MathKit combines games and hands-on learning experiences to help children from kindergarten through third grade master addition and subtraction facts up to 20. Designed for families, it can be used with one or more children. MathKit creator, Leslie Gilbert, encourages parents to make the learning activities enjoyable and relaxing rather than stressful. Many activities will naturally lead to silliness and fun while others will depend upon the style of the parent’s oversight and direction.
MathKit consists of ten games and learning tools, although they can be used in more than ten ways. The entire kit comes in a reclosable cardboard box. The Game Guide has detailed instructions and suggestions for using the kit as well as tips for parents as they interact with their children. You can read through the tips or jump right into the games. You can use the games in the order suggested or jump around—whatever you prefer. Many of the games can be revisited as children progress in their skills since you can make them easier or more difficult. Suggestions for some games even include ways to include children beyond third grade level.
The largest item in the MathKit is a Rekenrek which is similar to an abacus. An uninflated beach ball that comes with the kit is even larger once it’s inflated. (The beach ball comes with a set of numbers to stick onto the surface in a prescribed pattern.) In addition, MathKit includes a “folder” game board, a set of playing cards, a large set of “question cards” (math fact cards for addition and subtraction), wooden counter chips with numbers, sidewalk chalk, bean bags, spinner, a hundred chart, 2 ten frames (7” x 3” laminated, rectangular cards), a number line, linking cubes, a small wipe-off Write-It Board, and a dry-erase marker.
Many of these items sound predictable, but Gilbert’s ideas for using them are quite creative. Take the “question cards.” These look like simple flash cards, but Gilbert uses them to play “Hot Lava” using pillows or furniture along with the cards as safe stepping stones for players to cross the floor. A player has to correctly provide the answer to his or her question card before placing it as a stepping stone. (Parents can pre-select appropriate question cards to drill particular math facts.)
In another game, players toss the beach ball to one another adding up numbers (determined by where the right thumb lands on the ball) until they reach a total of 10. (You can make it 20 or higher to make it more difficult.) Going past 10 rather than getting exactly 10 means starting all over.
The sidewalk chalk is used to draw a bull’s eye pattern on the pavement. Then question cards are placed in different sections of the bull’s eye. Players toss a bean bag, trying to land on question cards with the highest sums or differences. As they land on a card they solve the problem and score that many points. (The hundred chart and linking cubes are used for keeping score.)
Gilbert has created similar inventive activities for other MathKit components.
While instructions are fairly comprehensive, you will have to adapt to your situation making activities simpler or more challenging depending upon each child’s needs. You’ll also need to find practical ways to play some of the games. Placing question cards on a sidewalk on a blustery day obviously won’t work. Placing question cards on a thick, pile carpet then walking on them in the Hot Lava game is likely to destroy your cards.
Some items—the hundred chart, the number line, and the wipe-off “board,” in particular—seem a little small for young children and the ways they are used in MathKit, but you can easily substitute larger versions of these items on your own if needed.
MathKit is totally interactive. A parent can play games with a child or children can compete against one another. Chance elements incorporated into some of the games help level the playing field for players at different skill levels.
MathKit incorporates many different strategies that help children master math facts, strategies such as learning visual patterns, counting objects, connecting similar facts, using the number line or counting on fingers. Activities require students to then practice math facts within games so acquiring math-fact fluency is a far more positive experience than completing work sheets or drilling students with flash cards.
If you’re not sure you want to invest in the complete kit that I have described, called MathKit’s Full Learning System, you can try out MathKit Essentials, a partial kit with some of the games and activities. If you like it, you can then upgrade to the complete kit.