Math Games (by Beth Gibson)

There is an idea that a mind is wasted on the arts unless it makes you good in math or science. There is some evidence that the arts might help you in math and science.” –Wynton Marsalis Math00

Teaching kids to think about math outside of a school setting is crucial to a becoming a confident and developed student. Too often in school, kids are handed a pencil and a worksheet and are expected to answer as many equations as they can in a certain number of minutes. Kids come to depend on these tools to answer basic math facts. Although there might be a place for this type of memorization assessment, kids in the primary grades especially need to be taught strategies that build their number sense and fluency so that they are able to be active and confident mathematicians. When we build number sense in children at a young age, they’re likely to be more effective problem solvers who are able to build onto what they already know quickly. They’ll also develop confidence and relate math to fun activities! These interactive math games are a few of the many ways that Freedom Arts gets our scholars moving and improving their math skills at Scholar Sessions and in our Art & Academic Workshops.

Addition Parking Lot Math01
This game is great for K-2 because it doesn’t necessarily focus on the correct answer, but makes kids think about what strategy would be best to use based on the addends in the equation. It encourages kids to use their number sense rather than relying on fingers to count or the traditional algorithm. This game will help kids develop number fluency and confidence when adding.
To prepare, mark each toy car with an addition equation. To play the game, keep tallies of correct answers for each player. Players can bump the other player’s cars off of the parking lot.

Counting Strategies
Counting on: Instead of starting at one and keeping track of counting fingers, start with one addend and add the second addend. (Examples: 3+6 6+2 4+7 2+9)
In-Betweens: Addends are two apart (Examples: 3+5 6+8 5+7 2+4)
Think 10 to add 9: Since children can usually add ten to any number, add ten and subtract one. (Examples: 4+9 9+5 9+6 7+9)
Doubles: Add the number twice (Examples: 4+4 3+3 6+6 8+8)
Doubles Plus 1: Double the number and add one. (Examples: 3+4 6+7 9+8 5+4)

Mathsketball Relay
This game is a great mix between math and basketball. After solving an equation, the kids have a chance to throw a ball into the basket. It encourages teamwork and quick-on-the-go math work without paper and pencil. This fun game was created by our Executive Director Andrew Gibson while he was subbing “1,2,3 Do Math With Me!” last summer. He relates to the students who struggle with math in elementary school, because he was one of them!

Supplies: ping pong balls, hackey sacks, or other small balls, tubs/bins/baskets, Dice, and tape on the floor to mark the starting line, table to put the baskets on
Split the group into two groups. They should stand in two lines behind the starting line (tape on the ground in front of the table). Give each kid at the front of the line two dice. When you say “Go” they should roll the dice and add the numbers together. When they get the correct answer, they try to shoot the ball into the basket. They keep shooting until they get a basket. The first team that gets through the relay wins. Play as many times as they want.

Game Challenge
-Stack the baskets in a pyramid and make each basket worth a different number of points. The kids should keep track of their teams’ points on a scoreboard.
-Use three dice to add or multiply two dice for older children.

Swat the fact
Kids love to use manipulatives and practice math facts in fun and unusual ways. In this game, you have the opportunity to challenge kids using any operation of addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division. Since it is adult-led, you can differentiate the equations based on the teams or whoever’s turn it is. Math02

Write the numbers 0-20 all over the dry erase board. Split the group into two teams. One kid on each team will come up to the board at a time. You will call out an addition or subtraction math equation. Using a (clean) fly swatter, the first kid to correctly “swat” the correct answer on the board gets a point for their team. Play until they reach a certain number of points.

Game challenge
-Use three addends in an equation
-Add two number and then subtract one
-1 digit x 1 digit multiplication

Number Learning Games
Like most kids, our scholars love to move and be active. Sometimes the only way to keep them focused is by providing fun and engaging lessons and activities. This website has 50 great ideas to get kids moving and doing math at the same time!
Beth Gibson (Academic Coordinator, Executive Assistant, Academic/Visual Arts Mentor)


Ferguson: Love Produces Hope (by Andrew Gibson)

On August 9, 2014, we had our third annual Freedom Arts Expo. We had over 50 kids show up and participate in music, dance, poetry, pottery, painting, drawing, jewelry making, and more. The rain stayed away, the sun shined, and our scholars learned, created, laughed, and smiled.

