I have highly verbal boys. They like to read, write and TALK! Nothing makes them as happy as a good story. On the other hand, numbers just don't "move" them. They are not math phobic but they don't have an intrinsic motivation in this area.
I am a die-hard believer in teaching math concepts before drilling facts. It is sooooo important that kids understand what is happening in mathematical operations. By knowing what is "going on", they are better prepared for higher levels of math and problem solving and are more likely to retain the facts (like multiplication tables) that we want them to know. In order to keep my boys engaged and to lay a good foundation, I begin the teaching of each new math "segment" with manipulatives coupled with good stories. Here is my favorite example....
After my students have a good handle on place value, I use a chart like this:
First I have them write in the minuend and then create it with the units, rods and flats:
Then I demonstrate on the board how to write in the subtrahend while they copy it to their charts:
This chart shows the regrouping from tens to ones:
This chart shows the subtraction process:
This chart shows the ones place difference:
(The story continues with Mrs. Ten needing 30 cups of sugar to bake a cake the next day.) Because Mrs. Tens loaned ten cups to Mrs. Ones, she only has 20 cups. She cannot go to Mrs. Ones' house and ask her to return some of the sugar because that would be rude. Besides, Mrs. Ones already broke the ten into ones so they cannot return to her tens house. She decides to visit Mrs. Hundreds and ask her for some sugar. (Act out the same scenario with Mrs. Tens visiting Mrs. Hundreds. Demonstrate with manipulatives and the notation on the board. Complete the story with Mrs. Hundreds baking her cake and using the amount of sugar in the subtrahend's hundreds place.)
This chart shows the regrouping from hundreds to tens:
This chart shows the subtracted tens and the difference in the tens place:
This chart shows the subtracted hundreds and the difference: