Oct 6, 2009


Math is a touchy subject for me... I hated it as a child. (I don't think I can say that strongly enough.) I hated it badly enough that I have a mental block to this day when it comes to math and numbers. I can remember names of people that I met once, sixteen years ago, or even names of people that I have never even actually met. Yet I don't know my husband's cell phone number, my driver's license number, or even our zip code. Seriously.
When it comes to education I am pretty loose and free flowing on methods. Teaching the big kids to read? No big deal. I created my own preK curriculum and K curriculum by surfing the Internet and picking up bits of information here, an idea there, and pieces of philosophy there and shoving it all together until it flowed into something that worked for us. My storage space is full of games for learning language, geography, art, Bible, Spanish, history, and even a bit of science. I look at curriculum as a jumping-off place to doing our own thing. It's fun.
Except for one thing... math. I am paralyzed when it comes to math. For PreK and Kindergarten, it was OK. The kids learned to count with plastic bears and how many Teddy Grahams they still had left to eat. We played with patterns. We wrote our numbers on fun paper shapes and did lots of mazes, puzzles, and dot-to-dots. It was so much fun that even I forgot that we were doing math!
In first grade* I bought Horizons. At first, they were enamoured with the newness of workbooks. They had never been allowed to write in a book before! However, as the work got gradually more difficult, and the novelty wore off, it got uglier and uglier every week. By the end of the year, no one was having fun and the kids HATED math. It was awful.
I felt, deep down, that I knew better, and that there was a better way. But I couldn't figure out what... I looked at different curriculum, but I knew (and Steve verified for me) that they would not really be any different. The problem was not the curriculum.
So I bought Horizons again for second grade. And split up the worksheets and attempted the Charlotte Mason short lesson philosophy as best as I understood it. And, again, at first, it went well. But again, when the curriculum settled down and dug into the difficult part, life got unfriendly in the schoolroom when it was time for math. Not yet as bad as last year, but frustration is mounting and tears are being shed and strong feelings are rising in their little chests.
Now, don't get me wrong. I believe in discipline in school, and doing things that are hard just because they have to be done. The kids do the work they are given and they complete assignments and "It's hard" is not an accepted excuse. But I do draw the line at sheer misery and if they are spending an inordinate amount of time staring at the same problem because they are bored out of their minds, what, exactly, are they learning?
To hate math.
Just like I did.
And that is what I am trying to avoid.
The other day, Kaytie did a quick, easy addition problem involving the number of people in our family. It went along the lines of "four kids plus two parents equals six people in our family". Nothing spectacular, it was a conversation we had had plenty of times before. But this time, I happened to point out that "you just did math". She was very excited! "Really?" She exclaimed, "And that wasn't hard at all!" After a brief conversation, she and Nate came to the conclusion that math can be fun. Hmmmm.
Then I wrote some problems in a notebook (a math journal, if you will) in an attempt to keep individual kids busy for a brief time while the other kid finished up work. I gave Kaytie hers, meaning for her to do one or two problems. After only a few minutes, she brought it to me. I expected her to be whining for help, or complaining about the work. They were, after all, the exact same type of problems she fusses about on her worksheets, only slightly more complicated. But what she wanted was something else to do because she had done every single problem I had written down. Without help. And gotten the correct answers. Without help. Or complaining. Or even once whining. Hmmmmm.
So I have spent the last few days googling "living math". (I dislike the term, but that is what they call it.) I am compiling a list of games and activities to bring joy to our math again. I am not ditching the workbooks entirely. The kids will still be working on them some each day. But the boring repetitive parts... the pages and pages of addition and subtraction and writing of mindless numbers... I will convert into games and hands-on works. Today, I pulled all of their subtraction problems off of their worksheet and wrote them onto a sheet of tic-tac-toe boards. They played tic-tac-toe with the twist that they had to solve the subtraction problem for that square or they lost their turn. They did MORE work in LESS time with NO tears and Mommy didn't get frustrated ONE single time!

*(Just so you don't get confused, Kaytie and Nate have always done the same level of work. They went through preschool together because he was not about to be left out. And he has always been able to keep up with her in every subject. But after kindergarten, I decided it was easier and healthier for him/her to tell them they were in different grades. So he did "K-5" while she went straight to "First Grade". Same work, different label.) I have avoided this issue with Daniel and Abbie by dividing them up from the beginning. She is in Totschool, and he is in Preschool.


Mama Teaching 2 said...

I can understand...but homeschooling my children has brought me out of that. Thank goodness!

My friend is using something very neat... http://www.amazon.com/Math-Wizardry-Kids-Margaret-Kenda/dp/0764141767/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1255058670&sr=1-1

joelle said...

I love how you change your look every so often. they look really nice. I deal with that same problem as well and have started more "living math" in our curriculum as well. I hope you get to share of what you will be doing in that area. I'm still looking for more ideas.

Jeanne said...

Too very cool! I love maths stories like this!


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