On August 9, 2014, young Michael Brown was dying after being shot by police officer Darren Wilson only 14 miles north of us in Ferguson. Whether you throw a tiny pebble or a huge rock into a pond, there will be ripples that will move across the water and hit the other sides. This tragic situation has created ripples. A young man is dead. His family will have to live without him. The city of Ferguson has been torn up. Issues of race have boiled over. Relationships between police officers and civilians are proving to be poor.

This matters to me. So I’ve prayed. I’ve cried. I’ve listened. I’ve vented. Prayed more. Cried more. Pondered. Stood with protestors. Prayed more. Pondered more. Went to meetings. Had conversations. Discussed solutions. Had arguments. Prayed more. Pondered more. Because this matters to me.
I think Michael Brown should still be alive. I think Darren Wilson screwed up big time. I think this tragedy is symptomatic of a much larger issue involving race and authority. I think all issues come down to being issues of the hearts of people. That’s what needs to be fixed first.

There were race and authority problems in Jesus’ time too. There was prejudice, corruption, crime, and hate. He was subjected to similar issues. He faced them. How? What did he do during his time?

He taught. He took a small group of people from all different walks of life and he taught them love and respect. He built them up. He healed people along the way. He walked away from the places and people that rejected him.

I discussed with my Freedom Arts staff what, if anything, we could or should do differently. My wise brother and Program Director Corey Williams reminded us that we are already doing something. We have been doing something. We’re teaching and building up the underserved and misunderstood. We’re teaching love and respect. We’re preaching faith, hope, and love. We’re preaching purpose, vision, and direction. We’re preaching God-given worth. We’re teaching that Jesus is the way, truth, and life.

So I challenged my team to do it more boldly, accurately, and often. I challenged them to consider their thoughts and feelings about this situation, and then share them with the community. I felt personally convicted to spread the message of Jesus that sometimes gets lost in church teachings: the message of true, sacrificial, unconditional love.

My friend, brother, and Freedom Arts Board member Kenny DeShields is an excellent songwriter who has several songs about love. One that comes to mind now says “when it’s tough, when it’s unfair, that’s when you love. When it’s uncomfortable, inconvenient, that’s when you love.” That’s the truth.

The Bible tells us to love each other and bear with each other (Ephesians 4, 1 Peter 4, the list goes on). It also tells us to weep with those who are weeping (Romans 12). That’s the truth.

We want justice. We want reconciliation. We want truth. All of those are found in love. It starts right there. Nothing changes without it. Start by loving. Start by lamenting, listening, and lifting up.

The truth is that there is no earthly solution for a spiritual problem. Situations are unfair, but there is justice in Christ. Relationships are broken, but there is restoration in Christ. Stories are skewed and biased, but there is truth in Christ. This truth is that he loves us, and this love produces hope.

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love” (Romans 5:3-5).

Follow Christ. Know the truth. Receive love. Get hope.

R Faith Hope Love

Andrew Gibson (Executive Director, Music Coordinator, Music/Academic Mentor)

About Freedom (by Andrew Gibson)

In the United States, the 4th of July is a day commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. This document declared our nation’s independence from Great Britain.
So we’re free now.
Right?2Cor3 17
I know some people who would emphatically say no. I’m not writing this to generate a heated argument on whether or not we are free. That is a philosophical conversation that I would love to have with anybody reading this over a La Cosecha coffee, a Strange Donut donut, or a Sauce on the Side calzone. I’ll even pay, so it’ll be free for you!
I’d like to briefly share my ideas on freedom. An element of freedom is responsibility: responsibility to your community and environment, responsibility to your fellow human and all creatures, responsibility to yourself, and responsibility to your Creator. Freedom means nothing if we don’t use it to enrich the lives of others and improve our world. Gal513However, I don’t believe that on this planet or in this life we will ever be truly and totally free, in every sense of the word. How could we? We are bound by natural laws that we cannot break or beat. To an extent, we are bound by our pasts and biases. Some of us are bound by poor health and similar challenging circumstances. I do know this: the freedom that I have thanks to Jesus Christ is a freedom that can never be taken from me. It’s a freedom that is valid in this life and the next. But regardless of differing spiritual beliefs, I’m confident we can all agree that freedom is a vast idea of supreme importance to every living creature on this planet. We named our organization Freedom Arts & Education Center because of that truth. We want to help people live freely. We want to enrich people’s lives and improve our community and inspire others to do the same.

