Math Monday: Fun Factors!

I’ll never forget a certain afternoon, the first year Naturalist was homeschooling (through the K-12 program) and Golfer was still in Kindergarten. They were both doing Math homework, and they were both crying. Naturalist was in tears because she was staring at a worksheet with dozens of problems left to do, and Golfer was crying because he was staring at a worksheet with dozens of problems that he’d already figured out. Naturalist was pained that she had too much math to do, Golfer was distraught because he didn’t have enough.

I sat at the table thinking that God didn’t give me enough proper instructions on the care and keeping of kids to throw this kind of curveball my way.

Then, I switched Naturalist’s math worksheet over in front of Golfer and told him to have at it.

They both stopped crying. From that day on, Golfer would substitute his patterning math work from Kindergarten with Naturalist’s multiplication work, while Naturalist would happily give it over so she could do his kindergarten stuff.

My kids are yin and yang in so many areas, which helps out sometimes. It wasn’t until that afternoon that I realized just how significant Naturalist’s math inability was, but I couldn’t ignore the fact that she was still at a kindergarten level. Nor could I ignore that Golfer was more than capable of doing 4th grade work…no wonder he was bored at school!

The last 3 years have been a personal quest to find a program that suited both kids…something creative and visual to engage Naturalist’s right brain learning style (offset by a significant case of dyscalculia–a kind of dyslexia, only with numbers.) AND something challenging without a lot of repetition and ‘kill and drill’ to keep Golfer’s quick mind engaged. And by jove, I think I’ve got it!

The book Family Math (Equals Series)
is a good place to start. Rather than a book with problem after problem to solve, it deals with number concepts and application through games, which is brilliant both for gifted and LD kids.

There are lots of printables, my favorite being the number charts. Lately we’ve been doing a lot on the 25 chart, with the most fun game being one we made up ourselves. You can play along!

What you need to play Fun Factors:
A 25 chart
Some M&M’s
2 dice


Even Sassy gets in on the game, by matching what she rolls with the number on the board. But first, she has to color it just right.


Since we made up the rules to this game, it’s pretty loosey goosey, so if you’re going to play make sure you can open up the rules to the suggestions of the people you’re playing with. For us, though, we play like this:

roll the 2 dice,

add up the number. This will be the number on the board that you are trying to find the factors of. If you roll a 6, then mark (using M&M’s, of course!) all the numbers below it that are the factors of 6…1,2, 3, and 6.

the kids quickly realized 12 was the highest number they could roll, but we had numbers up to 25, so they made up the rule that you can double the number you roll. If you rolled that 6 from before, then now you can take 6 and double it to 12. If you roll 12, you can double it to 24. Find and mark all the factors of whatever number you roll.


For a shorter game, play ‘bingo’ style where you only have to get a row across, up and down, or diagonal. My kids always beg to play blackout, where they cover up the board completely, which is fine with me!

I put M&M’s willy nilly on my board to cover the factors, but Naturalist likes to put one color for each different number factors, so she can see the patterns. And there are definately patterns!

It won’t take long for kids to figure out that there are some numbers that can never be rolled. Prime numbers anyone? Now, we automatically use them as free spaces, and my kids can rattle off the prime numbers between 0 and 25.


Since doing this, I notice that even Naturalist, whose grasp on numbers in a bit slippery, will double, triple, or even quadruple numbers to give herself an advantage and cover as many numbers as possible.

And a good time is had by all!


9 Responses

  1. I love this idea! Thanks for sharing! (And I love the gorgeous photos too – the colours just spring out at you!)

  2. We’ve been making up (though simple) math games, too.
    My friend Julie told me about Family Math. So that’s two. I’ll have to check it out.

  3. I love factors and numbers. I was like Golfer in school – the teacher actually put me in the hallway in 2nd grade with some two digit multiplication worksheets and said figure this out on your own because I was so ahead of everyone else in class.

  4. Kez–I love the colors, too. So cheery!

    Stephanie–the book rocks!

    Allyall–I was SOO not like that in school. I’m more like Naturalist, and Golfer is just like hubby. I’m trying to learn their secrets so math can be fun for me, too. So far, the M&M’s help. πŸ™‚

  5. Ok, I can’t stand math – I don’t even understand prime numbers or why we need to know them! Seriously you lost me after “roll 2 dice”! πŸ˜›

    So what you’re saying is this would be good for the 1st grader, the 4th grader and the mama? I’m thinking we could all get into the M&M’s though. I better check out this book, thanks for the tip, we are needing this right NOW!

  6. Thank you for sharing this! This is so much fun. I am dying for new ideas for my kiddo. We have been playing UNO for a year now (still fun) good for matching skills….and Yahtzee for a couple of months. Dice games are great for learning the numbers (but you know that) so this will be fun to add to our game rotation. You inspire me so much with your blog…I am so glad to know you.

  7. love your idea. mine have never been at the point of not liking math never being in anyhting but one year of preschool for my older child. but it would be nice to intro it in such a fun way.

  8. Thanks for posting this. What a great idea. My Daughter is much like Naturalist when it comes to numbers and it’s been difficult trying to find ways to do Math without frustrating her.

    Besides, it’s a great excuse to keep a big bag of M & M’s handy!

  9. Dear Math Enthusiast,
    Hi. I am a Middle School Math teacher. I spent the summer making a website geared directly for grades 1-8. I want students to have a site where they can practice their math skills while still having fun. I have personally made most of the games.
    If you have a place on your website to put a link, please do so. My site is located at:
    Feel free to email me back with a link or a suggestion.
    Thank you,
    Michael Edlavitch

    image link

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