YMB #94 Math in Morning Time: A Conversation with Denise Gaskins

I’m not going to lie, this episode of the podcast is a new favorite. Denis Gaskins, homeschool mom and math-lover, popped into my interview seat and blew me away with some awesome new math analogies, a hint that I might be teaching math wrong (gasp), and a ton of tips and ideas for making math meaningful and fun for my kids. This one is not to be missed!

Pam:

I want you to think of math as a nature walk. There’s this whole world of interesting things, more things, more concepts, more ideas than you and your children would ever have time to explore and everywhere you look, there’s something cool to discover. If you explore this world with your children, you’re not behind wherever you are. You’re not behind because there is no behind.

This is your morning basket, where we help you bring truth, goodness, and beauty to your homeschool day. Hi there. And welcome to episode 94 of the, your morning basket podcast. I’m Pam Barnhill, your host, and I am so happy that you are joining me here today. Well, on today’s episode, you are in for a treat.

I have Denise Gaskins who was a homeschooling mom who has a deep love for mathematics and real math. As she says, she talks a lot in this episode of the podcast about real math and what that means. We also chat in this podcast about how you can support your child in mathematics and how you can bring the idea of truth, goodness, and beauty, how you can bring it out in math because it’s there. We just have to be able to see it, how you can do that in morning time. I think you’re going to love this podcast.

