Tag Archives: math

Sunya ~ a TOS review

Sunya game
Math. Normally this would be followed by {sigh}. Sunya Publishing changed that. At least a little bit! This brand new company is producing a brand new math game that we have really enjoyed here At Home: Sunya – The Magic and Wonder of Math and Science Multiplying & Dividing.

Now, we don’t typically go around laughing and giggling over math games. But this one? We did. I used this as a fun one-on-one game with Miss E in order to review her multiplication and division facts. It worked great! She laughed, giggled, and beat me every single time. I kid you not! Every time!

The name of the company – Sunya (pronounced Soon-ya) – comes from Sanskrit, an ancient language from India. This word means “empty or void of any quantity.”

This is a simple card game. Really it boils down to simply making true mathematical sentences with the cards. Then, using the cards in your hand, you have to change the existing mathematical sentence to a new one. You have to change at least one card. The first person to play all of the cards in their hand wins. Simple as that!

One rule that we adored? While you are working to rid your hand of cards, you are able and encouraged to collaborate with the other players when someone is stuck. No struggling on your own! Team work!
Sunya number sentences

Oh – and the winner gets the reward of choosing a card from the math and science fact and riddle card pile. These cards are simply challenging, funny, or strange math and science facts or riddles. It is very tempting to just spend a while reading through all of these and getting all the fun facts and trying all the riddles right away. But don’t! Save it for a win and then savor the joy of challenging your opponent with whatever is on the card you pick.

Now, we basically only played the first type of game with these cards. There are additional rules that you can use if you want something much more challenging or if you want to make it more competitive. There are rules for Sunya Multiplying & Diving Game II, Solitaire Sunya, Team Sunya, and Sunya 400. We did not venture into these rules and games.

Sunya – The Magic and Wonder of Math and Science Multiplying & Dividing comes with a School and Homeschool Teacher/Parent Guidebook (comb bound with slick cardstock covers), a set of 60 Sunya playing cards, and a set of 30 math and science fact and riddle cards. We also received a small number line to assist if needed. That is all you need to play the game.
studying Sunya cards

When you get ready to dig into the instructions, I want you to remember that it is easier to play the game than the rules read. The rules are addressing every single possible issue that might be had but really, just play. Don’t over think it and have fun. Make number sentences that are true; have the next player change at least one part of the sentence while still making it true, and continue on. Don’t stress over these rules. They are very simple. Just play and have fun! When you need clarification on something, then pull out the rules but don’t read them too hard.

The Guidebook was sent to us mostly in black and white printing but a couple of the pages were in color. This was done to ask our opinion about which we liked best. I don’t know what the final printing of it will look like. I think the color pages looked nicer but they certainly were not necessary and did not add anything to the understanding of the game.

In the back of the guidebook, there are fun facts and quotes that can really enhance the learning. We are going to be covering these with some notebooking soon. The girls will learn about the history of our number system, what Sunya means, a bit about the language of math and its history. There is also a glossary, examples of the parts of number sentences, famous math quotes, and copies of the math and science fact cards. There is plenty of learning that can come out the Guidebook, as well!

Math and Science {Sunya Publishing Review}
One other note: I would love to see the two card decks have different backs. It would be less confusing on the playing surface to not have two card decks that looked the same. Also, it would make it much easier to separate them when they get mixed up .

I have no complaints about this game. It has been fun and brought plenty of giggles. Plus, Miss E practiced her math facts in multiplication and division while having fun. Sunya is a win-win for us.

At Home.
Math and Science {Sunya Publishing Review}
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Times Tales by Trigger Memory ~ a TOS review

TOS review

I’ll be honest and say my girls were less than thrilled when I brought out Times Tales for review. The Trigger Memory Co.  has this neat little product that we have been using for the past month or so and it has been such a good thing.

