Are you stressed about teaching math because you weren’t good at math when you were in school? Use these tips to conquer your fear of homeschool math!
This post was sponsored by Teaching Textbooks.
It’s not a story I like to tell…
The one about how it took me 3 tries to pass the test to get into College Algebra.
Or the one about how my math score on the ACT brought down my entire score.
Or the one about how I would have had a 4.0 if it hadn’t been for…you guessed it…MATH.
So, when it came to homeschooling, math was the ONLY thing I was worried about. Sure, I could add and subtract, multiply and divide (as long as you didn’t throw a lot of extra stuff in there!), I could use fractions and decimals well enough to bake a cake or figure a tip, but higher level mathematical concepts made my eyes cross and run for the nearest calculator – even though I had no idea how to make the calculator do what I needed it to do to solve the problem.
And then there was that nagging notion that only certain people need higher level math. I was functioning just fine (thank you very much) with my average math skills. Maybe I could get by without teaching Algebra and Geometry…yeah right.
But rather than sit and stew, I decided to hone in on tangible ways I could make math easier and more meaningful – to me and the children. These are the things I learned…
Focus on the Basics
There’s no escaping the fact that it actually is true that only a select group of people will go on to use the concepts and equations taught in higher level math classes. I’ll explain a bit later why I believe it is still useful to teach higher level math to your homeschool students, but for now, let’s focus on the basics.
Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division, Fractions, Decimals, and Measurements are the building blocks which will form most of the math your child will be doing for the rest of their lives.
These are also the building blocks for all higher level math.
So, that means your focus needs to be on these concepts. Your children need to master the basics. They need to know these things for their everyday lives, and for the lessons they will go on to learn in Algebra, Geometry, and Calculus.
Use Manipulatives (but don’t get carried away)
Many math programs rely on manipulatives like base 10 blocks, unifix cubes, geometric solids, etc. to teach concepts, and many parents become bogged down by all the extras they have to use to teach math.
While manipulatives can be quite helpful in physically explaining math to your students, you can use a piece of paper, a set of crayons, a tin can and a ball to help your children make sense of difficult math concepts. You don’t need to buy tons of extra manipulatives and use them every day to know if your child is “getting it” or not.
In my home, most manipulatives become toys for the little ones, and are only occasionally brought out for the people I actually purchased them for. So, be aware that you don’t NEED a lot of extra things to teach math, but if you really feel they will benefit your students (and not just become building materials for the toddler), then go ahead and invest in some quality manipulatives.
For instance, we like these Mathlink Cubes:
Take it slow (it’s ok)
People get way too caught up in grade levels – even homeschoolers. I remember the time a public school mom quizzed my 5-year-old on skip counting. He had no idea what she was talking about, and I was terrified I had totally messed up his life. Well, guess what? He passed College Algebra with an A, so I guess I didn’t warp him too much.
The WHEN doesn’t matter nearly as much as the MASTERY. If your child is struggling with addition, don’t keep going in the math book to the point he’s now struggling with addition AND multiplication. If you have to stop for a few weeks and drill math facts, DO IT!
Slow and steady wins the race…trust me.
Use a math program that isn’t teacher-intensive
OK, so back to the fact that YOU are the one who hates math. Maybe your kids LOVE it! Maybe they don’t need you to slow down, they need you to speed up…and you want to curl up in a corner and cry.
You need a math program that is self-paced and doesn’t require a lot from you. Even better, it should grade itself and offer a multi-faceted approach to teaching math. We use Teaching Textbooks for this very reason! I needed a curriculum that my kids liked, was easy to use, and gave me time to focus on other subjects with other children.
You can give Teaching Textbooks a try for FREE! It really has been the perfect addition to our homeschool!
Think graduation requirements
If your child doesn’t need Calculus to graduate, don’t waste your energy on it. Use their high school years to get the requirements they need and make sure they are mathematically ready to be on their own.
Can they figure a tip? Can they figure tax? Can they quadruple a recipe? Can they measure a room? Can they figure a dilution rate or divide up a paycheck. These and other math life skills will most likely be more important than any Algebra they learn. In fact, many states allow Consumer Math as a high school math credit. I honestly believe this ought to be a requirement in all states.
So, as you are considering math for your child’s high school years, look at your state’s requirements, consider the everyday math they will need, and act accordingly.
4 – Find a math resource for when your child is stuck
When my daughter would hit a tough spot with her Algebra, we had a friend who accepted “mathy” emails and texts from her – the kind that looked like a bunch of gibberish, but totally made sense to her physicist-trained eye. (By the way, EVERYONE needs a friend like this, I am convinced!)
It’s also helpful to have a math program that can walk your child step-by-step through the problem when they don’t understand it. That’s another reason Teaching Textbooks is so helpful. There are hints and step-by-step walk-throughs of problems.
5 – Watch math shows for inspiration
No, I’m serious! When my daughter was struggling with Algebra, it was an episode of Numb3rs that made her decide math really was worth it. Check out the clip below to prove my point…
See! Aren’t you inspired to catch the bad guys with numbers? And I bet you are even beginning to like math! Am I right?
My younger kids enjoy Odd Squad because it uses math to solve bizarre problems and does a great job of explaining the steps involved in the mathematical concepts.
Look for shows like these that inspire your child to give math a chance!
6 – Have your child teach you
Every so often, ask your child to explain something mathematical to you. Be a good student by trying to work one of their own problems and asking questions to help them seal the concept in their own brains. Who knows?! They might be such good teachers, you may stop hating math!
7 – Stay positive about math
In other words, don’t let on how much you hate math – it won’t help anyone. You can tell your children the stories of your struggles (my own children are well aware of how many times it took me to get into College Algebra), but don’t let that be an excuse to do poorly.
I still took College Algebra (and Trigonometry too!). I still managed to graduate two kids with sufficient math skills (thanks to Teaching Textbooks), and I still use math in my everyday life. In fact, I don’t really hate math anymore. I don’t use much higher level math, but the basics affect just about everything I do from baking to running a business.
Recognizing the math you use every day, and then helping your kids see how math affects their own lives will build respect and even a lifelong enjoyment (or at the very least, tolerance) for the math in your life and theirs.
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