7 Ways to Use Math Everyday: Tips and Resources

Q: How did you approach math with Dale? What programs did your husband want Dale to use as the math became more advanced?

A: Find ways to use math everyday and make math meaningful and fun!  Here is a sampling of  things we did while Dale was growing up and when we were homschooling.

7 Ways to Use Math Everyday: Tips and Resources to Make Math Meaningful and Fun

7 wasy to use math everyday and make math meaningful and fun: Tips and Resources

Avoiding Math Anxiety

Pierre and I liked to approach math as a problem solving process and an interesting puzzle. Pierre is much quicker at math and more advanced and accurate in math skills than me. So he brought the knowledge and application to the table.

I believe one of my saving graces is being curious about learning new topics and viewing learning, difficult learning, as a challenge that helps me grow rather than a yoke of shame about what I’m not naturally good at.  My self-esteem wasn’t ruined because I’m much better at grasping the concepts than getting the right answer. Thank goodness my high school calculus teacher gave credit for showing my work.  I could add my sense of enjoying math even though I’m no whiz.

I’ve worked with a lot of people with math phobia and knew we didn’t want to create math fear. I’d seen that using math in real, meaningful situations to accomplish something a child wants to do is extremely helpful for cementing concepts and connections, sometimes allowing the aha moment for something a child struggles with on paper or pencil. Even before we began homeschooling my husband and I tried to do lots of hands on things with Dale that used math. We didn’t spoil the fun with a lecture, but we might notice and talk about the math involved. We tried to make math fun, a game and social which had worked for me when math was difficult to grasp. I have very fond memories of making art and silliness out of calculus homework with my  wonderful group of nerdy high school friends.

We are nerdy. Kinda like characters in Big Bang. We always enjoyed doing activities together, being curious about how things work, and learning new things for fun. My husband and I enjoy math and see the math and science that are embedded in so many activities of everyday life. We gave Dale numerous positive natural, applied math experiences before looking at math from a formal learning standpoint.

7 Ways to Use Math Everyday:

Art:  Drawing, Painting, sculpting. Proportion, geometry, there are so many ways math is embedded in making art. When planning an art project there are often many math applications that will be needed, Dale framed and sold his photos, figuring out proportions for displays and what would look good.

Carpentry:Dale helped his Dad build a play house in the backyard that we wanted, build small projects like a birdhouse, make gifts out of wood. Of course this required measuring, fractions, computing as needed to calculate materials needs and using algebra concepts.

Cooking and Gardening: We cooked and altered recipes everyday, halving, multiplying, lots of different forms of measuring and conversions from metric to our system, depending on the recipe we were using. Weighing, measuring, planning, bed sizes, nutrient needs, harvest.

Games: We used logic puzzles, strategy games and brain teasers for fun. We had puzzle and books  and games that sat near the dining table and we often played/solved as a family or more often, Dale and Pierre as an activity after or even with dinner. Pierre is not a big talker, so he loved to play games at a meal. Pierre liked to play mental math games when they were driving in the car together.

Money: Using real money to pay at the store, make change, pay bills, calculate  percentages and discounts, figuring out savings for a wanted item, budgeting, learning about finance and investing and interest. Since we often did not have enough money for everything we wanted, Dale became interested in earning money for things he wanted that we couldn’t afford. He used his math skills when calculating profits/loss, materials costs, how much he should charge and keeping track of his earnings.

Music: Getting your body dancing and fingers playing an instrument is a great way help the brain develop pathways that will assist math understanding.  Rhythm, tempo, note values, harmonics.

Quilting and Sewing: I enjoy quilting and we used fabric to make gifts or things we needed. Dale decided he wanted to make a quilt for his room. Sewing and quilting are fun, creative and offer lots of opportunities for using geometry, fractions, measurement and algebra.

Tips on a Few Math Resources We Used

Math Curriculum:

When Dale was in fourth grade, at about 9 -10 years old, he attended a very small private school for one year where they used CPM’s foundations of algebra course http://www.cpm.org/learn.html Dale loved it’s concept, and application activity driven approach. The lessons gave the big picture reasons behind WHY you would want to learn a concept, problems related to real world examples and incorporated group talking, discovering and playing with concepts.

Since Dale loved it and wanted to continue, when we began homeschooling we went to a used curriculum shop to find the books. We also found the website and resources. The tricky part was creating a group of learners interested in learning pre- algebra and then algebra and get together on a regular basis, since this particular curriculum was devised to have kids work together and discuss as they learned concepts. Dale liked the social aspect but got frustrated when the other kids weren’t as interested in moving through the curriculum. When Dale wanted to learn something he liked to go as fast as he could. We ended up skipping the group and having me act as the partner in the activities. I  had to work hard to allow him to discover and not turn into a teacher.

