What if my child wants to play but isn’t ready even for EasyMathler? Be Mathler-ish!

For Mathematical Minds

What if my child wants to play but isn’t ready even for EasyMathler? Be Mathler-ish!

Spread the love

Children who have only learned addition, or addition and subtraction, might say they’re interested in playing Mathler (perhaps they see an older sister or brother playing), but even EasyMathler uses multiplication and division. You certainly don’t want to squelch any enthusiasm for math, so you can play a paper-and-pencil Mathler-ish game tailored to the skills the child has — all you need is pencil and paper, green and yellow crayons, and (optional) stickers to reward “wins”.

Get ready to play a Mathler-ish game

You will be the Mathler-ish “Puzzlemaster”. You will choose “secret calculations” from among what the child can do. Some possibilities:

  • The addition table: add two numbers, each from 0 to 9. Answers range from 0 to 18.
  • The subtraction table: subtract a one-digit number from a greater one-digit number. Answers range from 0 to 9. (Some children may have learned how to subtract a greater number from a smaller resulting in a negative answer in which case answers can range from -9 to +9.)
  • Adding or subtracting multiple-digit numbers with or without what’s called “regrouping” in this enlightened age — what we used to call “carrying” and “borrowing”.
  • The Multiplication table, 0 * 0 to 9 * 9. Answers from 0 to 81. ; )

Tell your child what kind of expressions you’ll be using!!!

How to Play

Choose an expression your child can handle as the secret calculation and evaluate it to get the target number. Keep the expression a secret — increase the drama by writing it on a slip of paper and folding it, to be opened with fanfare when the the puzzle is solved (no peeking!!)

On your child’s working paper, write the target number and lines to represent the spaces in the expression. Mathler always has the same number of spaces at a level, but you should use spaces that match your calculation. To make solving easier, write the operator(s) in the right place(s).

Let your child make a guess. Be sure it works out to the target number. If it doesn’t, help the child see why it’s wrong and correct it.

Get out those green and yellow crayons and mark up the guess to show how it fits the secret calculation: green for something in the right place, yellow for something that’s In the solution but in a different position. If you put in the operator, don’t forget to mark it!

Especially when you’re starting out it’s pretty easy to make a mistake with the green/yellows; we certainly have! If you notice you’ve made a mistake like that, admit it right away, say you’re sorry you made a mistake, (optionally explain the mistake you made), and move on to a new secret expression and target number.

There’s an important lesson we all need to learn to succeed @ math — mistakes are made, are not the end of the world, and do not mean you’re not good enough to do math. If you have a chance to demonstrate a calm and positive attitude about you or the student having made a mistake, that is a GREAT lesson.

I admit I have on occasion made a mistake deliberately when working one on one with a child to have a chance to deliver that lesson. The importance of this cannot be overemphasized!!! People who do a lot of math get pretty relaxed about discovering they made a mistake — doesn’t mean we like it or that we don’t try to avoid them, just that we accept that mistakes happen. By contrast, a young student can take it hard when a mistake is pointed out. (Adults learning math can have the same reaction! )

Have your child make a new guess: make sure positions marked green stay the same. Encourage your child to talk to you about why they’re making the new guess and how it uses the feedback. Praise good thinking; if they choose something wrong, don’t scold or correct, just ask why until the child sees why it’s wrong and how to correct it or gently show them why it’s wrong.

Continue until the child gets the solution. You don’t have to limit the guesses to 6.


For good work, Praise, praise, praise! Be calm and positive over mistakes.

Limit the number of games you’ll play in one day to 3 or 5. Leave the child wanting more!

Let the child keep a running total of puzzles solved! Maybe adding a sticker to a chart for each puzzle solved.

Let the child make up a puzzle for you and give you the green/yellow feedback on your guesses. Don’t be surprised if the child give you an “impossible” number of spaces at first. All part of the learning process.

An older brother or sister may be able to serve as puzzlemaster, which would be great experience for them. Be sure they know what kinds of “secret calculations” are appropriate and how to mark the greens and yellows It’s a good idea to have them practice giving you puzzles they would use and marking up your guesses. Be sure they know to praise good work and to be helpful with mistakes; praise them when the younger sibling does well. If they are used to the on-line Mathler game it would be good for them to watch you play the Mathler-ish game with the younger sibling. Listen in a bit when they’re playing– both to stop know-it-all attitudes and hard criticism and because you’ll likely hear some precious and heartwarming and hilarious interactions.


Leave a Reply