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## New Math Games Added Target Key Math Skills

The holidays are upon us and that puts conscientious parents in mind of a couple of issues.  First, parents wonder what to do with the kids over the holiday break to keep their skills primed so that they don’t get too rusty.  And second, they are pondering over what type of advantage they can give their children as they head into classes for the second semester.  To help with both of these points, Mathnook has added a series of cool math games to their online collection to help with key math skills which will aid them in their schoolwork.

The first key concept is rounding.  This is an important skill for young students to master as it helps with estimation which will be of supreme importance when working on other skills later included complex multiplication and division as well as money management and budgeting skills.  Numbers and Cannons Rounding is a new version of a popular Mathnook game which has learners round the number on the barrel of the cannon to the nearest ten so that they can load it up and set it off.

Another popular early math concept that students will need to master in order to move on in their studies is comparison.  Putting two numbers side by side and deciding which is the larger number and which is smaller is a common task.  When I learned this particular skill, even I noticed that the greater than symbol (>) and lesser than symbol (<) resembled a certain ghost-munching video game hero.  So the folks at Mathnook have introduced MathMan, a mathematic twist on PacMan which features numbered ghosts and the hungry MathMan who has to chomp the larger number.

Another new game with a distinctively retro feel to it is Ladybugs Cross the Road.  This game combines the play of the classic game Frogger with the basic math skill of counting.  Players have to count the dots on the ladybug to determine which corresponding leaf they should move to so that they can navigate the field.  This is a particularly excellent game for the very young who are just honing their simple number skills.

The final skill which has been added to the Mathnook arsenal is measurement.  MathPup Measurement is a game which features MathPup, the math dog, who wants the smallest toy or the largest which the player has to accurately select.  Other times, a specific toy has to be selected and the player has to measure the toys.  Measurements and how to take them are not just used in mathematics.  Children who master this skill early on will have a greater ease when working later in science classes such as Biology and Physics.

This holiday, rather than sitting around the house watching TV, have your child log in some time on Mathnook and check out the new, cool online games.  You will help keep their math abilities fresh and ready for the coming semester.

## What Will 2013 Bring for Education?

Parents want what is best for their children and keeping up with their education is a key component to being mindful of what is happening in their lives.  As any educator can attest to, trends develop and come and go with amazing rapidity and sometimes parents can be bewildered by the strange “educationese” language that teachers can speak.  An alphabet soup of acronyms are common including IEP, 504, SAT, ACT, AP, EOCT, TEKS, and the list goes on and on.  One of the newer trends which will definitely have an impact on your child’s learning as we move into 2013 is the advent of the Common Core Standards.

Common Core Standards are a series of standards adopted in English Language Arts and Mathematics.  Prior to this, each state set it’s own standards for what skills were taught and when they were to be taught.  This led to fifty different curriculums with great disparity between the individual states which led to major headaches, particularly if a family moved from one state to another and found that material only to find that their children’s education didn’t match up with what was being taught in their old school district.  Common Core hopes to alleviate this by setting exact standards and suggested grade level reading lists for each grade.

Many feared that this would involve a complete takeover of education from the federal government.  This, however, is not the case.  Common Core is completely voluntary with forty-five of the fifty states having signed on to the standards.  (As of this writing, Alaska, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas, and Virginia have not joined in.)  The federal government took a hands-off approach to drafting the standards which were adopted by a committee of representatives from the individual states.

The emphasis for mathematics will include a foundation in both content knowledge and skills.  For instance, the K-5 standards include strong work in numbers and counting and the basics of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division and then build their way through trickier topics such as fractions, decimals, negative numbers, and geometry.  What this means for parents is that they will probably see an even greater emphasis on these skills in early grades as they build on each other and move the child into college and career readiness mathematics.

Mathnook online games provide a fun and informative way to help reinforce these skills at an early age.  You can take what your child is learning in his or her classroom as part of the Common Core standards  and then strengthen and support these skills with interactive games that are eye-catching and challenging.  Mathnook is devoted to helping your child develop as a learner with the new standards and beyond.

