Q:

I am getting tired of just drilling my children on the basic math facts. Could you suggest some other ways they could work on learning them? - Too Much Drill

A:

Math drills, like all drills, just aren't much fun; nevertheless, they do have their place in learning facts. Games, on the other hand, let children have fun and, at the same time, use the facts they are learning.

If you are working on building your children's addition skills, look for games that use dice, or substitute dice for spinners and cards used to advance pieces around a board. Two games that give especially excellent practice in addition are Twenty-one and dominoes. In fact, all games that require scorekeeping are good math-skill-building games. Money games like Monopoly and Life let children work with much larger numbers. Remember to have paper and pencil available in case they are needed.

You and your children can invent games that will build their math skills. Please let us know about some of your family's games so that we can share them with our readers. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Right or Wrong - What's great about this game is that it can be played anywhere. Simply state a math fact such as 6 x 4. Follow it with an answer, and have your children tell you if it is right or wrong. If your answer is wrong, they can give the correct one.

Memory - Use 32 or fewer 3-by-5 cards to make a multiplication game. For each fact (5 x 5 = 25) to be used in the game, make a card with the factors (5 x 5) and another card with only the answer (25). Place all the cards face down. The first player turns over any two cards. If the factor and answer cards make a fact, the player keeps these cards and has a chance to turn over two more cards. This player continues as long as he or she turns over cards that go together. Then the turn goes to the next player. This game is best with two players and can also be adapted to teach addition, subtraction and division.

Pocket Change - Family members should dump their pocket change in separate piles. Children can add the money to determine who has the most change or the most pennies, nickels and so on. Then they can use their subtraction skills to determine the difference in the amount of money between piles.

Tic-Tack-Toe - Use about 40 addition flashcards (no answers). Then fill in a tic-tack-toe board with answers to some of the flashcards. Make a different card for each player. The first player draws a flashcard and tries to find the answer on his or her game board. If there is a match, the player keeps the flashcard and places a marker on his or her board. If not, the card is placed at the bottom of the stack, and it is the next player's turn to draw. The winner is the player who completely covers a row - horizontal, vertical or diagonal - first. This game can also be played with subtraction, multiplication and division flashcards.