My Math Plan

I’m always completely fascinated at the way opposites attract.

For example, I look at numbers as a slightly questionable, terribly unforgiving entity designed to try to destroy my life.

My husband looks at numbers and thinks of all the things he can build to precise tolerances using those despicable little squiggles.

And thus, we are at a standoff on the numbers situation. The sides have been clearly delineated since our first date.

Then we reproduced. Times four.

His genes won with two of them and my genes won with one. The remaining child hasn’t yet exhibited a strong inclination toward either side.

How’s that for a punnett square?!

Because we have wildly varying degrees of math love and hate in our family, we have also explored many, many mathematics curriculums.

At this season of life I’m choosing math curriculums by what doesn’t evoke tears, wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and still progresses in a fashion that will allow for functional citizens who can make change, calculate sale prices, and file their taxes appropriately as an adult.

Also, because my math loving husband isn’t in the position to be able to take on all of the instruction of said mathematics, I have hired help – called the internet – that comes into my house every single day to assist with this subject!

So for now we have three different online math programs circulating around our house: Math Seeds, Teaching Textbooks, and CTC Math. I like all of them very much.

But talking with a friend who is a practicum speaker this summer and has been studying ways to present math in an engaging way (the theme is math) has changed my perspective. She flat out told me that she is ready to repent of the way she’s approached math in her own homeschool because she hasn’t been seeing this as a subject that reveals truth, beauty, and goodness.

Since I see none of those virtues in mathematics – at all – my ears perked up.

Her assessment is that when we have students complete math problems, we are loading the grammar into their heads. But because we do problems (or sets) non-stop from pre-K to 12th grade (and beyond) our students never get a glimpse beyond the grammar stage, even though they are physiologically ready to move into the dialectic or rhetorical learning styles.

Her suggestion (as my non-mathematical brain comprehends it) is to incorporate some of the beauty of applied math, from architecture to music, nature studies to engineering. Even if the kids don’t quite understand the why of these things, they will see that they exist, and begin to work on their own steam toward mastering the concepts needed to produce what they view. And those glimpses will give them an insight into the purpose behind the trudging of all the problems and sets.

So, I’ve only pursued three ideas right now for the first two years of the post-elementary schooling, because that’s where I am. (But if you all have suggestions for what would be a traditional high school level curriculum or concepts, please share! That’s what I’m researching for the future!)

For our 12 year old, we’re going to spend some time in the actuality of mathematics, guided by this book: Mathematics: an Illustrated History of Numbers (Ponderables: 100 Breakthroughs that Changed History) by Tom Jackson.

It’s a coffee table book that goes through 100 mathematic concepts and applications, chronologically, with additional pages that share bits and pieces about the various mathematicians.

I have never, ever been excited about a math book… until now. That pictures are very pretty, the layout is calling to me, and I’m actually interested in what I’m reading.

For our 13 year old we are planning to use two different resources to give mathematics a purpose.

One is Your Business Math from Simply Charlotte Mason. This is a program that leads you through starting and running either a pet store, sports store, or book store for one year. It’s designed for children ages 8-12, which is obviously younger than my 13-year-old, but I love the idea that if several of our children are doing it together they can “compete” against each other for profitability. Again, I’m looking for ways to be practical, explore Goodness, and reveal that math is not the enemy.

The second resource we’ll work through are short, free lessons from Robert Kaplinsky. This is all online, divided by grade, and his tag line is that he shares math strategies that create problem solvers, not robots. At the 8th grade level he has 19 different lessons that start with a question and then walk through how you would answer the question. “Where is the nearest Toys R Us?” and “How much does a 100×100 In-n-Out Cheeseburger Cost?” are two of the lessons that I think my kiddo will gobble up.

I’m also going to spend more time intentionally looking at the mathematical/number references in the Scripture we’re reading. I know that God is a being of order and mathematics is the language of order, so I expect that as I’m doing my devotions and working with the kids through their spiritual instruction, I’ll be shocked at how much will be revealed.

So, that’s my plan for now. Do you have any thoughts? Hints? Resources? Please share!

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