For many students, the words “math” and “fun” don’t seem to have much overlap. Math is often thought of as a dry subject – equations don’t get most people excited – but math lovers have been working to show the more interesting side of math to students in a number of different formats.
Students who find math boring now may just need to be given a new way of looking at it. Naturally, the internet has come to the rescue with a wide range of math resources designed to help students see how math can be fun and useful.
Here are some of the best ones out there.
We’ve sung the praises of using TED Talks in the classroom before and probably will again. The format lends itself to exploring educational topics in novel and entertaining ways. The TEDEd math section mixes clever graphics and occasional cultural references in with key mathematical principles to give students a fun taste of concepts they may otherwise find tiresome.
A few examples to consider using include:
All math teachers have heard the common complaint: “but how will I ever use this in the real world?” Yummy Math is one of a few sites on our list that addresses that question in a way meant to keep students interested.
The site mixes videos, images, and real-world challenges that get students thinking about where math fits into their day-to-day lives. The site divides posts by age group, genre, and the type of math on display.
So, for example, in the category “Operations and Fractions” for ages 3rd-6th grades, you get a challenge asking students how many pumpkin pies need to be made to feed 23 guests at a Thanksgiving lunch, complete with activity sheets you can bring into the classroom.
For high school students, in the category of “Algebra,” you get an activity that uses Fantasy Football as a catalyst to do calculations based on how points are awarded in the game.
The website often posts activities that relate to current holidays or something going on in pop culture, making it easy to tie in the activities with something your students are interested in. As the name suggests, they also often involve food examples in their activities, so some of these will probably play better around lunchtime.
Mathsframe is a UK website with nearly 200 interactive math games for students to play. The games focus on a variety of math types and levels.
Games like Maths Invaders and Mine Mayhem use a Star Wars-esque set up to get students invested in getting arithmetic problems right. Other games more directly tackle real-world situations like the ones on Reading Scales and Adding Time. They even have a section that organizes the games by common core standards.
Most of these games are free if you play them on a desktop (although some require you to register). If you want to access them on other devices, they’ve made apps available through Google Play and iTunes (for iOS devices) for about $2 a piece, or $6.99 for a bundle of games.
Here’s a brand you know and trust. PBS has been providing quality learning materials for decades. They now have a number of videos and other interactive resources available on their website that look at math in different contexts, like Math Magic and Money Math.
The site lists the grade level for which each resource is appropriate. You do have to create an account to access them if you don’t already have one, but it’s free and fairly quick to do so.
Absurd Math is a multi-level math game that sends the player out on missions in a world where the most powerful skill is mathematical knowledge. The game presents familiar video game and movie scenarios like having to thwart the potentially catastrophic plans of an evil scientist and save an alien creature from mistreatment.
The game is best for middle and high schoolers and tests a range of math concepts including pre-algebra, geometry, and logic.
The Illuminations site provides lesson plans, interactive activities, mobile games, and brainteasers that teachers can bring into their lessons. The interactive activities include games that teach basic concepts, like counting coins, up to more complicated ones for older students, like building fractals.
The website is run by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, so the resources on the site should align pretty well with your lessons. In addition to the games and activities, the site also makes available over 600 lesson plans.
Get the Math is another site devoted to providing videos and interactive experiences that show students the role math plays in life outside of the classroom. They have musicians talking about how they use math when it comes to things like tempo and rhythm. They talk to a fashion designer about the mathematics of affordably creating clothes for a target price range.
The curriculum highlights six different professions in which math plays a key role, and presents problem scenarios within these professions for the student to solve. The website has a section for teachers that includes lesson plans and general tips for working the material into your classes.
Multiplication.com provides a mix of free and paid material to teach kids about math. Included in the free resources are a Fact Navigator that helps students learn their multiplication tables, quizzes, and a large number of games.
Johnnie’s Math Page collects a number of interactive math activities into a few of the main categories students encounter in school. While the website looks a little more outdated than the others on this list, the categories are all illustrated with animated animal gifs that kids are likely to get a kick out of.
The site isn’t the source of most of the games included; rather it brings many math games available elsewhere on the web into one place. The result is a pretty wide variety of ways for students to interact with different mathematical concepts online.
For the audial learners in your class, the Math Dude podcast covers a range of mathematical topics and lessons in a way that keeps listeners entertained. The reviews in the iTunes Store make it clear that the podcast is already in use by many educators in their courses and that it’s popular with the non-mathematically inclined along with math whizzes.
Teaching STEM in ways that students can relate to is a hot topic in education these days. However,often when the issue is raised, Math tends to be the overlooked letter in the mix, but it bears comparable importance to the others and should gain an equal amount of attention in conversations around teaching STEM creatively. Hopefully these resources can give you a head start!