# Math Split

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.

# Games and Puzzles on the Shelf

I did a major book cleanout recently.  The books had overrun the house and I wanted them to get down to a more reasonable size.  It allowed us to claim a couple more shelves for homeschooling.  One of them got devoted to a few games to play during school time.

Last year, we played games nonstop for kindergarten.  This year, we began using a lot more formal curriculum.  Mostly, I’m happy with all our curricula and the kids are as well.  However, it seems to have taken us away from games, so I made a vow to get back to them.  We have even more games, many of which I would term educational, especially for strategy and logic, however, I didn’t put them all on the shelf.  I’m hoping to add to the pile, so I’m open to suggestions.

This is a tic-tac-toe game I picked up at a homeschooling conference.  You roll and add the number on the two ten sided dice then play that number on the board.  If you roll the number another person gets, you can flip the number to your color.  Not the greatest game ever, but a nice quick math practice game.

Knock Out
A friend who is a total goddess of board games put me onto this game where you roll the dice and break the number down into however many parts in order to lock three numbers and win the game.  The wooden version is very pricey (though it comes with a harder game, Muggins, on the other side) but you can buy a wipe off version or make your own.

They know what a noun is now!  Plus this helps them brainstorm for vocabulary.

Sudoku
The book I have is Will Shortz’s The Monster Book of Sukoku, however any children’s Sudoku book is good.  There are also free ones here.

Bananagrams
We’ve had this for awhile, but BalletBoy is really liking the Bananagrams for Kids book of puzzles that another homeschooler suggested to us.  The puzzles include a lot of things like word ladders.  I think it’s really helping his spelling too.

Sleeping Queens
This is a new game for us.  You wake up the queen cards with kings and steal them away or put them back to sleep with knights and potions.  To get new cards, you can discard an “equation” of number cards, for example a 9 a 1 and a 10 together because 9 plus 1 equals ten.  You also have to add up the points on your queen cards, which range from 5 to 20.

Rat-a-Tat-Cat
We’ve been playing this game for ages.  You must collect the lowest cards and remember what you’ve got as well as pay attention to what others might have.  At the end of the game, you have to add up your score.  It’s a fun, fast game.

24 Primary
I’m a total devotee of the quick math card game 24, where you have to use all the numbers on the card to get to the number 24.  This version relies on smaller numbers and only emphasizes addition and subtraction.  Unlike the big kid version, it’s only meant to be played solo, so the answers are actually listed on the bottom on the opposite side, which is sort of distracting.  It’s nowhere near as good as the older version, but it’s okay.

Rush Hour Jr.
We have a lot of strategy games and this one is less directly “mathy” than the other things I put on the shelf, but I thought I’d leave it there for now.  Just like the grown-up version, you have to move cars around to figure out how to get your car out of the traffic jam.  Watching BalletBoy play this is a pleasure.  He gets hyperfocused and can usually move the car out faster than I can figure out how.

Mastermind
Another game for logic and thinking skills.  You have to guess the sequence of colors your opponent has hidden.  I loved this game as a kid and I’m happy to share it with my kids.  Just a warning, which is not to get the kids’ version.  It’s very poorly made and you can simplify the adult version by removing a color or limiting the code to three instead of four pegs.