Secret Codes, Multiplication, and Making Memories: Deciphering Clues on the Mountain.


It is time to have the kids explore the mountain.  One likes to decode, the other one needs help in multiplication, and the younger one needs to remember a clue from the book I read to her. What better way to get them moving out and about than a scavenger hunt!

The idea was to write four different clues. The first clue, both boys could figure it out.  This idea came from a childhood of mine, “The Secret Three”.  The boys had to place the secret note in front of a mirror to read it.  The second clue gave one a chance to decipher a simple code as he really enjoys doing them. Clue #2 had to do with assigning numbers to each letter of the alphabet.  It eventually led them to their favorite place to go sledding.

The next clue needed to help my other son with his multiplication. In order to do this, Clue #3 had to do with numbers assigned to letters, but those numbers were products that needed to be calculated through multiplication.  The answer led them to the next clue, which was where we had our fairy garden outside.

The younger one needed to feel she was able to help out by remembering an important part of a book I read to her. It also helped her with rhyming words. 🙂  The answer to the next clue had to do with finding it in a secret room in the house and eventually being led to the prize.  It was a lot of fun and took about 30 minutes for them to get the prize, cookies and hot chocolate! Yum! Here are pictures of each clue:

Something to Think About:

There is a new excitement to teach children how to code on the computer. What I feel is a great introduction though, is to go back to old school secret codes and scavenger hunts. The kids really need to get intrigued by wanting to decipher something and it builds on their critical thinking. By getting them started to learn how to decipher different types of codes and clues, it really gets them to understand how symbols and numbers can be associated to different commands when they get to using code on the computer.  This activity also gets my kids to go outside and explore the mountain, so this also ties into the importance of being in Nature. I plan to do more of this with them in the future!

The one thing I would do differently is to give them each a different clue to take them on their own scavenger hunt and to color code them to help them keep track. There was a time when one was working on the code while the others played nearby.  It worked, but I really wanted them to all be engaged at the same time.

The important thing is to get them excited about math and using it outside, especially if it involves cookies and hot chocolate as the end all of prizes! Enjoy!

copyright 2018 Christina Grossman. All Rights Reserved




It’s All in the Cards: Working with Numerical Operations in One Game!


While I worked at a university to offer professional development to other teachers, my colleague and I offered a workshop on card games to help with computational skills.  We both explained that it is best to have the children understand the concepts first before doing these games, because if not, they would just be games and not supplementals for learning.  It should be fun and have a connection to meaning as well.  What is great about playing with cards is that, as parents, we do not need to have any set up time to do this.  It also gets us to do something as a family and gets us at the dinner table to interact.  It has great benefits too with siblings, having them play together.

I think many of us parents want to know how to help our child in “knowing the facts”, but sometimes the only resource we have is printing off worksheets from the internet.  What if you had a deck of cards, or number cards, at home that could do just that, help your child with numerical operations like addition, subtraction, and multiplication?  Well, you can 🙂

Have you ever played the card game “War”?  Well, it is much like that.


  • You need 1 deck of cards
  • Or number cards
  • Take out the Joker cards if you have a deck of playing cards and do not use the 0 card in the number cards (you can if you wish)
  • Ace cards count as a 1.  King, Queen, and Jack cards count as 10 (you may want to take these out at first as it may be confusing).
  • Each player (2 players at most) gets 7 cards each.
  • Count to three and each player puts out 1 card on the table, face up.
  • The first player who can subtract the cards (larger value-lesser value) gets the pair
  • The player with the most pairs, wins
  • To make this more with learning and helping to remember the answers, have the player say it aloud to get the pairs after the first run.
    • Example:  “10 minus 6 is 4”, or “10 times 4 is 40”.
    • Once the winner get the pair, have them both write out the equation, or written sentence of the math problem.
      • Example (1):  Ten minus six is four, or 10 minus 6 is 4 (written sentence of what they said verbally).
      • Example (2):  10-6=4 (written equation)
  • Note:  Have the players play this with just the cards for a few tries.  Then have them play one to two rounds with verbally saying the math problem and/or writing it down.  Make if fun first!  You might want to include some crackers or popcorn to use as tools to figure out the subtraction too!

Something To Think About:

At this moment, my son understands the concept of subtraction and counts with his fingers from time to time.  Counting with fingers is a strategy that helps the child with subtraction.  I tend to look up in the air to one corner to think about the subtraction because I am visualizing it in my head and that is a strategy.

There are a number of ways to think about subtraction whether you build a model, draw a picture, verbally explain your thinking, act it out, or write an equation on it to compute.  Sometimes we need blocks, fingers, or pictures to help us think about certain operations like subtraction, addition, and so forth.

Always remember that we can do this game as adults to help us strengthen our memory as well.  Doing this card game is never a reflection on our intelligence.  Regardless of where we are at in life with mathematics, from time to time, we need a bit of a mental warm up.  If stretching and warming up your muscles before exercising is recommended, then so should doing some mental exercises for math!  🙂  Enjoy and have fun!

copyright 2018 Christina Grossman. All Rights Reserved

Baking with Arrays: Cookie Multiplication and Division Made with Love


This particular batch of cookies are shortbread cookies and the filling is from using the last bit of jams that we had in the our kitchen. 🙂   

The weather is finally getting cooler and we can begin using the oven for baking!  Baking is a great time to learn about mathematics!  The best part of it is making arrays with the cookies.   An array is an arrangement of objects, pictures, or numbers in columns and rows.  An array is especially easy to make when we place the cookie dough onto the cookie sheet.  The reason for me even doing this is because I am working with my oldest son on how to think about multiplication in several different ways.  One way to think about multiplication is by making arrays of columns by rows to find the total product.  The most important part of multiplication, for me, is also learning how to apply the multiplication to everyday things in his life.

Before baking the cookies, the instructions on the box/recipe will tell you how many cookies the mixture will make.  Ask the question out loud about how many dollops of cookie dough can fit onto one oven sheet.  For this particular batch, we were able to make 30 cookies.

After the cookies are baked, the next question I ask my oldest is how many rows do we have on the cookie and how many columns.  For this particular one, we have six columns and five rows.  How many cookies do we can by multiplying 6 and 5?  To get this answer he can count out the total cookies that are on the cookie sheet, or have a chance to figure it out in a different way.


Here comes another situation with having more than one child in the family, how to distribute/divide the cookies equally?  We have three kids in our household who have three different tastes.  One would like to have strawberry jam as a filling.  The second child does not like anything on the cookie.  The third child likes apple butter as a filling.  The conversation is now about division and distribution.  The kids then need to decide how many cookies each of them will have and if it needs to be the same number of cookies.  They need to figure out how to divide thirty cookies by three kids equally.  So they did!  The results are the pictures below. 🙂


Something To Think About:

With your child, you may want to do fewer columns and rows. You can point out small arrays within the bigger array of cookies.  For example, you can make ask how many cookies are in a 2 by 3 array.  How about a 3 by 3 array?  Look at the shapes of these arrays too!  When you make a 2 by 3 array, is this a rectangle, or a square?  When you make a 3 by 3 array, is this a rectangle, or a square?  The answer is that a 3 by 3 array will make a square and visually will make the square number of 9!  Check out a 4 by 4 array on the cookie sheet, is this also a square?  So is 16 a square number, which is 4 multiplied by 4?  How cool is that!

In any case, make this a fun and tasty mathematical exploration.  Always remember that this is not only a time to learn about math, but a time to get together and make something of love! Enjoy!



Copyright 2017 Christina Grossman. All Rights Reserved