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Now, before we get on with this episode of the podcast, I just want to say, we often include math in our, your morning basket plus plans. We have long seen the need to help our children explore truth, goodness, and beauty in mathematics and go beyond just the worksheets that are available. So if you are looking to find a way to do that, other than the things that Denise is going to share with us today, we often include math in our seasonal morning time plans and in our history morning time plans, and you can check all of those out pambarnhill.com/shop. We would love it if you would take the time to check those out.
And now on with the podcast.
Denise Gaskins is a veteran homeschool mom of five, who has a passion to help parents and children see the beauty and wonder of math. She is the author of a dozen playful math books. Like Let's Play Math: how families can learn together and enjoy it, and her Math You Can Play series covering a variety of topics from preschool to middle school math. Her newest title Pre-algebra and Geometry: Math games for middle school covers topics, perfect for students in grades four through nine. Denise blogs denisegaskins.com. Denise, welcome to the podcast.
Hi Pam. I'm thrilled to be here.
Thank you so much for coming on. I always love somebody who is going to help me and my children see the beauty and wonder of math. So it is so great that you're here today.
Thank you. I'm glad to be here.
Well, can you, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and, and your homeschool? Are you homeschooling anymore?
No, not any lawn care. I'm a mother of five. They were all homeschooled all the way through that. They're all now graduated, grown and mostly flown from the nest
Mostly flown from the nest. I love it.
Yeah. My youngest has made the upstairs into her own personal apartment while she finishes up college. I love that too.
So when you guys were homeschooling where you kind of eclectic homeschoolers or something else?
Yeah, we were mostly eclectic. This was back in with Dark Ages before the internet. Our primary curriculum was our local library, but then we got together with our home school group and all, and along the way, I kind of noticed how many of our homeschooling friends just hated or feared math. I think no other subject causes so much pain to so many homeschooling families. So I kind of became a sort of nap evangelist a lot of the way and to sort of spread the news that there is truth, goodness and beauty to be found even in Math.
Okay. I love this. So I want to know, did you have a background in teaching math? Did you have a background in mathematics or was it something you just loved?
My degree was in physics, which is sort of applied story problems. So that's not, not in teaching, but just in, in learning.
So you just had a deep love for bath and you definitely had a little bit of a background in mathematics. So what is it about math that you love so much?
I love the way that math gives us a chance to love the Lord, our God, with all of our minds, God gave us minds so that we could big so that we could make sense of the world. And in all the other school subjects, children have to just accept what the teacher or the textbook tells them. If you think about it, how do you know about Marco polo or John Adams or DNA? How do you know that dolphins are mammals or that Jane Austin wrote Pride and Prejudice? You, you know these things only because somebody told you, but in Math, we don't to just accept what someone tells us. We can figure things out for ourselves. Let me give you an example.
Okay?
If your kids go outside and they pick up any three sticks, they could make a triangle, except if one stick is the same length as the other two or longer, there's just no way in this world to make a triangle with two tiny sticks and one long one. Now that's a theorem in Euclid's Elements, but it's also quite literally child's play.
Oh, wow. You just blew my mind.
Oh my goodness. So yeah, you're exactly right. This is something, it it's an advanced mathematical concept. Something I probably would never pick up and read on my own, but I could pick up the sticks and I could certainly prove that to myself just by, you know, playing around with different sizes of sticks and messing around with trying to make triangles.And, wow. Okay. So let's talk about this. You, you said, and it's so funny, Denise, because I was, I was with some other homeschooling moms this past weekend. I was onstage with two other homeschool moms doing a panel, Sarah Mackenzie and Colleen Kessler and I do a panel for Great Homeschool Conventions. And one of the questions that we got asked was what was your least favorite subject to teach in your homeschool?
And all three of us had the same answer, guess what it was.
And so You're not alone. There's so many parents that feel unable to help their children learn math.
But I think you just broke it down in such a way, you know, with the, with the one example that is like, wow, I think sometimes we make this harder than what it really needs to be.
Well also we’re a product of our own schooling. Just like, we're hoping to shape our children and their future through training them we are shaped by our own schooling. And for most of us, our own schooling gave us a totally wrong idea of what math is all about. And for many of us, this made us feel like failures.
Okay. So can we dig into that a little bit? What is kind of the wrong idea of what math is about? Could you give me some examples or define that a little bit for me?
Well, yeah, I can. There's, there's basically two things that school teaches us about math. That cause a math trauma in children. One is school rewards children who think fast just by the nature of school, but math, real math is about thinking deeply at any speed. And in fact, many professional mathematicians think rather slowly and in school they report, they felt stupid. The other thing that school does is school math rewards children who follow directions, but real math is about making sense of ideas. Real math is about creative reasoning and it has nothing to do with following someone else's rules.
Okay. That's so interesting. So my mind is kind of worrying over here and I'm thinking about, you know, we teach our kids kind of the building blocks and the steps of learning to read. And then we teach them literature, which to me, the literature is the fun part, right? That's the part that you get to get to once that once you've kind of done the hard work of learning to read It seems like with math that we never get out of the, kind of the phonics of it, the mechanics of it and get to any of the really good stuff in school, we just kind of stay bogged down in, like you said, you know, rewarding kids who are following directions and things like that.
Yeah. I think, and a lot of that comes from the fact that our teachers didn't really understand real math.
We don't really understand real math, so we don't know how to open it up to our children. We understand books. We love to read. Most homeschoolers are bookaholics, but we don't have that same connection to mathematics.
Okay. Well, you've given me a couple examples here. You've told me that real math is about thinking deeply and real math is about thinking slowly. So can you tell me a little bit more about what real math is? If it's not the worksheets that I'm giving my kids to do on a daily basis?
