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Can you point me in the right direction for math?

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Dear Carrie

Can you point me in the right direction for math for my middle children?

I have five children happily using Heart of Dakota! My question is about math. My oldest is doing great using another math. The two youngest started with Singapore Math, so there’s no problem there. The two I need help with are my middle children, who are 9 and 11. I didn’t know anything about Singapore Math until a couple years ago. By then, we’d already purchased the math we were planning on using. I decided to give the one we had a try. Well, they did alright overall. However, mental math concepts haven’t been great. Now, I am thinking I’d love to use Singapore Math with these two. However, they’d be frustrated to go way back in levels, and that is where they’d probably place. Can you give me a little direction as to what I should look into from here? Just looking for some advice from a trusted source!!


“Ms. Please Help Point Me in the Right Direction for Math”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Point Me in the Right Direction for Math,”

I must admit that I tried my share of math programs with my oldest son. I did a year each of BJU, Abeka, Math-U-See, Calvert, Strayer-Upton, MCP, Teaching Textbooks (2 years of this), Math Essentials, Life of Fred, and VideoText (three years of this). I was always looking for the “perfect” fit for my mathy son and never finding it. I wish desperately I had used Singapore Math with him. However, there were no U.S. editions at that time (and I just didn’t want the headache of adding in non-U.S. weights/measures/money etc.). I think it’s safe to say I tried going nearly every possible direction in math with my oldest son!

Rather than changing directions, staying the course with the math you have could honestly be the best choice.

In looking back, it would have been better if I’d just stayed the course with any of these programs. Some were stronger than others, however my constant switching eventually gave my son the feeling he wasn’t good at math! It also left some pretty big holes in his math learning. So, my first advice would be to minimize switching as much as possible! It could be a change in direction is not needed, and staying the course with the math you have would honestly be best.

I see math as a ‘sit down with my kids’ subject now!

Also, in looking back, I have since realized that I wasn’t as available to my son with his math as I should have been! I have remedied this with my next kiddos. I make sure I sit and go over the lesson and stay with them to help them as they work the problems. Math is my “sit down with my kids” subject now!

Be sure to be available during math to give good guidance, direction, and every bit of help necessary.

My own oldest son was mathy, so I just let him go on his own much of the time. Eventually, when he hit bumps in the road and needed more direction, I couldn’t help him very easily (because I hadn’t stayed with him on the math journey). It is tough to just jump into various math programs on the fly. So, my second piece of advice is to make sure you are available during your kiddos’ math sessions and that you are giving good guidance, direction, and every bit of help needed to help them succeed.

Make sure you do not expect mastery of every concept.

The next thing I realized is that math programs regularly go back over what was taught before and teach it again, more deeply at each subsequent pass. This means that I need to know that mastering the material is not the goal at every level. In many levels, simply exposing kiddos to the concept is the goal. So, if I expect mastery of every concept, my goal differs from the math text goal. This means that I’ll think they need more practice to truly master something, and the text is already moving on! So, if I digress and add more practice, then my kiddos get frustrated and so do I when they don’t master a concept. More practice then equals more frustration.

If I instead realize that we were just to touch on the concept as exposure, and we’re coming back to it later when the child has had a chance to grow and mature more in his/her thinking, then my math experience will be so much better! So, my third piece of advice is to make sure you do not expect mastery of every concept! This is an exhausting way to learn math.

It could be time for a change in direction, or it could be staying the course is the best direction to take.

With all of this in mind, it may be possible that you can stay the course with your current program. If, instead, you are having tears every day, even with keeping in mind all I’ve shared above, then it may be time for a change in direction. With your 9 year-old, you are definitely not too late for Singapore. I would give the placement test and see where to place that child and begin there. With your 11 year-old, I would also give the placement test just to see where that child will place. This will help in determining what should happen next for that child. For more details about giving the placement test, click here! But before switching directions, especially with your 11 year-old, just be sure you need to! Sometimes, staying the course ends up to be better.


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