The Trigger Memory Co REVIEW
I had wanted to try out Times Tales for a while. I even tried to get it through the library. Somehow, it had never worked out until now. And, as so many things seem to be, it was perfect timing. Everyone’s brains were ready to absorb this information.

All three of the girls – Miss E (age 11), Miss L (age 9), and Miss J (age 7) – were a part of this process. I did not really expect Miss J to learn a lot but I figured exposure is fantastic and if she picks anything up, it’s all bonus. Miss L has been working on multiplication for a bit now and Miss E understands the concept well but struggled with the memorization of the facts.viewing on TV

Times Tales is a downloadable product. We received a download file that contained two mp4 video files and three PDF files. The mp4 video files were Part 1 and Part 2 of the video. The three PDF files were flashcards, game cubes, crossword puzzles, and tests. These materials cover the following multiplication facts: 3×6,3×7,3×8,3×9,4×6,4×7,4×8,4×9,6×6,

So, as the program recommends, we put on the video for Part 1 and watched it. We watched it several times during the first week. We also printed out the game cubes and Miss E and Miss J played. We used the crossword puzzle. And we worked through the challenges on the video several times. Then, we let that marinate for a week before diving into Part 2. Part 2 worked the same way as Part 1. We watched it some on the computer and sometimes we used ChromeCast to send it over to the television for watching.

on the computer

By the end of the Part 2 week, the girls knew their multiplication facts. It worked that well for them. Why you ask? Well, let’s take a look at that.

Times Tales is a video format that uses fun stories and visual aids to enhance memory. By putting together a story in an exact order, they have recreated the multiplication fact. When it came time for the girls to recall those facts, they just had to recreate that story in their heads and then translate it to numbers. Which was actually pretty easy because of the way Times Tales handles it. The Trigger Memory Co. refers to these image stories as a mnemonic-process.

Take a look at the Times Tales website and spend a few minutes viewing their sample video. It is in the lower left corner of their homepage. You really do need to view the sample in order to fully appreciate this product. They also have a video of a young student going through the process that you can see on their website.

game cubes

But wait – there is one more thing. In addition to the multiplication facts, this visual story setup does something else. It teaches division facts with no trouble at all. Miss L has not worked with division at all yet. But after going through Times Tales, she knows her division facts. We are now working on teaching the concept to go with the facts that she knows.

Miss E has struggled for a few years to memorize the multiplication facts. They are now memorized along with the division counterparts. Miss L knows them all, as well. Miss J knows most of the upper times tables thanks to Times Tales. I am very pleased with this product and more than happy to recommend it.

Three notes –

  1. We had a little bit of problem with the printing of the Mrs. Milkfiles from the download. The videos were absolutely no problem. It was a simple enough fix and I just had to take one of the pages and print it as an image from the PDF file.
  2. It did take a long time to download. Be prepared to just sit and let it download. The first time I downloaded, I tried to multitask on the computer. Well, it rebelled and the computer crashed. The second time, I just let it do its thing and sat here with a book. No problems that time.
  3. The first time the older two girls saw the video, they thought it was way to cheesy for them to have to sit through. I told them they didn’t have a choice. After the first few minutes, they enjoyed the older style of animation a lot. And they definitely benefitted from my insistence. Truly, though, they came to enjoy it a lot. So much that Miss E created another character that she thought needed to be in the tales. Meet Mrs. Milk, a character for the numeral 1.

At Home.

The Trigger Memory Co REVIEW
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A Book Review for Math

Math doesn't suck pin imageI am reviewing this because I like it. I bought the book and have received nothing from the company or author for this review.

Okay, I have not been blunt about our math struggles but I have mentioned them over the past couple of years. Well, I was at a local bookstore looking for a math series that was recommended to me when I stumbled up on a very interesting find.

Do you know Danica McKellar? I didn’t know the name but evidently, most people will. Does The Wonder Years or The West Wing ring a bell? Yep – she’s THAT actress. Well, she evidently had problems with math when she was younger but was able to overcome. She even quit acting for a while to go to college and get a MATH DEGREE! She is back in acting but is also writing now. And she wrote a math book. Hmmm. . .

