Category Archives: Math

Adventures in South Dakota: Mount Rushmore

Our second adventure of the day involved Mount Rushmore. I had been there when I was twelve and was somewhat amazed at the difference. I remembered seeing the faces framed by tunnels we drove through – a beacon ever pulling us on. It was beautiful to see. ¬†We arrived in the line to pay our admission fees without ever once seeing them through a tunnel. I was most disappointed and had to apologize to the girls for getting them all excited over nothing… ūüôā

This is our first view of Mount Rushmore when we got out of the car and were in the memorial. There are flags on all four sides of the pillars celebrating each state and territory of the USA.

Mount Rushmore Entrance

At the end of this walk way, we came to the new observation deck:

Mount Rushmore Observation Deck

I could see people walking on boardwalks under the cascade of rocks behind us – they were up close to them, so I asked one of the Park Rangers how we could do that. ¬†Well, apparently in the years between my visits, they have changed quite a few things to be more publicly accessible. ¬†So imagine my delight when he announces that to the right of me is a trail that leads to a museum that houses a model that Gutzon Borglum constructed to show his design. ¬†Yea! A museum! ¬†And, yes, we can walk to the base by the rocks – the Presidential Trail boasts 280 steps…hmmm!

Mount Rushmore Old Observation Deck

Down the trail we headed. Just around the first curve was the Old Observation Deck that I remembered from my childhood – complete with the telescopes.

Mount Rushmore Telescopes

Inside the museum was a face that the carvers used to make sure they were doing the faces right. The models would dangle over the edge of the mountain and the carvers would consult it. Sounds like a great plan…but the models (which are huge) were only 1/12th the size of the face. In order to carve, you would have to know how to do some math!

Onward we went on this trail….I can promise that there is at least 280 stairs as I climbed many of them twice. (Why do our kids always have to go to the bathroom in the middle of these places – and why, oh why, did we have all girls??? ūüėČ )

Here is one view of Washington from the trail:

Mount Rushmore Trail View

We had a great time hiking around the trail. We enjoyed the mountain air, the wonderful color of the sky, and the various birds and animals that we glimpsed.

Here’s our final picture of Mount Rushmore from the trail:

Mount Rushmore from the Trail

It was getting late in the afternoon and we needed to stop at the store and get to Custer State Park so we could finally camp for the night!


Those pesky little math facts…

Of all the subjects we surround ourselves with in the broad feast of a Charlotte Mason education, math ranks right up there with grammar as my personal hang-up. ¬†I didn’t enjoy either subject in public school, and it can be intimidating to teach something you are not personally fond of. Thankfully, there are people who find JOY in it and share their knowledge. ¬†(I did have a job after college that was MATH all day long *GASP* and, in that instance, I realized that I needn’t be afraid of math. I found satisfaction in organizing those numbers and in making them balance and tally correctly). ¬†Believe it or not, math makes sense when used in context¬†for a real purpose! That is why Charlotte Mason advocated teaching our children math with lots of manipulatives before doing math on paper. ¬†Like nature study prepares us for more advanced science, manipulatives in math prepare us for all those symbols in a math worksheet. ¬†We already know the process, now we are learning the names of the processes.

What does that have to do with the title of this post??? ¬†Well, we are rapidly advancing through the levels of Math U See – and we are trying hard to make sure that we KNOW the math facts inside and out before we progress into unfamiliar territory…that will help our math-phobic kiddos so much with more advanced stuff. ¬†But memorizing a page of facts is hard for most people – ¬†add a processing disorder, and you have a serious dilemma!

I have been pondering for a way to work at memorizing these facts without overwhelming everyone with page after page of problems or hundreds of manipulatives. You can purchase lots of things intended to help your re-call of all these facts on demand, including learning them by singing with classical music.  I looked that one up and decided that I do not want to think of my times tables every.single.time we listen to Mozart, Bach  or Handel.  Ackk!  (Since we listen to them regularly I would go nuts, lol!)

In a previous post, I shared how we memorize scriptures and review our ASL signs.  It occurred to me that a consistent daily 5 minute review of our boxes is working wonderfully well, so I created a math facts box just like the other two.


The box for those review cards is set up similar to our Scripture Memory Box:

  • Get an index card box from Walmart.
  • Get some tab dividers
  • Label the tabs Daily, Odd, Even, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. ¬†Then number a set 1-12. Make one called “TO DO”.
  • Print the free Math Box Cards¬†and cut them apart – (I glued them onto index cards).
  • Place 1 card behind the Daily tab, and the rest behind the “to do” tab.

Start reviewing the card daily. When everyone has it memorized, move it to the “odd” divider. Pull a new one out of the “to do” pile and place it behind the “daily” tab. ¬†Repeat this process as each family is memorized. ¬†You will only say the one behind daily, and any that correspond with that day – odd or even numbered day, day of the week and day of the month. ¬†I went only went to 12 on my days of the month since I was only doing the tables to 12. ¬†When I reach month of the day 13, I will just start over on day 1.

However, I also need them to be able to visualize this in their heads, so I created a Fact Family Tracing Cards that they use their fingers to trace the fact families as we say them.  In this way, they are using as many senses as I can utilize Рtactile, auditory, and visual.  So far, so good! =)

Click on any of the links above to download the PDF files.

Edited to add: Since reading Dianne Craft’s materials on helping kids with APD, we now have HorseyGirl put color on her tracing pages of facts since she learns in color pictures, not black and white. ¬†It seems to have helped.

Wooden Pattern Blocks

Using Wooden Pattern Blocks to teach math concepts to our kiddos ranging in age from Pre-K to 6th grade has really helped make math lessons colorful, simple and fun.

I read about Erica’s AlphaPatternBlocks at and was interested enough to start poking around eBay and Amazon – a tub of 250 blocks costs $20-26 a tub, plus the cards. ¬†I decided that I needed other things more than these money-wise so I quit thinking about them. ¬†Fortunately, Mr. Bug had noticed me watching the prices and surprised me one day when he came home from work. ¬†He’d found some for me at an antique mall!!


This whole tub of blocks only cost us $10.00 total.  

So then I was wondering how to get some pattern cards (those aren’t really cheap, either!) – but we had the blocks, so I ordered some from Amazon.

Poking around on the internet one Saturday, I found several wonderful sites with fun free pattern cards.  As I was printing off the free ones that Saturday, JuneBug and BittyBug found me in the office.  This is a picture of them sitting on the floor under my chair, creating as fast as I could get them off the printer:


(did I mention that I was working right there in that very spot!?? ūüôā )

Here’s what we ended up with:


The patterns in the back came from Amazon.  They contain teaching ideas and blank challenge cards for the upper elementary grades. The one laying flat were free printables from these sites:  (she has Christmas ones, too)  (she has both pattern and alphabet cards)

I laminated them all and have them in a container that stacks up on top of the block tub.  It stores well and is easily accessible since we use these 2-3 times a week.


My older kiddos like to make the patterns while they listen to our literature read-alouds.  My little kiddos just like them when ever I get them out.

Skills practiced or learned from these blocks and cards:

Colors and shapes



 exploring symmetry

create colorful designs

practice linear and area measurements


fine motor skill control