Wednesday, December 5, 2012

M is for... Math

Math.  An essential but not generally beloved subject.  I've heard that there are people who genuinely like math, and students for whom math is a favorite subject.  This is weird to me, because that doesn't describe me or my kids.  Or anyone related to me, truth be told.

I used to think that it didn't make much difference what curriculum we used for math, since they all teach the same thing.  How much difference can there be, right?  Now I know a little better.  While they do all teach the same thing - over time, at least - there are different approaches and sequences and media, and finding what works for each child can be the difference between success and frustration.

Each of my four kids started with workbooks from Modern Curriculum Press,  a K-6 math curriculum.  The workbooks were inexpensive and clear, and were a good introduction to the basics they would need.  It's what I used when Harrison started out, and I already had the teacher's edition, so it was easy on me and on my pocketbook to just buy the consumable workbook for each kid and carry on.  I don't regret doing it that way at all, but I didn't carry on all the way through Grade 6 with all four kids.  Just Harrison and Landon.

The boys all went from MCP to Saxon.  I liked Saxon because there was constant review (I've learned that it's called spiral approach), it was thorough instruction, it was non-consumable, it is considered excellent college prep, and the uncluttered pages didn't cause distraction with drawings and colors.  Harrison used Saxon 8/7, Algebra 1/2, Algebra I, and Algebra II.  Spencer used 7/6, 8/7, and Algebra I.  Landon used 8/7.  I suspect that because of her very different learning style, Kennady will not use Saxon at all, but we'll see.

In Grade 11, Spencer was doing a Geometry course and it wasn't going all that well, but we were offered the chance (through the Schoolhouse Review Crew) to review a web-based math instruction program at ALEKS.  (You can read my review HERE.) That turned out to be a real blessing! Spencer enjoyed using the program and I loved that I didn't have to grade it myself.  Math was no longer a daily struggle for either of us!

In spring, we were offered another Schoolhouse Review Crew math program that was also life-changing, and this time it was Landon that benefited.  Landon was finishing Saxon 8/7, and we would be deciding whether to jump ahead to Algebra I or first do Algebra 1/2.  The review we did was an Algebra I course - No-Nonsense Algebra from Math Essentials.  Landon started on it for the review period, even though it might have been a little soon, but he liked it so much that I "caught" HIM recommending it to his homeschooled friends! Quite an endorsement!  (You can read my review HERE.) We absolutely love that this math program is affordable and not time-consuming.  Landon is doing very well with it.  Once again, we had found something that moved math from the daily struggle column to something that Landon actually enjoys.  (Well, as much as a kid that doesn't like math can enjoy it.)

This year, by the way, Spencer is doing Switched-On Schoolhouse Consumer Math.  Harrison also did this course in his senior year.  I intend that Landon and Kennady will each complete this high school level consumer math course at some point too.  It's one of our family's requirements for graduation.

Then there's Kennady.  She is one of those kids that has no affection for numbers or math facts.  The only way she has learned any multiplication tables is because she watches Schoolhouse Rock.  (I LOVE Schoolhouse Rock.  Not gonna lie, I still sing the Grammar songs and some of the Multiplication Rock songs myself!)  She struggled through the MCP workbooks until Grade 4. We would think she finally understood something only to find that she had forgotten it over the weekend.  There were tears and whining because she could see how much of the book she had left to do and it seemed overwhelming to her.  We got some help in her Grade 5 year when we reviewed Math Mammoth for the Schoolhouse Review Crew.  (You can read my review HERE.)  For whatever reason, that clicked much better for her, and she finished out the year doing the Math Mammoth workbook.  Oddly, one of the things that I believe really helped was the fact that I only printed out the pages for her to do and gave them to her a day or two at a time.  She didn't have a huge book to look at and despair that she would never get through it all.  I also bought a bunch of the Make It Real series of real-life math application, and am going to be using those as supplements.


For this year, I went ahead and purchased a couple of the Life of Fred series of books for Kennady.  I think we've finally found the thing for her.  Life of Fred teaches math through an entertaining and humorous chapter book type story, and each book focuses on a concept.  (This is considered a mastery approach.) So right now, Kennady is reading Fred's story and learning about fractions.  Fractions, fractions, and more fractions.  When she is finished that book she will go on to decimals and percentages.  At last, even Kennady doesn't feel like she has something to cry about when it's time to do math! She has even been known to read Life of Fred on her own time, and she regularly updates me on what Fred is doing in the story.

Do your students like math or just tolerate it?  What resources have worked for you?  Leave a comment and let me know!

Please visit Ben and Me: M is for Missouri to join in and to see what thoughts this week's letter has prompted for other bloggers. 
Blogging Through the Alphabet
To find out more about the Blogging through the Alphabet link-up, and how to participate, visit Ben and Me: Blogging Through The Alphabet


Stefanie said...

Whenever I think about how many math programs we've been through, I can't help but be grateful that we aren't forced to stick with a program that isn't working like those poor dears in PS.

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