A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to hear Greg Tang speak to a room of math educators. He had the room on the edge of their seats. If you ever have a chance to hear him speak don’t pass it up. His message was very clear to me that day: Math should be fun, easy, and it should involve common sense.
He shared some “tricks” with us that day. They really aren’t tricks…it is just looking at math with a common sense approach. I was engaged the entire time. I don’t know how many times I sat there thinking “duh…why didn’t I ever see that before?!?” He talks often about breaking down numbers into workable problems, such as breaking down 15 into a 10 and a 5. It is hard to work the problem “84 x 15= __” in your head. Instead break it down into “84 x 10” and “84 x 5”. We know instantly that 84 x 10=840. Since 5 is half of 10 84 x 5 will equal half of 84 x 10…420. Now add those together and you get 1260. That is much easier…and we used common sense to solve it.
He also preaches a lot about getting students to learn their facts. It is not OK for kids to be counting on fingers. They should know their facts instantly. He has a bunch of fun mental math games on his website GregTangMath.com. They are free to play and will build up speed and accuracy for multiple math concepts, not just adding and multiplying. They also give you the ability to set level of play so they work for students at all levels. The site is definitely worth a look.
My favorite game on his site is Kahooma. The game is addicting! It is a puzzle of math problems. You start with multiple problems, finding solutions to each part. Then your answers become your next problem that you need to solve! You can play them online: Addition, Negatives, Times, and Fractions. You can set the level for your students (or yourselves) to determine how tough it is going to be. He also has Addition, Negatives, and Times available as apps in iTunes. Kids are practicing math facts without even realizing they are doing it! I am warning you…if you don’t want to get hooked, don’t start playing.