The Secret Key to Learning Math

Textbooks make math feel like a ladder to climb, rung by rung, working systematically from one topic to the next. But that’s an illusion. Learning math is more like taking a meandering nature walk. Kids need to wander around the concepts, notice things, wonder about them, and enjoy the journey.

Most people believe the goal of math is to get right answers. So we give our children a page of math problems to work, then we check their answers and tell them what they got wrong. When we focus on right answers, we can make our children feel like a failure at math.

Instead, we need to focus our math lessons on thinking, playing with ideas, reasoning and figuring things out. And when we make mathematical thinking our goal, the right answers will come along as a side-effect, a natural result of making sense of the math.

—Denise Gaskins

Woman reading playful math book

For Parents and Teachers

Playful Math Books

“Reading one of Gaskins’ books is like going to a really great teacher workshop — part philosophy, part practical ideas, and all excellent. She just oozes expertise and enthusiasm.”

—Amy, Hope is the Word blog

Browse Denise's Books
Mother and daughter doing playful math activity outdoors

Play Math with Your Kids

Printable Games and Activities

“It’s a crime, really, that school makes math so boring, when there are so many ways to do the opposite, for anyone who wants to. Denise Gaskins’s books are full of ideas.”

—Sasha Alyson, reader review

Explore Our Activity Guides
Active Learning mug on desktop

Show Off Your Playful Spirit

Mathy Merchandise

“It doesn’t matter whether your students are homeschooled or in a classroom, distance-learning or in person. Everyone can enjoy the experience of playing around with math.”

—Denise Gaskins

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Learning is a Lifelong Adventure

“With this approach I can teach my kids to think like mathematicians without worrying about leaving gaps. I can’t wait to take my children by the hand and head off to explore the wonderful world of maths.”

—Lucinda Leo, Navigating by Joy blog

Math Without Tears

“Denise Gaskins is that sound voice of reason that comes into my head when I get agitated teaching. This isn’t performance — this is play. My kids aren’t on trial, they are learning to learn.”

—Sonya Post, author of Learning Well at Home

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Launch Your Educational Journey with Play

“Math is so many things — beauty, structure, problem solving, communication, language, creativity — but here’s what I’ve learned as I’ve tried to help my children develop positive relationships with math:

It All Begins With Play.

Anything by Denise Gaskins is a fantastic place to start. These books are filled with the perfect combination of perspective and practicality.”

—Michele Johnson, Instagram review

  • Cool Cats Play Math

    The Cool Cats Are Ready to Play Math This Summer!

    We have new merchandise options featuring our store mascot Tanji and all her tangram cat friends: mugs, tote bags, mouse pads, and T-shirts. Plus, a bonus gift: the activity book...

    The Cool Cats Are Ready to Play Math This Summer!

    We have new merchandise options featuring our store mascot Tanji and all her tangram cat friends: mugs, tote bags, mouse pads, and T-shirts. Plus, a bonus gift: the activity book...

  • Playful math books by Denise Gaskins

    FAQ: My Playful Math Books

    In the weeks since I opened my new Playful Math Store, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about how all the books relate to each other. For example… Q:...

    FAQ: My Playful Math Books

    In the weeks since I opened my new Playful Math Store, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about how all the books relate to each other. For example… Q:...

  • Let's Play Math book on table with coffee

    Spring Sale on Let’s Play Math

    Spring 2024 Sale: Save 20% off Let’s Play Math: How Families Can Learn Math Together and Enjoy It in ebook or paperback! As school wraps up for the year in...

    Spring Sale on Let’s Play Math

    Spring 2024 Sale: Save 20% off Let’s Play Math: How Families Can Learn Math Together and Enjoy It in ebook or paperback! As school wraps up for the year in...

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