## Just in Time for the Holidays – Cool Math Games (and More)

The holidays are coming up and we all know what that means:  crowded parking lots, busy shopping malls, blinking decorations, and antsy kids sitting at home bored in front of the TV.  So how do you keep the dreaded summer brain drain from creeping in to your child’s holiday season?  Here are some tips on how to help your child keep the learning going during those couple of weeks before second semester starts back up and to keep you sane so you can have a pleasant holiday.

• Find Opportunities to Practice Math—Especially at young ages, children need to practice their math skills constantly until these skills become second nature.  Drill and practice exercises have gotten a bad reputation over the last few years, but they are one of the tried and true ways of instilling these skills in your child.  Now, no one is suggesting that you spend your holidays with your children doing math flashcard drills.  But the same skills can be practiced with an added “fun” component by letting your child do online drill and practice games.  Math Nook (www.mathnook.com) features a variety of games that help teach your child these math abilities such as their new games geared towards teaching rounding skills.
• Find a Holiday Book—The holidays provide a great time for children to practice their reading skills with holiday themed books.  Younger children will delight in reading classics like Clement Clarke Moore’s “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” (a.k.a. “Twas the Night Before Christmas”) or Dr. Seuss’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”  For older children, what better choice than a Christmas classic like Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol?  If your child is still learning to read, audio recordings of these are available so that they can listen and read along.  (Look for the soundtrack to the Dr. Seuss television show to find the story narrated by Boris Karloff or seek out the Dickens’ story featuring Sir Patrick Stewart acting out all of the parts from Ebenezer Scrooge to Tiny Tim.)

• Write a Christmas Letter—Have your child practice his or her writing skills with a thoughtful letter.  Either a letter to Santa or a thank you letter (not just a quick note) to the grandparents can be a great way to practice writing, grammar, spelling, and handwriting.  In addition, the American Red Cross sponsors Holiday Mail for Heroes in which your child can write a letter to a veteran serving in the United States or overseas.   This is a learning experience that will also make someone feel appreciated for serving in the military.
• Spend Time in the Kitchen—Most schools have slashed their home economics budgets.  But cooking is a lifelong skill that all children need to learn and it can teach many other skills in addition.  Math standards such as fractions, percentages, measurements and addition are all handled by following a recipe.  And the holidays are a perfect chance to spend some time bonding with your child in the kitchen.  Make some cookies for Santa or encourage your child’s artistic expression by decorating a gingerbread cookie house.

Holidays don’t have to be downtime.  You can encourage your child to find learning experiences every day and prevent the brain drain that may set in otherwise.

## Rounding and the Real World

One of the biggest problems educators face from students (and the occasional parent) is the dreaded question “When am I going to use this in real life?”  Although this may be trickier with some fields, for me math has always been one of the easiest to justify.  Numbers are a universal language that everyone speaks (or at least they should).  Elementary age students should be soaking up a variety of skills every single week and practicing these skills is a must.  One of the skills that we as adults take for granted is rounding because of the way it comes in handy each and every day.

Rounding a number is to the nearest ten, hundred, or thousand is a common activity for early elementary grade students and is very useful when it comes to estimating.  For instance, you can have your child round the cost of products to the nearest dollar to estimate their cost and then add them to estimate if they have enough money to purchase the items.  You might show your child this real world implication by showing them three products:  one worth \$3.50, one worth \$5.25, and one worth \$1.99.  If your child rounds these costs to the nearest dollar they are worth \$4, \$5, and \$2 respectively for a total of \$11 dollars.  Then ask them if they have enough to buy all three items with a ten dollar bill and if not which item should they put back to make the purchase.  This type of real world math is great for showing your child that math isn’t just some “boring” subject that only nerds and teachers care about.  It has real world applications that they need to know if they ever plan on going shopping and spending any of that hard-earned money they plan on making as rock stars or video game designers.

