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Math Textbooks With a Sense of Fun

Kids Who Learn to Play with Numbers Become Better Problem Solvers


One of the skills shared by the best math students is a sense of fun. They know how to play around with numbers to find the solution to difficult problems. Programs that focus on facts and formulas don't help kids develop this flexible way of thinking. In fact, for some students, puzzles, games, and brain teasers can be better training than traditional math textbooks.

Of course, many people (including me) just feel more comfortable using a math textbook. They don't want to worry about their child missing some important topic. Have no fear -- many popular homeschool-friendly series help kids develop that playfulness that makes solving math problems a challenge instead of a chore.

The books below all show kids how math works, instead of merely presenting facts and formulas to be memorized. These series are also great because kids can work their way through them by themselves, with minimal adult supervision. And with their playful style, kids and parents will both enjoy using them!

1. Miquon Math (Grades 1 through 3)

Miquon Math book
Miquon Math workbooks are hand-written to make them as un-intimidating as possible. Additional teacher guides are available, but aren't really necessary. One of the most useful aspects of this series is that many of the problems are worked out using Cuisenaire Rods, an incredibly handy math manipulative all by itself.


2. Singapore Math (Grades 1 through 6)

Singapore Math
Singapore Math Inc.

Singapore Math softcover textbooks and workbooks present math concepts visually, but without a lot of clutter. And they give students a choice of problem solving techniques, so kids learn that numbers can be manipulated in different ways to reach the same right answer. 

3. Life of Fred (Grade 2 and up)

Life of Fred
Polka Dot Publishing

 The popular Life of Fred series is written as the fantastical adventures of an unusual young boy, with math concepts woven in as he goes about his daily life. Each short chapter includes math questions and brain teasers for readers to solve.

4. Key To... (Grades 6-12)

Key to Math
Key Curriculum/McGraw-Hill Education

Key To... workbooks, which come 10 to a topic, cover everything from fractions and decimals to algebra and geometry. Students can easily work through them by themselves, at their own pace. There's just enough information in them to use Key To as a bare bones course. They're also excellent for review or test prep. 

5. Mathematics: A Human Endeavor (Grade 6 and up)

Jacobs Math: A Human Endeavor
W. H. Freeman
Harold Jacobs' textbook gives students an introduction to a wide variety of fascinating math topics, illustrated with comics and oddities and with a puzzler included in every problem set. Although written for high school and college classes, younger kids with an interest in math will enjoy it, too. New editions are pricey, so look for inexpensive used copies.


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