I offered a math games group one summer and invited kids interested in math to come to the house for a couple of hours once a week. The Family Math Books are a great resource.http://www.lawrencehallofscience.org/equals/aboutfm.html

We looked for more programs with a focus on concepts and real world application. My husband and Dale liked the Harold Jacobs books Geometry, and  Math a Human Endeavor. Here is a link to some reviews I saw. http://www.homeschoolmath.net/curriculum_reviews/harold-jacobs.php

Key Curriculum Press has easy format one-concept-at-a-time series of workbooks, called “Keys to “  http://www.keycurriculum.com/products/key-to that Dale liked for review and that I used with students I tutored.

One homeschool Dad in our group offered a Trigonometry class and a Calculus class for a small group of kids. Since his children were participating in a school based homeschooling program he used text books provided by the school provided and added lots of discussion and hands-on, application activities that made it interesting to Dale. Dale really enjoyed the social time and snacks that were part of the math group.


I’ve already written about how much I love museums.  And making tricky math (or science) concepts visible and interactive is something museums do really well. The Lawrence Hall of Science, the Exploratorium,  The Tech and the MIT Museum and Boston Science Museum the http://web.mit.edu/museum/ had outstanding displays for stimulating math learning.


Other people  are a great resource!

It is good to remember that our child’s approach to learning may at times be very different than our own and there is nothing wrong with seeking outside help or searching for the right kind of teacher that is a good fit for an individual.

My husband is very strong in math/engineering  and very accurate and meticulous. It wasn’t always easy for him to accept that Dale was not as strong as dad in this area and was not always as patient as he could be. Pierre prefers to learn on his own from reading a book. He has no trouble grasping even very spatial concepts from reading text and viewing a two-dimensional diagram. Dale learns more with wrestling with concepts in a social setting, talking, and often needs to see or work with physical objects.

One homeschool Dad in our group offered a Trigonometry class and a Calculus class for a small group of kids. Since his children were participating in a school based homeschooling program he used text books provided by the school provided and added lots of discussion and hands-on, application activities that made it interesting to Dale. Dale really enjoyed the social time and snacks that were part of the math group.

Even though Pierre had the knowledge, Dale preferred going to the other homeschool dad for the advanced math instruction because it was more fun for him and suited his learning style better. 

Remember to play to your strengths, whatever they may be. When Dale wanted to take the exams, called the SAT and ACT, for applying to college, he and Pierre went to a book store and selected some test preparation books. Pierre was a perfect SAT math scored kinda guy. Dale was not. Dale worked through the books, asking for help when needed, and took the practice tests. He took both exams and found that he performed better on the ACT. He decided to maximize his score on that exam.

Math Mantra and Growth Mindset

Math is FUN! I can learn what I want to and need to if I am willing to do the work.

It helped a lot that at my first homeschool conference I attended a session with a panel of grown unschoolers and their parents. It was amazing how many math worry questions were asked. One mom told a story of her child doing no formal, traditional math until age 16 when he became fascinated with a science topic and wanted to enroll science program being offered that had several higher math pre-requisites. He was ready, he had his interest and a goal. He packed 12 years of traditional public school math into 4 weeks of intense learning and passed the entrance test to be allowed into the program. Okay, I thought, we can do this.

Overall, reduce anxiety, use math naturally in many ways each day, lead with interest and curiosity and approach math as a wide open learning adventure.  Explore lots of creative options and resources.

Over to you: What resources do you love for learning and enjoying math?

Some other people’s articles you might find interesting:




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12 Motivation Makers

We can’t make someone else, like our kids, be motivated and we can’t motivate them.  We can help them develop their own intrinsic motivation muscle that they can call on to build confidence and independence.  We might also want to strengthen our own motivation muscle. So what can we do?

We can work on creating the conditions that make intrinsic motivation grow and flourish. Banish the motivation killers, and plan to put these motivation makers in their place.

12 Motivation Makers at www.lisanalbone.com

12 Motivation Makers

1.  A full Cup:  Good health habits for hydration, nutrition, exercise, rest, play and sleep.

2.  Mindsets: Growth – I can learn and do what I put effort into and overcome obstacles, and Yes I will do it!

3.  Choice-Agency-Options: I have options to pursue my interests and the power to choose. I can decide what to try. 

4.  Meaning and Purpose: I know exactly what I want to do and why I want to do it! I set my goals.

5.  Clarity and Focus: I know what step to take next and when I will take it. I know my timeline for meeting my goals.

6.  Mastery/Challenge:  Finding the Goldilocks just right  level of challenge in your zpd (zone of proximal development) and  “getting it,” whatever it might be. Nobody feels motivated if bored by things that are too easy or overwhelmed by difficulty.

