Category Archives: Math

How Much Does It Cost To Go To Disney World? Project-Based Math Learning

How Much Does It Cost To Go To Disney World?

Project-Based Math Learning


The title of this post was the assignment I gave to my seven-year old daughter, Katie, recently. I am teaching a series of lessons about finance to my kids. I thought this project would be relevant because the kids often ask me and my husband to take them to places like Disney World. When we tell them, “No, it’s expensive to go there,” they often tell us to just use our credit card — they think credit cards are an unlimited resource. As a seven-year-old and a five-years-old, they do not understand the concept of income and expenses yet. This is the first project I have given which is intended to provide an overview of how money works.

First, I asked Katie to figure out how much it’ll cost for our family to go to Disney World. I told her she was allowed to use any tools she needed to figure it out. The first thing she did was to ask “Alexa” how much it costs to go to Disney World. “Alexa” replied that she didn’t know our location, so she couldn’t tell us how long it would take us to get to Disney World.

Next, she got on the computer and googled, “How much does it cost to to go Disney World.” One of the results was about Disney World tickets which was not what she needed — my husband works for Disney, and he gets free passes for our whole family to enter Disney World. Shortly thereafter, she tried to find out “How much does a train ticket cost to go to Disney World” but she didn’t know where Disney World was. She looked that up and found that it was in Orlando. After learning that there’s no train from our home to Orlando, she searched for plane tickets to Orlando instead.

A google search for plane tickets lead her to She learned how to use the calendar picker, and figured out which airports are close to our home and which airport in Orlando is close to Disney World. She found out that it costs around $3,000 to fly to Orlando and stay in a hotel for seven days and that it would take her 50 years to pay for the trip using her $5 per month allowance. During this process, she practiced her month to year conversion and learned how to come up with the equations and use Google sheets to calculate.

It was a very simple question, but she learned a lot throughout the whole process. Katie said that it was a lot more difficult than the math that she did at school because in school, all of the variables were already given. She just needed to come up with the equations.

I think this exercise is very important because she learned that in real life, we need to learn to ask questions in order to get the answers we’re looking for.

At the end of the project, I told her that her grandmother will pay for our flights and hotel for our upcoming trip to Disney World so we don’t need to worry about the cost of flights and hotel stay. I just want her to know how much it costs relative to her allowance so that she will appreciate her grandmother’s generosity and ultimately, I want my kids to know how math is used in the real world so that they’ll appreciate the math that is being taught at school. They shouldn’t have to wonder why it is useful to study math.

Have you tried a project like this with your child? If not, try out this project or something similar! Let me know how it went in the comments.

Afterschooling My First Grader

When my daughter started kindergarten two years ago, she was initially excited. It was her first year in a “big girl” school. However, it didn’t take long before she got bored with the lessons at school. She was able to read and write before she entered kindergarten, so most of the lessons were just a review to her. By the time half of her kindergarten year had gone by, she didn’t like school at all. She wanted to be homeschooled because she said that she wasn’t learning in school. She told us that they were doing baby stuff in kindergarten. So, I looked into homeschooling and decided that I really didn’t want to do it. I loved going to school when I was a kid. It was fun to hang out with the other kids. I don’t want her to miss that experience. But at the same time, I do not want her to hate school either so my husband and I found a school for her that offered a gifted program.

The school that Katie is in for first grade is a lot better than her kindergarten school. Her teacher provides her more challenging material than the regular class. However, when we had our first conference with the teacher, she suggested that we move Katie to a gifted magnet program. She needs more challenging lessons and she thinks it’ll be good if Katie can be with other kids who are closer to her level. There’s probably two or three other kids who are about the same level as Katie in her current class, and while the rest are advanced compare with the students in the regular class, the variation in skill level is still wide. Fortunately, her teacher is awesome so Katie is not bored in class. When Katie finishes her work, she does not give Katie more of the same work just to keep busy. She let Katie play with educational toys that she has in her classroom, or read books.

