Monday, February 13, 2012

Learning to Love Math

Over the past couple of weeks Iris and I have been trying to focus more on math. I recently found out that while Iris is doing well in math, she isn't performing up to her potential, so it needs a little more focus. While my ideal week right now would involve lots and lots of math focus, you can't really do that with a math-averse kid. Well, at least not with formal math instruction. Today I was pleasantly surprised to find out that our reading lesson was about tangrams, so we did some math while we did reading. Win-win! If I were a better home school teacher or even simply more interested in math I am sure I would find more creative ways to incorporate it throughout our day. So far I am woefully inept at such things-- it likely doesn't help that I always really hated math all through school. 

The math curriculum we are currently using is called RightStart Mathematics. Before this I used some Sylvan workbooks and the math curriculum that came with our second grade set from Calvert with some success. By success I mean she breezed through them and did well on them, but they didn't help her enjoy math.

Some idea of what came in our Level B box. 
Some of the items we use are also printed on paper in the appendix of the lesson book.

RightStart has a different approach to math and it also works more with manipulatives. Our shipment came in a gigantic box filled with cubes and tiles and an abacus, scale, books, cards, geoboards, all sorts of things. Truth be told, it was incredibly overwhelming. I went through a bit of a process because I realized after I got the set that I ordered the wrong level. RightStart doesn't assign their sets grade levels (1st grade, 2nd grade, etc etc) but rather they go by level A, level B, etc. I did the online test to see what level we should buy and I got level B. When I finally ordered the set and it came in the mail I realized that the online assessment wasn't quite accurate, so I needed to supplement our level B with things to make it work as a level C. The folks at RightStart helped me a TON and were amazing, but it was a huge headache. I was so done dealing with all of it by Christmas time that I shelved it and didn't look at it again until recently.

This is what our table looked like in the middle of our math lesson today.

Now, though, I am glad I finally dove in. We are having fun! The first couple of dozen lessons are about learning how to use RightStart. It is so different than any math I have ever done and I am learning the language and the manipulatives right along with Iris. We are going through extremely basic things, like how to use the abacus, how to use tally sticks, how to do place values . . . . but we are doing in it an interesting way, so Iris isn't too terribly bored reviewing all of the math she already knows. The past couple of lessons we have been reviewing what makes ten (ie, 10=9+1, 10=8+2 . . . ) but honestly, this is good stuff. Iris had never memorized what makes ten and until this was counting it on her fingers. 

We are playing math games and talking about math and practicing writing numbers, showing them on the abacus, showing them on the dot cards, showing them on the tally sticks . . . .  but I would say right now about 90% of the work we do doesn't involve a pencil and paper. In the past the math involved pages in workbooks. Now she does maybe 4-5 math problems per lesson, but so far it is only for me to make sure she understood and we don't accidentally skip over something basic that she needed to re-learn.

Iris surprised me with this today after we finished our math lesson!
More Math! 

The other night Eloise's school held a math games night, so I brought the girls. The whole cafeteria was full of math games! It was so much fun to move from table to table playing whatever struck our fancy. I hadn't looked at simple games as being able to teach math before, so it was eye-opening for me. We even got to bring home a couple of bags of grade-appropriate games the school put together for the kids. 

 Playing Connect Four at math games night.

We recently purchased an iPad. We have wanted one for a very long time and it is such a treat to finally own one. I have already started loading it with a few math games, like Chocolate Fix and Rush Hour, which was a game we played at math games night and I wanted to buy. Turns out Rush Hour is easier to play on the iPad anyways! No pieces to lose! Yes, an iPad is a pretty expensive device for game playing, but if you have one, it can open up a world of free and inexpensive math games to kids. 

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