Well, I picked it up because, honestly, the title got me. I don’t like the title but I love the book! The title is “Math Doesn’t Suck: how to survive middle school math without losing your mind or breaking a nail.” I picked it up and read the first few pages and knew I was buying that book. It has been a great addition for us already.

I have read about half of it, laughing quite a bit and learning more about math than I knew. I’ll keep on reading until I am done. Then, I’ll be going through it again. Because Miss E is going through it.

Miss E had read through the first chapter. Without complaint! AND – get this – she has laughingly done the math exercises! WOOHOO!!!! Of course, when you get to draw monkey and palm trees with the numbers it does make it more fun. Factors and factoring and prime factors – check. Easy as that. We did save a couple of the exercises on prime factoring to do tomorrow after some sleep and today’s exercises to see how much stuck. But, absolutely no fuss or even a hint of one! I am so excited!!!!

I’ll give you a quick idea about what is covered:

  • factors, prime factors,
  • fractions (simple, complex, adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, mixed, improper, etc.)
  • order of operations
  • decimals
  • converting fractions to decimals and back
  • percentages and converting to and from fractions and decimals
  • ratios
  • rates
  • proportions
  • unit conversions

With a joyful, easy conversation, Danica brings to world of numbers down to a case that makes sense. The start of every chapter shows where in REAL LIFE math helps you out. It is a situation that many teens and tweens will understand and relate to. Some not. But the situations are fun (and funny) just the same. Danica takes the struggle out of the math and, dare I say it, makes it fun!

I can’t wait to work through more of this with Miss E. Might just bring math to life in a way that she understands. I am still looking to get the series that I went to the bookstore for but this is a fantastic find along the way.

At Home.

Eat Your Math Homework ~ a TOS review

Ann McCallum Eat Your Math HomeworkIn our home this is almost never true: math=fun. However, Ann McCallum Books  made that happen! We have been using her book Eat Your Math Homework and laughing and learning and eating fun foods all at the same time. We have been having fun learning math!

If you are looking for a hands-on method to teach mathematical concepts and have your kids working with those ideas in a way they will understand, Eat Your Math Homework: Recipes for Hungry Minds is going to be right up your alley. This is a cook book and a math book rolled into one. With these recipes your students will grasp some pretty advanced concepts and illustrate them for you with their food.

We did each of the lessons as a family and everyone participated. That means we had a 6 year old, a 9 year old, and an 11 year old learning these math concepts. Sometimes, we even had our good friend who is working on her graduate degree in math with us. Now that was fun! She even had fun with this math book.

We modified a couple of the recipes due to food allergies, but that wasn’t hard for us. Each of the recipes were yummy and they were all pretty different. The foods were good and making them was fun, as it brought all of us into the kitchen together.

The lessons included work with the Fibonacci sequence, tessellations, fractions, probability, and more. The girls learned vocabulary words like diameter, circumference, variable, constant, infinite, and pi. There was even more. And they didn’t just get exposure to them. They used these words; they applied them to the food in front of them. So these words became part of their learning through application. We have heard these vocabulary words used outside of the context of the kitchen so I know that there was something learned. Yes, the 6 year old is still trying to figure out the difference between a radius and circumference but she has been exposed to them and seen how they are used. The next time she encounters these words, they will make a lot more sense to her.

Here are some of the results of the lessons, some as they were being made and some just before they were gobbled up:

The lesson on pi fell at a fun time for us, our normal Friday night pizza night. Here one is measuring and another is working with the calculator to see how finding pi works for this size pan.


Fruit is always a favorite snack so it was great fun to play with various sequences on sticks.

