How We Teach Math in the Elementary Ages

There’s been a lot of talk about math anxiety lately. Apparently, parents have it and the fear is that we pass it on to our children. So say the Common Core pushers, anyway.

I found the opposite in a small but significant survey of my readers.

How I Started

I was one of those homeschooling moms who started too early. I remember poring over early curricula and then getting one for my daughter who was two at the time. Yes, two. Go ahead, add me to the homeschooling hall of shame.

I will readily admit now that it was a mistake. It was also incredibly frustrating. Even today, I find those counting bears in the couch cushions. And, no, they didn’t help at all.

Our System of Teaching Math – What It Was

When I finally gave up decided to wait a while, I decided to go with a curriculum. It was fine at first and my daughter liked worksheets so it worked for a while.

The problem came when the curriculum required things to be done a certain way and that way only. And transitions from one kind of calculation to another, from addition to subtraction, for instance, had its own logic. Also, there was an attempt at moving toward algebra – algebra! – early.

Even if understood the logic behind it, the children found math confusing and confusion was the last thing I wanted my children to get from the learning of math.

Our System of Teaching Math – What It Became

Even then, I tried to make it work. I rearranged the curriculum worksheets so they were more intuitive.

Eventually, however, I gave up trying.

I tried some alternatives. We used Khan Academy for a while, but I was bothered by the lack of rigor in their early years and the push to read graphs. The children did fine with those but stumbled over basic math facts.

So we entered a time when we would do math without a curriculum. I thought I would be scared. Instead, I felt an immense sense of freedom.

Finally, I was able to transition the children from addition to subtraction to multiplication to division in a way that was more intuitive to them. When I needed worksheets, I printed them out online for free. There were even a few websites I could have them practice math facts online.

I made my own flashcards. I put real world problems to them in a meaningful way. And it worked! It still works!

There is a logic – a flow if you will – to math. It builds on itself from simple to complex. You already know this. If your curriculum doesn’t seem to follow it, you’re better off without it.

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Author: Purva Brown

Writer / blogger at - unapologetically blending two seeming opposites.

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