Okay. Well, let me, let me contrast it again with what school and society teaches us. Society really sees math as this race. You run as fast as you can toward calculus. You have to be fast. You have to follow directions, you have to score high on tests and then you win. Or if you don't, you're a loser But let me give you this new vision. I want you to think of math as a nature walk. There's this whole world of interesting things that more, more things, more concepts, more ideas than you and your children would ever have time to explore and everywhere you look, there's something cool to discover. If you explore this world with your children, you're not behind. Wherever you are you're not behind because there is no behind. There's only we're going this direction or we're going to move that way or, Hey, look what I found up for here. And as long as your children are thinking and wondering, and making sense of the math they find, they're going to learn. They're going to grow. So what you want to do is you want to embrace this adventure of loving God with all your mind and approach math with an attitude of playful exploration. And you know, you'll be surprised how much fun thinking hard can be.
Oh, interesting. Okay. So if I want to go on a nature, walk Denise, I usually go to a specific location, right? Like I typically don't go to a downtown urban area though. You can sometimes find lovely nature, walk things down there, but usually I'll head out to the country and start looking for a really great park or nature preserve to go in. If, if I'm going to go on this kind of mathematical version of a nature walk, I'm looking at my math curriculum that I have for my homeschool. And it's looking a whole lot like that urban area. And I feel like I need someplace to go. So where do I go to find that kind of nature walk experience for mathematics?
Actually, most of your curriculum tries to weave some of that in there they'll have little bonus problems or enrichment ideas or little sidebars about mathematicians, but really the library is a great place to go, to get started on, on learning to see that world of math. There's a lot of wonderful books being written for children and for adults on how to enjoy math.
Okay. So that's what I'm after. If I'm heading down to my local library, I'm going to ask my librarian, do you have some books on learning to see math differently or learning to enjoy math for kids? And that's a place I can start?
That would be a good place to start. I can give you, I've got a staff here on my desk. I could give you a few, if you, if you're interested.
Yeah. Give me a couple of recommendations because I know moms out there are grabbing pens all over the country about to write these down.
Okay. Well, here's, here's four for different ages. One of my favorites for young children in is called Moebius Noodles: Adventurous math for the playground crowd. This is put out by natural math. That's written by Maria Droujkova and Yelena McManaman. And it's just a beautiful little book to open your eyes to some of the big ideas of math and how you can play with them. Even with young children, even with babies, she's got ideas for playing with babies.
Yeah. Yeah. We've actually used that book in some of our morning time plans before for the younger crowd. So that's a really good one
For your middle grade children that are beginning to read and can handle a chapter book or for read aloud. I love Math and Magic in Wonderland by Lilac Mohr. She's a homeschooling mom. And she wrote this book to encourage her children to think creatively about math and to discover playful math ideas. It's based on Lewis Carroll’s poetry. And it's just, it's a delightful book, math and magic and wonder man.
Okay. I had never heard of that one. So that's a great one. And then do you have one for the older crowd.
For the older crowd?
I really love almost any puzzle book by Raymond Smulian a great one to start is a book that's called, What is the Name of this Book? And it's just full of logic puzzles, some brain teaser stampers. Then it gets send to mathematical logic puzzles. He's sort of the popularizer of the truth tellers and liars puzzles. If you see those before, there's a lot of those in this book.
Okay. Those are awesome. And you said you had one more, you said you had four.
I do. I have one more and this is for the teachers. This is for the parents. It's called Playing with Math edited by Sue VanHattum. Playing with Math: Stories from math circles, homeschoolers and passionate teachers. And it's a wonderful book to sort of open your eyes to the world of mathematics.
Oh, I love it. I love it. Okay. So, so many good resources there. So it sounds to me like changing your approach to math and starting to think about math differently, something that's not a race, something where, you know, being the fastest one to get the correct answer is, is not the thing that we're going for, but really starting to dabble in and having a very playful attitude towards math is kind of the first step towards maybe changing the way we approach teaching math in our homeschool. What other ideas do you have for moms to kind of make math a little more fun and outside the box?
Well, I think the key to having fun with math is really to focus on teaching the real thing. If you think about it to memorize something that you really don't understand, that's tedious and to always follow someone else's rules, that's boring, but to figure out things for yourself can be exciting and fun. That's one of the reasons that I like using games with math, I don't use the speed drill games where you have to be fast or games that are worksheets in disguise, but real games that have some strategy to them. These games give kids freedom to think through the math in their own way. A game we'll meet each player, his or her own level and encourages children to reason creatively about math.
What do you do with the mom who feels inadequate to meet their children in some of these games, you know, where the, the child is struggling. And maybe my only recourse is to open the book and look at the answer and I can tell them what the book said the answer was, but I can't really ask them any questions to help them figure it out for themselves. What bits of advice would you give for moms in that situation?
Let me give you a trip. This is a thinking tool and it's applicable not only in math, but, but in almost any topic that you might be studying, but it's really helpful when you face a math problem and you just, you have no idea what to do with it. Or you've got this topic that just has you totally stumped. What you want to do is you want to focus on making sense. You want, you don't, even if you know the rule, you don't want to just give it to your children. You want to help them draw out their own thoughts and teach them how to think the problem through how to use the things that they do know that they do remember to figure out this new concept. And the tool is called notice and wonder. And all you need is a piece of paper or a whiteboard and something to write with you, take a look at the problem or the concept or the idea that you're struggling with and you just start to make a list. What do you see? What do you notice? What is there right in front of you just like in, in learning about a new plant in nature, you take this nature, walk, you come across this plant. You just look at it and see what it is.