Eat Your Math Homework

Measuring is just an everyday use of math but it is still fun to have all the girls with me in the kitchen to bake something.

making brownies

The result of that baking was a fun dessert that we got to play with after the math lesson was finished.

brownies products

Ann McCallum did a great job with this book and I am hoping to get my hands on some of her other Eat Your Homework books soon. There is Eat Your Science Homework and
Eat Your U.S. History Homework, in addition to a couple of other books: Rabbits, Rabbits Everywhere: A Fibonacci Tale and Beanstalk: The Measure of a Giant.

Now, I won’t say that this has made math our favorite subject but the hands on fun definitely added to the acceptance of math in our lives. After all, who doesn’t love some math when you get to make and play with your food!

At Home.


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SimplyFun – a TOS review

SimplyFun challenge

Do you believe that play has a purpose? SimplyFun does. This company strongly believes that play can make the world a better place, increase learning, and build bonds and strengthen family ties through interactive and educational games such as Shape Whiz.

Shape WhizReviewing Shape Whiz has been a blast and it is one of those products about which our family has said “I can’t believe we got to review this! It is so much fun!” Begging to pull the game out night after night, we have played this game several times a week since we got it. We have enjoyed being together and playing together. That doesn’t even touch on all the math – yes, math! – that the girls learned.

Math/Geometry and critical thinking skills are the focus of the academic learning with Shape Whiz. The math skills include things such as area, perimeter, and angles. Terminology includes greater than, less than, parallel, sides, line of symmetry and more. The learning is so engrained now that these are almost every day language for the girls; they are not just for math time anymore. Playing Shape Whiz so much has helped the girls see these things in every day life and application. It is wonderful!

set up to playCritical thinking skills show up throughout the game, as well. To play, you have a mathematical statement that you have to find the answer for. It isn’t really a question, more a phrase. Something like “< two lines of symmetry”. Or maybe “perimeter of > 8”. (Some of these took quite a bit of out loud discussion between At Home Dad and I to decide what it was asking for but once we figured out the patterns, it made all of them easier to read.) Each player has shape cards turned up in front of them that may or may not answer the statement. The players are racing to find the card that fits the statement. There can be more than one right answer or no cards that fit the statement. This is challenging your thinking skills and forcing a player to be able to verbally defend their answer choice when another player questions the card.


We played this game several different ways, modifying it for the youngest member of our family to be able to participate. At 6 years old, she could not compete with her older sisters in speed since we had to explain a lot of the terminology to her. So, when she was playing, the person turning the statement card over had to read it out loud and then each person had to give her a chance to answer it first. Then every one could jump in and race to answer the it. When I played with just me and her, we just answered the questions together one by one, learning the words and phrases. She picked up on a lot of the concepts and ideas quickly.

When we played without the 6 year old, we tried to play it by the rules. The first couple of times were hard; it is definitely a game that you learn the rules by playing. We played with just the blue cards for a while, as these were the simpler shapes making the answers a bit easier to find. Once the girls became a bit more familiar with the terms and application of the concepts, we switched to just the green cards with the more difficult, less straight-forward shapes (such a tear drops and semi-circles). We did mix the cards some to play, as well.

Shape Whiz box

This is a definite hit for our family. We will be using this game a lot. It is fun to see the girls mathematical reasoning skills growing by leaps and bounds through a game that can be played in 30 minutes or less. Even a busy family can find 30 minutes to spend together playing a game.

Building Smarter Kids and Stronger Families through the amazing Power of Play! – that is SimplyFun.

If you would like to experience the power of play, visit SimplyFun. They have offered At Home readers a discount code that is available through July 31, 2015. At checkout, just use the code SHREVIEW for 15% off of your first purchase. You can’t beat that. I have been eyeing a couple of their items to use this code with. I imagine you’ll find something, as well.

At Home.

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A+ Interactive Math – a TOS review

I used to love math. Unfortunately that got away from me and I have struggled with a love/hate thing with math since high school. I want badly to not pass that along to my children and we are struggling to find the right fit for each of them with math. I was happy to be given the opportunity to review a product by A+ Interactive Math. There are a couple of products that A+ has available. The Adaptive Placement Test and Individualized Lesson Plan is what we have been reviewing.

