Research out of Stanford University suggests memorizing and drilling math facts damages our children’ chances to enjoy and understand math deeply. We have it wrong when we give our kids the impression that math is a set of procedures and rules to follow.
I was anxious in our first year of homeschooling, afraid my daughter would not perform like other typical first graders. We used a dry math curriculum that stressed basic facts and rote memory, little problem solving and old-fashioned formulas. There was no adventure and no risk. My little learner gave me much push back. Midway through the year we started to play math and I saw a blossoming.
Yuck-flashcards. Yuck-sight words. Yuck-rote fact regurgitation. With my background as a language arts teacher I was completely confident that sight words (and reading and writing) would come about naturally as we continued to read, read, read as a family. No need to memorize. I wasn’t so confident about math but I started to wonder. I wondered if I approached math the same as reading if I would find a natural, developmental grasp of math concepts in my children.
I did! I do!
Delayed? Different? Experience-based? Research? I’ll be up front–my husband is a mathemagician….he works in finance and in our house the kids hear him talk about going to work to “crunch the numbers”. So there is positive talk in our house about math which is a contributor to math achievement. We make time for games-math, strategy, logic–really any game will do. Fluency has increased significantly as we have played with a deck of cards, our games-based curriculum or manipulatives.
Mental math is our friend. Due in most part to my
laziness aversion to worksheet work, we do a great deal of math in our heads. Because of this nearly daily practice, my kids have increased their speed and fluency in problem-solving. We keep manipulatives nearby to move from concrete to abstract….and I sometimes need those more than the kids. 🙂
More Manipulatives-More Connections
The more your children can get their hands on math, the more math understanding they develop. Look for and find patterns, build with shapes, group sets and categories, create sequences. Always move from simple to complex, concrete to abstract–and come back again and again to concrete. Get them down on the ground looking at math concepts, building models to show their understanding. Allow free exploration of the manipulatives you have on hand; this encourages kids to create and explore meaning. Suggest they show you their problem solving steps using manipulatives–an authentic way to open up conversation and math exploration. You want your kids THINKING mathematically.
Kids’ brains do change as they begin to pull facts from memory. My wish for us to enjoy math, make it a natural part of daily life, and not build stress into our days with kill and drill, flash cards or timed tests, led me to explore what best learning practices and research has found. Natural math learning has given my kids confidence in problem solving and they can use basic facts effectively. Try to play and use manipulatives…see what math magic you can begin to create in your homeschool!
Tell me about it–what are your worries in math? Do you have math anxiety? How are you finding ways bring math magic to your homeschool? I’d love to hear your ideas! Get in touch. Find more mathtastic resources over at iHomeschoolNetwork on the The Massive Guide to Homeschooling Math.