You don't immediately go to a book and field guide to look it up. But you, you focus on what are the shape of the leaves? What's the color? What's the plant like? You can do the same with a math problem. As you do this, you want to take turns with your children and in the process of making this list, you don't comment on anything they've said, it's, it's their thought that you're writing down. You just, just write everything down. Even if they go off the topic of math for a while, you just keep going.
So let me give you an example. Suppose we've come to the fraction problem four and a half plus two and three fifths. We don't know what to do. Okay. So let's stop and take time to take a deep breath and admit that we're feeling worried or tense or stressful, and then say, okay, what do we've see? Just what is there in front of us? Let's try it. I'll go first. I noticed that there's numbers. There's, there's big numbers.
And then there's fractions four and a half plus two and three fifths. What do you notice?
Well, I know that I can add big numbers together because there's a plus sign.
Okay. Yeah. And, and, and I noticed that plus means, like you said, bringing things together. So if we bring these things together, I noticed that it would be a whole lot easier without the fractions. If it was just a four plus two, I could do that four plus two is six. Was I allowed to say that? Oh yeah. What else?
Let's see. I noticed that my fractions are like different fractions. So one of them has the two on the bottom and one of them has the five on the bottom. Huh? Yeah. That makes it harder.
Doesn't it?
It does make it harder. Yes. I know that from math, I noticed that there's all the numbers from one to five in this one, two and three and four and five are all in our problem.
Oh my goodness. I did not notice that.
And you know, as you do this with your children, they'll notice things that you don't notice and you'll notice things that they don't notice. And then after you've got this list and you've noticed things for a while, start to think about what you wonder. Oh, I noticed that I could put the big numbers together and it was make six, but we've got these extra pieces, these fractions, I wonder how much more than six we're going to be.
Hmm. Or I know what half is but I'm not so sure about three-fifths. I wonder if that's bigger than one half or smaller than one half. Right? You know, I wonder how we could tell? Oh, here's something. If you'd cut five in half, you'd have two and a half. So two and a half fifths would be the same as one half. Oh, cool. So three is like half of a fifth, more than one half.
And you just, you just start noticing things about the problem. And as you go through it, and as you make this list, you'll start to get some insight into what's going on in the problem. And it will eventually give you a path forward. It will show you the path to work through it based on the things you notice and the things you already know.
Very interesting. And I can, I can see how kind of my preconceived notions about this problem actually kind of are a hindrance to me, noticing and wondering.
In a way they are, if you, if, think about math as a nature walk, sometimes you're going to find you get into a boggy area and it's sort of a slog and what we want to do for our children.
We want to build a bridge that goes right over that bogging area. It takes them from the questions straight to the answer without having to get dirty. But it's actually in that mess when you're in there and getting dirty. And that's where you come to understand what's really happening in the problem that that bridge is actually, it's fake. It's not real learning. It's the kids haven't come to grips with what the problem really means. We've just given them this crutch, this rule of, Oh, find a common to dominator and then add the problem, right. This mess of figuring it out, that they actually do the learning.
Oh that’s interesting. And we all know that kids love to get dirty.
Yeah. And, and this sort of getting dirty in math and, and it's fun. Like I said, thinking is fun. Following someone else's rules is boring.
Okay. So let's say you have a math student. Who's kind of like me and they're looking at this and they're, they're hindered by what they know. And they're also hindered by their previous frustrations with math and their previous feelings about math. And they're just like, mom, just give me the answer and let's move on. Or mom just helped me figure out the shortest way to get there. They're, they're predisposed by what we've done to them. Not to want to play with math. How are, how do we reach those?
Yeah. They're also, they, haven't learned to see some of the interesting parts and just getting the rule and applying it, there is some enjoyment in that for, for at least some children to, to learn a rule and be able to crank through a problem and get a lot of right answers. There's some enjoyment in that, but that's not really math. So we want to help them gradually to learn, to enjoy this process of getting muddy and messy and thinking things out.
One of the things that I think helps if you get to the point where math causes tears, mom's frustrated, kids are frustrated. Everybody's feeling pressure. We feel like we're, we're behind it becomes this emotional battle. Just stop. Just take a break and not just a short break. If you think about people who come from the public school to the home school, sometimes you need a time of deschooling. And I think this is true in math too. As you're beginning to see what math can be like, you need a bit of de schooling from that traditional math that you're used to. That's all about following directions. Take a break for at least a couple of weeks, no school math at all,
play some games, read some living books, go to the, the hashtag math art challenge page and try something. There's a hundred ways to do art with math on that page. It's what you want to do is to change your own mindset and break away from those school math myths and refresh yourself. And then you'll after awhile be ready to come back to the textbook with a new attitude.
Okay. So what I hear you saying is when you have children who are reluctant to participate in something like this is take a step back and really, truly drop the school math for a while and just play and explore. And that's how you're going to get past some of those frustrations. And maybe open up a little bit of willingness to begin, to look at things in a different way.
And I think also, well, at least if they're like my children, we did this several times in the course of our schooling, or we would just step away from the math or a month or so if we, we ran into a problem, we were hitting a wall. They just couldn't make sense of it. Okay. Just drop it. During that break, my kids are a little bit stubborn. And in the back of their mind, it's still kind of boiling over those topics. And I found when we came back after our break, they had often, made the breakthrough in their own mind without even realizing it. And they found it easy. Can't guarantee that will happen, but I've experienced it more than once.
Okay. So I want to touch on a couple more topics here before we talk about multi-age kids. And so what do we say to the mom and the person you're talking to, maybe this mom that was like, Oh my goodness, this sounds so great. And wonderful. I would love to at my, for my kids to have these insights into math, but you know, I have one who needs to take the ACT within a couple of years and she's already behind, or, you know, won't it make my kids behind in their math curriculum. Can I just, you know, we can't stop. We've got to keep moving. What do you say to moms who are like intrigued by the idea of playing a little bit, but very cautious about it? Because they feel like it's going to hinder the progress of checking the boxes.
