Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Games of Math: Counting and Number Bonds and Addition and Subtraction

by Denise Gaskins 

I reviewed Let's Play Math by Denise Gaskins in February 2016. At the time, I think I'd already been using these two books for half a school year, but I haven't take the time to review them. On Facebook and in person, I highly recommend Let's Play Math to just about any homeschooling family struggling with math. I also think it's just about the best thing a new homeschooling mother or father could read. No matter what curriculum you choose for math, Let's Play Math can help you understand it and implement it for your children and help you create an environment of mathematical curiosity that can benefit any student. I know my family would have been much better off if I'd read it earlier!

So now that you know I want you to read that first, let's talk about Math You Can Play Combo. This book includes two books: Counting and Number Bonds and Addition and Subtraction.

This book (or rather, these two together) constitute the spine of our math curriculum for prekindergarten, kindergarten, and first grade. I begin with Counting and Number Bonds and we just work through the books playing one game a week (sometimes multiple times) through the whole book. If I had started really young, I may have repeated Counting and Number Bonds, but with the two who started this way, I moved right on to Addition and Subtraction.

In addition, sometimes I read math stories out loud to the whole family as a read-aloud. Let's Play Math has a large list of such books as does the author's website. We also play games from our well-stocked game shelves during math time. I specifically schedule those games through first grade, so Second Son is currently the only one who gets to pick a game once a week. We don't start "formal" math until second grade with the Life of Fred books and Khan Academy. I do let Second Son use Khan Academy, because he felt left out, but only for a short time a few times a week.

I almost can't say enough fantastic things about the Let's Play Math game books. My youngest two children, Second Daughter and Second Son, are the ones who benefited from them. Of course, we changed up a lot between the older two and these two because that's when we switched away from Saxon over to Life of Fred, so it's hard to say if any particular change made all the difference, but our whole attitude toward math is dramatically improved with the younger two.

They love playing these games. In fact, it's not uncommon for Second Daughter to insist she's done with her independent work so she can play with Second Son during his game time. Or she'll ask to play some of the games outside of school time. (Snugglenumber is a particular favorite; she's even taught a friend to play it with her.) The great benefit here is that interest in the game encourages repetition of the math facts and skills. More practice with the basic counting, grouping, addition, and subtraction in these games leads to consistent success and, eventually, the ability to focus instead on more complex math.

The games almost all use cards you already own. (There are a few boards you can make and lots of printables included with purchase of the book if you don't want to make your own.) For the most part, I open the book and we play the game without any preparation. Along with the games are brief explanations of the math behind the games and strategies for guiding children through the math involved.

Some of the games seem like they'll be too challenging for the child, but we always give them a try. Over and over again, I see them succeed when I might have neglected to even give them the opportunity.

Though First Son and First Daughter seemed to do well with the mental math exercises when we were using Saxon, both Second Daughter and Second Son seem to do mental gymnastics without even realizing it's a skill. Sometimes when Second Son tries to walk me through his mental process to come up with a math answer, I can hardly follow him, but it works!

I have the Kindle version of the game books and they work great. The pictures are clear. The text is well-formatted and easy to navigate from the contents. Still, if I could go back, I'd invest a little more money to get the paperback versions. It's a hassle to pull out my Kindle during school time and then switching around within the two ebooks to find where I am with different children as we work through them. I also think the kids might play some of the games on their own if they had access to the paperback. (I don't let them use my Kindle.) If you use a e-reader more regularly during school time, have only one child, or combine children for math games, that's not as much of an issue.

Because we had such a good experience with these books, I purchased the Kindle version of Multiplication and Fractions. First Daughter (age 11, in 5th grade) and Second Daughter (age 9, in 3rd grade) each play with me once a week.

I purchased this books separately for the Kindle (rather than the combo book) and received a discounted price. I can't remember if they were discounted for everyone or if I received a discount from the author. Either way, this post gives my honest opinion. Links above to the books are Amazon affiliate links.


  1. Thank you for a lovely review!

    I was inspired by this comment: "Some of the games seem like they'll be too challenging for the child, but we always give them a try. Over and over again, I see them succeed when I might have neglected to even give them the opportunity."

    Today way our last co-op meeting, and I had planned to give the elementary students an easier project than the middle school group. But with your remark in mind, I let the young ones try the harder task (Borromean Snowballs, using the blank printable template from They did a beautiful job, and loved it!


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