Your Kids Can Enjoy Maths this Summer!

By Monica McDonnell
On August 9, 2018

Your Kids Can Enjoy Maths this Summer!

When the sun is out, and the inside of a classroom is a distant thought, practicing maths is not high on kids’ summer activity list.  Incorporate maths in a fun activity, and this can change. Making maths fun is best achieved by allowing for exploration and challenges.  Most importantly, include a social aspect to practicing maths skills.  Taking advantage of apps can enable the combination of screen time (normally high on kids’ activity lists), fun, and social interaction.  I have listed a few ways Duck on the Run can be used to put the fun back into maths.  Use these ideas in the app, or with a piece of paper and pen.

Encourage exploration

Simply providing answers to questions is for the classroom.  Summer is for exploration, and Duck on the Run can provide plenty of that.  The most popular for my children is the Shape Shifters mini game. This game builds on the foundational maths skill of creating patterns.  Players should copy the pattern Red Hen has already drawn.  My kids very quickly realized that this is limiting. Instead they use the grid and colour options to create their own patterns.  Shape Shifters[i] allows for exploration around reproducing patterns Red Hen has created, reproducing patterns you create offline, asking the child to draw some basic shapes, or just let their creative skills take over.

The Teach Red Hen mini-game also allows for exploration.  The original idea was to get insight into how your child thinks through simple maths problems. Players need to teach an eager, but not-so-bright, hen how to work through the problem at hand.  The game has been designed so that you can get answers in many different ways.  Red Hen is equally enthusiastic in solving ‘3 + 4’ as ‘3 + 2 + 2’, ‘4 + 3’ as she is in the expected ‘3 + 4’ sequence.  This becomes more fun if your child has an understanding of multiplication.  ‘3 x 4’ can be solved as 3 groups of 4, 4 groups of 3, ‘4 + 4 + 4’ or ‘3 + 3 + 3 + 3’.  This exploration can help children understand one of my fundamental joys of maths:  There is often more than one way to get to an answer, allowing you to play with numbers.

If you would like your child to concentrate more on their speed of answering maths problems, then the main game is a good option.  This does not allow for much exploration, as you are up against the clock.  However, Red Hen can lighten the mood.  Challenge you child to listen to what Red Hen says to distract Pig from his feather-grabbing mission.  Red Hen is not known for saying many sensible things, and her cameos are no different.  Sadly French language players will not get to hear Red Hen say ‘Is today purple?’ as this was too bizarre for my French translator.  Luckily she improvised with a new, rather excellent statement of ‘I’m afraid of vegetables’ – which English and German players will miss out on.

Put a challenge in the middle

The whole concept of Duck on the Run is to put a fun and interesting challenge in the middle of maths problems.  In the main game, this challenge is to keep Duck away from Pig.  With mini games the time pressure is off, and Duck is set some challenges.  Perilous Paving needs Duck to use stepping stones to cross a field. But Duck can only use stones where the result of the maths problem is a specific number.  Path to Paradise requires Duck to complete sequences to get to an island.  Duck and Hen’s bridge is the most complex challenge in Duck on the Run.  This game is for children who understand multiplication, as the bridge can only be built with bricks with multiples of Duck and Hen’s numbers.  Players must sequence the bricks so both birds can cross safely.

Duck on the Run includes Challenge Mode, to provide a slightly different challenge.  The purpose of the main game is to advance through levels of increasingly difficult maths problems.  This means that a child may not get through many levels in any one summer holiday.  Especially younger children who have not yet learnt the fundamentals required for higher levels.  In challenge mode, the level of maths problem does not change.  The player simply needs to see how long they can keep all of Duck’s feathers firmly attached to her bottom.  The many levels in Duck on the Run allow for handicap challenges.  Players can compete against each other despite different skill levels. So adults and children of all ages can challenge each other, simply by playing at the appropriate level – which brings us to the social aspect of making maths fun.

Becoming involved:  The social aspect

Duck on the Run is not designed as an electronic baby-sitter.  Social interaction greatly enhances our learning, and is one of the four pillars of deep learning.  I have tested Duck on the Run with my friends, and with strangers at a games show.  From these tests it is very clear that the children with engaged adults both fared better on the game, and enjoyed the experience more.  A clear reason for this is that a new game is often intimidating, a maths one even more so.  Having an adult walk them through the initial few questions achieves two key factors:

In my experience, only a minute of two of guidance is usually enough to give children the basic understand of the game.  After this, their familiarity with apps in general takes over, and they settle into playing with more confidence.

Drawing on my own family experience, homework is a lot less painful if I get involved.  This has led me to writing out reams of French conjugation, and copying maths worksheets so I can also be seen to be working.[ii]  Duck on the Run challenge mode allows you to demonstrate it’s worth working on improving on maths skills – regardless of age or school attendance.  It turns out we can all use some sharpening of our maths skills, as adult innumeracy is back in the news this year.  As mentioned above, Duck on the Run challenge mode allows family challenges.  Children can play at a level that suits their current skills, whilst adults and teenagers start at level 20.  I can personally vouch for clear benefits of practicing maths skills.  Our family challenge had a significant impact on all our skills.  The adults started by surviving from about 5.5 minutes on level 20 in challenge mode.  After three days, we were happily surviving more than 12 minutes above level 22.  I felt good about this improvement, and my brain seemed just that much more alive whilst playing the game.

Maths can be fun

Whether you enjoy an activity or not is largely dependent on your state of mind.  If you start with a negative state of mind, it’s harder to enjoy an activity.  By participating alongside your children while they improve their maths skills, as well as encouraging exploration and introducing appropriate challenges, you can help your children enjoy maths.  This enjoyment is the start of the virtuous circle of improving any skill:  The more you enjoy an activity, the more you engage in the activity, which leads to improvement in skills and even more enjoyment.

[i] Note that the level of the mini-game is taken from the most recent level played in the main game under that player profile.  To change the mini-game level, open the main game and select a level, answering at least one question.  Then return to the mini-game.  The colour pens are only available on the lower levels of Shape Shifters

[ii] A key driver for me to develop Duck on the Run was saving some trees during maths homework time.  Sadly conjugation is still contributing to deforestation.

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