So now you know that I love freedom, good coffee, good donuts, and good calzones. I also love powerful quotes and deep song lyrics. Here are some of my favorite quotes and lyrics about freedom:

“A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom.”
-Bob Dylan

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
-Nelson Mandela

“Freedom lies in being bold.”
-Robert Frost

“Time’s changed, freedom reigns, I’m a grown man. Holding the future in the palms of my own hand.”
Black Thought

“Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom.”
-Albert Einstein

“Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.”
-George Washington Carver

“Pierced feet, pierced hands, blood stained son of man. Fullness forgiveness free passage into the promise land, that same breath God breathed into us God gave it up to redeem us.”

“Without Sovereignty, I don’t have freedom at all.”
Rod Wisdom

“To be a Christian is to live dangerously, honestly, freely – to step in the name of love as if you may land on nothing, yet to keep on stepping because the something that sustains you no empire can give you and no empire can take away.”
-Cornel West

“God is not interested merely in the freedom of black men, and brown men, and yellow men; God is interested in the freedom of the whole human race.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

John 832

Andrew Gibson (Executive Director, Music Coordinator, Music/Academic Mentor)

Cherish Your Mistakes (by Andrew Gibson)

Nobody that I know enjoys making mistakes. Mistakes can be ugly. Mistakes can be messy. Mistakes can embarrass us. cherish your mistakes

That’s one of the things I love about art. It’s a safe place to make mistakes. I don’t remember the last time I got through a performance without making a mistake. A huge part of my teaching is about how to recover from mistakes and how to keep mistakes from taking over your performance. I talk to my students all the time about this. I tell them that it is okay to make a mistake and that it is not helpful to try not to make mistakes during a performance.Why not? Mainly because that makes the performance a fear-based one.

Though part of the mission of Freedom Arts is to help young people realize and utilize their God-given talents, we are careful not to shy away from flaws and mistakes. Mistakes are indicative of the learning process.If you are making mistakes it means you’re learning! It means you’re trying something new and you’re struggling with it. That is a beautiful process. Mistakes indicate a weakness. Weaknesses keep us humble and remind us that there is so much more for us to learn and know. The journey to creating or conquering is what makes the end goal so rewarding.

Have you ever heard the expression “trial and error?” What does that really mean? It means trying something and messing up. Yes. By messing up, you are on the road to succeeding. Think about it. By trying, you are ruling out what does not work. By trial and error, a child learns how to walk. By trial and error, a child learns how to ride a bicycle. And by that very same process of trial and error, the Wright brothersz3 made that bicycle fly.

Einstein supposedly said he often thought and daydreamed in music. I often think and daydream in baseball. I love everything about baseball. One of the things I love is how forgiving baseball can be. A batting average is a statistic that refers to a player’s hitting ability. A .300 batting average is considered very good, but that means that in 10 at bats, the player only got 3 hits. That’s a 30%. 30% is failure in everything else. If I finished a season with a .300 batting average – or in other words, failed at the plate 70% of the time – I would be thrilled. And I know all about failure in baseball, but I’ll save that for another post. z4

Art is not far removed from this either. You have to make mistakes to create what you see or hear in your mind. You have to confront your weaknesses to work towards mastering your crafts. One of my favorite songwriters of all time is Bill Withers. He once said “It’s okay to hold out for wonderful. But before you get to wonderful, you’re going to have to go through alright.” You have to begin. Then you have to go through the beginner level before you can get to an intermediate level, and then the intermediate level before you get to the advanced level. In cherishing that climb, you will find happiness in the climb and not just on the mountaintop.

Accomplished artists understand the beautiful value of z5mistakes. People who are truly successful in anything and are conscious of how they reached their goals are cognizant of the tribulations they encountered, why they encountered them, and how they conquered them.

Here is an inspiring passage from a book by music producer Quincy Jones called Q on Producing:
“You have to treasure the opportunity to make a lot of mistakes. Because the more mistakes you make, the more you’re going to learn. And at some magical, unexplained moment, all of those mistakes, with Band-aids all the way up to your neck, morph into experience. When you have a lot of experience and have made a lot of mistakes, you have something to offer.”

