Take ten of those and put a rubber band around them and move it over to the tens column. Then put 5 more bundles in the tens column to represent the 50 part of 57. Then count all of the Popsicle sticks to get the final answer. After they have physically “carried” the 10 over to the tens column, show them how the same problem would be done on paper.

Similarly, teach borrowing by having them physically take a bundle of 10 Popsicle sticks from the tens column and take off the rubber band to put them in the ones column. Above all, keep it fun, and keep it light. If you run into a mind block (yours or theirs), stop and go outside to do some gardening.

Finally, consider creating a math learning center filled with manipulatives, games, and perhaps an occasional worksheet. If you must use worksheets with younger children, discount-store sticker books can be just as helpful as large textbooks, which might be overwhelming.

Above all, remember to enjoy those kids! You will miss them when they grow up! I certainly miss my little guys now that they are scattered all over the globe. Relax and have a good time while they are with you, and don’t allow math frustration to ruin your day!

Mary Hood, Ph.D., and her husband, Roy, homeschooled their five children since the early 1980s. All have successfully made the transition to adulthood. Mary has a Ph.D. in education and is the director of ARCHERS for the Lord, Inc., (The Association of Relaxed Christian Home Educators). She is the author of The Relaxed Home School, The Joyful Home Schooler, and other books, and is available for speaking engagements. Contact her via her website, www.ArchersfortheLord.org.


1. This is part of what is known as “constructivist theory.” If you are interested in knowing the details of this theory, or the stages children pass through in their development of cognitive thinking, you might want to read the booklet I wrote with this same title, available through our website, www.ArchersfortheLord.org.

Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade magazine for homeschool families. Read the magazine free at  www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free TOS apps to read the magazine on your Kindle Fire or Apple or Android devices.

Publication date: May 31, 2012