Tens of thousands of kids struggle with math. Many of the students I tutor experience the same math-driven saga of confusion, frustration, and helplessness, which is then followed by low self-esteem and self-criticism.
This is heartbreaking to witness.
Whether the child is in elementary, middle, or high school, he is often embarrassed to show that he’s still counting on his fingers or drawing tiny lines to represent counting by ones.
I can easily count past my fingers and toes as to how many older children heavily relied on their fingers to count something as simple as
3+4 or 5+5.
Developing automatic recall of basic math facts, also known as math fluency, is essential to prepare the child for higher-level math skills.
When children have successfully learned automatic recall, she can quickly remember her basic addition facts without having to use her fingers, lines, or other manipulatives.
But this takes work… the great part is that it doesn’t always have to feel like it.
One of my absolute favorite games to play with any age is Shut the Box.
Basically, the player (can be played solo or with an unlimited number of players) rolls the dice to make number combinations using double or triple addends. The object is to turn all of the number tiles down. If the player can’t “shut the box” then she has to add up the remaining numbers on the tiles. This is her score for that round. The player with the lowest score after a certain number of rounds is the winner.
Here’s an example of one player trying to shut the box. Every time she rolls the dice she puts down tiles for that number combination. If she rolls and cannot make any number combinations (as you’ll see with the remaining 8 and 9), then her round is finished and she records the sum of 8+9 as her score.
Here’s another (sideways!) example of the player winning this round by shutting the box! You’ll also notice a little bit of finger counting… personally, I don’t stop her from doing this because eventually, she will memorize the number combinations, resulting in math fluency!
When I don’t have this game in my classroom, it can be found on my coffee table at home. My kids’ friends like to play it, and even visiting family members will play a few rounds. Younger children who aren’t ready for addition can simply match the numbers rolled to the numbers on the tiles.
There are a few varieties from different companies, but the one I’ve always used is from For Small Hands, a Montessori-based company. I am an affiliate of For Small Hands, but I only do reviews for products that I love and trust!
You can also find this product in my Products for your Indigo section.