Friday, January 31, 2014

Homeschool Math: Roll n' Multiply

My mother gave the kids Roll 'n Multiply for Christmas. I know that these super academic-sounding games can be pretty hit-or-miss--will the game be genuinely fun, or will it be just a fun-sounding trick to get kids to drill facts that they don't feel like drilling?

Roll 'n Multiply? It's genuinely fun!

The key to Roll 'n Multiply being genuinely fun is that 1) it's not torture if you haven't yet memorized the facts, and 2) there is plenty of interesting strategy involved in winning the game.

To play Roll 'n Multiply, you roll two ten-sided dice, multiply them, and place the disc that holds the product onto the game board:

If you can't figure out the product in your head, you can check the multiplication table first:

To win, you need to place four of your discs in a row, but the grid is five-by-five, so there's some tricky strategy involved in playing and blocking and building from the middle. And if you roll a multiplication equation whose product is already on the game board, it gets even more fun--if the piece is already yours, you can leave it or move it somewhere else; if the piece is your opponent's, you can TAKE it! A formerly sound offensive position suddenly becomes vulnerable. A formerly blocked row is now a potentially winning play.

Both kids, but Syd especially, LOVE this game. I had been requiring multiplication table memorization as part of the kids' memory work, but since we've received this game and I've seen how the kids enjoy it, I've been letting them play this game instead; it will definitely make mastering the tables take longer than with just rote memorization, but I think the facts will stick better, AND I don't have to deal with any multiplication table-related tantrums, so there's that.

Although this is a game that the kids will actually play together--

--and I encourage them to do that when I'm especially busy, I really like to play with each child individually:

I can draw the game out, sneakily ensuring that they get more practice with the facts. I can ask them to search their memories instead of reaching for the multiplication table. I can ask them to solve my multiplication problems as well as their own. I can agree when Syd suggests another game and then another game and then another game (My brain dying quietly inside my head each time, but that's the burden of having memorized my multiplication tables). And I can also agree that yes, we should definitely stop in the middle of our fourth game together and instead create a temporary art installation:

I want to say that I should look for a similarly enthralling game or activity for each of the kids' weekly memory work requirements, but for some things, it's just a case of quantity vs. quality. The one downside to the game is that when the kids play it, they spend a lot more time on multiplication memory work each day than they would when stuck with a table to memorize, and although that's a big advantage for what would otherwise be a very dry study, if I made all their memory work this fun, we'd spend half of each school day just doing that! So two minutes of Latin vocabulary flash cards will stay two minutes of Latin vocabulary flash cards, and two minutes of US state fact-sorting will stay two minutes of US state fact-sorting.

When the multiplication tables are memorized, however, then I can see us playing Ancient History Snap, or Periodic Table BINGO, or Hippology Jeapordy, or some other such genuinely fun, super academic game.