Math Forks in the Road

Mushroom is rapidly nearing the end of Miquon.  I predict he’ll be finished with Purple within the month and that’s if we draw it out.  BalletBoy has recently finished Math Mammoth 3.  In the meantime, we’ve been trying out Beast Academy.  BalletBoy likes the graphic novel textbook, but the workbook isn’t right for him.  Everything in it is either too easy or too hard.  I haven’t felt like he’s gotten a lot out of it, so I don’t think he’ll be continuing other than to read the textbook for fun.  If you’re not familiar with Beast Academy, Tinderbox has an excellent review of it here.  Essentially, through a graphic novel about monsters, it introduces math in a very conceptual way and the more difficult practice problems often practically invite frustration.  They want you to try and fail and try again and have an epiphany.  Shockingly, it has been working for Mushroom, which is re-emphasizing the realization I’ve been having lately that he is actually pretty good at conceptual math thinking, even if his calculation skills lag behind.

The other day, we were covering the triangle inequality in Beast Academy and Mushroom wasn’t getting it, so I pulled out our constant friends the Cuisenaire rods.  See how the triangle on the left works because the sum of the two shorter sides are longer than the long side?  But the triangle on the right can never work.

photo (98)

For a split second, when I didn’t see this activity on Education Unboxed to link it, I thought I had made up a new use for the rods, but nah, I found it somewhere else.  Sometimes I think the rods are pure magic.  They really can be used to teach nearly any math.

What’s next for math at the Rowhouse?  I don’t totally know.  Mushroom will continue Beast Academy, but he needs the ability to switch away when he gets frustrated.  The spiral, jumpy, non-threatening nature of Miquon worked so well for him that we have to find a way to recreate some part of it.  We have several books like this one which should help us use the rods, but we need something else.  I know that Singapore, Math Mammoth and MEP aren’t right for him and it seems silly to begin Right Start only to have it run out on us soon thereafter.  What we do is still a bit up in the air.  For BalletBoy, after a lot of discussion between him and myself, we’ve decided he needs more practice with third grade concepts so he’s going to do MEP 3b, which will be a lot of review and a few new things, alongside the Singapore Challenging Word Problems 3, which we’ve done a little in, but not much.

I feel very unsure about math right now and am worried we’re playing hopscotch with programs a little too much.  I’m trying to be mindful of the need to stick with a sequence to help us keep gaps at bay.  On the other hand, I feel like when we do stick too closely with a single program, both boys have trouble honing their math thinking, not to mention that they get bored and frustrated.  It’s definitely a time of some self-doubt here.

2 thoughts on “Math Forks in the Road

  1. Good luck with the decision! It’s not fun when something ‘ends’ and you have to switch gears away from the familiar and into the unknown. We’re dealing with that next year in grammar, which isn’t nearly as critical IMO as math, and I’m still agonizing. I have no doubt that you’ll make great decisions for your boys; you always seem to have such a firm grasp on things!

  2. I think what is shocking me most about my son’s public school Houghton Mifflin Math Expressions experience, is how intense it is. I’m talking about the quantity of work level. The public schools here in WA are asking kids (at least in our district) to do a lot more math (quantity wise) than I was ever required to require in six years teaching in CA. A normal night for my second grader is about 45 minutes of math homework. Then in class, the teachers are getting the kids through BOTH of the two part textbooks. The pace is just incredible.

    I’m not saying that any of that is a good thing necessarily. My son can keep up with it because he has a lot of parental support. (I sometimes wonder what’s happening with the other 20k kids in the area.) But for purposes of homeschoolers thinking about what to do with math, there you go. The ps kids I know are getting 1 hour 45 minutes of solid, hard core math a day. By the weekend, pleph!!!

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