Long ago, in a land far away, when I owned far less wool, fleece, and socks than I do today, someone introduced me to the website FreeRice.com. In those days FreeRice was a vocabulary game where you had to correctly identify synonyms for increasingly obscure words. You play for free, and for each question answered correctly FreeRice donates a small amount of rice to help end world hunger. I played a lot when I was writing papers, during “work breaks,” and just to waste time (I had a lot of free time back then!).  At some point I got bored, found some other cool websites to distract me from my work, and abandoned FreeRice for many years.

You know what’s coming next. I recently re-visited FreeRice and was pleasantly surprised that it’s still up and running, and my how it has grown! The best news is that questions are not limited to vocabulary any more. Now there are a multitude of subjects to choose from including, of course, math!! Woo hoo!

I subjected my five-year-old to FreeRice math first.  I believe the first problem was “1 + 1 = ?” She loves that question. The second was something like “2 + 2 = ?” and she was happy. The thing about Freerice is as you get more and more right answers the questions become progressively more difficult. You have to work for that rice. After about 10 questions things got slightly more complicated and she got slightly more frustrated. She stuck with it though and reached her goal of earning 200 grains of rice.

Next up was 7-year-old Bart.  He took over where his sister left off, so the problems were a reasonable level for his age. He whizzed through several questions and then the difficulty level ramped up. Fortunately, he had a great attitude on this particular day. He has been learning multiplication tables so was happy to show off his prowess in that area. Next were some fractions, which required careful thought but he worked it out (with a little help here and there). Then freerice threw in some problems with percents and decimals…hmmmm…. this was definitely getting trickier.

“Dot 7 plus dot 11 equals what? Is it supposed to be dot 18?!” he exclaimed. He hasn’t seen this type of problem before and I find it amusing he says “dot” instead of “point” or even “period”. Oh how the “dot” has infiltrated our lives!
In between cries of “What the…?!” and “I can’t do this!” Bart remained a good sport, and it was fun to observe his attempts to make sense of each question. (“Is 30% the same as 3/10ths?” Yes!) Then this problem appeared on the screen:

A + 5B – 4B = ?

To which he replied:

“Hey weirdo computer guy I’m just a kid, how am I supposed to know that?!”

Finally he told me, “OK I got 500. I’m going to stop now because this is TOO HARD!” In the end, between three of us taking turns to play, we earned 1350 grains of rice.

Remember, for each correct answer, FreeRice donates 10 grains of rice through the United Nations World Food Program to help end hunger. This is not a joke or hoax, and to date over 88 billion grains of rice have been donated. It costs nothing to play, you don’t have to give up any of your personal information, it’s fun, and you might actually learn something. Don’t just take my word for it though, check out FreeRice right now (with or without the kids) and chances are you’ll be hooked before long. π

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