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Home based methods for mastering math with young adults

February 27, 2011

Math is a tough subject; as they approach upper level math young adults can increase their success by making sure they have strong foundations in the basics. By the time they hit 6th grade most young adults have developed the ability to really apply themselves, and can be encouraged to spend the time needed to make sure they flourish in math class. We’ve found a few of the following to be helpful for the disinclined number cruncher.

Rote Memorization: If you want to master math, you simply MUST know your multiplication tables backward and forward. Now let’s get it out of the way, you have a unique child if they enjoy rote memorization. That said, it is a time tested and effective means for learning some concepts.  Addition, Subtraction, and Multiplication Tables are the classic uses of memorization. While some children will naturally find memorization to be difficult, the key is to alter the method of teaching to suit the childs learning style. A little one on one time with a teacher or tutor can be helpful in finding the least painful and most effective method for a given child. Let’s take a minute to review some of the classic tools before we delve into the new technology applications.

  • Flash Cards: For many kids they work. Usually the pros recommend reading the card out loud as they show it to the child, thus covering both visual and auditory learners. is a great website with some great resources, including printable flash cards.
  • Multiplication Tables:  For the kinesthetic and tactile learners in the crowd, physically writing on the table will engage their motor centers and help them to internalize the information. For some students, seeing and interacting directly with the sequential nature of the table will help them learn. This is another good link for multiplication tables. Keep some printed out and handy for quick easy use: trade a division table for an extra helping of dessert, or make a worksheet the ‘price’ of 10 more minutes play time.
  • Talk it out: Some kids are at their best when everything else goes still. Try having your child talk their way up or down a multiplication table or through an addition/subtraction sequence(“one times two is two. Two times two is four. Three times two is six…”).  You might be surprised; some students can focus the best and utilize their knowledge more effectively without the distractions of writing and reading.

Worksheets:  Again, getting to physically write it out is what gets some kids learning. Once you get to higher end topics like fractions and algebra, getting more practice and repetition with a skill will help. is a great resource for worksheets for middle school and high school level math skills. As with multiplication tables, keep these printed and on hand. You might try trading worksheets for other rewards, thirty extra minutes of TV time in exchange for two extra worksheets. is a second source for these types of worksheets.

Board Games: There are dozens of board games out there that are either purpose built for math review or require math to play. Some of the classics like Monopoly and Payday will work nicely, especially if you have kids of different ages in the house. Board games are a great way to not only get family time, but to reinforce lessons and get the kids using their brains. Dr-mikes-board-games would be an example of some of the purpose built games, they can be great for targeting a specific set of skills.

And now for something completely different: Video Games

We have fond memories of Math Blaster from when we were kids growing up with the Apple IIc. But, most modern kids would probably roll their eyes at so crudely rendered a game. The good news is games have evolved.  While there certainly are a number of relatively clunky, crudely designed games out there, there are also some popular fun games that many kids will enjoy.  An exhaustive list of such games would be…well, exhausting. So this is merely a review of some of the more prominent products out there.  Keep in mind this is a mixture of both free online games and software you’ll have to buy. Don’t be shocked if the graphics on the freeware are cruder than those of the for profit offerings. Thus, in no particular order, with no intention to endorse any product herein mentioned, here we go:

Reader Rabbit: $7-15 each. This is an entire family of different packages. They have packages for math and others for reading, for various grades. It’s a top seller, and well-reviewed, for what it’s worth. Targeted more to the K-5 crowd than the young adults. Free Online. Sheppard software has a number of well-designed learning games online. The do have a dedicated section for math games however. A great selection covering a wide range of topics from K to 10-11th grade math. They have enough different games to allow for targeting of a particular skill set very well. Poke around, you’ll find a game for the skill your child is having trouble with.

Math Blaster: $30 and/or a limited online free version. Yep, it’s still around! They have updated the graphics and gotten better at game design.  Another big seller, reviews appear to fall into either the love it or hate it camps. The online version is well polished, if a tad demanding on bandwidth. Full access to the online version will require a subscription, but if the kids like it enough to ask for a subscription…It appears to top out in the middle school skill range. Free Online. Note the dash in the site name. A number of good learning games, but not as focused on arithmetic as Sheppard, they include a number of logic and puzzle games. Still, this has some good games that are focused on math.

Please note, is the ‘mother’ site of coolmath-games, and has some great explanations and lessons on math topics. Not to be forgotten if some late night your child may start pulling their hair out over, say… exponents, you remember exponents, right?

These are just a few of the more prominent selections. If your child is video game inclined this might be a good way to get them to practice.  If none of these sound right for your child, try googling “Online Math Games”, or browsing through the math games listings of If by chance your child isn’t as thrilled or motivated to play their math games vs. other games (it’s hard to compete with Xbox), try offering small rewards for achieving certain levels or certain scores in a particular game.

Practice makes perfect, and for young adults a little time practicing their math skills can go a long way towards helping them build confidence in and ace their math classes.  Even a little practice every day makes a big difference; professional teachers know that the higher the frequency (daily vs. 3 times a week) with which a lesson is reviewed, the better it is retained, even if the review is brief.

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