What Is Afterschooling and How We Do It

For the past year, I have been afterschooling Katie. If you haven’t heard of the word afterschooling, basically, it means homeschooling after kids go to their regular school. Katie has been reading chapter books since kindergarten. She likes reading a lot. I subscribe to so I just let her choose any books that she likes. She also has great comprehension. has comprehension questions, which she gets right most of the time. The good thing about Raz-plus is that the books are for K-5th grade so Katie can choose any reading level she wants. She tends to pick books from 2nd grade and higher. The books are longer so they have more interesting story lines. I also take her to the library and let her choose any books that she wants to read. If a child is reading books that are interesting to them, you won’t need to force them to read. Since her reading and comprehension skills are several grades ahead of her math skills, we mostly focus on her math skills. She uses a program called ST Math, which is a visual game-based program. We play math games such as monopoly, abacus, card games, ten-frame blocks, legos, and etc. It is a lot easier for her to remember her math lessons when she is having fun so I try my best to find materials that would make math learning fun. Below are some of the items that we use for our math lessons. In addition to her afterschooling, she also goes to swimming lessons and piano lessons. She loves to play in the water with the other kids. She gets a lot of exercise while having fun as well. I love her swimming lessons because it helps regulate her sleeping schedule. The school that she’s going to does not provide music lessons in first grade, so I just signed her up for piano lessons for half an hour a week. It’s quite interesting to hear her play. She also has Bible lessons from me. I want her to learn about God. We have been listening to the NIRV version of the Bible. We listen to Bible stories, and recently, we started memorizing Bible scriptures. Go to the bottom of this page for a list of products that I am using and have used in the past.

Benefits of Afterschooling

I believe that parents are their children’s primary educators. In my case, I afterschool my child in order to provide her with lessons that are interesting to her and for her to continue her growth. She goes to a class where the reading levels of the kids span multiple grades. Even if the kids in her class are advanced, most of them are not as advanced as my daughter. Her teacher is amazing. But it is quite difficult to provide instruction that would make sure each child is challenged to his/her level. The core curriculum that the school provides is for their grade level. Schools do not have the budget to provide multiple grade levels that would be just right for all of the kids. Imagine: if your kid starts reading at first grade level at the beginning of the year and decides to keep reading at home for pleasure, chances are your kid will be reading at a level that is higher than the other kids who were not reading at home in just a few months. At home, I can easily look for programs that match my daughter’s level since I do not have to consider whether twenty four or so other kids would benefit from it. I can also tailor the content to whatever subject my daughter is currently interested in. There’s a lot more individualization that I can easily provide at home compared to she gets from school. No matter how great the teacher is, it is quite difficult to know each kid at the same level that a parent can.

If you are reading my blog, chances are you and your spouse are working full-time because I usually put the links to my blog in Facebook and most of my friends are working. So, if you are interested in afterschooling, my best advice to you is do it every day even if it’s just 5 minutes a day. Find something that is interesting to both you and your child because it’s quite difficult to keep on doing something in the long term if one of you is not interested in it. You will be surprised at how much of a difference five minutes each day can make.

Finally, if your first grader is still not reading chapter books, please check out my posts How to Convert Your Reluctant Reader to an Enthusiastic Reader and How My Non-Reader Child Came to Read Charlotte’s Web in 8 months.

List of Products has two components: early reading and reading comprehension. For kindergarten, Katie used the early reading section. For first grade, she is currently using the reading comprehension. The reading comprehension section of Headsprout is for 2nd-5th grade level readers. I like that they introduce different genres. It includes fiction, non-fiction, poems. It also teaches map skills, analyzing charts in addition to reading strategies.

ST Math is an online game-based program that teaches math. Katie is a visual learner. This program has definitely helped her understand math concepts easily. is an online reading program. It literally has thousands of books. It has both fiction and non-fiction stories. I like it a lot because the stories are very interesting.

This NIRV audio Bible is great for little kids. It’s an easier version. It’s a great introduction to kids to the Word of God.


I love these toys. I bought them because I figured if my kids are not interested in them, at least someone else would be. It turns out that they like them as much as I do!

How My Kids Develop Math Confidence

When my older daughter, Katie, started kindergarten, she initially did well in math because the first two months were just a review for her. We played some number games during the summer before she entered kindergarten. When the teacher started covering topics that I hadn’t taught her, she started struggling. I recall she came home one day, dejected, and she told me that she was not good in math. So I started tutoring her in math using the Connecting Math Concepts program, and it took us five months to finish. Even before she completed the program, I noticed her excelling at math in school again.

