Monday, August 10, 2009

Rethinking Math

This one isn't as dramatic as Rethinking Reading. Basically, I just grew lazy, enamored with the ease of using a math curriculum, and had to get back to the original plan of action. The original plan of action was based on having fun, being hands-on oriented, and my own loathing of textbooks/packaged curriculum. To make a long story short, I gradually slipped from this ideal to just handing the kids a workbook. Needless to say, their reaction to math went from "I love math!" to "Ah, not math." Thankfully, I was browsing one of my favorite homeschool blogs and bumped into this post. Reading how she slipped into boring mode but knew of a better way was encouraging. I needed to know the better way. In the post she listed some math links, the first of which is for Living Math. While I've always liked using games for math, I had never thought of using literature for math. I didn't really know how. After reading through the whole Living Math website and taking a few days off from math to let the kids recoup, I'm gradually regaining the original vision of enjoyable, meaningful math.
The main ideas:
Incorporate fun and interesting books that support math concepts. There is a huge list on Living Math divided into categories by concept. For instance, if your child is learning addition or algebra, there are books listed for that.
Let your curriculum (if you want to use one) be a spine and build around it. Let it guide you, keep you on track, but don't be a slave to it. Charlotte Mason used this idea for many subjects. Why not use it for math too?
Play games! They're not just for weekends and after-school times. A child can learn math just as well, if not better, by playing games as sitting down with paper and pencil. Also a ong list for math games on the site.
Make math part of life. Surround kids with math. Talk about math that's happening around you; don't wait until the textbook is open.
Move at the child's pace. Don't push. He'll get it when he's ready, as long as he's exposed to the ideas you want him to pick up on.
So, I'm working on it. We've been playing more games, doing a lot more hands on, reading math library books. Miah has still been doing her workbook but at a more natural pace. And I have not heard, "Not math!" one time since.
In addition to all the helpful information at Living Math, there is a living math forum and a math history curriculum which looks really neat.
So if your child is learning (or supposed to be learning) math, whether you are the teacher or not, I highly recommend taking a look at the Living Math website to help improve your child's enjoyment and understanding of math.
Another excellent math site to explore is Christian Perspective, especially this article and this list. Math is actually a powerful testimony to God's faithfulness. All the more reason to make math a joy to learn.

"For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him." - Colossians 1:16 (Yes, even math!)

"That which any one has been long learning unwillingly, he unlearns with proportional eagerness and haste." - William Hazlitt


  1. Please don't misunderstand when I say: I'm glad to read other homeschooling mums are doing similar reflections as I do! I'm so happy you write those things, sometimes it's hard in our reality to find somebody for sharing problems or reflections because in Italy there are only a few people doing homeschooling. So it helps me a lot, reading about your "Rethinkings". Thank you, thank you a lot!
    Well, I can't say that it's always like a funny game doing math, and we have to follow in broad the formal plannings, when we deceid for homeschooling in Italy. I have seen that much depends on my own enthusiasm, and nothing is wronger than going to the boys thinking: uff, we've got to do math... I see that, when I prepare math games or (stupid, funny) math stories, I have fun with it, and then the boys have fun, too - it's contagious.
    Thank you for the link to "Living Math", I will take a look; unfortunately it always take time for copy-and-translate :))

  2. It's so easy to slip into the boring math style! Actually we started there and I realized that it was NOT working. Now my daughter's attitude towards math is greatly improved not to mention her understanding of the concepts!

    I like your outline here of what living math is. Very well done.