath under the Supplements section.  These include two games which allow students to create teachers (adding hair, glasses, etc.) and then either catapult them or make then walk the plank.  A dueling game is also violent.  Most of the other games are sports-related, requiring longer time to “score” than to solve a math problem.  FIX:  Don’t let anyone use the supplemental games without direct supervision.
  2. Special needs kids may be derailed by the feedback for failing a quiz.  FIX:  Depends upon the student.  Some may see it as a challenge while others may be in despair.  The somewhat good news is that the program has no “memory.”
  3. If you want to provide below grade level practice, students will see what grade you are accessing.  FIX:  Turn the computer to one side while you access the game, then minimize the home screen and maximize the pop-up window.
  4. There is a systematic sequence of practice for basic operations at all grade levels, but other skills lack sufficient practice.  FIX: You’ll have to go to another site for practice or create your own.
  5. The board games are visually cluttered and include “back to start” icons, which can be a nightmare for some kids.  Fix:  Ignore the “back to start” icons.
  6. Of the five board games which can be individualized, one has a zombie theme.  Yuck.  FIX:  Stick to the pirates or crocs.
  7. All the quizzes and games open in a small pop-up window on the left side of the screen.  Fix:  Just expand the window.
  8. There are not many videos compared to the number of skills addressed and they are merely a brief overview of a topic.  It is an exaggeration for the presenter to say students will “learn about” a skill; I think it would be fair to state that they will practice.  That might be my special education bias.

My rating: 2 1/2  out of 5 stars.  If I change my mind in the next few weeks, I’ll let you know.