Wednesday, February 11, 2015

What I Do for Early Elementary Math {Answering a Reader Question}

Over the weekend, I received an email from a reader asking what curriculum I use for early elementary math. Her questions made me think through why what we've used has worked, but I also thought others may want to share their experiences in the comments. 

She writes ~

Hello Meghan! I wanted to let you know that I\'ve enjoyed your posts for over a year now. I look forward to it every week :) I was wondering what you use for the early grades of K-2/3 for math. I have used a mixture of Singapore, MCP, Math Mammoth, and cheap workbooks at Walmart. Some of the problems are too abstract for my 6 year-old daughter. I am wondering if I need to just have her memorize addition and subtraction math facts first and then work problems. I didn\'t want her relying on her fingers all the time and to understand the concept first. She is my eldest child and I wanted her to have a good foundation. I know you have older children and may have some good advice on what has worked for you :)

Hello, reader!

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my little scribblings! Your presence here means everything to me! J

You are at a thrilling part of the homeschooling journey ~ the beginning! I envy you the newness and the many discoveries ahead. I admire how thorough you are in your approach and how you've thought everything out. 

Let me just say this at the beginning ~ math can be a hard concept to grasp. For some of us, math can be a hard concept at any age. J

I haven't tried a lot of different curriculum because I really liked the first I tried. Hooked on Math

I also supplemented with cheap workbooks, Comprehensive Curriculum of Basic Skills, except mine were from Sam’s Club.

{Please, this isn't a commercial, although this is an affiliate link. I'm just sharing what I've used. And I'm not an expert in education or child psychology. This is just what I've seen in my own children.}

Hooked on Math is a combination of memorizing basic facts and gradually adding in working easy problems. It also uses games and manipulatives to understand the basic concepts.

First, is memorizing important? Most definitely! My two oldest daughters participated in the local Bible Bee last year, and my oldest earned a place at Nationals. How did they learn the verses they would need to recite? They memorized them. Does that mean they have immediately forgotten them? Hardly. More times than I can count, during a church service, one or both have indicated to me that they already knew a verse the pastor cited. But that memorization has also sunk that verse into their hearts. They don't just know it. They know it. 

In much the same way, children initially memorize addition facts. But as they use them more and more, it becomes ingrained until they don't even have to try to remember.

Second, what about manipulatives? {I’m sure you know what manipulatives are, but I was a few years into homeschooling before I realized that's a fancy term for something you can touch and move around and feel to help you understand a math concept. I was using them. I just didn't know what The Experts called them.}

Manipulatives can be a fantastic way for a child to grasp the concept of adding and taking away. I've used the plastic disks that come in Hooked on Math, different colored M&Ms, small blocks, rocks on the beach. Fingers are no different except that they're attached.

When I started my 5yo in math, I was dismayed to see her use the most readily available manipulative, her fingers. I wanted her to just know it and be able to do it right away. She's now in ninth grade and working advanced algebraic problems. No counting on her fingers there. J Once the facts sink in, fingers are no longer needed.

My 9yo was using her fingers last year, in second grade. This year, as we're reviewing adding money? No fingers.

Chin up, sweet friend! Relax and cherish the moments. You're prepared, you're thinking ahead, and you want the best for your child. You and she will be fine, especially with the best foundation of and family.

{To my reader who sent the email: Gmail said your address wasn't valid. I wasn't sure how else to contact you. Thanks for a great question! J}

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  1. Here's another questions for you... What math do you recommend for middle school and high school? Thanks!! Jamie ~ Alabama

    1. So far (and my oldest is in ninth grade), we've used Abeka. We like it, especially since there is review to keep the concepts fresh. The ninth grade math is a little tough, and we've relied upon my husband to do the teaching for that subject when she needs help. They do have a DVD program, and I wouldn't hesitate to use that if I needed it, just to be able to continue homeschooling. I hope that helps, Jamie, and many blessings in your homeschool! :-)

  2. Thanks for your insight. I've found that some of my kids just get it quick and others need manipulatives to help them learn and others just have to practice, practice, practice with different methods.

    1. Each child is different, Suanna. You are so right. Thanks for that shot of wisdom. :-)

  3. This post was very informative, and next year I will be trying something more repetitive with second grade math. My first grader knows his facts, but does not have them memorized. It is much better to have them start off with memorization instead of learning manipulatives. Your pictures were very helpful and I will know what to look for when purchasing my next curriculum.

    1. I'm glad it was helpful, Michelle. Blessings on your homeschool! :-)


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