Five Ways Enrich Math Lessons and Get Out of a Rut

by Jimmie Lanley on June 28, 2011

Five Ways Enrich Math Lessons and Get Out of a Rut

I am a firm believer in the saying, “Variety is the spice of life.” Although I love routine and structure, I  dislike falling into academic ruts. There is really no reason to have boring homeschool lessons. There is so much out there to learn and a limitless number of ways to learn. If lessons are boring, it’s because we are getting lazy.

When math falls into a rut of “read the textbook, do the workbook exercises, rinse, and repeat,” it may be time to implement some math lesson CPR.

1. Create the Problems

Instead of doing the workbook problems, have your child create his own problems based on the math lesson. Writing a good math problem is actually quite difficult. Of course, he will have to solve his problem so that he can test you with it.

The problems could be word problems or numeric problems. Silliness is very encouraged in word problems. (Math does not need to be boring. If some humor makes it more fun, then encourage that.)

If you see that your child’s problems are all very simple and do not incorporate all that you learned, you can point that out with some probing questions, “I notice that all your problems…. Why did you do that?” Then remind your child of tougher problems to use and encourage her to add on a few “extra credit,” challenging ones.

2. Math Journaling

Write about your math lessons. Use words in sentence and paragraph form to explain the math topic of the day. Diagrams and illustrations are great additions to a math journal page. But try to avoid numbers as much as possible.

Using words to do math accesses another part of the brain and offers a real mental workout. For children who love words more than numbers, math notebooking may be a real relief.

3. Read a Living Math Book

There are so many great living math books to enjoy. Don’t discount picture books because you think your child is too old. All the picture books I’ve seen about math have been far from childish. On the contrary, the pictures are wonderful aids to help us visualize the concepts.

Don’t worry if you can’t find a living math book to fit the exact math topic your child is working on. You will either be reviewing something he has already studied or introducing something that will come later. Both possibilities are good.

4. Write a Math Poem

Writing a math poem is a double duty assignment. Check off your language arts and math for the day. Use a prescribed form (haiku, diamonte, or acronym) so that you can focus on the ideas and words.

5. Read a Biography of a Mathematician

I use the math history lessons from which take us from ancient history up to modern day mathematicians. It gives children a healthy perspective of math when they realize that math has been discovered incrementally throughout history. Math isn’t just a way to torture people. It is actually a science.

The Mathematicians are People, Too books are great. Each volume has about a dozen short chapters, each covering  a famous mathematician.

The beauty of each of these ideas is that you’re taking math beyond the strict realm of “math” and combining it with history and language arts. Encouraging those connections across disciplines is something that helps our children learn to think.

This post is featured on The Massive Guide for Homeschooling Math. Click to see more great math posts.

The Massive Guide for Homeschooling Math

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Mary June 28, 2011 at 9:07 am

Great ideas! I love the clock for the notebook!


Ticia June 28, 2011 at 2:41 pm

That clock is a great idea. I’ve got a mini-math notebook to help kids with concepts, but that clock……. Hmmmmm, now I”m thinking…..


Mary June 28, 2011 at 6:23 pm

Thanks for the ideas, Jimmie… as I’ve told you before I have a nine year old who is a bit reluctant with math. I think this year we’ll try the journaling and Life of Fred (per your suggestion). She likes to reteach the lesson to her brother and I on the white board, so we’ve hit on something there!

I always gain something when I read your blog! 🙂


min June 28, 2011 at 7:58 pm

Great ideas and I love the clock too!


Penny June 28, 2011 at 8:13 pm

Great ideas! I have a math whiz but he hates writing. I never thought of having him journal to use a different part of the brain. Thanks!


Joyce June 29, 2011 at 10:50 am

I love the livingmath site, but found it a little confusing, maybe that is because I need to spend more time there. Incorporating history into math is a wonderful idea. I have one question maybe you can answer, the books they list where do you get them?

Peace, <


Joanne June 29, 2011 at 7:34 pm

Hi Jimmie,

I just wanted to congratulate you on winning my book over at Amy’s blog.

I pray it blesses you and your family!




Mother of 3 March 29, 2016 at 6:35 pm

I love the idea of studying a mathematician! That is not something we’ve ever thought of doing before.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: