One doubt often faced by homeschool parents is how to teach a subject they struggled with in school. For me, that subject is math. All the way through my school years, math was my least favourite subject. Despite that, I’m actually enjoying teaching math to my daughters. Here are my tips for teaching math when it’s not your favourite subject.
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#1 Ask for Curriculum Recommendations (or Read Reviews)
There are a lot of math programs available to homeschoolers now. I’ve heard good things about Math-U-See and Life of Fred and have friends using other curriculum successfully as well. If you aren’t sure where to star teaching math, read reviews. Look for a curriculum that is user-friendly and sounds interesting to your child. For example, if you have a child who enjoys reading and stories, Life of Fred is likely a good choice. If you have a child who is a hands-on learner, check out Math U See.
We use Saxon Math, which I also used as a homeschool student (from about Grade 4 until high school, including Saxon Physics and Algebra). I’ve been completely happy with the curriculum. The Teacher’s Guide does look a bit overwhelming, but I find it very comprehensive and user-friendly. I appreciate the way Saxon explains math concepts, and reviews and returns to those concepts until students understand them.
Don’t feel that once you’ve chosen a curriculum, you have to stick with it for the rest of your child’s career. When I wasn’t learning long division, Mom switched curriculum for me. It made a big difference. If the curriculum you are using isn’t working for your child, ask around and try another curriculum.
#2 Make Math Practical and Hands-on
The girls love it when I pull out crackers, clocks, blocks, scales, candy, coins, or other “math toys” for them to use during their lesson. I have a box of manipulatives that we use for almost every lesson. Often, when the lesson is over, the girls want to keep playing with the pattern blocks, geobands, or other materials we used. Saxon Math is great at making concepts easy for kids to understand by using coins, blocks and other things to teach mathematical concepts.
Knowing what the girls are learning in math also lets me draw practical, everyday applications for them. For example, when we’re baking, I can point out the fractions to the girls. If we’re in the grocery store, I can explain how I do price comparisons. I find learning and teaching math is easier when it relates to what we’re doing in other areas.
#3 Learn Math with Your Children
This year, Sunshine is doing Grade 3 math and Lily is doing Grade 2. Their math problems are still easy enough I can do them in my head or check their work without an answer key. That will likely change in a few years—but I can learn with them and refresh my math skills as they do. My mom set a great example for me of enthusiasm and love for learning. I hope to pass that along to my kids.
Yes, I struggled with algebra years ago as a high school student. No, I probably can’t teach it to my children. That’s why I have a good math curriculum. Teaching math to my daughters is a good way to refresh my own math skills. I only need to stay one lesson ahead of them.
Sunshine just started learning her multiplication tables. As she’s been trying to remember the multiples of 7, I’ve remembered my own struggles in that area. Seven was, for some reason, the hardest of the multiplication facts for me to remember. I hope it encourages Sunshine to hear that once upon a time, I was sitting staring at a work book wondering what 7 x 5 was as well… and now I can remember it (even if I have to think for a minute).
#4 Seek Outside Help with Teaching Math
There may come a time when all of the above ideas simply don’t work. You and your child are a standstill in math (or another subject). This happened to my younger brother, who struggled with math like me. Mom tried switching curriculum for him. When that didn’t work, he enrolled in math classes at our local high school. He was fortunate to connect with a great teacher there and passed his required math courses.
If your child is really having trouble with math, look for help. Maybe another homeschool parent has experience in this area and could tutor your child with theirs. Maybe a tutoring service can help. Maybe online classes will explain math concepts to your child. There are tons of learning options available to children these days; find the one that suits your child.
Did you struggle with math a child? What helped you learn better? If you are a homeschool parent, what subject is your least favourite—to learn or teach?
For more ideas about teaching math, drop by the Canadian Homeschooler.