Thursday, April 29, 2010

Learning to be creative with Math

Math is not my strong point. Numbers cause my brain to fizzle and explode. Sadly, I think I may have passed this on to my eldest daughter who has declared on numerous occasions ” I hate Math!”. And while I am a self-confessed Math-phobic, my heart sinks, because my goal for my children to be fearless in the face of any challenge.
So, once again I am presented another opportunity for some self-reflection and growth. I know I could easily spend hours planning and thinking about subjects I love like History, but with Math, I was content to hand the workbooks to my kids and lett them get on with it after some explanation. I realised that I needed to spend more time on this particular subject especially since I didn’t feel confident about it. Afterall, I wanted to make it fun and undaunting for them so they could flourish rather than have to carry all my hang ups about the subject.
We had started off with Right Start Math which was great in theory but unfortunately, in practice, I found it so teacher intensive that I let it fall by the wayside. The curriculum is great but my implementation was poor! I started to use the local Singapore Math course and workbooks (why not since Singapore Math is so highly regarded in Homeschooling circles). It worked fine but I got lazy and just let them work through the books.
Occasionally, when I saw them struggling with a topic, I supplemented with Mammoth Math having tried a free sample from I used their workbook on Time which set a firm foundation for my younger daughter and I used their workbook on Fractions with my eldest. She didn’t love it but got through it and came out with a fairly good understanding. It was logical and thorough in its approach.
I also purchased Life Of Fred (Fractions) for her – she loved the stories but was not enamoured with the review questions at the end of each chapter. I like its unusual approach to teaching Math and we will probably come back to it later on. I have heard that Life Of Fred works better as a review once the child has mastered or at least got some grasp of the subject.
I used (to great effect) Times Tales to help solidify and teach the multiplication tables to them. It uses stories and mnemonics to help kids memorise their times tables.It worked really well and my oldest, who was struggling to remember her tables, just got it. My other daughter who hadn’t even started working on learning her tables now knew all her upper multiplication facts (i.e.3×6, 3×7, 3×8, 3×9, 4×6, 4×7, 4×8, 4×9, 6×6, 6×7, 6×8, 6×9, 7×7, 7×8, 7×9 ,8×8, 8×9,9×9). It took us about 10 days to accomplish this! Such a relief after months of slogging away with drills, learning wrap-ups, computer games, memorisation. I think it would work particularly well for visual learners.
More recently, for fun, I introduced them to a few fun ways to “see” their times tables. One was the Multiplication Clock (an idea garnered from this site). A combination of Art and Math!
copyright 2007 Robinsunne

I also discovered a wonderful site called Right Brained Math which has some great videos and activities that help kids have fun with the times tables by seeing the patterns and playing with puzzles. This is one of the videos from the site.

In search of more ideas and a curriculum that would work for us, I did my usual l trawl of the internet and stumbled upon this intriguing website called Living Math – a holistic non-traditional approach to Math. It has a fantastic reading list for Math related literature which covers history, science and many Mathematical concepts.
What I am doing now:
First, I switched curriculums after hearing about this fascinating programme called the Mathematical Enhancement Programme (MEP). It is a full downloadable curriculum that is free online! It is a curriculum that draws its teaching strategies and methods from the Hungarian system. It adopts a rigorous spiral approach and is very interactive. I understand that it is on a trial run in UK schools at the moment. The best step by step explanation of this programme can be found on this blog.
Highlights of the program, according to the CIMT:
  • High expectations of students and teachers
  • Mathematics taught as an integrated subject
  • Continual review of facts and concepts
  • Interactive lessons
  • Stress on the logical foundations of mathematics
  • Use of models and manipulatives to help students visualize concepts
  • Encourages creative thinking and problem-solving
It is teacher intensive but I guess I am in a different frame of mind now and have managed to work it into our schedule so that I work separately with each of my girls. After using this for the first time, both girls declared that they love it! They also have interactive workbook pages on their website which allows kids to work online and they can check their work themselves. My routine now consists of my teaching one child one to one following the MEP lesson plan while the other does the interactive pages online or works on some other aspect of Math, reads a living Math book or does some puzzle/logic type exercises.
Secondly, I decided that I would use a combination of ideas that I had gleaned from the Living Math site as well as from the blogs of families who have implemented this style of “doing Math” into their routines. I thought that I would have at least 1 “creative math” day in our household where we would give plenty of time to the subject, reading related literature, using crafty hands on projects and learning tools and PLAYING GAMES! I will be posting more specifically on these Math days soon.
This link will take you a great introduction to implementing Living Math into your homeschool :) . Love it!
So I’m hopeful for the future and we shall see how it goes!

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