Her school used the Envision 2012 program. It was a lot prettier than the program I used. It had fun characters in their worksheets. It even had interactive videos which the teacher played in class. The worksheets were very colorful. However, the reason my daughter was struggling was because it did not offer enough repetition for the lessons to be internalized. The topics were tackled for a week or two and then the class moved on another topic without reviewing the previous ones. When the topics that were already covered were needed again, the kids had forgotten it already, which added to the frustration as they were covering new concepts.

When kindergarten was over, I started Katie on ST Math. She completed the kindergarten and first grade math curriculum before she started first grade. She liked it a lot as it uses play-based math games. She is now attending a Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program. Everyone in her class were identified as gifted/high achievers. Although her current math class is more advanced, she is not struggling at all because she was able to internalize the kindergarten concepts.

After my experience with teaching Katie how to learn math, I am now applying what I learned to teaching Jessica. Jessica is only 3-1/2 years old, so I cannot use Connecting Math Concepts (CMC) yet. CMC is quite boring for a young girl to learn math. So, I started teaching her math using games. From the picture below, you can see the number train that Jessica put on the board. I love these numbers. You can do a lot with them. Some days, she sorts the numbers into groups of 1s, 2s, etc. Some days, I’ll ask her for the numbers and if she picks the correct number, I put the number in a bowl. I call it the number soup. She’ll pretend to eat the bowl of soup when she’s done. Currently, she’s learning the numbers from 0-5. When she has mastered it, I will introduce new numbers one at a time.

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I bought this number set from Amazon. You can find the link below. If you have time, you can just cut the numbers from an old cardboard box. I just find buying them easier. It saves me time and they’re also sturdier.

Learning Geometry in Preschool

I have always been interested in Montessori’s play-based learning method. So, I try to incorporate learning through playing in our lessons. One of the games that my kids like to play with are pattern blocks. The kids can copy the blocks from the pattern, or they can come up with their own pattern. I also like to ask give them multiple blocks which they can use to form a big triangle, square, pentagon, etc. They start to exercise their problem solving skills while having fun at the same time. From our playing sessions, they realize that in order to form a new shape (e.g. hexagon), they can use other shapes (e.g. two trapezoids) and combine them in order to form this new shape. 


Below are the materials that Jessica used in the picture. You don’t need to get these materials. If you have time, you can cut an old cardboard box to make the shapes.

Electronics for Kids

I was browsing Amazon for some toys and found an Electronics playground. I mentioned to my husband that I wanted one when I was in college but couldn’t afford to get one. So, my husband got one for me. He had one when he was a kid and thought that they were pretty cool. Apparently, my daughter Katie thought it was also cool. She asked me to play with it and we worked on the first experiment. I wasn’t able to catch it on video but her expression was priceless when she connected the last part and it sounded off. The experiment starts with simple connection but it gets harder. The instruction is clear so as long as the child can read numbers, he/she can play with this already.


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Here’s the link to the Amazon site if you’re interested.

Learning Math Through Games


My kids were bouncing up and down, ready to start the day. “Jiji! Jiji!”, Katie and Jessica chanted. Jiji is the penguin in ST Math. ST Math is a computer-based program designed to teach math visually. The lowest grade level available is kindergarten. But since it does not use words to instruct math concepts, Jessica (3.5 years old) is able to work on the math puzzles. I was surprised that she was able to progress quickly. I have been teaching her how to count for several weeks now and all I managed to teach her was to recite numbers.

“1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11…20. I know how to count already Mommy!”, Jessica said in an exasperated tone. “Jessica, that’s not counting. Let me show you…”, my voice trailed off as Jessica moved on to another activity.

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Prioritizing Testing Over Learning: A Recipe for Failure

In my experience, implementing Common Core Standards has provided multiple benefits. First, I was able to find out what my child was expected to learn by the end of the school year. Second, I was able to keep track of Katie’s progress relative to expectations.

Third, I was able to provide remediation. I was told that Katie was advanced in her writing, but because of the Common Core Standards posted online for everyone to see, I was able to easily figure out that Katie wasn’t performing on par with the sample writing provided in the Common Core Standards document. She might be advanced in her class but still behind Common Core expectations. Once I found out that Katie was behind in writing, I purchased a program called Strategies for Writers and we have been working on improving her writing skills.

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