Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Math Resources for Home Educators

We start out Right Start Math for math instruction, which takes a unique approach that just makes sense to me, and results in excellent mental math abilities. I wrote a review of Right Start Math here. I think it's given my boys a fantastic foundation in math! 

We switch over to Teaching Textbooks when they're ready for it, around second or third grade. It's an independent math program, done on the computer. I was pleased with our transition from one to the other, and I think it was made easier in great part because of how well Right Start helped them understand math to begin with.  

We supplement with Life of Fred, starting in first or second grade. It's an enjoyable set of books that kids can do on their own, so we use it in the summer and/or for car schooling. I wrote a review of Life of Fred here

Here are the math freebies and online resources I've found...

Free Math Games & Drills Online...

Free Math Lessons and Curriculum Online...
  • AAA Math - Free online math lessons that could be used as your curriculum (I also listed it above b/c it could just be used as practice games.)
  • Center for Innovation in Mathematics Teaching - a free home school math curriculum for grades 1-6.
  • Number Nut - Free math lessons for teaching shapes, colors, counting, computing, dates, telling time, fractions, decimals, percentages, estimation, ratios, money, factors, graphs, square roots, measuring, advanced numbers, scientific notaion, and variables. 
  • Master Math - This is a free, online math course for middle schoolers. It includes video lessons, worksheets, self-grading quizzes, and on-line interactive tutoring. 
  • Algebra Help - a collections of lessons, calculators & worksheets for Algebra students 

Math Games...
  • Legos, Blocks, and other building toys
  • Beanbag Toss, Bowling, Concentration, Jacks, Pick-up-sticks
  • Old Maid, Go Fish, Crazy 8s, Spades, Hearts, Slap Jack, War, Dominoes 
  • Chess, Battleship, Monopoly & other board games
  • Play store (can use coupons) or bank with money, sorting, telling time, counting songs, puzzles, measuring heights 
  • You can make your own Math Bingo game by placing numbers in the Bingo grid, then ask a math problem and have them mark its answer on their Bingo card. 
  • Practice counting back change using Monopoly money. As they get older, your children should be able to figure how much change is due back before the cashier gives it to them. They'll also notice how much the cashiers rely on the display before giving back change, even for small amounts.

Other Resources... 
  • Living Math This site has reading lists by age for a Charlotte Mason type math approach, plus some learning ideas and various other resources for teaching math in a meaningful way. 
  • Donna Young's math printables, including charts, clocks, fractions, fractions, money, math paper, scale, facts & multipliers. 
  • Math Drills  Free math worksheets
  • Arabic Algorithms Have you ever wondered why 1 is "one", 2 is "two", and 3 is "three"? 

Understanding how your child THINKS... (1)

There are three modes of thinking which your child "grows through" in arithmetic:
  • Manipulative Mode... Children are able to work through problems using real objects. In this mode, very young children can do problems that aren't traditionally introduced until much later. This is because the objects are physically present to be counted or manipulated, and problems aren't solved "in the head." This stage is predominant until around age six or seven.
  • Mental Image Mode... Children can work out problems by imagining the objects in their head instead of handling them. At this stage, the child tends to stop using the manipulatives, because they figure out it's faster to just do it in their head. Children use mental images along with manipulatives until approximately age 12-13. (We still use mental image mode sometimes as adults as well.)
  • Abstract Mode... The child can think in abstraction. He doesn't have to picture 5 dots on the domino, but thinks of "5" as a somewhat concrete concept. This stage begins with adolescence, somewhere around age 12. 
As adults, we can switch modes as needed. But children are tied to manipulative mode in their early years. Pushing children into abstract mode before they're ready leads to "anxiety, frustration, dislike of arithmetic, and so forth... The only route to good abstract thinking in a child's later years is through lots of manipulative and mental image thinking in early years."(1) By taking advantage of what mode your child is in, instead of pushing them into a mode they aren't ready for yet, you can spend more time learning actual arithmetic.

"Use real-life situations to teach bits of arithmetic and build a "need" to know arithmetic. When you read stories to children, they learn that books contain stories and they develop a need to learn  how to read stories for themselves. That same principle must apply in arithmetic. Daily events involve arithmetic. Share these with your child so he develops an awareness of arithmetic and a need to know it....  Do this sharing in the mode appropriate for your child's age and development. At preschool ages, that will practically always be manipulative mode"(1) (as described above). For more information, see recommended reading at the bottom of the page.  

If you don't use it you lose it...

Here's a few every-day ways to include work in some real-life math practice with the kiddos:

  • Determine the best values on your grocery shopping trips by figuring the per-ounce cost.  
  • Compute how many miles are left on this gas tank. 
  • Let children help w/ snacks: counting, sharing equally, cutting in half, etc. 
  • Cook and follow recipe directions. 
  • Have them help figure out how to follow directions on a craft project. 
  • Start up a collection (rocks, stamps, etc) to sort, count, compare, etc.  
  • Read the calendar, thermometer, speedometer, scales.  
  • Read the book, "Carry On, Mr. Bowditch," the true story of Nathaniel Bowditch's life and the amazing ways he used math in his life.

Works Cited:
1. Ruth Beechick,
The Three R's
 2. Charlotte Mason, Home Education


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