How I Support Maths Learning...

Maths is one of the subjects that used to fill me with fear.  I used to wonder how I could ever teach the subject when I totally gave up on my formal maths learning at about the age of ten. After that, I failed every single maths exam and during year 9 and 10 maths (same teacher for both years) my bestie and I played games and tuned out from what the rest of the class was doing. That's right, the teacher completely ignored us unless we disturbed someone else and left us to play 'squares'. Thumbs up for public schooling in the 80s! Of course, during my signwriting apprenticeship and years in the trade, I taught myself many short cuts to achieve the math results I needed to get the job done. It doesn't mean that my methods of figuring out dimensions and measurements were wrong, I just always thought there may have been easier ways of doing things. It was in my head (and heart) that I was a complete maths failure because I failed maths exams at school and that was the only measurement of maths success that was valid to society.

Interestingly, one of our favourite games at the moment is squares! It was a great flashback to my high school maths classroom when I found this one online somewhere (free PDF). We take turns to multiply two dice together up to six, and mark off one side of the product's square. I was amazed at how fast Henry picked this up as he hasn't really learned how to multiply. I loved this game so much that I found some ten sided dice and made my own board of square to play. However, due to the exponential increase in factors and products, the game board is much larger and it takes a lot longer to complete the game. It doesn't matter though as we just pick up where we left off next time we play. A skip counting page is handy to have if you are still learning multiplication (yes, me!).

Lots of our maths learning in this lower levels involves games and hands on activities. We all love games so I try to find as many cheap or free games as I can online. The nrich website is a wealth of information and activities and I have spent many an hour just checking out the different resources available. It is really easy to make hands on activities such as paper Tetris and place value cups. A good thing to remember too is that some of these actives may only be used once for the child to grasp the concept. It is not a waste of time if it works and the child learns! It also proves that you don't need clutter creating expensive 'educational games' to create a love for learning.

Recently we bought some guides in the Beast Academy maths curriculum. This is a comic based maths course and it has lots of information. We also have a few work books to go with level 3 but I am finding Henry is getting more out of the books using them as reading out loud practice with Papa every day. The Boy has also been inspired to do some of the activities so I have printed out a few pages from the Beast Academy website so we can play together. If you are interested in Beast Academy you will have to get it from the US as there doesn't seem to be an Australian distributor. I was lucky enough to get it preloved from a good friend but I would love to get the next two levels too so I might have to wait until they pop up on the Aussie Homeschool Forum classifieds

Late last year we switched maths curriculums from Easy Learn Maths workbooks to Maths-U-See from Maths Australia. I love this program! It is a mastery based curriculum in that the student must master each concept before moving on to the next one. Each lesson adds to the previous in very small increments. After the student watches the DVD lesson with Steve Demme which takes a few minutes (a funny guy so I usually watch too!)  they use the blocks and do one to three pages of the worksheets of each lesson. My children then come to me and explain the concept until I am satisfied that they understand it. If they have shown me that they get it, they do the test page and they are done maths for the day. I started each child at a much lower level than they were doing with Easy Learn Maths so they could experience mastery confidence from the start. This is very important - if the child doesn't feel confident with what they are doing, there will be frustration and tears. There are lots of concepts my children know really well and a few that are new so some lessons can take more than one day. If I think they need more practice, they do a couple more lesson pages (there are six for each lesson) the next day and try explaining the concept to me again. They usually know it very well by this time so they complete the test and move on to the next lesson. I have decided to stick with Maths-U-See as our main maths curriculum (it has levels from pre-school through to senior) and use supplementary games and activities to add more fun when we need it. Below is a stop motion Lily did a few months ago that shows there are many ways to display understanding!

Maths holds no fear for me anymore. I still have much to learn in this subject and I love that I am able to learn with my children. Zoe is beginning Maths-U-See level Epsilon (fractions) and I am really looking forward to seeing where I can increase my knowledge and understanding in numbers. Who would have thought that I would really look forward to maths lessons? Not my 10 year old self!