Got Mancala?

A few days ago I visited again the forum Livingmath which I don't know why I ever stopped visiting from time to time in the first place. I asked what to do when you know what is best but lack courage and wisdom to take the step.
I know I had to leave for a while or for long, the MEP curriculum with my oldest because she simply is hating math and I know there has to be other way to learn this wonderful discipline. I know some of you find the livingmath approach in exclusivity to be somehow radical, but if you devote a constant time in your day, week after week, to propose the games, read the living math books, and do the hands on math activities that go with the concepts being presented in any more linear or formal curriculum, it does not have to be that costly, laborious, or weak in any aspect.

My friend Marina and several people at the livingmath forum, like Mike, Julie, and many moms with experience or in the same shoes than we are, helped me grow wings, and now my youngest of five enjoys MEP Reception, while the oldest of seven thrives with Life of Fred which I recommend, the many living math books that I only used to read from time to time and that now are read daily in our math time for the day, and games I'm learning with her. These are some of the games we are playing:
  • Mancala. You can watch this video that explains how to play. We made this one with an egg cartoon. I used the top to make what they call 'store', where each of the two players collects some of the stones or marbles. You can easily use beans. The color doesn't matter here, they can be several colors or just one. Our marbles are from a book called Board Games that I bought for 33 cents. I made this one with the egg cartoon because the board in the book for Mancala is flat. At the end of the game you can count your pieces and knowing there are 36 in total, find out how many your opponent has. I remember that watching a BBC documentary about math, I saw the conductor and math teacher play Mancala in a Middle East place where men played it with total mastery, and he did not stand a chance. We are playing this with no strategy, finding out things about it as we go. The fun part is that, whether you know about it or not, it is enjoyable from the first round.
  • Backgamon: you can see our picture from the same Board Games book.
  • We also played Battleship, but that one was not as quickly picked up by the girls, so it will have to come later. You can play Battleship with a square grid paper.
  • Yatzee. What is Yatzee? It happens to be the game we always played when I was a girl. With five dice and three turns you need to get the most ones, or twos, or threes... each time you decide on a number, and after six rounds, or the rounds of three turns you decide, you see who got more points. It's excellent for multiplication.
TV Shows and some livingmath books:
  • Cyberchase. It's a nice cartoon program that homes on a math concept per chapter.

There is much math you can learn in terms of stories, making up your own, reading about numbers in books, playing games, etc. I have the worksheets, that's fine, I can always look at what they propose, but not having to fill up one is making a wonderful difference in my oldest girl. Now I'm committed to keep up with this way of teaching and be faithful and committed to keep it up.

5 opinion(s):

Ellen said...

Oh, my word. Tiny Girl beats me at Mancala almost every time. She's inherited her father's and both grandfathers' skills in strategy, which I lack. All of us greatly enjoy Yahtzee! And Cyberchase has been a favorite for years.

BTW, MEP did not work for my eldest, either. I've had to explore different curricula with her. We began LoF-Fractions a few weeks ago, but found we needed to review some basic fraction principles. My youngest has successfully used MEP from the beginning; she's now in Yr 5.

Charlotte Mason in the City said...

I love these games and have great memories playing them when I was a girl with my family. With my own kids, we play games but not as often as I would like to do. We need to play math games more often! Thanks for the reminder. I love the egg-cartoon mancala - homemade games are always the best!

Silvia said...

Ellen... I thought about you when typing this. I remember when you said that about mep not being a match for your oldest.
I seem to have the same case. My oldest does not thrive with mep. I love mep, and I believe it's wonderful, but it was killing her love for math. While my youngest, though still early for me to say, when we got back to for the math facts, which is fun to do, only being five she was typing herself 12 as the answer to 6 plus 6 just by seeing her sister do that first... she loves mep, and LoF.
Many who have done the LoF fractions comment they need to get to somethings before tackling that book.
May I ask just out of curiosity, what's that you have done with better success for your eldest daughter? And sorry I did not get to say happy bday to your beautiful youngest girl. Her names and the story of her coming are lovely!

Silvia said...

CMintheC, same here, I'm by far a much more book oriented than game oriented. But I played lots of games not with family but with friends in the summer. It is truly making all the difference with my oldest specially. I trust that nourishing the reasoning will help her in the event she has to prepare herself for more paper pencil math problems once she is more mature. She could if forced, do that now, but that will kill her love for 'math', and I say, why is it that I homeschool then if I can't give my daughter the privilege of learning something precisely the way the same mathematicians and math teachers encourage us to teach and learn!

Silvia said...

And I forgot to say.... IT'S SERIOUS FUN! Bonding moments and lovely memories too. Start this week, make it Friday Games, or Saturday... the day you like. You know CM and that of creating a habit! :)


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