For part two I offer a bunch of ways to use probably the cheapest gift.-- Playing Cards! You can get them for under $1 at discount stores, but for a fun gift, choose a themed set to match your child's interests... Disney, cartoons, TV, or their favorite sports team!! A simple pack of playing cards and a few minutes of instruction can become a great tool for practicing math facts and have fun doing it. No need to spend money on commercial flash cards. Bury the practice in a game and change the game up as the kids grow. Here are a bunch:
1- Play "War" with a twist--
Decide whether to use addition or subtraction [or for older kids multiplication] before you begin. As the two players put their cards down, instead of the high card winning, the first player to correctly call out the math total wins the cards. Both speed and accuracy improve the more often they play. First player with all the cards wins the game. [Up the stakes for older kids by playing with more than two people making the addition harder.] Note: If doing subtraction subtract smaller number from larger unless you are trying to make it tougher with older kids.
2. Take away the competition--
Don't make it a race for the right answer. Take turns with who gets to do the math. If the answer is correct, you give the cards to your opponent. If you are wrong you have to keep your cards, putting them at the bottom of your pile.
3- Level the playing field between siblings--
Have the older child do tougher computation while the younger does simpler. [Ex: Older does multiplication, younger does addition or younger subtracts smaller from larger, while the older does the reverse].
4. Math Sets-- [Endless variations!]
Play it with a pre-agreed "set" goal. Agree on whether or not suits or colors will matter. [The easier the better for younger children.] Deal out five cards to each person. [Refill from draw pile as you empty.] Put down sets of two, three or four. Examples of pre-agreed sets: even numbers in order, odd numbers in order, cards that add up to 15 or 13 or 10 or 21 or whatever you agreed before the game started. You can even make it multiplication by requiring that in order to put the set of 2 or 3 cards down you have to be able to state the math result [ex: 3, 5 multiplied total 15]. If you are write the set stays down, if not, it goes back in your hand.
So get out the deck of cards, agree on the game and have some fun with your kids... Never has practicing math facts been so much fun!
I am a lifelong educator, writer and author, a foster, bio, and adoptive parent, happy mom of five daughters, Grandma to six, Nana to four, and church and theater musician. Oh yes, and all-round optimistic, crazy lady.