Sometimes depending on the laws of your state, there are a lot of boxes you need to chat with this group. Okay. Let me give you a way to keep going with your regular textbook or curriculum, whatever program you're using, and yet bring a little bit of playfulness to it.
You know, Charlotte Mason talked a lot about the importance of short lesson, and this is really true in math. One of the things that's really important is to set a timer. And when that timer goes off, you are done. Even if you're in the middle of a problem, no matter what you are finished, the end is insight that helps the child to focus.
And it helps them to know I'm not going to be sitting here doing this for an hour for two hours until I reached the end of the page. I only have to think hard right now for a limited time, because thinking hard it's it's mental work, but it is work and it can be very tiring.
The second thing I would suggest is what I call buddy math. That is where you actually, you're sitting with your child doing the math lesson together. There's none of this, here's your assignment. Go sit in the corner and work on it. And then I'll tell you what you got wrong. That's, that's a very damaging way to view math, but buddy math goes through the lesson and we take terms. And usually I look up first, my, I asked my daughter, okay, which problem on the page looks the worst to you? Which one do you want me to do? And she would pick a problem that she did not want to do. And I said, okay, this is the way I think it out. We usually are sitting on the couch with a big whiteboard in our laps.
And I talked through the way I think about the problem. And then it's her turn. And she picks a problem and talks through how she thinks about it. Then it's my turn again. And we go back and forth. I'm not forcing her to do anything that I'm not willing to do. That sort of breaks some of the resentment that you can get when the child is sitting in the corner having to do this math and everybody else, except they're having fun.
Okay. You completely just blew my mind because you know, I have these kids I've been teaching for years and I still, my youngest is 11. I still sit next to him when he does math. And mostly because he's the baby and I, I just do, but I also sit with my boys at my older boy also has dyslexia. And so I sit with my boys when they're doing writing and we use IEW and Andrew Pudewa says, you know, you can never give too much help with writing. And so with writing, I'm always suggesting words and I'm always like, well, wouldn't like, you know, they're trying to come up with a, an adjective or a verb. And I throw him a suggestion or I'm like, what? In this sentence, you know, how does this sound? And I give them a suggestion. And then the same with when they were doing phonics and we had these sheets full of fluency sheets that we used with All About Reading, you know, especially for my middle child.
He would just kind of melt down when he looked at that sheet. And so we would read every other line, he would read a line and then I would read a line and it never occurred to me that that was something I shouldn't do, but it's also never occurred to me to do half the problems on my child's math page. And that they're going to get just as much out of watching me do it as they probably would doing it themselves.
They do, as long as you talk about the way that you're thinking, because I mean, a lot of times in math, we have this, this lesson at the beginning where the teacher tries to dump all the knowledge in, or, you know, we're reading the textbook with our child. We try and to, to, to throw a bunch of new information at them and then they're supposed to go practice it, but things don't stick in our brains that way. But as we are going together, through these problems, I talk about, Oh, here, I'm stuck. I wonder what I can do. Let me try this and see if it works. And then when it's her turn. And she can talk through how she's thinking, we sort of are learning together.
And it becomes more of that exploration and less of a struggle. The other thing that's always that's important is to always focus on making sense of the idea, not on learning the rule, remembering and following rules is hard, but making sense, making sense of the idea gives you something solid that you can later build on. And it also, it makes those endorphins fire in your grain when you, Oh, Oh, I see it. And it makes sense. It's fun to have that feeling.
Oh yeah. I love that. I love that because a lot of times my kids intuitively do that at my boys, especially where, where they will make sense of the idea of, of what they're trying to do in math. They don't follow the rules at all, but they get the right answer. And that's something as a rule follower and somebody who's struggled with math that I've, I've had a hard time. I'm like, when are they ever going to learn how to do this the other way, if they're constantly coming up with, with the answer this way. So it's, yeah. I love that advice.
Okay. And it's, it's so much fun when you can sit with them and you get to chance to see that happen. Yes. I learned so much from my daughter because she never ever thought through things the same way I did.
Yes. Yes. Oh. And my youngest, I really struggled with teaching him long division, not in the same way that I struggled with teaching the, my first one long division. With her it was like, she never understood it. And I always had to like, try to explain it in a different way. And I couldn't, you know. All I knew were the steps of how to explain it. And so she ended up with the math tutor whom we love, but my youngest, he was constantly doing the problems in his head.
And I'm like every single problem we came across, he could do in his head. For some reason, I'm like, we're never going to learn the steps of long division. Because by the time I sit down to try to teach him the step, he's shouted out the answer already. And it was fine. You know, I was totally fine with him, but I knew that he was going to come up against a problem at some point where he was going to need the algorithm. And eventually we did, and it all worked itself out, but he's just so funny. He can just, you know, figure it out on the go.
So well, I am loving this advice and I love the fact that you brought up truth, goodness, and beauty. And we've always said that one of the reasons why we like to talk about math and include math and morning time is because it does give us a place and an opportunity to do, to look at the truth, goodness and beauty in mathematics and not just what they're learning in their set math curriculum. So what are some tips for moms?
Is, is there a way to do this with multiple ages In morning time? I think there is, well for one thing, as long as you are focusing on something that is sort of playbook thinking, you can do that at a lot of different levels. So for instance, like I came that was just flashcard drilll would not be very interesting to multiple age group and may or may not be interesting to the student that needs the flashcard drill.
