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What's Working for Math in 2020

I don't often write about the specific curriculum choices that we've been using, because I never feel like I have a firm enough grip on their success to justify putting them into the blog.  We are relaxed homeschoolers, which means that we don't use a lot of curriculum in the first place, but we also have some special needs in our family.  It's been an experiment to try to find what works for us.  For the first time in years, I feel very confident with our current set up enough to share it.

Dragonfly (9)

We've been struggling with Horizons Math workbooks for years with Dragonfly.  Finally, this spring, I switched her to Khan Academy.  I also had her start over with kindergarten work, since Khan is common core, which is different from Horizons.  Khan Academy is also FREE, which made it a very easy switch, even as an experiment.  I also like that Khan is set up more like a traditional classroom with very simple text and pictures, not animations or any elements that might make it feel like a video game.  It's also possible for students to watch videos taught by teachers when they get stuck on a concept, insuring that outside (and neutral) help is available whenever needed.

One of the problems we had with the traditional workbook math lessons is Dragonfly's own personality.  She would look ahead in the book and get fearful about the "hard" stuff that she didn't yet know how to do.  Now, she's excited to complete each short section and see what's next in the program.  Right now, it's the only computer time she gets each day, so that makes it extra special too.

Skimmer (8) and Tadpole (7)

We were also using Horizons Math with Skimmer and Tadpole.  One of the problems with Horizon for them was how quickly it moved from one concept to another.  They were struggling to catch up and understand even the basics of 1-to-1 counting.  I knew we needed a slower paced, more visual option.

I remembered seeing the Sylvan Learning workbooks at the grocery store and flipped through them to see how they might work for my boys.  I really liked how they were full of fun pictures and had very short lessons for each day.  The boys went from not being able to count to 20 to counting beyond it, understanding algebra (the "mystery number" of common core), and adding and subtracting within 20 with lots of different methods for figuring out the answer.  I'm very impressed and plan on continuing their learning with Sylvan Learning workbooks into the future.

Well, that's the scoop!  Nothing super exciting, which is why I've never written such a post before.  Did you know that making fun math manipulatives is sort of my hobby?  I have tons of them on this website.  You can find DIY ideas for 100-charts (including posters), lots of printable counters, fraction cards, place value sets, greater and lesser, and much more.  Click the colored text to access them all.

More Math Helpers for Homeschoolers

Although I make a lot of our math tools, I know that not everyone wants to do that, so I thought I'd share some great math products with you.  For the basic beginners, some fun counters like these rainbow bugs or snap blocks can be very helpful for working on 1-to-1 counting, sorting by color, and basic addition and subtraction.  A balance scale can be a good way to look at numbers, weights, and balanced equations (part of common core kindergarten).  As kids begin to explore bigger numbers, a set of base-10 blocks can be invaluable for helping them understand ones, tens, hundreds, and thousands.  As they work on counting past 10, a 120-chart to manually fill in can be very helpful.  And don't forget the Judy clock for learning how to tell time!

For geography, I like this set of hollow 3D shapes that can be filled to teach volume.  Younger kids might enjoy exploring shapes that their relationships to each other while making cool pictures with pattern blocks.  Symmetry, fractions, shapes, and tessellation can be explored with geo-boards and a few rubberbands.

Older kids don't need to be left out of the cool math manipulatives either!  Kids working on their multiplication tables can use this wood chart to help them see the similarities between the numbers.  The challenge of place value was challenging can be aided by this place value flip chart to help them keep track of all the place names.  They can also get help with fractions by using this fraction board to show the relationship between all the different pieces.

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