What do you get when you cross a right-brained mom with a right-brained child? Besides a lot of creative, messy stuff?
I can promise you it’s not a propensity for math.
It would be math.
It used to make me crazy — jumping from math curriculum to math curriculum. Name one — I can assure you we have probably tried it, or at least considered it. It took a few years for me to figure out that math curriculum was not the enemy. Lack of creativity in teaching math was. Funny, huh? The creative mom and child did not consider that perhaps our issue was lack of creativity!
In the meantime, Ben got farther and farther behind in math instruction and he developed a “I’m horrible at math” attitude so detrimental to learning that we actually shelved formal math instruction completely for a year. That’s when we discovered math could be taught in new ways.
Today, we still don’t use what is considered a common curriculum for math. We are using a more “living books” approach. I don’t know that Ben will ever be a wiz at this subject, but I do know that his ability is improving and, more importantly, so is his attitude.
Here’s how I’m accomplishing making teaching math easier with our right brains.
Life of Fred
There is no other math curriculum like this one. Written as a funny story line, Life of Fred shares the life story of a very young (and very tiny) college professor who encounters math every day and learns its methods. Ben started with the very first book in grade 5 (even though it was extremely elementary), and is working his way through, one book at a time. Apparently, finishing all of it will prepare students for year 3 of college math. I am counting on it because Ben loves Life of Fred. I knew we had a winner when he took the books to bed with him for “free” reading.
We keep a book basket of math books around. We have for a long time. We started early with simple counting picture books and have advanced as Ben has gotten older. Some of our current favorites include:
All of the books from A Math Adventure by Cindy Neuschwander — Sir Cumference and the First Round Table, Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi, Sir Cumference and the Great Knight of Angleland, Sir Cumference and All the King’s Tens, Sir Cumference and the Isle of Immeter, Sir Cumference and the Sword in the Cone, Multiplying Menace: The Revenge of Rumpelstiltskin (there are more, but that should get you started).
The I Hate Mathematics! Book — This book gave Ben permission to hate math, but also showed him that math can be fun and useful. We’ve had it in our home library for a few years now and he still frequently pulls it off the shelf to read.
Math for Smarty Pants — Puzzles, tricks, word problems — the math book for those afraid of numbers. Very fun and entertaining. Another book that Ben pulls off the shelf (or out of the math book basket) frequently.
Loving Living Math — This eBook gives great tips and ideas for how to incorporate living math with whatever curriculum you’re already using. It uses puzzles, games, projects, technology, and more living books to help you.
For more ideas for living books you can use to teach math, check out this resource: Math Literature List by Topic
Ben and I both enjoy playing games, and there are many games that will help reinforce math concepts. Here are a few of our favorites (and I won’t even mention Monopoly):
Sumoku — Think of this as the Bananagrams of numbers.
Yahtzee — This classic dice games takes me back to my childhood, staying awake with my Grandma until 2am, eating peanuts and drinking Pepsi, trying so hard to beat her, but never quite succeeding. Even without the wonderful memories, I’d want to play this game with Ben. It is great for math, especially for multiplication.
MathDice — Another dice game, you won’t believe how much fun math can be with this game. And it helps with all 4 operations!
Appschooling is an important part of our homeschool. My tactile learner thrives when I hand him the iPad. I have already shared many of our favorite math apps here in Appschooling Math.
Using Science, Art, and Cooking to Teach Math
Much to the amazement of my student, math does indeed spill over into other subjects, especially art and science (which Ben loves) and of course, cooking. Plus, these subjects are just more fun than math worksheets. It sometimes takes some effort to point out where the subjects overlap, but here are a few ideas for you:
Science and math just go together like peas and carrots. As much as Ben dislikes math, he loves science. So I take advantage of that and double the amount of science he does. In fact, he pretty much has free rein when it comes to anything science related. Learning math while studying science is just natural — there is nothing forced about it and you don’t need to even mention it to your math-hater. Just give them lots of tools for science and the math will soak in naturally.
Using Art to teach Math has limitless possibilities — tessellations, tangrams, quilt pattern designs — there is so much geometry in art! Then there’s also shapes, lines and patterns. Here’s an awesome art project for teaching fractions, decimals, and percent equivalents.
Of course cooking is filled with possibilities for math, whether you use a recipe as is, double it, half it — add grocery shopping and all that entails (budgeting, coupons, sales tax), and you could spend weeks learning math with cooking.
I just wrote a blog post about teaching math. Wow! Who would have thought it could happen?! I hope you found something useful here. In writing it, I was reminded of few things we haven’t been doing lately, so I am excited to spend more time
sneaking in focusing on math.
There are some other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew sharing their struggles, too. On Wednesday this week, you can read more from them by clicking on the graphic below.
Until then, how about you? Is there a subject you struggle with in your homeschool? What is it and what do you do to overcome your struggle?
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