A+ Interactive Math Review

test screenThe Adaptive Placement Test and Individualized Lesson Plan is an interesting concept. The student will enter the program and begin a placement test on a concept such as Number Sense or Fractions. The test is considered adaptive because during the test, the program is monitoring for correct and incorrect answers. When the program determines that answers are incorrect at a concerning level, it will pull up a set of questions for a lower grade level to allow the student to try those questions. This will continue until the program has determined the grade level at which your student is successful with the concept. At this point, the Individualized Lesson Plan is generated. If no issues were determined, the student is considered “at grade level” and can move on to another concept. If the student answered questions incorrectly, the program will generate a lesson plan for the student.

The student will then go to the lesson plan for that concept and be able to see the lessons that need to be completed. After going through each of the lesson plans for the concept, the child is supposed to take the Adaptive Placement Test again. If at this point, there are no issues, your child will be marked as “at grade level” and can move on to the Adaptive Placement Test for the next concept. If the test determines that there are still some parts that are not understood, a new Individualized Lesson Plan is created for the student to work through.dashboard screen


Each lesson in the lesson plan consists of a couple of pieces. When you click on a lesson plan, you are taken to another screen where you then choose either the Multimedia Lesson with Interactive Q&A or Online Worksheets. The student will view the Multimedia Lesson, which is fairly short, and answer the questions. This is followed by a set of 5 – 10 questions. The student works the question and answers it. I am not sure why this called interactive because we did not feel there was any interaction at all.

After answering the questions, the parent can decide whether or not the student needs to work on the worksheets for more practice. These are online. I could not find a way to print them off. Each worksheet is just more questions for the concept.

As a parent, I was excited to see a product that is supposed to test your child and adapt to help your child work to their potential. There are some strong points to this program. The Adaptive Placement Test can help you determine if your child is on grade level. In many states, this is of significant value. The Placement Test can help determine which concepts your child is struggling with. For many parents who struggle to teach math, this does some of the teaching for you with the video instruction.

As a student, if you enjoy working fairly independently, this is a great program for you. If you do well with video lessons, this program might be a good fit for you. If you do well with math, this might be a good program for you to look into but if your child often needs reteaching, this program will not work.

We found out very quickly that this was not a good fit for our family. There are several reasons but there are two biggies.

1 – The test became extremely long for one child who was struggling with the concept. I let her quit the test after it exceeded 30 minutes. This created major tension and frustration and she was hesitant to try again with another test because she was afraid it might get too long, as well.

2 – We have determined that our girls do not do well with video instruction in math. They often need concepts presented in multiple ways with different words used each time. This program does not have the ability to adjust the teaching to the student which is something our girls need.

 One last thing I would like to make you aware of is that we experienced some technical issues while using this product. A couple of times we were unable to login or got an error message when logging in. That seemed to resolve after a day or so. More than once one of the girls was taking a placement test and she was kicked out in the middle of it. It did not record her progress so she had to retake the test or she wouldn’t get any of the lesson plans she needed. These were definite points of frustration with this program and I hope that the vendor is able to address them quickly because this is a program with a lot of amazing potential.

A+ Interactive Math Review

Please read some more of the reviews by clicking on the banner below. There are lots of folks out there for whom this program is a good fit and their reviews will look really different from mine. So please go check them out. There is also a sale coming up with 40-50% off of the Family Math Package and the Adaptive Placement Test and Individualized Lesson Plan. The sale will run from 5/4/2015 – 5/18/2015. There are also some freebies on A+ Interactive Math that will help you determine if their program is a good fit for your family.

At Home.


