Bang! And other fun games for learning

I love best when we can tackle a lot of learning concepts and ideas through games and playing.  When we can keep learning light, fun and engaging, the boys are willing to work longer and harder.

I decided to start teaching the boys basic division.  And even though the boys already have a basic understanding of division I did start with a very simple activity.

I gave each of the boys a muffin pan and a pile of beads.  I gave them each thirty beads and asked them to divide them into one group, two groups, three groups, etc.  Until we had divided them into 12 groups and we ran out of muffin tin spots.

We talked about remainders, equal groups, and relating our findings to multiplication problems that they already knew (like 30 divided by 5 equals 6 since 5x6 equals 30).

 They pointed out that the more groups we broke the items into the fewer pieces each group had.  It was a great lesson with just enough challenge that the boys had to think pretty hard but not so challenging that anyone broke down into tears.

two equal groups of 15

With 7 groups we can only have 4 in each tin with
2 left over
Evan has been doing really well with his addition facts and so we went on to some more subtraction practice.  We started subtraction a few weeks ago when we were playing with the plastic cups and Nerf guns.

For today's lesson I pulled out the same cups and gave him a ball.  We played subtraction bowling.

I set up the cups in a triangle shape like at the bowling alley and had him roll the ball at them.  He then told me how many cups he knocked down and how many he had left.  I helped him say his equation as a subtraction sentence.

After the first example he just took off on his own and I noticed that he wasn't even counting the remaining cups after just a few rolls.  He'd tell me that he knocked down three and has 7 left or that he knocked down 2 and had 8 left.   I'm amazed at how fast his number sense is developing.

The ball mostly moved then around and didn't knock that many over

Finally managed to knock down 4 cups with 6 left standing
We watched a Bill Nye the Science Guy movie today for science and learned about genes.  I picked this particular movie since there has been a lot of talk about genes in our house lately.  I can't remember exactly how it came about but the boys have started asking questions about genetics and I hoped that this movie would make it all a bit clearer.

They talked about where they got their blues eyes from, who can roll their tongues and why.  We related the move back to the strand of DNA we watched being extracted from the strawberry at our last science fair.  It was great.  I never thought they'd be interested in or really even understand such complex science ideas.

 Evan and I played a sight word game called Bang.

Using the sight word flash cards I had printed off for our memory game and a few additional yellow cards that just say BANG on them we started our game.

It's very simple to play; just put all the cards into a container (not see through) and then  take turns pulling out a card.  If you can read the word keep it and start a pile, if not put it back in the container. If you pull out a BANG card all of your cards have to go back into the container.  The one with the most cards left at the end of the game wins.

I've seen this game all over Pinterest using anything from number and letter recognition to sight words to addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts.

I plan to have the older boys play division Bang tomorrow (I'll write up the facts on Popsicle sticks instead of flash cards just to change it up a bit).   Evan has such a ball with this game and asked me to save it again so we can play again another day. He didn't even mind that he got Bang! three times in a row; of course it probably helped that he ended with 8 cards and I got a bang!

His pile is growing; look at all the words he knows now!

While Evan and I played Bang I had the older two boys working on some Mad Libs with one another.  We have many to choose from and the boys just love how silly the stories come out.  I love that they're learning part of speech in such a fun way that they don't mind or complain.  They also practice a lot of spelling and reading skills when playing too.

 All in all I think we read/worked on at least 5 different Mad Lib stories.  I think my favorite was the story of the pirate Purple Beard who had a parrot that sat on his eye and jumped.  The boys were shrieking with laughter.  It was wonderful.  They continued to play long after I left their rooms.

At any time during the day if someone was waiting for me to finish up helping one of their brothers I had them work on our family puzzle we set up or else play with our Q-Ba marble maze.  I'm trying to pick a few different things each day to have set up around the house that they can play with in between our subjects.

Evan and Ian were working together and Alec was working by himself and they were arguing over who had the most pieces.  We put real life division into action.  

I read from the box how many total pieces there were of each shape and the boys decided it was most fair to divide them into two equal groups.   Some of the answers were easy; like 20 balls into two groups were 10 each but they really had to work hard to figure out 36 into two equal groups!  Once they had them all divided Alec asked me to go to Q-Ba's website and print off some plans for some marble mazes.

They continued working quietly and nicely and Alec made his butterfly.

Evan and Ian's small maze

Alec's Butterfly maze (boy! were those instructions hard to understand!)
We played a new geography game today called GeoDice.  We LOVED this game!

Geotoys - Geodice - Geography Family Game & Educational Game - Best Board Game to Learn Countries of the World

Evan was even able to play with me acting as his writer.  There are two sides to the game board and you can play with learning the names of the countries, the names of the capitals, or both-- since there are five rounds in a game we used both sides of the board.

I made each boy add up his own score.  Evan was able to help me add using fingers/ counters but before we even added he knew he had won since he had been one point behind Alec and he ended up getting two more than Alec in the final round.

Hard at work during the game searching for names
our final scores-- pretty close game!

It was actually a pretty relaxing day and we all dropped what we were doing when we saw a family of deer crossing the ice.

I love the freedom we have in homeschooling.

To take breaks and watch nature, play with "toys" like blocks, the Q- Ba maze and even to watch a bit of TV or play a few rounds of video games while getting some schoolwork done is really freeing.

Most of the time we have a nice laid back and relaxed kind of day.

Learning happens in fits and spurts and they get to take breaks frequently.  Somehow the boys managed to watch the movie UP!, watch several TV shows, and accomplish all the other schoolwork listed on the blog today.

They're getting really good at multi- tasking too.  They ate snack while working on math, they watched movies and TV while building elaborate mazes and buildings out of blocks, and they worked on coloring while filling out Mad Libs. 

Evan hard at work 


  1. What a fun learning project! It is simple to understand and enjoyable too..

  2. I love the idea of division in muffin tins! My daughter is struggling a bit with her division so I might just borrow that from you! You have the best lesson plans - the learning looks like so much fun. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you! That's always nice to hear.

      My boys all struggled more with division too; it's tricky to picture and understand at first. Borrow away! I'm sure I borrowed that idea from someone else.

  3. So many great ideas and games here, I love learning through play.
    Thank you for joining #FamilyFunLinky x


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