It’s not uncommon – especially as the end of the school year approaches – to experience math burnout. “Math” becomes simply the title on one of the books you’re trying to get through quickly so you can enjoy a summer break.
Just make sure that in all your math “doing” you don’t sacrifice math understanding! Here’s one skill you may have “skipped” that can have a huge impact on your children’s ability to fully grasp more advanced math concepts.
Don’t skip the skip counting!
“Skip counting” is a term that refers to counting by something other than one at a time. For example, counting by fives: 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, and so on.
Some math programs spend a lesson or two on this topic as a transition to multiplication. They might call it “repeat addition” and then demonstrate how multiplication is really a faster way to achieve repeat addition.
Much time is spent in homeschools helping children to memorize multiplication tables. I’m not opposed to memorization. But I think your time might be better invested if you begin by helping your children to
learn to skip count from memory!
Three simple approaches
Don’t be afraid to step away from your traditional textbook or curriculum for a time to dive deep into skip counting. Here are some easy approaches to supplement your regular studies.
This is our favorite way to begin the skip counting exploration. Start with a simple hundreds chart (like this one).
Have your child color in the number two. Then count two more and color the next number.
Don’t say anything. Just watch. In a moment, they will begin to notice patterns! Ask questions about what they observe and why they think those patterns exist.
Remember, older children like to color, too! Let them use colored markers or fun pens and mark two different sets of skip-counting numbers on the same chart.
Ask them to look for patterns of where the two sets of numbers overlap. Why do the two series overlap at those places? What can be observed about those overlapping numbers?
Homeschoolers know the power of music to aid memorization. Coupled with coloring or another hands-on investigation of skip counting, song lyrics can help to cement the knowledge in the memory.
Our favorite skip counting songs each have a theme of counting groups of items: wheels on tricycles, octopus legs, fingers on pairs of gloves. Yep, they are pretty silly, but the humor actually makes them more memorable!
While coloring on a chart can give a visual image of the patterns of skip counting sequences, another way to look at them is in a straight, linear fashion.
Grab an inexpensive set of sewing tape measures. Have your student mark a different set of skip counting numbers on each tape measure.
(Hint: Use the inches side for younger students as it usually only goes up to 60. Use the centimeters side for older students as it reaches 150.)
Once these are complete, you have a permanent set of math manipulatives can be reused in many applications. Let’s look at some of those possibilities!
Skip counting beyond multiplication
As I mentioned above, it’s not uncommon for math curricula to touch briefly on skip counting as a bridge to the first look at multiplication. This is an excellent application, but there are so many more possibilities!
Here are some ways students can use skip counting:
- Multiplication. To figure out 4 x 6, skip count by 4, 6 times. Or skip counting by 6, 4 times. It’s not just about finding the answer; it’s about truly getting a sense for what multiplication is and what does. This approach also demonstrates the commutative property of multiplication (numbers can be multiplied in either order).
- Division. To divide 42 by 7, skip count by 7 until you get to 42. How many times you have to count? Double check the answer (6) by skip counting by 6 until you get to 42. It should take them 7 times to get there!
- Adding and Subtracting Fractions. Need to find a common denominator between two fractions with denominators 4 and 6? Write out or think through counting by the larger number (6). Then count by the smaller number (4) until you come to one they both share.
- Money. Counting coins is simply a form of skip counting. The added challenge is changing from one series (say, by 25s) to another (by 5s or by 1s).
Now You Try
Want to try some skip counting activities with your children? Join us over at Homeschooling without Training Wheels for Math Month! Download a free skip counting review printable and enter to win other fabulous math prizes all month!