A friend recently asked me for recommendations about math and language arts workbooks she could use with her son. I started to write out a response then realized I should just make it into a post to share with others! Instead it has grown into two separate posts. This is the first, our math curriculum review for elementary age students that you could use as part of your homeschool curriculum or as after school reinforcement.
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Homeschool Math Curriculum Review: Elementary
The materials below weren’t sent to me to review – they are the actual materials my soon-to-be third grader and kindergartner use as part of our math curriculum, after having trial and error with other workbooks and methods.
My oldest is a conceptual learner, so Singapore Primary Mathematics (also known as Singapore Math) is a perfect fit for him. The method is “concrete to pictorial to abstract,” and it’s that intermediate “pictorial” phase that makes it unique and really helps kids master the concepts. I was impressed with how multiplication and division were presented, for instance – it really made sense to my son and helped him really understand what the terms mean, not just how to get the correct result. Each lesson serves as a foundation for the next, meaning that students don’t have time to forget what they’ve just learned, as sometimes happens with other approaches, when lessons aren’t reviewed until weeks or months later.
My son literally laughs out loud when reading books from the Life of Fred series. These are wonderfully fun books that read like novels, perfect for any child but especially one who otherwise shows no interest in math. TThis math curriculum follows the life of Fred Gauss and all the funny ways he encounters in his life. So no more protests such as, “Why do I need to learn math? I’ll never need this!!” The story is so engaging, your child will enjoying reading, plus she will learn how to apply math concepts to real world situations.
If your child loves graphic novels, then you should try Beast Academy (Art of Problem Solving)! This math curriculum comes as a set of guidebooks (the graphic novels) and practice books (the workbooks). Each chapter from the practice book corresponds to a chapter from the guidebook. The guidebooks themselves are very entertaining – my 8 year old read them just for fun! And when we started working on the practice books, it was the first time in a long time that I had really seen him challenged in math!
I think of Beast Academy (Art of Problem Solving) more as set of logic puzzles than a regular math workbook. Children shouldn’t expect to get all the answers correct on the first try, nor should they expect that, as with most math books, the way to solve the problems will be provided. More than anything, Beast Academy (Art of Problem Solving) tries to get students to think in new ways and use the basic principles to come up with their own creative methods for solving.
For my five year old, this past year we started using RightStart. I love that this math curriculum is so focused on hands on learning through heavy use of manipulatives like the abacus and cute teddy bears you see above. In fact, often if I need to make dinner or do one-on-one work with my oldest, I pull out some of the manipulatives from our RightStart set for my younger two to play with. They love getting their hands on the 3-D wooden shapes, for example!
RightStart emphasizes games and songs, making it fun especially for younger students like my kindergartner. And they have lots of innovative touches, such as the 5-block color changes you see in the abacus above. The colors switch with every 5 beads and again with every 5 strings, teaching children to count not just by 10’s but by 5’s and 50’s.
The manipulative sets are a bit of an investment at first, but well worth it because you can use it for multiple levels, so you will get lots of use out of them.
What is your favorite math curriculum?