24 Jan 2014 16 Comments

# Awesome Arithmetricks – Simplifying Equations

My children (8 and 10) don’t spend as much time doing sums as other children. Whereas most elementary maths curricula focus on arithmetic, we work on a balance mathematical skills, including critical-thinking and problem-solving. One of my main aims is to stimulate my kids’ interest in and passion for maths.

## A place for arithmetic algorithms

But I do want my kids to be number-confident – they need to be able to use arithmetical algorithms. I have two priorities here. I want them to be proficient at using algorithms (to accurately follow step-by-step procedures). I also want them to know how the algorithms work (why they are using them).

## Murderous Maths: Awesome Arithmetrics

Murderous Maths: Awesome Arithmetricks is the perfect way to review arithmetic skills and develop number sense. C(10) and I are reading the book at the moment. We enjoy the jokes and the story, and stop to practise procedures whenever we need to.

(We got our copy of the book as part of the Murderous Maths boxset.)

## How we use Awesome Arithmetricks

We do maths side-by-side on the sofa, mini-whiteboards and hot cups of tea to hand (we’re English, after all). We keep manipulatives and iPads within easy reach, and grab them to work through concrete examples, play a game or do a few drills. (C(10) used this free subtraction app yesterday, for example. Maths apps don’t get much more basic but it provided the instant, no-frills practice she wanted.)

Awesome Arithmetricks is divided into four sections – addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. But it contains a lot more than the basics. Examples are given within entertaining stories, and questions are posed as puzzles.

## Simplifying equations

This week we worked through the section on simplifying equations. We learned four tricks to making an equation prettier:

- Always treat both sides the same
- An operator sign must stay with the number that comes after it
- You can swap both sides over completely if you want
- If you move a number to the other side, you must change its sign. (I drew a diagram of balance scales and we went through the in-between steps that make this so.)

## Puzzle – Spot the lethal equation

“You have just been bitten by a fearsome two-headed Arctic ice snake. Already your blood is starting to freeze solid, but in front of you is a cabinet of mathematically prepared antidotes which were made up from the equation:

Three of these bottles have correct equations on them, but the fourth could be LETHAL! You haven’t time to work all the sums out, but by altering the original formula using the tricks, can you see which three equations are correct?”

C(10) enjoyed this puzzle so much she worked through it several times over the course of a week.

## Dragon Box Algebra – An algebra game

Dragon Box Algebra 5+ is a fun puzzle game that teaches kids the principles of algebra. It perfectly complements a study of simplifying equations. (The game is available for most computers and mobile devices.)

C(10) worked through all the levels of the app a few months ago (for fun). So, after we’d read about simplifying equations in Awesome Arithmetricks, we played with a few algebraic equations. C(10) enjoyed solving them using what she’d learned playing Dragon Box Algebra and reading Awesome Arithmetricks.

*I’m appreciatively linking up here:*

*{This post contains Amazon affiliate links.}*

Dana Yue

Jan 25, 2014@ 04:40:44What a terrific explanation of how to use Murderous Maths with a child. We will have to try Dragon Box Algebra–thank you again for another great resource!

Lucinda

Jan 25, 2014@ 09:32:34Thank you so much, Dana! Yes I’m sure your two would love Dragon Box Algebra. (I’m hooked on it, too!)

Hwee

Jan 26, 2014@ 19:36:46I really like your explanation of how you use Murderous Maths. Tiger has read the series on his own but I didn’t think to work through the puzzles with him. Now you’ve given me a reason to! We enjoy such puzzles too. Thanks for the inspiration!

Lucinda

Jan 26, 2014@ 21:04:17Thank you, Hwee. It’s funny how we take for granted how we do things, but I know I am often inspired when I read about the nuts and bolts of how other homeschoolers work together, so I thought I’d share our little process.

How lovely that Tiger has read all the Murderous Maths books. I can only dream of having such a prolific reader!

Claire

Jan 26, 2014@ 23:50:02I’d read, I think on Sue’s blog, about these books, and they are saved in my amazon basket. Hopefully I’ll buy them Friday! I enjoyed this post, although I’m not sure if I’ll just let the children read them or whether we will do activities from them. I have four children on four different programs (one of which is unschooling) I’m asking Santa for more time next Christmas!

Lucinda

Jan 27, 2014@ 22:52:06I heard about them from Sue, too. You’re lucky like Hwee, with your prolific readers! I’m sure your children will love the books. Maybe they will share the puzzles with you. 😉

Sue Elvis

Jan 28, 2014@ 06:16:42Lucinda,

You know we like Murderous Maths too! I just had a look at our set and yes, we have Awesome Arithmetricks. I must add it to the pile of ‘interesting stuff’ I am gathering!

My girls loved Dragon Box! Sophie did both versions. She really enjoyed them!

Oh look at all those exclamation marks. They’re getting out of control. I shouldn’t get so excited!!

Lucinda

Jan 28, 2014@ 22:40:02I’m so glad you wrote about the Murderous Maths series – we’re loving them!

I like Dragon Box too. I think I shall follow Sophie’s example and move onto 12+ myself. Algebra is fun.

You are welcome to come and share your excitement here anytime, Sue!

Colleen

Jan 30, 2014@ 01:31:49Love the math info! Thanks so much -will check some of them out for sure! I appreciate your linking-up! Blessings – Colleen

Lucinda

Feb 01, 2014@ 09:33:32Thank you Colleen. Do check out Murderous Maths, they are great value and a really fun way to learn. I’m very much enjoying your link-up! Lucinda

Agy

Jan 30, 2014@ 03:58:29They make maths so complex and irritating for kids over here in Singapore. I think the Murderous Maths would bring back some math passion in my son! Thanks for sharing.

Lucinda

Feb 01, 2014@ 11:25:04I totally know what you mean, Agy. I’ve seen maths deconstructed to the point where it’s way too complex for me let alone my kids. Murderous Maths is just the right level for us right now!

Natalie @AfterschoolForSmartyPants

Feb 01, 2014@ 05:19:06How interesting! I have a 7 year old, but she is really good in math working a couple of years ahead at home. I have to look for Murderous Math – thanks for sharing with Afterschool!

Lucinda

Feb 01, 2014@ 12:00:26Hi Natalie – I’m sure your daughter would love Murderous Maths. They’re a great way to have fun with maths. Thank you so much for hosting the great link up!

Rebecca

Feb 02, 2014@ 14:40:40That’s awesome! LOL I’ve been trying to interest Firecracker in Dragonbox, but we don’t have the Murderous Maths. We’ve been “taking a break” from arithmetic, and I’m just waiting for the right circumstance to reintroduce it

Lucinda

Feb 02, 2014@ 22:14:57Thanks, Rebecca! LOL about arithmetic. It’s lucky there’s so much more to maths! 😉