A+ Interactive Math Review/

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Orphs of the Woodlands – a TOS review

Have you ever wished that your child’s favorite thing could be used to teach them their least favorite things? Well, get a taste of it with Orphs of the Woodlands. This is an online education resource and game that combines reading with experiencing hundreds of tidbits of knowledge.
Star Toaster introduced their first book in the Orphs of the Woodlands series not too long ago. It is titled The Treasure of HighTower and our family was thrilled to get the chance to review it.

TOS review

The Treasure of HighTower did not disappoint. Star Toaster has created a story line about a squirrel, whom your child gets to name, that becomes a spy and helps to rescue orphaned forest creatures. The story is so exciting, so full of adventure, that the girls had a hard time not reading all the way through it in pretty quick succession. They wanted to just keep reading. But, if they did that, they were going to miss an important and exciting part of the program.

As the story goes along, Spy (what we’ll call the squirrel for the time being) runs into orphans, or orphs, that need help. If Spy doesn’t learn what is put before him in his day to day life, he won’t have the money to provide the help these orphs need. So, Spy must learn and pay attention and do the jobs in order to earn money and rescue the orphs. The more NID (New Information Daily) that is learned, the better Spy does on his jobs and the more money he has to rescue and provide for the orphs.

experiencing lessons


Now, don’t misunderstand. These are fun jobs! I mean, who wouldn’t want to be in charge of creating the exact color of paint needed for the HighTower Highbrow Museum of Art? Or what about being a number namer for the bank? Letter Linguist? Synonym Specialist? Maybe you want to bake something for the Badger Bakery? Whatever you want to try out, there is a job for you!

How do you get these jobs? Begin reading the book at the beginning. After each chapter is completed, there are new jobs that you can work. Each job completed correctly will pay gold stars, with which you can take care of the orphs. Do a good job and more orphs will come to be taken care of. The girls loved seeing how many orphs appeared at the end of each chapter.

discovering moreI want to share a couple of thoughts about the product. I am impressed with this product. It has done a wonderful job of exposing the girls to about 240 different aspects of learning. (This is how many jobs were completed by E when she had finished the book.) Some of the jobs reappear with a bit more difficult learning tucked in there but I don’t consider the girls to have gotten significant instruction on most of these topics. They were definitely exposed to them and it opened up a world of ideas to the girls, which is fantastic. (We took several “rabbit trails” to explore some of these worlds of ideas based on the information presented.) This does in no way diminish the quality or worth of this program. The more exposure the girls have with more difficult concepts in a familiar context, the easier those concepts are for them to learn.

Reading is the bridge for this program. You definitely need to have a good reader with good comprehension for this program. The range for this program is suggested 4th – 7th grades. I think this is a good range but it could easily stretch younger or older. My 3rd grader was easily able to read it but she loves to read. There are lots of words she didn’t know but there are rollovers embedded in the story that give the part of speech and several synonyms in varying degrees of difficulty for the word. There are also rollovers for quotes and ideas that are shared as part of the story, exposing the reader to thoughts of great thinkers from all walks of life.

quote and vocabulary

Because this is an online program you will need to purchase a subscription for the book and you will need a computer to read and complete the jobs. I hope everyone has easy access to a computer because this was worth the time and effort. The girls learned so much and I have a much better idea about some of the curriculum choices we need to make for them because I saw how much they enjoyed learning that was embedded in reading a story.

As I close this review, I want to share one more thing that we absolutely loved about Orphs. Throughout the book, there are videos. Prof. Forp is the instructor and he is hilarious! He cracks jokes that help them remember information and repeats things in such a way that they are remembered AND make sense. You can see an example of his video on the Star Toaster home page. The girls, E especially, really enjoyed the Professor.  And I loved the jokes. This is one I can wholeheartedly say “Go check out.”

free trial

We are waiting anxiously for the next book to come out in the Orphs of the Woodlands series by Star Toaster. If this sounds interesting to you, they have a free trial that you should check out. (Psst – this would also be a fantastic addition to a summer reading program.)

At Home.


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