Homeschooling FAQ: Doing Math Every Day

Doing math every day is not to be confused with Everyday Math.

Again: disclaimers.  I like math.  My husband likes math.  Our kids like playing with numbers.  I think those traits are part nature and part nurture.  So even if your nature is not to love math, don’t give up on your children liking it– some of that you can nurture.

When our children were little (3-5) we played a lot of verbal math games.  That begins with counting fingers and toes, spoons for the family as you put them on the table.  I still think one-to-one correlation is one of the most exciting things my kids have learned, and when they have learned to count things, we’ve had weeks of fun counting everything in sight.  That fun teaches them that numbers are not to be feared.  (Maybe you wish someone had played more math games with you!)

Next you can start playing “what’s one more?” and “what’s one less?”  You’ll be surprised, even at how young children can learn “half.”  Make quesadillas for lunch, pull out your pizza cutter, and teach fractions.  This is all doing math every day.

When we start formal learning with the children, we work on number recognition.  The written number 1 means one.  One jelly bean, one chocolate chip, one m&m…  (See how much fun math is?)  “Preschool Activities” section of Paula’s Archives has some great math activites (look in Dolly’s Ziploc Bags).  Once they can count their fingers and toes and recognize their digits, they might want to have a workbook.  In the beginning, I did hands-on activities two days a week and did workbook the other two days.

We began with a very formal, popular homeschool math program– and lasted a week.  I opened the box, read the teacher’s guide, and passed it to my husband.  Two days later, he asked me if I could return it.  The scripted nature of that particular program didn’t appeal to us at all– because we had already been playing with math.  I sent a frantic post to the hivemind at The Well-Trained Mind to ask what I should try instead (feeling the whole time I was waiting for a response that the clock was ticking and my child was going to flunk the SAT if I didn’t have an alternative in hand in the next two days…) and was pointed to Singapore, which has been a good fit for us.  (I have friends who are good teachers for whom Singapore has been a terrible fit.)

A few words about Singapore Math.  Singapore has textbooks with cartoon people and separate workbooks correlated with each level.  Many math curricula have placement tests if you don’t know where to start with your child.  We used Singapore’s test for each child and found it to be  accurate and helpful.  Singapore begins word problems from Primary Level 1– even before my children could really read them.  For children who need to do more problems in a given area (say, fractions), Singapore has “Extra Practice” books.  I’ve used them either alongside the workbook, or over the summer to keep math fresh in their minds.  It has worked for us.  It might work for you, it might not.  

The point is: math every day Numbers are fun.

I’m convinced that half the time I’ve said X curriculum didn’t work for us, the problem was that we didn’t have good muscles.  The first month of school may not be the time to figure out if something is right for you or not– build up those atrophied school muscles and do it every day before you decide something needs a change.  (The other half of the time, the curriculum was a bad fit, and when we changed it, everyone was much happier.)

4 thoughts on “Homeschooling FAQ: Doing Math Every Day

  1. annie —

    This post is great. We were looking for something to help us work with Logan over the summer so he doesn’t forget much of what he learned in preschool. I looked at the singapore math website and the kindergarten book seems to match what they were doing in school. Looking forward to your other posts.



  2. Thanks for blogging about this! I’m terrible at playing with my children and then when I do its towards my natural inclination–words. I’ve been reading endless threads about the pros and cons of Saxon versus Singapore. At some point I’m going to have to just decide. Anyway, thanks for the posts. Very helpful to hear other people’s journeys.


  3. Pingback: Getting Started Homeschooling: FAQ « Learning As We Go

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