Before I get into the specifics of teaching your child math I am going to philosophize here for a minute…or perhaps editorialize would be a better word. In any case, if you do not care to read the upcoming *editorial* feel free to jump down to where I get into the specifics of teaching math.
In the meantime, I feel I have to address a problem that I have encountered with home-schooling parents when it comes to teaching math, and specifically, when it comes to teaching algebra. I can’t tell you how many times I have been absolutely appalled to hear a parent say either:
a) Their child doesn’t want to study algebra so they are not going to require it; or
b) Their child has told them they don’t want to study algebra because they are never going to need it so they have decided they won’t require their child to study it; or
c) They are intimidated by teaching algebra so they have decided to dupe themselves into believing their child won’t need algebra.
I know that none of my readers would be entertaining such notions, but the fact is: algebra is now considered basic math and something every student should be required to study. Just because I have a strong math background doesn’t mean that somehow makes it easier for me to require my children to study algebra. Just because you may not have a strong math background is no excuse for you not to require your child to study algebra. There are video and computer programs available to teach your child algebra. You can hire a tutor. An older home-schooled student (or home-school graduate) would be ideal. In fact my daughter has been tutoring algebra to teenagers for years. There is simply no excuse for handicapping your child by not requiring them to study algebra and frankly, the study of algebra should be the minimum requirement of higher math that you assign to your child. They should also be studying geometry, trigonometry, and pre-calculus. I will discuss in a few moments some programs you can consider using to give your child a strong background in math that will prepare them for whatever career or educational challenges your child will face in the future.
But before I get to that I would like to address the two excuses listed above where parents actually allow their children to dictate what they will study? Just where do you go to turn in your parenting card? I surely know there have been times when I would have liked to turn in my parenting card rather than taking tough stands with my kids and actually acting like, you know, a parent.
It totally boggles my mind when I will hear a home-schooling parent say to me, “We’re sending little Johnny back to public school next year because that’s what he wants.” You should just hear the bombs going off in my head. He wants to? Did you not learn those valuable parenting phrases like, “Because I said so” or “Because I’m the parent that’s why” or “If all your friends were going to jump off a bridge would you jump too?” I just don’t get it. I’m guessing these parents had some very well-thought out reasons for home-schooling their child so why would they now allow their child to veto their decision?
I might as well tell you right now my definition of an adult: it is someone who pays all their own bills. There I said it. (And by the way, I have told this to my kids many times…no surprise to them.) What this means is that I don’t even believe an 18- or 19- or 20- year old should get to unilaterally make decisions about their education, religious pursuits, or relationships unless they are completely self-supporting and I don’t know any 18- or 19- or 20-year olds who are.
So you can get what my response would be to my child who told me that he didn’t want to study algebra. Yeah, I’d be laughing hysterically. Rolling. On the floor. Laughing. I think you get the picture.
THE EDITORIAL PORTION OF THIS POST IS OVER. I NOW RETURN YOU TO YOUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED POST.
Teaching math actually has two different components. Both have equal importance. The first is learning math concepts. The second is speed and accuracy. I am going to divide these components into two posts so that I can give each sufficient attention. Today I am going to address teaching math concepts.
So what do I mean by “math concepts?” Everything you learn in math whether it is how to add (and the fact that it doesn’t matter which order you put numbers in when you add them) to multiplying fractions to factoring numbers are math concepts.
Generally speaking, math concepts need to be taught in a sequential manner because they build upon other concepts previously learned. For that reason I suggest you find a math curriculum you like and stick to it.
Now I am not saying that you stick with something no matter what, when it is clearly not working (I discussed how that plan did NOT work for me when teaching one of my son’s to read in my previous post). BUT, you should try to find something that does work, and then stick with it. I have talked to too many home-schooling parents who jump around trying to find the “perfect” math curriculum rather than choosing a solid curriculum and making it work.
My point is that, it is likely that your child is going to struggle here and there with math. That doesn’t mean the curriculum you are using is worthless or just too difficult. It may mean you need to find another way to teach a concept. Believe it or not, the internet can definitely be a friend in trying to find ways to make a concept come alive for your child. Or have an older sibling try explaining the concept. Or keep a home-schooled teenager on retainer for when you occasionally get stuck! 🙂
One last thing I’d like to share before I move on to specific curriculum recommendations is this: Do not automatically buy the Teacher’s Manuals. Actually that was some of the best advice I ever received from a home-schooling friend when I started out home-schooling. Naturally, every curriculum will try to tell you that you NEED to buy the Teacher’s Manuals. They make a lot of money off of them. But the fact is, in general Teacher’s Manuals are designed for the classroom teacher, to help them keep a classroom full of kids busy. I never started buying Teacher’s Manuals until at least the fourth grade and that was only to get the answer keys. On the other hand, when your children get into Algebra and other advanced math you will not only want answer keys but also “solution manuals” such as those offered by Saxon Math. It will make your life (and your child’s schooling) much easier.
Now on to my recommendations for teaching math concepts:
Bob Jones University Press – I use BJUP for kindergarten through 6th grade. It is a solid program that is easy to use and will prepare your child to study pre-algebra in 7th grade.
Saxon Math – I use Saxon beginning in 7th grade. My children take Algebra 1/2 (pre-algebra) in 7th grade, Algebra 1 in 8th grade, Algebra 2 in 9th grade and Advanced Math in 10th grade. Saxon Math is unique in that it incorporates Geometry in it’s Algebra program so there’s no need for a separate Geometry program. In addition Saxon offers tools (including teaching CD”s and Solutions Manuals) that many find to be a helpful addition to their program. Using Saxon my children are prepared to take College Algebra in 11th grade, which they take at the community college through the Dual Enrollment program.
I have never used the programs listed below but they are popular among home-schoolers so I felt it was worthwhile to mention them. You can check them out and determine if they might work for your home-school program:
Horizons Math– According to the Sonlight website, “Horizons Math is designed to help your children understand math from the ground up.”
Key To Math Series You can use the “Key To” programs as preparation for a larger, more intense program of the same subject, as a supplement for a regular hardbound text or the text for an individualized course.
Teaching Textbooks – Teaching Textbooks are strongly recommended by the folks at Sonlight because they (according to Sonlight) virtually guarantee success with minimal knowledge, skill or oversight on the part of mom or dad.
If you have any questions about teaching math concepts please leave them in the comments. And be sure to check back next week when I will be reviewing math programs that will help your child develop speed and accuracy .Print This Post