Age: 7 & 10

Once Astroboy has mostly mastered his multiplication through various work such as Reflex Math and Speed: Multiplcation, I whipped out the 24 game that I bought from Amazon months ago.

We’ve been playing it in the car for a few months, of and on.  It’s a great road trip game if your kid likes games.  Thumper, not so much.  So she only joins when she has no better things to do in the car.

What is 24

I first learned about 24 from my public school teacher classmates in Montessori training.   It’s a way for kids to practice mental math and get their basic math operations down.

Each card in the 24 deck has 4 numbers.  You’re supposed to figure how how to use +,-,×,÷ to get these 4 numbers to 24.

For example, if you see 1,2,3,4, you can get to 24 by

• 1 x 2 x 3 x 4 = 24
• (1+2+3) x 4 = 24
• (3 x 4) x 2 x 1 = 24
• (3+1) x (4+2) = 24

Yes, the 3rd and 1st one are the same but to the kid who hasn’t learned commutative property, they think it’s different.

The cards have 1-3 dots to denote difficulty level.

How We Played

We’ve been playing this game in the car when we take long road trips, or when Astroboy tells me he’s bored.

It’s taken me a few years to realize it’s okay to help kids figure things out.  They always hate it and give up when something is too hard to learn.   It’s not failure on my part to need to teach at n+1 level.

All this to say, the firs few times, I readily offered the kids the answer to show them how it’s done.  Taking care to not say it in the “Why couldn’t you think of it?”, impatient way I’m often inclined to do.

“Oh! I know, 1 x 2 x 3 x 4 = 24!”, when he started sounding frustrated or when a minute has passed.  Yes some kids will hate you for telling them the answer, you just have to know your kid.

In the beginning, the kids are apt to only calculate the numbers sequentially.   I had to show Astroboy that you can do order of operation.  Namely (1+2) x (3×4).

The next hard concept was using × and ÷.  You tend to need to do that on the 3 dot cards, which often have large numbers on them.    Instead of giving kids the answer, I ask them if they want a hint, and tell them the operations I used.

It’s amazing to me how fast Astroboy got the hang of it and didn’t get too discouraged when he couldn’t figure things out fast enough.   But I notice that some kids get very frustrated (cough Thumper cough), especially in the beginning when they’re just learning the game.   I guess this takes some skillful teacher to lead them over the hump, which I’m not.

Sigh.

Lastly, it is important to not push the issue when they don’t want to play anymore.  So so hard for me.

24 is a really great way to learn how to do mental calculation.  I’ve noticed that even though both kids don’t do paper math too fast or well, when it comes to day to day usage of numbers, they’re rather quick.   So I try to remind myself when I’m freaking out about whether or not they’re at grade level that it’s all okay.  A lot of adult math we use are totally NOT the way we learned math in school.

For example, when I add, subtract or multiply , I tend to work from left to right mentally, with lots of estimation.   So for 367+356 I would get 600 first then add the results of 56 and 67 to 600.

Only when the number gets too big to hold do I use the elementary method.  But I’m more likely to just pull out a calculator at this point.   I once read that estimation is actually used way more in real day to day life but we don’t teach it enough.

But all this is tangent.  Verdict for 24?   A good, fun way to learn mental math and get your very low level math facts down during those long car rides!  Don’t buy if you don’t play with your children.

There are also other 24 editions, for fractions, decimals, bigger numbers etc, which I will buy after Astroboy has mastered this deck

There’s even an app.  But I don’t recommend the app.  You tap the operations out and it loses a bit of the mental math aspect when you can see your numbers and equation in front of you.

There are various combo packs and versions available on Amazon.  Some of the games are cheaper at the official website.

Single & Double Digit 2 pack (The one I bought)

Tournament Trio – single, doubles, variables (Kinda wish I’d bought this one from the official website.  So much cheaper assuming good shipping.)

Fractions/Decimals (contemplating this one)

Integers (positive/negative numbers)

Algebra/Exponents (that’s just crazy!)