Easy Ways to Learn Maths in the Homeschool
© Beverley Paine, Dec 2001
Our children initially learned to do math problems conversationally , that is, they didn't have to read them or approach them with pen and paper, until much later. After all this is how toddlers naturally learn maths. All we did was extend this proven and successful method beyond five years of age by including mathematical word problems into our everyday speech. We knew it was important to keep it casual and related to what was going on in our lives at the time - e.g. baking (doubling amounts, halving, paring on the scales and adding on amounts, etc.), climbing stairs (counting how many, up and down, how many in multiple flights), sharing out smarties, etc., talking about shapes of buildings, packaging, patterns in the sand at the beach, on leaves and trees, etc. The opportunities to explore the world of maths in conversation are endless.
Using mathematical terminology and solving maths problems conversationally quickly became a way of life. I introduced more and more art and craft projects, knowing that these were building real maths skills in a concrete way. The children became involved in the planning and building stages of our house and garden, seeing us use maths everyday. Without realising it they quietly assimilated mathematical concepts and skills.
I didn't introduce 'paper' maths until I knew the children could work things out in the their heads. If anything was introduced on paper before the children fully understood the concepts I found they looked confused, or didn't retain the skill or knowledge. I found that at around age seven or eight they could do simple addition and subtraction on paper; at nine, ten and eleven they could tackle multiplication and division. Fractions were left until last, and decimals until they had done so much spending, measuring and constructing they already knew all about them and could do the sums easily. This was around eleven to thirteen years.
Games build maths skills.
We make a lot of board games. One is called 'Shopping Spree' which imitates a day in a shopping mall, and requires the player to purchase a set shopping list from various stores with a budget of $120. Another game, called 'Gobble Guts', helped understand equivalent fractions and was very challenging, even for seasoned mathematicians! all comers are equalized in skill, from six year olds to adults. We play many different card games, especially those that score, as well as scoring dice games, and make our own up, sometimes on the spot, or change the rules just for fun. Card and dice games are great for building and reinforcing maths skills. A favourite are 'gambling' games, played with chips or matchsticks. Playing darts is absolutely fantastic for building number skills.
Think of art and craft books as maths texts…
For measurement and space concepts we did a lot of craft and art - maths just happens naturally so long as you remember to introduce and use mathematical terms to describe the processes and products. This is the trick, getting used to using mathematical terms, like sphere instead of ball, and prism instead of box. Math dictionaries can help here. Libraries have zillions of art and craft books - think of them as maths texts! My kids loved pouring over architecture books, and building cubbies...
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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