Another good way to practice these skills is with online games.  Math Nook (www.mathnook.com) has recently added four exceptional games which help children practice their rounding.  My personal favorite is Math Boat in which children can practice rounding numbers as they steer a boat around safely collecting life rings and parking the boat.  If you are into retro-gaming, you might also like to encourage your child to check out MathMan Rounding which features a certain ghost-chomping video game character helping your child learn how to round numbers.  The great thing about these games is that they are not just educational, but they are also free and safe to use on your computer.  (You won’t have to worry about those nasty computer viruses that pop-up from other kids’ websites which claim to be there to help your child.)

Most of our children aren’t looking for a reason to get out of work.  They just want to know that what they are doing will have a real payoff in the end.  What better way to show them that math is important than to make it fun and show them how it fits into the real world?

## How to Make the Most of Math Worksheets for Your Child

Math pervades our daily lives, even though we are unaware of it most of the time. Critical thinking skills often require an understanding of at least basic math, and this is something each of us can and will use throughout our lives. For that reason, it’s best to start young. If your child can start with kindergarten math, their math learning will progress naturally, and continue to grow.

Math worksheets present mathematical problems to a child in numerical form. They are ideal for practice, as unlike math word problems, or story problems, they lay out the problem purely as a set of numbers that have to be multiplied, divided, subtracted or added. It can get a lot more complicated than that, of course, but that is the basics of the concepts used.

Math word problems tell a story that requires math skills in order to solve the problem. Students have to read the problem carefully in order to understand what is required. They have to take time to write down an equation that equals the story, then solve it. Math story problems certainly have their place, but in many ways math worksheets are more immediate and easier to use, and they help to teach students more quickly and more directly.

## Math worksheets offer convenience

Math worksheets are extremely convenient and can be downloaded from any of the many websites that host them. MathNook.com offers math worksheets as well as math worksheet generators making it very easy to get exactly what you need to work with your child.  They can also be used online, in many cases, making them even more convenient. This also works well for busy parents, who only need to teach concepts once and then let the child get on with it. Worksheets also make it easy for the child to work at times that is most convenient for them, if they have other after-school activities to attend.

A busy parent can quickly make up a math worksheet, if that is preferred to downloading pre-made worksheets. Printable math worksheets are of course readily available online and make the process even easier. Regular practice in this way can hone a child’s math skills to perfection in a very short period of time.

## Engaging worksheets work best

Worksheets can be boring and repetitive. This can make them not very engaging for the student. Be careful to only choose engaging worksheets for math practice. Avoid the math worksheets that are simply columns of problems presented in an unfriendly manner. Seek out the more user-friendly ones that present the problems in a way that require some thinking. Some actually state that they are “brain-friendly,” so look for that.

When a child is engaged in their math practice, they will learn faster, and retain what they learn better too. They will be much more inclined to do the work if they enjoy it to at least some degree. Math teaching can be a challenge sometimes, but with a little thought beforehand, it can be engaging and fun.

## Supervise your child’s time with math worksheets where possible

There is nothing worse than a mistake that is repeated over and over again. This is a common problem for children using math worksheets who are not regularly supervised. They will make the occasional mistake, but if it is spotted immediately, or early on, the mistake can be rectified and not become an ingrained habit.

When you use pre-made worksheets it is very easy to set your child going with them and leave them while you do something else. This is fine as long as you regularly check that all is well. Leaving them alone for too long can often mean that a mistake is repeated, which is a waste of time for both of you.

As well as using worksheets, you can occasionally let your child play some of the free games involving math that can be found online. There are plenty of cool math games to be found, and this will offer some light relief from working with worksheets all the time. The free games include visual models that a child usually finds fun to explore, and of course, they are learning something valuable at the same time.  MathNook.com offers a variety of fun math games to help make learning fun!