You can read other posts in this series by clicking on the links below. I will update this list as I write more articles:
Let’s Cure Math Anxiety 🙂
As a former high school math teacher, I’m often inclined to weave math concepts into conversations and activities with my children, even though they’re only 2 and 4 years old ;). I’ve seen too many kids (and adults) hate math because they’ve had negative experiences with it; they’ve often been forced to memorize something that didn’t make sense or wasn’t relevant or interesting. I’d like to do my part in overturning this pervasive math anxiety and help people (kids and their grown-ups) see math as a fascinating, understandable, applicable subject. #dreambig 😉
Coming from this background and armed with this mission, I’m often pretty critical of, and skeptical about, most math curriculums – both for public school and homeschool. One program, however, that has repeatedly caught my attention, is RightStart Mathematics. I’ve purchased their material a few times over the past several years, loved it, and recently had the opportunity to sign up as an affiliate with them. That means that I can now share about their products and pass along sales and discounts to my readers; this gives me the opportunity to earn a small commission (which helps cover the cost of maintaining this blog) while recommending a great product that I whole-heartedly support – at no additional cost to you.
We went to our state’s homeschooling convention recently. After surveying the math scene, we ended up buying a beginning math set from the RightStart curriculum. We had been to a homeschooling convention a few years ago and I had been so impressed with this curriculum that I had purchased the Geometry set, thinking I could incorporate it into my classroom since I was teaching high school Geometry that year. Well, as it turns out, there was no time or energy to be found that year, so the entire set sits invitingly on my bookshelf, waiting for new homeschooling adventures instead. 🙂 I decided this year to pick up the first set in the series and start it slowly with my son.
We’ve had a few sessions so far and I’m still impressed with the math activities and teaching philosophy. Superman (my 4 year old) is doing well with it. I’ve introduced it during evenings where Lil Dude (2 year old) goes to sleep early and he gets to stay up later to do math with me. He’s since been begging to do math ;).
Learning Moments (#nofilter)
Here’s a few insights into our learning moments (that went a little bit awry, but make for good stories at least).
We were playing with the AL Abacus the first night and I tried showing him how to count with the beads. It went something like this:
Me: Ok, I have a question for you. Can you show me 5? Good. Now can you show me 10?
N: No, mommy, that’s not really the question that I want. I’m busy right now. I’m shooting the lava with the water from my space ship.
The AL Abacus
Hah. So we played lava shooters for a while. He did get around to a bit more math later, but I was happy to let him just play with the manipulatives and get comfortable using them. No need to make him hate doing math from day 1! I believe that most issues with math anxiety can be eliminated if kids can enjoy interacting with math concepts and mathematical games and toys from a very young age. The AL Abacus included in the curriculum set is a very useful, intuitive tool to help kids visualize amounts and develop a strong number sense.
In a later lesson we were working on using tally sticks to count by groups of 5’s. I was trying to emphasize the value of using the sideways stick to show that the group was complete so that you could tell at a glance, without counting, that there were 5 tally sticks there. I showed him how they could stand for the people in our family — one for daddy, one for mommy, one for Superman and one for Lil Dude. I wasn’t sure what to say about the 5th one though so we said it could be Grandma. That created a problem, however, because he didn’t want to leave Grandpa out, so he kept putting 6 sticks in a group, then closing his eyes and opening them and saying, “see! There’s 6 sticks — I can tell at a glance!” It was impossible to change his mind and convince him that a group of 5 was more useful than a group of 6 for purposes of counting large amounts of objects — he kept trying to figure out who would be left out of our family if we did that and got really flustered. So I learned not to anthropomorphize our math manipulatives and he learned … how to tell if there are six sticks at a glance, I guess.
Make the Robots Do the Math
We got a bit more into the swing of things as the lessons went on, but we definitely progressed in good 3-4 minute chunks of attention span. One day he had created recycled robots with Daddy and was much more interested in making the robots climb a rope up the side of the bookshelf than count objects in groups of 5’s (even though he promised he was paying attention and WANTED to do math with me 😉 ). So I tried a new tactic which worked surprisingly well — I started asking his robots questions — and N answered back for them in different squeaky voices. I got a lot more leverage out of that than I expected, and he seemed to be none the wiser to my tricks. I guess he thought the robots were just pretty good at math. 🙂
Stay Tuned for More Reviews (and help us cure Math Anxiety!)
The lessons provide very thorough and easy-to-follow instructions for laying a strong foundation in mathematical reasoning and fluency. We will continue working our way through this series and share our insights and reviews as we go. Make sure to subscribe if you would like to follow along! You can sign up for the newsletter using the form at the top, side, or bottom of this page (and receive a free gift!).
For now, I would just say, as a former math teacher, I really like what I’ve seen regarding the discovery-type learning style and I look forward to using it with my own kids throughout the next several years; the more positive encounters kids have with math, the less likely they are to be crippled by math anxiety later in life. Let’s work together to make math fun <3!
If you’ve used this curriculum, or had any personal victories or defeats with math anxiety, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
Other Math Monday posts:
- Ten-frame math with seashells
- Cotton Ball Algebra
- Sticker Bar Graphs
- Exponential Growth (for kids)
Learning Resources for Teachers, Tutors, and Parents
If you’d like to visit my store to see my library of learning resources (focused on Pre-K – 3rd grade Math, Reading, and Writing, and High School Algebra and Geometry), you can check it out here: