I wonder if our children get stuck on math or we get STUCK on curriculum. At the same time mothers were awakening the math beast in my local group, Jeanne was posting about MEP and showing how she bends it and stretches it to fit Jemimah, or is it Jemimah who stretches and bends to her math? I’ve also enjoyed Barb’s post recently about math and the standards, she brings up very thought provoking points about working toward goals instead of standardized tests or requirements.

Our approach and the way we handle curriculums such as Singapore, MEP, Saxon, Math Mammoth etc, it’s the key to much of their math progress. Yes, I do believe children get stuck on concepts, and they can get stuck on the curriculum progression, that’s when we have to exercise our judgment to slave the curriculum instead of slaving ourselves to it. Yes, I believe some of us favor the language arts and some are naturals for math, but I don’t believe we have a math failure gen, and we can circumvent those predispositions (or lack of them) graciously the same some of those who seem to have been born with an understanding of algebra don’t need to be literature junkies either.

Math should be more than them getting right answers in the curriculum student workbook pages without our help or having a blast everyday. Mind I’m not speaking about forcing them and getting them to cry every time we open the math book, but math takes some discipline and it’s going to be less liked some times, some others will be tolerable, some days will surely be a hit. Math it’s not about right or wrong, but about the process, and once the process is mastered and understood math is then about right and wrong too, not upfront when it only frustrates the child and moves him or her to guess the right answer and move on.

Someone said that games are to math what books are to reading. If you don’t incorporate games, movement, present them with problems they want to solve and all you do it’s to follow the curriculum and get out the dreaded worksheet, you’ll be needing to change curriculum all the time.

I’m not minimizing this issue, I’m not sure I can understand math for a child older than seven, but so far I’ve been changing my approach and I see a nicer disposition toward math from my daughters. Once I’m not enough I have plans for a great tutor that will only need some special cooking once in a while 😉

Some ideas of things you may do to improve math learning:

* Before you commit to a program, research, look, and see what better suits ‘you’ as a teacher, because you can adapt something you love to your children much better than using something you dislike. They’ll replicate your dislike. I used a program I did not like but others love, and I found MEP. I used it for some time and put it away. When we came back to it, I was only looking at the worksheet and found it bland. But then I looked again at the teacher guide, and I recognized why I liked it in the first place.MEP’s variety (since it’s a spiral program) makes it fluid, it has a solid working with number understanding, mental math, counting and memory, measurements, geometry, and it increases the difficulty. But you don’t have to spiral with it, you need to see your children and stay with something if you feel it’s worth the time invested to solidify some concepts before you keep moving along. I find MEP well written and fun (up to year 2 which I understand. Year 4 looks challenging to me. If my nerves fail me at one point, or if my husband the math tutor tells me they are not capable to keep up with MEP at some point, in the event they are not little Einsteins as we believe they are (grin) and they struggle, my plan it’s to slow down and continue working on the concepts with different support materials until we can come back to it, or maybe transition to a different program.

* Skip things as needed. If the program is too repetitive and your child got it, do not go through all the script and make it painful when you can graciously move on faster if that’s your case.

* Stop at one concept and reinforce it through many original and out of the box ways. Use a ball to toss it while skip counting, or giving you different ways of getting a number, for example 5, and toss the ball to say 1 plus 2 plus 2…

* Use dominoes, dice, marshmallows to graph and explore more than, less than. I even have had them count the pieces of a puzzle box and to find the number in the box and see before we make the puzzle that it is complete. Tally the numbers. We sometimes talk about math after Bible, such as in Joseph and his brothers, they were ten in Egypt because he was one of the twelve and Benjamin stayed. Twelve is a dozen…

* Do not start with the workbook practice but start with those activities that involve movement or are games first, then let them “mess up” the worksheet with nice markers (this is a hit at home with my girls). Remember to do mental math in the car, or simply read aloud the problems and if they can give you the answer, do not worry about them not filling the worksheet.

* Ask your husband for help with a concept when he comes home. Men are “usually” good at math, and if not, they may not as much as you 😉 Sometimes a change in teacher makes all the difference.

* Take a break from the curriculum, look at math from a different angle, come back to the curriculum with different ideas. There is no need to change curriculum every time you find a problem, most curriculum end up covering all the concepts when you stick to it. I’m not saying it’s wrong to change curriculum, I’m only saying sometimes all it takes it’s to look at it differently. It’s the same I do when I reshuffle my furniture a bit and the room looks new, or when I just use a new coat of paint that makes things look new.

We are afraid to pick and choose or to skip and alter our curriculum, but don’t be. If the child is definitely not going anywhere, sell what you have and look at something different you may be able to borrow before committing to buying something new. Try some of this first and change the curriculum as the last resort. And remember the basics can be taught with almost nothing but home made counters, a few inexpensive manipulatives, chalk and paper. But finally, if you feel your child needs to change curriculum (and some children NEED), don’t feel guilty, it happens in the best families 😉