If you are not strong in your math skills, don’t use that as an excuse for your child to grumble about this subject.  Use it as motivation to learn along with your children.

Make arithmetic fun! Play games!

For young children, start teaching addition by playing dominoes.  Concurrently, play Go-Fish with half a deck of regular playing cards (age 3-4) to teach number recognition. Once kids don’t have to count all the dots on dominoes to add two of them together, introduce the card game Uno.  Next teach children to play cribbage (age 4-6).  You can also do some building projects together to teach kids how to use a tape measure.  Cooking is very good for teaching children about fractions, and children should be allowed to help in the kitchen at a young age.  Adding scores for a Yahtzee game is another fun application for basic arithmetic skills (no calculators!). 

I recommend purchasing Base 10 blocks (search for “base ten starter set” on Rainbow Resource’s website).  Base 10 blocks have 1s units (a 1cm cube), 10rods (1cmx10cm, equivalent to ten of the 1s units), 100flats (10cmx10cm, equivalent to ten of the 10rods), and 1000cube.  We play a game with these.  Children who have played this game should not have any difficulty understanding carrying and borrowing (regrouping) when they get to those concepts in their written arithmetic.

In our family, we do not do written arithmetic until the basic facts have been mastered (easily done when playing the above-mentioned games).   For non-written drills, Math-U-See has online drills.  Kids who use the computer can do the drills on their own.  Kids who don’t use the computer can say the answers and have parents type the answers for them.  It is not necessary to do timed math drills, but if you wish to do so, there are two good options.  Mad Minute is one option for a good set of drill sheets:  kids have one minute to see how many of the problems on the sheet they can do.  A new sheet is given every day.  A different approach is used by CalcuLadders., Kids are timed to see how long it takes them to complete all the problems, and they get the same sheet every day until they can do it in the designated time (usually 2-5minutes).  That can be encouraging for kids who feel that there’s no point in trying because they don’t think they’ll ever get done in one minute.  However, I honestly believe that the best approach is Math-U-See’s online drills.

The Math-U-See company is very easy to work with and has excellent workbooks for students.  Miquon is another hands-on curriculum, but Math-U-See is better.  With hands-on materials, kids really understand what they’re learning.  The main difference between these two is that Math-U-See has enough repetition that kids retain skills (you choose how much review they must do), and the workbooks include “story problems” so that kids get to apply what they’re learning to real-life situations.  Many of the other materials out there that are available to homeschoolers only go through one year of algebra.  Math-U-See begins with kindergarten, and progresses through two years of algebra, one year of geometry, and also a year of trigonometry/pre-calculus.  A calculus book is in the works.  With this program, there are dvds to watch (about five-ten minutes of dvd, then a week of practicing the material taught in that lesson).  Those who have already begun with a different curriculum and want to change can download a placement test from Math-U-See’s website, and begin kids at the appropriate level.  My children really enjoy this math and remember what they’ve learned better than with the old curriculum.  I highly recommend ordering a demo disk from Math-U-See’s website.

If, for some reason, you want a different math curriculum (Math-U-See is pricey), look into the Life of Fred series, which has fractions, decimals & percents, beginning algebra, advanced algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus, and statistics.  With Life of Fred, you might need to modifying the approach differently for girls than for boys (see the book, Why Gender Matters, by Leonard Sax, M.D. Ph.D.)

Regardless of which curriculum you choose for math, you will probably have small pieces that help your child understand the material (these blocks/beads/buttons… that your child manipulates in order to better understand the material are called manipulatives).  If there is a baby in the house, math might best be done during naptime (and carefully put away) so that there is no chance of the baby choking on small parts that fall on the floor.

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