Sunday, August 19, 2012

Math Curriculum: Ditch It or Adapt It!

So you bought your new math curriculum and it isn't quite as perfect as you'd hoped.  You can ditch the whole thing and try something new.  Or you can adapt what you already have to suit your needs. 

We've been Saxon users for several years.  It works for our family to some degree, but there are times when it doesn't seem like the best fit.  The kids come across a new baffling concept or start getting careless and I start wondering.  My reasons for using Saxon are very simple:  I like the repetition and I like the price.  I usually can find older editions really cheap at used book sales and have never actually had to ever pay over $5 for a student textbook.    So, even when I start looking around, I find it hard to come up with an alternative that meets those two criteria.  Although, it doesn't meet our needs perfectly all the time; I still don't feel like throwing the whole thing to the curb is the right answer.

So, I choose to adapt!

Change your pace 

Sometimes you need to just slow down if things are moving too fast for your student. Don't feel like you've got to keep pushing forward like a freight train, just to finish the book.  It doesn't help to skip over basic concepts in math.  Mastery/Proficiency is more important.  There may be other times when your student is ready to move on.  If they've got the concept, keep moving. 

Pay attention  

Sometimes we can get a little careless when it comes to checking math or going over missed math problems.  Start checking math every lesson.  Have students go back and redo missed math problems.  Have them walk you through the steps (without your help) so that you can tell if it's a true "learning issue" or just a careless mistake.  I've found that one of my children struggles getting the right answer even though they totally understand the concept. 

Add some variety

Play games-  Board games, online games, made up games...anything.  The past few weeks one person has been stuck on 3 x 3 multiplication.  So I had both kids play a competitive game, because everyone can use extra practice on basic skills, right?  

Take a deck of cards
Pull out 2 sets of numbers 1-9 (Use the ace for 1)
Each player picks 3 cards and arranges them in any order
Then, multiply each 3 digit number to find the answer.

Here's the catch--
You get 1 point every time a digit in your original number
appears in the partial answers and the final answer. 

All of a sudden extra practice becomes fun!

Online practiceThere are so many resources online now.  Worksheets, interactive games, new learning approaches, video explanations, etc.   I've found google is priceless! Google a question and you'll usually find something to help you. Pinterest is also great for ideas.  We've been using StudyLadder because we received a free 2 month membership.   Timez Attack has helped us master basic multiplication. 

Take breaks If you have kinesthetic kids, sitting to do math until they're done is just not feasible. Do 10 problems, go do something else and then have them come back later.

Look for a different explanation or approach for a concept 

Not everyone is the same.  Sometimes a certain explanation just doesn't get through.  Don't be afraid to leave your curriculum to find an approach that works better for your child.  While I was looking for help teaching 3 x 3 multiplication, I ran across the lattice approach (using google, of course).  I had never heard of this before, but found it to be a great technique to help with higher multiplication.  The student having trouble had an easier time after I introduced a new technique.  Instead of just explaining it the same way over and over again. 

Last week, I was so frustrated with math.  This week, it was so much better!  I tried a combination of the above suggestions and feel like we're on a great track.  I didn't have to ditch my curriculum totally. 

I just had to look at it differently-- as only one among many tools to teach math. 


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