Some people, some children really liked that. And some don't, but it gave that involves strategy and figuring things out works really well with a multi-age group. And most of the games that I play with the kids, I, for one thing I don't want to game that’s boring to me. So it has to work with an adult. And if it worked with a child and with the adult, it can work with all the agents in between. So even some of my games for the youngest children, they're fun for anybody to play. And some of the games for the oldest children, there's a way into it for the younger ones to think about the ideas of their own level. A lot of math games only take a few minutes to play. Let me give you an example.
Okay. This is a wordplay. The title of it is called One One it's Haba phones. One, the number one, as in you win the game and to play one, one, the first player chooses that starting number. You might start with a number between 10 and 20. As you get used to the game, you might let the range expand a bit and pick a number less than a hundred.
The first player chooses the number. And then each of the other players in turn has a choice. You can either subtract one from the current number, or you can divide the current number in half and throw away the leftover and you go around and each person plays makes a new number. So I'd say you started with 20 somebody subtracts one, they get 19.
The next person maybe decides to cut it in half. They throw away the extra and they got nine. And you keep going whoever's player that manages to reach the number one wins the game.
Hm. Interesting. That's really kind of a fun game. And you're the great thing about it is the little kids can subtract one and older kids can divide
And both, you know, as the middle grades and up, they can be thinking about strategy. You know, how many players are left until it gets back to me. And what can I do to make sure that when it gets back to me, I still have a chance to get one. There's a lot of thinking that goes on at different levels. So as I said, the game meets everybody at their own level.
Right, right. Oh, I love that. I love that. And so easy to play in morning time with the family as well. And you mentioned something earlier that I just want to reiterate here. This is not kind of like a math worksheet that's masquerading as a game. It's a true game.
I think that's important. Kids can tell if you've got to, again, it's basically a worksheet in disguise, you can't hide it. The kids know now they may rather do that, then do the worksheet, but it's still it's school math, but a real game is fun to play. Even apart from the math
And would probably be something they would want to play on their own time, not just during school time.
And in addition to games, there are a lot of playful math activities that you can do with a mixed age of people. One of my favorite activities that would fit really well into morning time is Today Is…. And you pick whatever the day is say, if it's, if it's May 3rd, you say the day,
but you don't use the number today is May half of six, May two plus four. Today is May wait a minute. I changed my number didn't I.
I thought you were just giving us a different example,
two plus four divided by two. We'll do that. But yeah, you can do that with any day and you could go around the table. You'll always have one kid that says today is may one plus one, plus one, plus one plus one all the way up to 30 on the 30th, but what, there's a bit of creativity in it. Each child can think of their own way. You can have a white board, stick it to the refrigerator, let people add to it through the day, if you want to. And there's just so many ways to play with the ideas that they've been learning. Even the high schooler that's that's working on trig today is may co-sign of C row plus co-sign of two PI that's co-sign a four PI I think that's the third thing we were working on. Yes, yes. I have no idea if you're right or not.
So we can just go with it. Oh, that's awesome. Be done at any level. It works with multiple range of kids. It's fun. It's short. It's great for morning time.
I love it. Well, both of the examples you gave us were great for morning time. So I just happened to know that you have a wonderful math, you can play series a, that has more things like this in there. So tell us a little bit more about that.
Okay. My Math You Can Play series, it's a series of four books. They have games for playing with math concepts from preschool to high school. Each book includes at least 20 games, plus a lot of different variations on the games they're marked by the grade levels where these topics are most likely to be studied.
So counting and number bonds with a little kids, addition, subtraction, multiplication, fractitions pre-algebra and geometry for the older kids, but each one of these books contain games that can be enjoyed by your whole range of ages. The games don't depend on speed. You don't have to be a fast thinker. The focus is on creative reasoning about the math concepts and a little bit of strategic thinking about how to beat your brother to the game.
Oh, I love it. Even if you already have a math curriculum that you liked, these games will push your children to a deeper understanding, and force them to think about the topics they're also great for co-op classes or homeschool play dates, and they're available in ebook and paperback at all the regular online stores. You can even get them through many libraries.
Awesome. Well, Denise, let me ask you a question, my three kids are kind of in that pre-algebra geometry kind of stage right now, but if I wanted to go to kind of go back and kind of have them play with some of those other concepts around some multiplication or something like that, would the, the multiplication books still be appropriate for kids who were older
Oh yeah. Like I said, I don't use games unless I can enjoy playing them. Okay. So yeah, there's there's games in there that they can use. And you know, when they get to the harder concepts in math, sometimes they're thinking so hard about the new ideas that they're learning, that it's so easy for the older things to kind of slip away.
So a lot of the mistakes they make tend to be the multiplication or that fraction things that they sort of yeah, they knew it. And so they, their brain forgot it while it was focusing on this new idea, so practicing those games. It's a great idea.
Oh, I love it. I love it. Well, Denise, thank you so much for coming on today. This was a wonderful conversation, so many good ideas, and I'm going to be checking out those books. So I appreciate it.
Well, thank you for having me, Pat. It's great to be here and I've enjoyed our talk
And there you have it. Now, if you would like links to any of the books and resources that Denise and I chatted about today, you can find them on the show notes for this episode of the podcast. Also on the show notes is a very special treat. Denise has given us a handout with all kinds of additional resources. These are the handouts that she usually gives out when she goes to do a presentation on math to homeschooling parents. And so she's collected this little handout for us and we're going to put a link to it in the show notes.
So you can go and grab that. So thank you Denise, for doing that for all of us. You can find that pambarnhill.com/YMB94, we will have links to the books, the resources, the handout, everything for you there. And just thank Denise so much again for coming and really inspiring me to think about doing math a little bit differently with my kids.
And hopefully you too. Now we'll be back again in a couple of weeks with another great morning time interview and until then keep seeking truth, goodness and beauty in your homeschool day.

