Monday, July 13, 2015

Math: Going Against Common Advice

Part 3 of my series wrapping up what we learned this year in different subjects and what each experience taught me about homeschooling in general. (Part 1: History, Part 2: Science.) It was a year of adapting and adjusting, that's for sure. Just like the year before...

I did a lot of research before I started homeschooling. A large part of that research was learning from parents who had "been there, done that" on the Well Trained Mind Forum. Over and over I saw the same advice when it came to math: pick a curriculum and stick to it. Don't go bouncing around doing a different curriculum every year. Also, math was a subject that you really shouldn't try to teach off the top of your head and that you really need a comprehensive curriculum to teach it for you. For the first year of our homeschooling I stuck to that. And then life happened and the curriculum wasn't working for us and we tried different things for a year.

Very proud of completing Timez Attack
We started this year for Builder Boy with Math Mammoth 3. I had hopes at the beginning of the year that he might do some of it independently, but that did not go as planned. We got through the beginning of Math Mammoth grade 3, and then we got to multiplication. I have no problem with how Math Mammoth teaches multiplication. We just didn't need to go through the way they did it because Builder Boy already had worked with multiplication on Khan Academy the summer before and understood what it was and how it worked; he just needed to memorize the times table and he could move on. So for three months he played Timez Attack for his math. I describe it as a video game that uses answering math facts as the way to attack. There are two version; the free, simple version and the subscription paid, much more active version. The free version you chose either dungeon or palace corridors just answering the questions to beat the bosses. In the deluxe, paid version there are a variety of landscapes that you go through with much more intricate hazards that also have to be dealt with. Once he completed Timez Attack I tried giving him the end of year test for Math Mammoth 3, thinking we could consider it done. We couldn't. So now he is finishing 3rd grade math on Khan Academy.

For Early Bird we went even further against the common advice this year. My plan for him was to finish Singapore Essentials Kindergarten B and supplement with Life of Fred and Khan Academy.
We never finished the Singapore book. Or a Life of Fred book. And we didn't go back to Khan Academy until it was summer again. The problem was that he was past being able to understand the simple concepts and was bored, but was still doing everything on his fingers. He did not have the same number sense that Builder Boy had gained from Right Start math. So I signed him up for a few months on DreamBox Learning. (I had used this previously with Builder Boy.) Early Bird went through and finished kindergarten math and 1st grade math in four or five months. So it was worth the monthly fee for me. But he still needed review on basic math facts so that maybe he could stop being so dependent on using his fingers for little addition. We borrowed Sum Swamp, an adding board game by Learning Resources, from a friend for that purpose and Early Bird loves it. He is now 72% through with Early Math in Khan Academy (K-2nd grade) but is getting tripped up in a few areas. I'm on the look out for some other free online games that target those concepts.

So, do I recommend going against common advice and hopping around math programs? Not so much. Some kids this might work for, especially those who are naturals at math. But the possibility of gaps is high. I do think you should find the right program for your child and then stick to it; and sometimes it does take a long time to find the right choice for them. If you do do this then I suggest having a curriculum spine like Math Mammoth that you can test against to find the gaps that need addressing. The boys will work through the summer on Khan Academy, since we do school year 'round. But there will be placement tests in the fall before we begin any new math, and while I intend to use Math Mammoth since I bought the whole elementary program, I may need to conceptualize a new way to work through it.

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