Math is always one of those subjects that people seem to love or hate, there doesn't seem to be much ambivalence about it.
When we started homeschooling, we assumed we would use Saxon and began with Saxon 1 for K. After almost a year of spending about 45 minutes to an hour a day on math, having my child grasp no concepts only "what was that trick again," and often having to postpone lessons because I would need a trip to the store to requisition supplies... I knew I needed a change.
I loved the idea of Asian style math, but I was afraid of teaching it. Also, what if my kids aren't "mathy" will they get it? I eventually found Math Mammoth and it was a wonderful fit. Based on the Asian way of doing math, super straight forward, one worktext, no teachers manuals or cumbersome manipulatives...I was sold!
Since we had already done Saxon 1, I questioned where to start in Math Mammoth, but since I wanted a better foundation than we had, we started in MM 1 in the spring of E's kindergarten year. She flew through 1A and we did 1B finishing in early fall of second grade. By the middle of first grade she was working a full year ahead in Math Mammoth. Math became a struggle and often brought tears. I loved the way Math Mammoth taught but I began to question if it was right for us. I hated the struggle, and I hated my daughter thinking she was "bad at math."
I decided that second grade was going to be different. After all, Tears don't facilitate learning. We started with a much more relaxed approach to math. We added in Right Start math games regularly, took our time, and began to rebuild confidence. By the end of the year we were running about a semester ahead instead of a year, and it seemed to be a much better pace. Though I am more than happy to slow down further if needed.
Here are a few principles I have learned in the context of our own struggles in math:
When Math Brings Tears:
1. Assess the situation
Is it the curriculum? Is it how we are using the curriculum? Switching math curriculum is not the end of the world, but it can cause gaps. Just be sure to think this through. Be prepared to go backwards if you have to in the new curriculum if you do decide to switch.
2. Slow Down
Sometimes its not what you're using, but how you are using it. This was the case with us. We just needed to slow down. Occasionally a child will hit a "wall" and just cannot get past it. Time is your friend here. Move on, come back in a few weeks. It's amazing what new scenery a few weeks can provide!
3. Build Confidence
If a child thinks they are bad at something, the chances of them succeeding at it are slim. Foundational concepts are key. Grant them time to truly master concepts before moving on. Let them feel successful. Be diligent, but don't rush.
4.Make it fun
This has been key. The thing is math just isn't "fun" for everyone. I know that is a total shock for some of you! ;) Games are fun for most kids though. The smile my kids give when a math game IS the "math lesson" for the day is a wonderful thing! Learning is still taking place. Skills are still being developed, as is a more confident joyful student.
5. Never sacrifice the relationships
Never underestimate the importance of the relationship. Nothing, not even math is worth fighting, tears, and anxiety. Be flexible, be aware of your child's struggles and needs, and meet them where they are. Grant them the gift of relationship-- whatever you have to give them -- a break, time, change, smiles, confidence, and ultimately you will give them success. Math is important, but our relationship with our kids is more important. Be willing to take a step back, reasses, regroup, and grant yourselves a new perspective.
Some of our favorite math games and apps:
The Game of Chips
Right Start Games
Math Rider (computer)
Math Songs Times Tables
Don't forget to check out how the other Homeschool Help Series
bloggers answer the question: "Help! My Child Hates Math!"