Key Ideas about Math in Morning Time

Math is one of the few subjects in school where we can figure out the answers for ourselves instead of relying on what others have told us. In math, we can test the things that we are taught.

Math is not about being the fastest person to find the answer. Math is about thinking deeply about an idea. When we homeschool we have the opportunity to teach our children how to make sense of the math concepts that we are teaching and not just teach our children to follow the rules or directions of a math theory or formula.

Math is beautiful and we can teach our children to see that by playing with math instead of just using worksheets. Using puzzles, art, brain teasers and logic games can open our children up to the big ideas found in mathematics. We can do this in Morning Time by choosing games that allow children of all ages to play along and work with numbers.

Find what you want to hear:

  • [2:30] meet Denise Gaskins
  • [6:58] what math is really about
  • [12:19] great resources for exploring math
  • [16:55] thinking outside the box with math
  • [17:55] tips for the mom who feels inadequate
  • [24:52] tips for helping the kid who doesn’t want to play with math
  • [28:40] bringing playful math in without dropping your curriculum
  • [36:40] doing math with multiple ages
  • [42:24] math you can play in Morning Time

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Thanks for your reviews

  • Life Affirming
    by Logandinco66 from United States

    This podcast is amazing and has helped me so much as recovering perfectionist homeschooling mama! Pam gives so much great insight into so many aspects of life and focusing on homeschooling.

  • Life giving!
    by lapatita5 from United States

    This podcast has been so great. It’s so practical and encouraging without being overly preachy or narrow. It gives ideas in a take-what-fits kind of way. I have used many of the recommended resources and ideas mentioned and been inspired by many others. Even the episodes that I found less relevant to me specifically, often had tidbits that I could use. Pam’s podcasts, books, and resources have been a godsend to me in my beginning years of homeschooling, helping me discover my own way to teach my kids in a way that prioritizes what is most important to us.

  • You've made my school year!
    by Lizzie O' from United States

    Pam, My children are almost 11 and 13 and I never sent this review in! I found it sitting here. This is testimony that I am still so blessed by this podcast years later. So here it is: I wrote you an email when I first felt it placed on my heart to homeschool my now 6

  • Love the show!
    by Startup Travis from United States

    Love your content and the guests you have visiting the show! I am a huge believer in using the morning hours well. Thank you for your direction and products!

  • Enjoy the podcast & some thoughts…
    by rufocused from United States

    I enjoy listening to tips on starting and using morning time as I am just starting it this year. We have kind of done it in the past, but when you only have one child you tend to just call it bible, story time, etc… but now that my second one is old enough to join we’re going to have more of a true morning time. I did notice Pam mentioned CNN ten in one episode. CNN can be pretty liberal biased in the main news, I’m not sure if they curb that in the “CNN ten”, but thought I would mention the Daily Wire, which is from a conservative viewpoint (and often covers indoctrination in public schools) and could be fun to compare and contrast with CNN. Our family also recently discovered Daily Citizen from Focus on the Family which has a very Christian perspective, which has been refreshing as news can be so depressing sometimes! Just thought I’d throw that out there… but really do appreciate the perspectives and insights of these women who have been doing this for awhile!

  • Very helpful and pleasant to listen to.
    by Heather homeschooler from United States

    I have listened to many episodes of this podcast and have highly recommended it to others. It has been a wonderful source of inspiration and encouragement. Pam has a great voice and presence and I love that she does not interrupt or talk over her guests. Thank you for your hard work!

  • Always insightful!!
    by method_money from Canada

    Pam always has great great guests who bring great insights and encouragement! I so appreciate her down to earth style and ability to ask great questions! Keep up the great work!!

  • A wildly encouraging and equipping podcast for homeschool families.
    by Eryn Lynum from United States

    As a homeshool mama of four (Ages 2-9), Pam's podcast has been an increidble encouragement to me. Not only that, but I have discovered so many helpful resources for focusing on what is lovely and true during our homeschool days. I love that it is not overwhelming in nature, but instead a gentle help for moving forward one day at a time in our homeschooling adventure.

