Well, it’s happened. Mushroom and BalletBoy have been on different levels with different things for awhile, even using different things occasionally. However, biting the bullet to do two different paths with math feels like a big leap for us. But we’ve done it.

**BalletBoy’s Math**

BalletBoy is continuing with Math Mammoth. We use the blue series, which breaks the topics up into separate books. He’s currently working on Place Value 2 and Addition and Subtraction 2b, with a little bit of Introduction to Fractions thrown in. He’s also working on the Singapore Math Challenging Word Problems.

I’ve never done much of a post reviewing Math Mammoth here, but I just want to sing its praises for a moment. I really love how Math Mammoth takes a topic and slowly teaches and circles around different ways to approach it. The books are deceptively simple. When I first began using it, I was concerned that they were too simple and that they were too structured. I worried it wasn’t conceptual enough. However, I have come to see that by giving kids really incremental steps, letting them have a crutch, such as an intermediary step in a simple problem, then gradually taking it away, is really useful for many kids. I think that for really math-loving kids or kids who like solving problems or intuit steps, it would be tedious, but for BalletBoy it’s just right.

We’re also really enjoying the Challenging Word Problems. He’s doing them a year behind, so he’s about halfway through the first grade problems. I know they’re just first grade math, but occasionally the challenge problems make me pause and think for a minute before I’m sure I have the answer! It scares me a bit for the future. If this is first grade math, what will it look like in fifth? Nonetheless, I’m really impressed with how these have taught BalletBoy how to break a problem down and show his work. He doesn’t always get the challenging problems right, but he’s getting better at them.

As always, we read math books and play games. BalletBoy kicked my butt in Corners the other day and he honed in to read about negative numbers with Mushroom on the sofa too.

**Mushroom’s Math**

Math Mammoth and Challenging Word Problems was not working for Mushroom. Or rather, sometimes it was fine, but a lot of the time, it was a disaster. He would get 20 problems right, then after finding out he got one wrong, he would get the next 20 all wrong, as if he was trying to prove to me that he was wrong all the time. Basically his anxiety was kicking in, stopping him from finding any success.

So I decided to let him catch up with Miquon. Because we were never using it as our primary program and only doing it occasionally, he’s only halfway through the second book, the Red Book. I bought the next two, but it’s good that he’s only in the Red Book because he needs some confidence builders. I also bought him another confidence builder, the Usborne Big Book of Sticker Math. This is mostly first grade math. It’s simple stuff, but he seems to like it.

I also bought him a math journal. Here’s some of the things we’ve put in it so far:

- math using dollar and coin stickers
- a couple of brain teasers
- living math books based math – for example, we read Loreen Leedy’s
*2×2=Boo*at Halloween then he practiced easy times tables in the journal - shopping math with the Lego catalog
- practice math for more practice so he can keep getting more fluent with math facts
- Miquon-like lab sheets

I want to do more with the math journal. A thread on a certain forum pointed me to this page, where most of the stuff is a little too easy and not exactly my style, but gives a few starting point ideas for younger kids doing math journals. Blog, She Wrote also has some good math journal related posts.

I want to keep up the Miquon, but one of my main things for Mushroom is the realization that while it’s more work for me, he really needs to be seeing lots of resources, doing things in a more spiral way. It grates on me, really. I believe in mastery. But I also believe in teaching the kid you’ve got. If Mushroom needs me to alternate between games, storybooks, worksheets, manipulatives and back around again, then I guess I’ll do it. I’m looking at resources like *Games for Math* and *Family Math* for ideas.

To round things out, I’m upping the math games for Mushroom, especially games like the RightStart card game Corners and the game Knock Out, both of which encourage kids to be able to break numbers up and see their relationships more easily. I also have ordered him addition and subtraction wrap-ups, which a friend showed me, but we don’t have them quite yet. I’m letting him play more math games online. He usually goes to Sheppherd Software, which has a whole lot of games and links to more. I’m especially fond of this one, which allows kids to practice facts quickly. Free Rice is another good quick resource for math practice, one with a nice social benefit (they donate rice to people in need).

In the end, I’d like him to end up in more or less the same place as his brother at the end of the year, so I’m looking at BalletBoy’s Math Mammoth table of contents as a guideline for skills I’d like him to achieve.

Thanks for the links and book recommendations! (And I love Free Rice as well.) 🙂

Thanks for writing this, Farrar, I need to keep an open mind about my girls’ learning differences.

Hi. Have you used Life of Fred? Jack begs for more and its a story with a few problems wrapped into the tale. We use Right Start, math mamouth and throw Fred in for fun.

I thought and thought and thought about Life of Fred. I looked at it. Finally, I just couldn’t. It’s just a little too weird for me and some of the stuff in the elementary series is just a little weird – about the people being crushed by a building and the dogs being euthanized and so forth. I get that people love it, I just decided it wasn’t for me. I wish there was a more polished, slightly less agenda-ridden thing like that. For now, we’ll stick with the living math books.