Math. One little four-letter word can send parents and students alike into panic. This is the subject that many families say is the most daunting to teach in their homeschool, especially in the high school years. Unfortunately, our kids sometimes pick up on our own insecurities and anxiety when it comes to all things numbers. We’ve compiled some resources here that offer a variety of tips and suggestions to consider for your own children, no matter their age.
The first thing to know is that you don’t have to teach math. Yes, that’s right! If math isn’t your strong suit, find a curriculum that does the teaching for you. Our family chose Math-U-See, in part because of the video instruction component. I don’t have to worry about understanding the concepts enough to teach them for the first time. We sit down together to watch the video, and I learn along with my student.
The key is finding the right curriculum that fits your family best. There’s no “perfect” curriculum out there. This chart compares many of the most popular math curricula that homeschool families use. You can also read reviews of a number of different curricula. If you’re more the visual type, you can usually find video reviews on YouTube by searching the name of the curriculum you are considering. Not exactly sure what you should be looking for? Here are three tips for finding the right math program for your homeschool.
Browsing through the tables in an exhibit hall, it’s easy to get caught up in all the fun “tools” you can use to help teach your child math. From an abacus to colored blocks to acrylic geometric shapes, it can be overwhelming to determine what will be effective for children. Most kids will benefit from manipulatives of some kind, especially those who learn best visually (seeing) or kinesthetically (touching/moving). Just a word of caution, though: don’t go overboard buying “all the things.” I still have some math manipulatives I bought five years ago that I thought would be so good, and they’re still in the box. It’s important to thoughtfully evaluate what will actually be useful to you by considering when and how you can best use these tools.
Math Develops Character
You might be scratching your head a bit on this one, but one educational philosophy explains that math also helps develop certain character traits. In this article, the author details that Charlotte Mason, the founder of the educational method that bears her name, “valued the study of arithmetic primarily for its use in training mental and moral habits, including accuracy, attention, careful execution, neatness, and truthfulness.” The approach takes a more practical application of math skills and how they are used in everyday life. It’s typically referred to as a “living education.”
Making it Fun
While it can be a struggle for some, learning math facts is an important skill to develop before reaching those high math levels and concepts. It will make high math a bit quicker and easier when students can easily add, subtract, multiply, and divide. But, “drill and kill” isn’t usually the most effective way to go about it. Most kids enjoy playing games. Math, especially in the elementary years, lends itself well to incorporating games and fun activities into your curriculum. Some board games already have math built in or are the base of the game itself. You can also use pieces of board games to create your own games to practice these math facts. These ten fun activities, some games, some not, also offer variety in how you approach math. Remember, our kids pick up on our attitudes, so if we are positive and excited about it, they’re more likely to be also. You can try these five strategies to curb math anxiety in both your students and yourself.
A Right Brain Approach
Some students may need to take an entirely different approach to math, in particular, memorizing those pesky math facts. Using a “right brain” approach may help those kids who struggle a bit more, either with memorization itself, or with understanding the concept. Making and using right brain flashcards can help a child visualize the math concept. Right brain cards can be useful for other subjects, too. Learn how to use these cards with your students to aid with memorization.
While not flashcards, it can be helpful for some learners to really go outside the math box and learn math facts in story form. There are several resources I’ve encountered that we’ve personally had success with. Addition the Fun Way, Times Tables the Fun Way, and TimesTales all take numerals and assign them an identity. These characters are then part of a story that results in the answer of the math problem. For example, I still remember “three-bee goes through the four-door to get to the 7th Street Park (3+4=7).” The story itself is a bit longer, but they provide a quick summary sentence to remember the story and math fact.
Math in High School
Don’t worry! We haven’t forgotten those of you with junior or senior high students who are in advanced math courses, or will be soon. We know this can be especially challenging for parents who either didn’t take advanced math courses themselves or don’t remember much of what they learned. The first thing to consider for a student in upper math is what their post-graduation plans might be. Will they go to a four-year Ivy League school or start at a two-year community college, if they want or need to go to college at all? Are they headed toward a career in engineering, or do they want to create movies?
Preparing students for their desired career path is important, and for some, it may not necessitate those higher levels of math. Some choose to focus on consumer math during high school so they have a solid foundation of “real world” skills after graduation. For those teens who want to head to college and pursue advanced math courses, there are many things to consider, including a suggested course of study, which curriculum to use, what colleges require for admissions, and more. Whichever path your student chooses, know that it is possible for them to learn advanced math as a homeschooled student. There are many resources available to parents to help your children be successful, whatever they endeavor.
Do you have any great resources you’ve found helpful in your home school? Share them in the comments below.
Have questions about curriculum or course of study? CHEA offers a free educational consulting service. You do not have to be a member to use it. Just call 562-544-7875 between 5:00 and 8:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday.