Monday, July 12, 2010

Rethinking Math

Last summer, Ella was chugging away at math facts, moving forward with double-digit addition and subtraction, and couldn't wait to start multiplication.  We have already introduced her to the concept, showing her how some of the addition facts she already knows are in fact multiplication facts as well, and she has always been excited by the subject.  It isn't her strongest subject, but it has never been a struggle, so when planning curriculum I decided not to make it a focus.  We point out math in our daily lives and have her figure things out on her own when the opportunity arises, so for school I opted to go with Singapore Math (she was about half a grade behind what they considered second grade, simply because her school hadn't even introduced multiplication yet) and Two Plus Two is Not Five (to ease up on the finger counting).

The plan was simple.  We'd do an exercise in her Singapore book together in the morning, then she'd do a sheet of addition/subtraction from the other book during afternoon independent work.  It was what I called our Ten Minute Math program.

But we hit a snag.

She flipped ahead in the Singapore book, saw multiplication on the horizon, and F-R-E-A-K-E-D.  All I can figure is that some kids at school shared their math negativity with her last year, because it certainly didn't come from this house.  There was no talking her down from her ledge.  She was practically hyperventilating every morning as we turned a new page and got closer to the dreaded multiplication.  I had to switch gears.  Fast.  So I came up with a new plan, for the summer at least . . .

1.  Take a week or two off Singapore.  Just to give her a little breathing room.  We finished the first section and review, so it was perfect timing to take a break.  And give me time to find a new way to hype it up.

2.  Continue with the addition/subtraction drills.  They are easy, stress-free, and build her confidence.  Plus, it will make multiplication a whole lot easier to have those good and memorized.

3.  Put the F-U-N back in math.  Since I'm probably not the best one to do a math rap or throw a big math themed party (I don't hate it or anything, I just have trouble getting pumped up about math), I turned to the fabulous Professor Internet for some new activities.  We checked out several game sites, and she seems to like the addition and subtraction games at the best.  The Knights of Math is her favorite game right now.  For every problem she answers correctly, she gets a new image on a medieval scene.  Once she answers a certain number of problems, she is allowed free access to all the images to create her own scene.  I think there is a fairy game that is very similar.  Some of the games are "race" type games, but most aren't timed, which is a plus right now.

Of course, we still do all the other stuff - tangrams, patterns, money, time, measurements - in our regular activities just as part of life or with games and other learning activities, so I'm not worried about that.  I'm just glad we can devote some time to learning these math facts as part of our school day, instead of it being our homework responsibility to learn them from 4-7 in the evening after an already long and hard day.  Just another reason I am so glad we made the decision to homeschool!

If any of you have a favorite game (online or otherwise) that you would like to share, we'd love to hear about it.


  1. Hmm... I liked making arrays on a cookie sheet--with cookies, of course! I know we do multiplication as we go through the day, but I can't remember specific examples. Usually I'll be talking about something we're doing & one of the kids will make the connection himself.

  2. If she's good at skip-counting, you might allude to the fact that multiplication is just a quicker way to skip-count. If she's not, you might focus a little on bringing those skills up to par, so multiplication will be easier when you get there. There are lots of math music cd's that have skip-counting songs that might help, too. I play math music in the background as the kids play sometimes - my daughter loves music and goes around singing the Math is Fun song. I can look for the specific name of the cd if that interests you at all...I think audio learning can be powerful, yet unobtrusive.

  3. Thanks, Amy! It seems I need to break out my cookie sheets more often!

  4. Deb, good point about the skip counting. We haven't done that in a while, so I'm sure she's probably rusty.

    She ALWAYS has the radio on in the background, but lately it's been nonstop book cd's. I try to sneak a French one on once in a while, but I hadn't thought about math ones. I know I've seen some at the library. I'll have to check a few out to see if she likes any of those before I buy them. Thanks!

  5. Try for more games and may I suggest easing back in to Singapore (which is great!) after a couple of weeks of Frank Shaffer (avail. thru 2nd grade math review? :)

  6. She likes the abcya games, too. Thanks, I'll have to look into the Shaffer. Thanks for the tip!

  7. I am so glad that your daughter is enjoying the games on my site, I try to make the games work for all different levels of learners.

    If she has any ideas for any new games, do send them my way. I am always looking for game ideas from kids!


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