This Simple Math Puzzle Has Made Homeschooling My Preschooler a Lot More Enjoyable

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Like many other parents of young children, I went from being a working mother to a homeschooling mother in a matter of days. Once our state governor closed schools due to COVID-19 precautions, I earned a job title that I was not prepared for: preschool teacher.

I have never taken an education course, let alone received instruction on how to engage and teach a 4-year-old how to write letters and learn math concepts. I am used to dropping my daughter off at her preschool and then being amazed at her ability to write her name perfectly, never questioning the process of making that actually happen. I know I am not alone in feeling like a fish out of water trying to wing it at this homeschooling thing. I've spent a lot of time googling inspiration and asking friends for recommendations or tips.

I am a math geek and have always had a knack for numbers. When my daughter's teacher included the nebulous instruction of "introduce basic math skills," I thought it would be a piece of cake. I aced college-level algebra — of course, I can handle teaching addition and subtraction.

My excitement turned to frustration very quickly. My daughter was not picking up what I was throwing down. When working with a 4-year-old, parents' frustrations typically results in the child's frustration and it is bad news all around. After three days of trying to explain basic math concepts by using different methods that may have included bribery and candy, I finally leaned on a math teacher friend for a lifeline.

I was expecting a math teacher to reel off education theories and a child psychology lesson. To my surprise, her solution to my painful preschool math journey was a simple puzzle that is under $15 and is available online.

The Learning Journey's Match it! Mathematics Puzzle ($13) turns adding and subtracting into a game. This screen-free solution is a collection of sturdy two-piece puzzles that consist of pairs that match up. My daughter was delighted to match up images of dolls and butterflies according to the quantity shown. The set includes 10 addition pairs, 10 subtraction pairs, and 10 counting pairs. To my daughter, playing with this puzzle wasn't school time — it was play time!

This puzzle set has helped this mama manage teaching basic math skills without needing to accompany a lesson with a glass of wine. It makes math a visual game and is so much more fun than what I was trying to do originally. My daughter has grasped the concepts of addition and subtraction very quickly and I love watching her face light up with pride when she completes all of the pairs successfully. Match It! Mathematics has been a saving grace in my new homeschooling world. And will probably be one long after!