And here’s what master drummer Jack DeJohnette said at a clinic of his at PASIC 2009 when asked if he has any weaknesses in his playing that cause him to make mistakes: “Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Sometimes the best ideas come from things you didn’t mean to do.”

That parallels what musician and writer Kenny Werner said in his book Effortless Mastery (which has some material I cannot vouch for, but is overall pretty good) about removing fear from your aspirations: “Just as fear pollutes the environment for creativity, it also inhibits effective study. Fear takes away the strength of what you are doing.”

Cartoonist and writer Scott Adams said: “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”

2 Cor 12.9And what did Jesus say about making mistakes and weaknesses? 2 Corinthians 12:9 says: “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”

We must not fear mistakes. We learn from our mistakes and can teach others through our mistakes. We also will never succeed at anything if we are afraid of making mistakes. Mistakes keep us humble and remind us that we are human. Mistakes are how we figure things out!

But most importantly, the power of God works best through our weaknesses. Cherish those ugly, messy, embarrassing mistakes. Work hard! Play hard! Create freely! Fear nothing! Be humble and give the glory to God ALWAYS!Image

Andrew Gibson (Executive Director, Music Coordinator, Music/Academic Mentor)

Pull the Weeds (by Beth Gibson)

I love spring time and I love gardening! At the last Freedom Arts Super Scholarday, we planted flowers at Clayton Community Church (our temporary headquarters).



Good Friday was the perfect day for working in my own garden. Since Andrew and I moved into a new house, we have a huge garden to take care of and maintain — which I am extremely excited about! We had a teeny tiny little garden at our old house, and it was hard to grow ANYthing since the soil was full of dead roots and very acidic. Every time I planted flowers, I would water them, check on them, and then before I even had a chance to realize what had happened, they were dead. Really dead. All that to say, I am pumped that we have a huge garden full of beautiful perennials that are popping up. It is pretty exciting to see what is blooming. Since we moved into our house in November, we have no idea what is planted in the garden. So far, we have lots of tulips, lilies, a white tree, a pink tree (I still have to figure out what they are!), some other flowers and a LOT of weeds. The weeds took over the empty lot next door to us and have unfortunately spread throughout the garden. I had to get those weeds out before they took out the rest of my plants!


I happily started pulling the weeds out of the rich, fertile soil. After a while though, I was getting tired and frustrated that the weeds were even there in the first place! I’m not alone, though. It got me thinking about a sermon podcast that I had listened to just yesterday (maybe that’s why I was motivated to go outside today and do some weed pulling!). “Nobody likes to pull weeds, but everyone wants to have a beautiful garden!” Kyle Idleman, Southeast Christian Church

The tricky thing about weeds is that you have to dig down deep and pull the weed out by its roots or it is only a matter of time until it comes back. If you only pull out the top and not the roots, your garden will be overgrown with weeds in no time. Our sinful nature can be just the same as those nasty little weeds. We battle things every day, like anger, jealousy, selfishness, envy, drunkenness, impurity, and so on.

Paul tells us how the Holy Spirit can produce this fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We want to grow in those ways, but often times our acts of the sinful nature take over. We change some things on the surface, or try to cover it up, but we don’t dig down deep to pull out the sin by the roots. “The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants… These two forces are constantly fighting each other…” Galatians 5:17 NLT

We can’t grow the fruit of the spirit in our lives if we get lazy and stop pulling the weeds every day.  We have to be intentional about it. We need to be in constant prayer to replace our sinful nature with that of the Holy Spirit. “Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” Galatians 5:25 NLT

Whatever you fill your mind with will feed your sinful nature or feed your spirit. “One you love and one you hate, but the one you feed will dominate.” -Kyle Idleman, Southeast Christian Church

Keep track of what you’re doing. Are you growing weeds or producing fruit? Is the TV you’re watching and the books you’re reading helping you grow? Are the people that you’re spending your time with encouraging you and making it easy to practice the fruits of the spirit? Is what you’re spending your time doing and thinking about producing fruit or covering up the weeds? Do the work; dig down deep daily and pull those roots!

“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.” Galatians 5:13 NLT 


As we remember Jesus’ sacrificial death, let’s thank Him that he took the desires of our sinful nature to the cross and crucified them there and that through Him, we have a chance to produce good fruit.


For the original sermon by Kyle Idleman, visit and

Beth Gibson (Staff Assistant, Academic Coordinator, Academic/Visual Arts Mentor)