7.  Movement:  Plenty of  daily physical movement and monitoring/reflecting so you can appreciate your progress.

8.  Creativity Culture: Encourages trying new things, making things, arts, cross connections. 

9.  Meditation/Nature: Accessing a renewable source of stillness, energy, inspiration and grounding. ( You will find me with my feet in the grass and heading into my garden every morning. What can you do?)

10. Community:  I am not alone and I know folks who care when I say, “Look what I’m working on, what are you working on.”

11. Mentoring/Support:  I can  ask  ________________  for help and/or feedback.

12. Completion and Celebration: I did it! I met my goals. I accomplished ___________. I learned ________.


12 Motivation Makers pinterest pinHow do you create the conditions for motivation makers in your family?


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Here is to an Abundant and Fruitful New Year!

Happy New Year to You and Yours!  Here is a look at just a few of the things I am thankful for as we begin 2015.

Green Smoothie. Happy New Year at LisaNalbone.com

Bountiful and green kale, mini-cukes, and lemon from the garden. Bracing!



Bowl of citrus, LisaNalbone.com
Citrus Bliss

Meyer lemons, tangelos, mandarins and blood oranges make the New Year bright.


Citrus, juicer, chapagne flutes and bottle of champagne. Happy New Year  LisaNalbone.com
Happy New Year Joy Joice


A toast to the New Year filled with new learning and gratitude.


What do you want to learn this year?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments.


Thanks for reading,  Lisa.


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How do you raise a reader?

Some parents have asked me how I got Dale to love reading, how did we end up raising a reader?  Looking back, I see that what really made the difference was sharing a love of reading  that began long before thinking about teaching him to read.

How to raise a Reader? lisaNalbone.com

I  vividly remember those dreary rainy days when Dale was two months old and nursing all the time. I had so little sleep and was completely out of my element as a new, older mom. For some reason I thought my babysitting experience and being an older sister had prepared me. Hah!

Our blissful first month with Pierre at home caring for both of us was over. Pierre was just beginning a new phase as an engineer for the state department of water resources as we headed into a wet year. We transitioned from happy daddy at home to stressed daddy learning a new job and having to work way overtime. And I sat in the rocker, staring out the window at the rain, disheveled, overwhelmed, and unwashed; and nursed and nursed and nursed.

One afternoon I used a pillow to help me hold Dale at a level that was more comfortable. Ahh, that felt better, now I could move my other arm. I reached over for the nearest book, a how-to baby book, and started reading aloud from the section on Sleep. “Hah, it says here you are supposed to be sleeping 16 out of your 24 hours. Listen to this…” I continued reading aloud, stumbling over the convoluted sentences, but only got more frustrated as I read about what someone else told me my baby should be doing.

I put that book aside and reached for the next book in the stack. It was a smallish paperback, a mystery. Oh this was much easier to hold. And read. The story was funny and the writing was good. And our mutual love of sharing reading began.   [Read more…]

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How do you raise a writer? Make writing meaningful and fun.

Here is a recent question from a homeschooling mom of a 6 and 8 year old.

“ I think I have the other subjects figured out, but how do I work on writing? They really don’t like writing.”

How do you raise a writer? Make writing real, meaningful and fun. LisaNalbone.com
My take:

First: Relax and make writing meaningful and fun!

At these ages all you really need to do is have writing be real, meaningful and FUN!!!! Think about playing with writing rather than teaching writing.

One of our favorite ways to play with writing was making clue hunts. Dale loved to find things, so we would hide a treasure and write clues, a little kind of riddle – sometimes they rhymed – that would lead to the treasure. There might only be 5 clues total, each clue leading to the next clue and the final clue leading to the hiding place. I wrote them for him, we wrote them together for friends and family, and as he got older, he could write them for me. I can’t remember if this started as a rainy day game or a way to make having just a few presents seem like more fun. We would hide the birthday cake and party favors, or the breakfast ingredients on easter morning. We used a small basket and hid all the things to go in the basket rather than having it be filled to begin with.

We loved to play with writing riddles, jokes, silly poetry, Haiku, alternate song lyrics, rhymes for inside of cards and letters, and love notes to hide in a lunch or under a pillow.

Second: Stay present and focus on writing strengths and purpose

Focus on thinking about where they are now instead of the future and whether they will ever be writers. Don’t worry about judging and measuring or comparing their writing.

BTW Dale did not like to write when he was in school, and there were times when he hated writing – which usually corresponded to me pushing it in a “you’re not doing it right” way.

Start a daily writing practice that is fun and meaningful: a gratitude journal. You can have a family journal, but there is great power in each person having their own and writing in it once a day as a daily ritual all at the same time.   [Read more…]

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