Monday, March 15, 2010

Math over the last 8 months.

Math is one of those subjects where I am never totally happy with just one curriculum. This is probably why we work out of up to half a dozen at any one time.

Until early this school year, our core curriculum was Professor B Math. I'm a fan of mastery curricula like this one. Prof B tells stories to teach his math and I found when Shira was younger, she needed the extra verbal cues. This program stresses understanding the concepts and mastering them. I still use it to teach some subjects. I moved away from it as my core program when we hit a roadblock with long division. For some reason, Shira could not grasp it using his explanations.

She had become so worked up over the issue that when we moved to Singapore Math I did not start at long division. Instead I started in Book 3B which was well below what Ben and Shira had been doing, but because it uses different methods and includes those great word problems, I thought it would be good to work through it.

This was one of the best decisions I ever made. Shira's confidence sky-rocketed because she was finding all the work easy. I appreciated all the word problems and the Singapore methodology for solving them. I think it's really neat that children this age are given the tools to solve word problems without using algebraic equations (which is how I would have solved most of them).

One fine day, about 2 months into Singapore Math (we were now in one of the 4's, can't remember which one), Ben and Shira put some math problems up on the board for each other. Ben gave Shira a long division problem. I was floored when Shira calmly completed the problem correctly.

I find this often happens. I hit a brick wall, move away from the issue and a while later the children show me that they've internalized the issue.

I then decided to start teaching the children fractions and used a combination of Professor B Math and Jump Math.

I discovered Jump Math after reading a piece on the Ashoka Foundation. This foundation, that keeps a rather low profile, funds social entrepreneurs.

One recipient of their grants is a Canadian, Dr. John Mighton, who is convinced that every child can master true mathematics.

Thanks to his Ashoka grant, Mighton is able to provide his math curriculum for free. (you have to register, at no cost to you, in order to see and download the teachers' guides). I fell in love with his methodology while using his introductory unit to fractions.. His approach is much like Kumon's in that it builds up in very tiny increments. He's broken each concept into tiny components and teaches them so that they slowly build on each other. Before you know it, the children have mastered quite large concepts with no pain whatsoever. I initially worried that it might be too boring for my math driven kids, but happily it wasn't. They breeze through the easy stuff and love his meaty challenges. I've found that every concept I've taught using Jump Math has been painless for the kids.

You can't go wrong with this curriculum, especially since it's free.

We supplemented with Life of Fred: Fractions. I've been reading about this program for years so I thought I'd give it a bash. Life of Fred: Fractions should definitely not be used as your children's first exposure to fractions. The instruction is too light and will leave a newbie confused. Use it to cement the concepts you've already taught. The story is engaging and fun and the children love doing it, once they already know how to work with fractions.

I also bought Funny & Fabulous Fraction Stories by Dan Greenberg. My kids say that you should not waste your money and repeat my mistake. They found it trite and annoying.

Currently, my children's favorite part of math is geometry. This is thanks to Prufrock Press's book, Hands-On Geometry: Constructions With a Straightedge and Compass. The kids beg to do this every morning before we do any other schoolwork.

I've been really happy seeing how the children have taken their math lessons from this book and are using them in art. Both children have been making fabulous geometric pictures (of course, now that I want to show you one, I can't find any).

I've promised the children that once we've finished with this book that we will move on to Drawing Stars and Building Polyhedra.

Ben is itching to start constructing three dimensional shapes.

My plan is to use this book together with Jump Math's geometry is level 6. Ben is itching to work with transformations, rotations and reflections. He's been reading ahead and has started making isoparametric drawings and mat plans. I can't say that this is going to be a treat for me to teach as I really struggle with rotating 3D items, but Ben (and I think Shira) are going to love it. Both children have far better spacial abilities than I do. This is all new work to me. I never did stuff like this in school.

I nearly forgot to talk about the Fibonacci unit we did. We used, Fascinating Fibonaccis: Mystery and Magic in Numbers and it's workbook, Fibonacci Fun: Fascinating Activities With Intriguing Numbers. We did this when we were in a particularly stressful period and I did not want to tax the children's minds. It served its purpose. The kids enjoyed it, learned a little and weren't mentally taxed.

I know that I could use just one of Singapore, Prof B or Jump Math as a core, but I enjoy how they each approach math very differently. I find that it's good for my kids to learn how to do things many different ways.

My plan for next year is to continue combing these three programs and add in enrichment from Prufrock Press titles. (We've not had a dud from them. Shira particularly likes their books on analogies and Poetry a la Carte.)

However, these plans may go awry as another mathy mom has been talking to me about Math-U-See. Both of us had written it off as we don't like manipulatives, but she's been testing it and is loving how it teaches algebra. This means that Math-U-See is on my horizon.


Kim said...

Math-U-See has been great for my kids, but I can see how it's not always best for everyone. I do like how I can choose to use, or not use, the blocks. Well, actually, the kids choose whether they are helpful or confusing. Sometimes they use the blocks and overlays, sometimes not. As long as they learn the concepts, I'm cool.

Cerwydwyn said...

What you're doing when you move away from something for a while is, essentially, a lesson block. You give the information and then allow it to percolate for a while before approaching it again. Strange things happen in the recesses of the brain. Like long division!

Ann said...

I thought I'd let you know about a giveaway I'm doing. I've got $100 to Amazon and also $100 to a cool, independent, toy store

in addition to some cool science books and a Colorado Goodie Bag.

All you have to do to enter is post a link about the giveaway on your website/blog and send me your link in the comments of the giveaway page.

Here's the page...

Good luck!