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Homeschooling 101, Part 5: ME? Teach MATH??


Homeschooling math can be intimidating, especially if you have a low self-concept in that area. The good news is, you’re probably not as lousy at math as you think. You were just not taught correctly.

Why do I think this? I used to think I was no good at math. This, despite having received an A in Algebra 2 in high school, as well as in Statistics in college (which were my last two math classes in my student career). This, despite that my math SAT scores were higher (to my great shock) than my verbal scores – and my verbal scores weren’t all that shabby.

When I was a student, I despised math. But during my career as a teacher, I fell in love with it. Why? Educators these days are trained to start any math concept with manipulatives so that students can develop an understanding of why a particular concept – say, addition with regrouping – works. I learned how to subtract with zeros (like 300-152) as well as to do multi-digit division…as a teacher. Check this out: I learned those skills while I was teaching my students how to do them!

Why? The teacher’s manual told me to use such-and-such manipulatives to introduce the concept. When I was a kid back in the 1970’s, teachers didn’t use manipulatives past Kindergarten. They just threw algorithms up on the blackboard and expected you to learn them cold.

Leaving both visual and hands-on learners in the dust (I am the former).

Math is all about patterns

Could you continue a picture pattern for me? If I showed you a row of graphics that went “circle, triangle, square, circle, triangle, square”, would you be able to keep it going for me? Sure you could!

Well, the entirety of math consists of patterns, along with a healthy dose of logic.

Say that with me: “Math is all about patterns and logic.”

The problem is, many homeschooling parents were not taught math using either manipulatives or patterns. And so they don’t get it, and so they’re afraid they’d do a lousy job trying to teach it.

If that’s you, let me hold your hand for a minute.

Where to begin with a math curriculum

If you don’t mind spending some time creating your own math materials, the math section in each of the Core Knowledge series books (What Your First-Grader/Etc. Needs To Know) does a fair job in explaining math concepts. The down side to using Core Knowledge, even if you don’t mind creating your own manipulatives or worksheets, is that it uses random examples to demonstrate concepts. It doesn’t build patterns so that a student can get well-grounded in a concept.

Reading your state’s math objectives and trying to find corresponding worksheets online (or make your own) can be an exercise in frustration – even for former schoolteachers-turned-homeschoolers. It’s also hard to remember to work in review lessons to ensure the student doesn’t lose prior learning.

In fact, math is the one elementary subject area where I firmly recommend purchasing a structured curriculum. Homeschooling math is a lot easier when everything is already laid out for you. The boxed curriculums, as well, include a manipulative kit that you use through at least the fourth grade.

Right now, I am working on a series of math books that will be full of fun, hands-on activities and games after introducing students to a concept via patterns and logic puzzles. Eventually, Story Math™ will follow. They will be less expensive than any other math curriculum you can buy, while covering all of the math objectives through grade four (and a little bit in to grade five).

I am writing the materials I wish I had right now as I am homeschooling my son; or rather, the ones I wish I’d had from the beginning. I base the lessons on the future math curriculum I plan to publish, but obviously it’s not as structured or “together” as it will be by the time I finish.

What about middle and high school?

Can you say, “online courses”? There may also be a homeschool co-op in your area in which a parent teaches higher level math. In our house, I’ll have the privilege of handing over our son’s math education to my computer-programmer-electrical-engineer husband.  😉

You can do it!

Long story short: you can homeschool math. You can teach your child all the concepts they need to know up to middle school, perhaps even through middle school. Read a couple of books like What’s Math Got To Do With It? by Jo Boaler and All The Math You’ll Ever Need by Steve Slavin. Buy a math program (the ones I’ve heard about – Math U See, Saxon Math, and Singapore Math – all run under $100 per grade level) that starts with manipulatives to teach a concept…and don’t be afraid to keep on using those manipulatives for as long as your child needs them.

Search things like “addition math games”, or “how to teach two-digit multiplication” on YouTube. You’d be surprised at the abundance of demonstration videos there are in the subject of math!

You, my fellow homeschooling parent, can do it. You can teach your child(ren) math.

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