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How We Homeschooled the Elementary Years: Math

21 Mar

            This is the second in a series of posts on how our family homeschooled during the elementary school years. As I mentioned earlier, there are as many ways to homeschool as there are homeschoolers, and just because something worked for our family, doesn’t mean that it will work for yours. These posts are just here to let you know what worked for one family.

For math, we used a combination of courses in the beginning.  I found the Math-U-See series helpful for teaching place value, but I also used the math workbook from the Calvert kindergarten curriculum mentioned in the earlier post, and various worksheets that I found on telling time and things like that.

Later, at about fourth grade, we switched solely to Saxon Math and haven’t looked back.  I do not teach my son math; he teaches himself.  I give him about half of a math assignment each day (15 problems, including all of the problems with the new concepts and every other problem pertaining to the old concepts until I reach 15 problems).  If he does well on that half assignment, then the next day he skips ahead to the next assignment. If he doesn’t do well, then he does the second half of the assignment the following day.  I do not teach him anything about the assignment.  The Saxon books are written so that from fourth grade on, students can read the material in the book and learn it themselves without a teacher. After each lesson, I correct the assignment and then give it back to my son to correct any mistakes himself. We have a rule that he is allowed to ask me for help three times for each assignment.  He can choose to do it either while he is doing the work or while he is correcting the assignment.  Once he got used to this way of doing things (and it did take a bit of getting used to), he ended up saving his “helps” for the corrections.  Nowadays, he almost never even asks for help.

If it appears to me that he is having particular trouble with a certain type of problem, I give him “extra math” for a few days, which consist of maybe three extra problems of the type that he is having difficulty with.  Also, at one point, it seemed like he was having difficulty with math in general, and so I cut back on the number of problems he did in a day.  Instead of giving him a half a lesson a day, I gave him a third of a lesson a day (about ten to eleven problems). We still skipped ahead if he did well on the portion of the lesson that he was given.

The first quarter of each Saxon book is pretty much a review of previous years, so whenever we start a new book, we skip the assignments at first, and instead I give him the first tests for that book to help determine where he needs to start in the book.  If he gets an “A” or “B” on the first test, we skip to the next test.  If he gets a “C,” we stop and he starts the book at the beginning (this has only happened once). The next day, I give him the second test. If he gets an “A,” we’ll skip ahead to the third test. If he gets a “C” on the second test, we stop, and he starts the book at the first lesson covered in the second test. If he gets a “B,” whether we skip ahead or stop depends on the grade of his previous test. If his previous test grade was an “A,” we skip ahead to the next test. If his previous grade was a “B,” we stop, and he starts the book at the first lesson covered in the second test.

Basically you can sum up what we do as follows:  If he gets an “A” on the test, we move to the next one.  If he gets a “C” on any test, we stop and start the book at the first lesson that is covered by the test that he got the “C” in.  If he gets two “Bs” in a row, we stop, and he starts the book at the lessons that are covered by the second test that he received a “B” in.  If he gets a “B,” then an “A,” then another “B,” we move on to the next test.  At some point he’ll either get a “C,” or two “Bs” in a row, and that marks where he starts the new book. Through the years he’s started his new math books anywhere from lesson 1 to about lesson 25. My son has been tested on standardized tests twice now, and both times his math scores have been in the upper 5% when compared to other students his age nationally, so skipping ahead doesn’t seem to have hurt him, and he’s learning math two grade levels ahead of his age.

However, one thing that I would like to point out is that my son does not love math like he loves reading.  So while this method has been very successful in teaching him math, I would have preferred that he also discovered an interest in it. However, from a testing standpoint, math is one of his best subjects, so he has a good foundation in math for whatever field he chooses to go into.

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