According to research by the author of Playful Interactions Dr. Karyn Purvis, scientists have determined that it takes approximately 400 repetitions to create a new synapse in the brain — unless it’s done with play, in which case it only takes 10 to 20 repetitions. But how can play help a child learn multiplication?
“When a student recognizes something they’ve seen elsewhere, it not only becomes interesting but also comfortable, which helps in academic settings where they’re not always so comfortable,” explains Stephanie Pedersen, Chief Learning Officer of Squixy, the educational technology platform with the mission to incorporate play into a fun, whimsical and impactful learning experience that supplements the Common Core educational instruction that kids receive in school.
Pedersen, who is also a classroom teacher, tutor and enrichment camp instructor, says kids just learn better when they’re enjoying themselves. So, why not make it exciting?
Learn multiplication and make it fun
Although children can benefit from play in all subject areas, Pedersen has especially witnessed gains in students who are struggling with multiplication. Since multiplication is a foundational math skill that’s related to division, fractions, decimals, finding the area and more, she says it’s vital that kids understand it — so that these more difficult skills won’t be as challenging in the future.
Here are some ways she gets her students excited about multiplication:
- Introducing easy-to-use manipulative tools like pop-its or food to visually build arrays, make equal groups or practice skip counting (she says fish-shaped crackers, cereal and colorful chocolate candies are always hits!)
- Playing traditional games with a mathematical twist to reinforce multiplication, such as Connect 4, Uno or Jenga
- Utilizing toys around the house to practice multiplication like “Multiplication War” with a deck of cards or “Multiplication Target Practice” with Nerf guns
- Getting kids moving and having them skip count while doing jumping jacks, squats or arm movements.
- Presenting multiplication lessons in a variety of modes like videos, pictures, graphs, story problems, models and more in order to target different types of learners
- Creating mnemonic devices, such as “8 and 8 answered the door and in walked 64!” or “7 and 8 broke the gate, 56 came to fix!” to recall facts and vocabulary
- Making cross-curricular and real-life connections like finding the average score of a sports team or doubling a cooking recipe
A unique tool to help kids (and parents!) learn multiplication
There’s no doubt that math is taught differently today than it used to be, so parents’ feelings of apprehension when it comes to teaching or practicing multiplication with their children make sense. With this in mind, Squixy developed an exciting educational activity book called Squixy and the Battle for All Time(s)! where kids are asked to partner with the intergalactic hero, Squixy, who is battling to save the Milky Way from his greedy nemesis, Trixy.
The 58-page activity book includes 10 training missions that are focused on beginner level multiplication skills, access to five tutorial videos, exploration of three planetary systems in augmented reality, a colorful 10-page graphic novel that introduces the missions within the book and more.
Created with the designers and programmers at Draw & Code, the Play Portal at the end of the book allows learners to engage in an AR game in which they have to hit a moving bullseye and recall multiplication facts in order to earn more projectiles for their slingshot. This game, along with the other AR features, sets Squixy and the Battle for All Time(s)! apart from other activity books on the market.
“Even though the goal is to support the topic of multiplication and increase fluency and understanding, the book opens with a graphic novel that sets up the mission and lures in kids’ interests,” explains Pedersen, who knows the importance of hooking in young learners right from the start.
“Another one of my favorite parts of the book is the social-emotional advice featured every few pages, offering readers reminders like ‘Sometimes math and life can seem really hard. Asking for help when you’re stuck is the sign of a strong agent. You can do it!’ which is beneficial for kids to hear, so that they can stay motivated to keep going even when concepts become more difficult.”
Pedersen says Squixy and the Battle for All Time(s)! is ideal for children who are new to multiplication or who are looking for a fun way to practice their new mathematical skill. The cost is $12.99 and can be ordered on Amazon.
Eventually, Pedersen says the teacher-led Squixy team plans to update the book and app and later create more books, possibly even a prequel, which could focus on addition and subtraction.