  • Best podcast for homeschooling/variety of topics
    by Bethetal from United States

    I love this podcast for so many reasons. (1) Pam is friendly, funny, humble and kind (2) She covers a multitude of topics (one at a time)- I have learned about nature notebooks, classical music study, narration, living books, Shakespeare and so much more. Whenever I have a question about a new (to me)HS term or practice, I come here to listen to Pam interview someone about it. Her interviewees have all been all-in on their respective areas of interest/expertise and I love the way she interviews/asks questions to really let the guests shine as they speak. I have changed the structure of my homeschool, found books for my kids and me, purchased materials, and found inspiration due to this podcast and I can’t recommend it enough! This podcast has shaped my homeschool in so many positive ways, most of which I probably can’t even articulate yet, as the changes have been done inside of me. Thanks, Pam!

  • Great!!!
    by Eloblah from United States

    I love the variety of things that are talked about on this show for homeschooling - things that I would never even think about including or doing - with easy ways to do them. Very much recommend this podcast

  • New home schooling mom
    by A prit from United States

    I am listening to the past episodes and loving it. This podcast has helped me develop my own homeschool. So many ideas!! I love morning time so much, we do a nightly family time so my husband and public school attending son. We do all the things instead of watching tv, playing ps4, and YouTube. My kids hang around me every evening asking if we are doing family time. I can tell they love it but don’t want to admit it.

  • Morning Time Magic!
    by DrewSteadman from United States

    I am so excited Pam is back to her morning time focus for 2020. Our homeschool has been shaped by the rich ideas and practical wisdom shared here.

  • Yay! Morning time is back!
    by Homeschooler in Germany from United States

    I was so happy and excited to learn that Pam is shifting her focus back to Morning Time for 2020! I’ve missed the morning time exclusive podcast and can’t wait to hear her back in my earbuds.

  • So excited for 2020!
    by JCrutchf from United States

    I absolutely LOVE this podcast and was so disappointed when I realized you were not actively producing it! I’m NOW relieved to know there is a whole year of episodes ahead! I’m beginning my homeschool journey with 4 little ones very close in age and my style falls somewhere in the Classical and Charlotte Mason. I found your podcast by chance via Instagram recommendation as I was doing research on “morning menus.” Your content is beautifully philosophical but at a level most parents will be able to grasp and appreciate. Filled with truth, beauty, and goodness! Your episodes fill me up and leave me feeling inspired personally and in regards to my children’s education. Everything is so good! Please don’t stop producing ever again! I’ll be grateful forever!

  • So glad Your Morning is back!!!
    by alissajohn2020 from United States

    So glad to have the morning basket podcast back! Thank you for bringing it back!!

  • So good I ran out of gas.
    by JoanieHummel from United States

    This podcast is awesome! It was recommended to me a few years ago by a very wise and experienced homeschool mom but I didn’t start listening until I saw it come up a few more times on Facebook, recommended in various groups (in particular, episode number 41). I wish I had picked it up years ago! So much great information, I’m learning so much! Be careful though, I was so interested listening to this podcast that I didn’t notice how low my gas tank was getting! I ran out of gas and as I write this review I’m stranded on the side of the road waiting for a friend to come rescue me! Happy listening!

  • Knowledge Goldmine
    by A.J. Edwards from United States

    I’ve just been eating up every episode of this brilliant podcast over the past few months. The guests are stellar and Pam’s interview style is wonderful. She gets each guest to the meat and potatoes of their topic but it’s anything but a plain meal. This is a feast for the homeschool mom’s mind. I know I’ll be revisiting many of my favorite episodes again and again. Feeling so inspired by each guest!

  • Myths and fairytale truths for homeschoolers
    by Allierhn from United States

    Mind blown! I’m listening to the myth podcast and it’s absolutely perfect. It is answering so many questions I’ve struggled with my whole life. It helps me to view our curriculum and informs my teaching so much more.

  • Super Helpful!
    by Jennlee C from United States

    I can’t speak highly enough about this podcast. It has been a huge inspiration and a practical help to my homeschool! Thank you so much Pam Barnhill and everyone else who contributes to this. It has been an amazing blessing to me and my children… And possibly generations to come!

  • Practical Inspiration
    by Mamato3activeboys from Australia

    Not only am I inspired by each episode of this podcast but I have actually put so many of the ideas into practice in our own morning time. Such a huge help as I seek to inspire my non-stop boys to truth, goodness and beauty. We are now memorising poetry as they jump on the trampoline and they love Shakespeare. That's a parenting win in my book!

  • So many great ideas!
    by Parent 98765 from Malaysia

    Thank you, Pam! I’m now bursting with inspiration and can’t wait to start our 2019 school year with a strong morning time routine.

  • Joy
    by Ancon76 from United States

    My heart is enriched and I can’t wait to learn more.

  • Just what I was looking for!
    by Joey5176 from United States

    I was looking for morning basket ideas—simple ones. These podcasts are giving me a picture of a good morning basket.

  • Wow!! What amazing nuggets of knowledge