Sep 10, 2011

Our Curriculum Series: Math

Something that I never get tired of talking about or hearing about is curriculum. I love to hear what other families use and how they make it work for them. So I thought I would do a series of posts about the curriculum that we use and how we tweak it. Because tweaking is our favorite thing!
So, to start with math:
We use Math U See. Kaytie and Nate work at the same level in math, which sometimes makes it easier for me, and sometimes harder. Currently, they are half way through Gamma. Math U See is a DVD/ Manipulative/ Worksheet curriculum that pushes concepts first, then memorization of facts. Neither of my kids like math, but they both pick Math U See hands down over any other math we have done. The idea is that Steve Demme, the creator of Math U See, teaches the concept on the DVD. The teacher is supposed to watch it, then teach the concept to the kids, using the manipulatives. Each lesson has six worksheets that go with it. Three focus on the new concept and three mix review in with the new concept. You are not expected to have the child do all six sheets. The first three are only to make sure the concept is understood. Once you know the child is at that point, move on to the review sheets. If the child is NOT getting the concept, repeat the material in different ways until it is understood, and then move on. The child is free to use the manipulatives until they feel comfortable without them.

The manipulatives are blocks (like Cuisinare Rods) that fit together (like Lego)  and illustrate how numbers work together. There are blocks for every number (the two is twice as long as the one; the three is three times as long) from one to ten. Then there are 100 blocks (100 times as large as a one). My kids love the blocks and use them for free play as well as for math.

We do it a little bit differently. The kids watch the video themselves. They prefer it that way because they think Mr. Demme is funny. They also like to answer the questions before the kids on the video can. And they watch for "patterns" and tips and tricks. In addition, it helps with difficult concepts because they have his method of explaining it, and if they don't understand that, then I can try another way.
The workbooks are bulky, difficult, and expensive, so I hand write the problems into spiral notebooks for the kids and they work in the spirals. This is helpful when they need a problem broken down a little more. Also, since we only "do math" four days a week, I can switch some problems around to get in more review when they catch onto the concept quickly. I can also add in extra review for the concepts that were a little more difficult and that they need to go over more often than it comes up in the book. It does take up some time, but I do it once a week and it really isn't that big of a deal.

Daniel is also doing Math U See. He is doing Alpha. I won't bore you with the whole long story, but somehow I don't have a DVD for Alpha. Since it is basic addition, we are trying to wing it without it. So I just go over the lesson with him and then he works in his spiral, using the blocks as desired. So far, he is finding it boring, but he is my math fanatic, so I am picking up the pace a little in order to make it more challenging for him.
Abbie's math is Shiller. She is working through the ages 4-5 book. This book was given to us, just the book. So I have no idea how the program is supposed to work, or how many bits and pieces we are missing. Therefor, you can take it for granted that we do our own thing with this curriculum. The manipulatives that are called for in the lessons are easily substituted with one of the hordes of different manipulatives we already owned. Abbie does a lesson a day and it takes us about five minutes. She loves it and Daniel misses it. Sometimes we come across a lesson that tackles a subject that I know she isn't ready for, or one that she already knows, so we just skip it.
Kevin's math is all made up from ideas I find on the internet or games I used with my four kids. Right now he is learning the basics: shapes, colors, patterns, numbers, counting, etc. So he does the Montessori method "Penguin-Style" and has a lot of fun.

So that's our math! Next up: Grammar

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