The Maths Equation

This month’s Homeschool High School Carnival is hosted by Fisher Academy International and some of us are chatting about:
Math in High School.….What does your highschoolers program look like? What influenced your choices/selection?

Laying a strong foundational aptitude and positive attitude towards maths begins in the earliest years. Encouraging ‘living maths experiences, ie “How many knives do we need to set the table?”, engaging in maths through chatting, “If 8 + 8 = 16, what do you think 7 + 8 would equal?” to finding the ‘right key’ when/if searching for a more formal program are all ‘part of the equation’;)

When introducing maths in an informal manner to young children it quickly becomes apparent which child has a natural aptitude and interest in maths and which doesn’t. The child who thinks, talks and plays with maths concepts is naturally geared for success, the child who doesn’t, will struggle, they can achieve mastery through hard work, though some continue to struggle, this is the child who needs lots of extra support and encouragement.

Part of maths education is ensuring your children are not only meeting expectations, be they yours or the state, but that you are also working with your child’s learning style. Meeting these needs can include a variety of methods, ranging from a more casual, everyday integrated living approach, looking ‘outside the box’,  to sourcing the ‘right’ resources for your child’s needs, perhaps you may even need to outsource some or all of their maths education.

A major influence upon homeschooling families’ approaches are the interests and talents of family members, in particular the parents.  Some of PC’s passions and strengths include maths and he is passionate that maths receives a high priority, that it is not just confined to textbook learning but to everyday living and chat. Many a meal conversation has devolved into a maths chat involving demonstrating a point on a piece of paper or blackboard, and long conversations.  He is particularly adept at helping each child through their stumbling areas and tailoring the visualisation to their understanding, ie one child’s analogies involved pizzas, for another child when discussing hundreds, tens and units the ‘aid’ will be lolly bags.

Despite PC’s strong talent and passion for maths, work  time constraints have meant we have had to outsource in the form of textbooks and of late online academies.  Which textbooks to use, or even if you use textbooks is one of the ‘big questions’.  When our oldest Anna Maria, became highschool age we were using Singapore Maths for our primary aged children after trying a few other options.  We initially chose to continue with Singapore Maths for highschool, unfortunately we didn’t find it an easy solution for our family.  Despite Anna Maria being a strong maths student we sorely noted the lack of a teacher’s book, and whilst the problem solving was excellent the lack of iteration when introducing new concepts was a major weak point.  This particularly would be a massive drawback for our next student who needed more repetition in foundational work with new concepts before moving onto problem solving.

Searching for the ‘right’ maths program for our highschoolers, we found our solution in Mathematics.com.au, an Australian computer tutoring software. Tutored lessons are followed by maths questions, the student needs to master the questions before he can move onto the next level.  A major strength is that the program marks the students work and records their progress,  parents can easily review progress, as a busy homeschool mum juggling multiple grades this was a definite advantage to allowing me to ‘keep my finger on the pulse.’

We have used Mathematics.com.au for the past six years now, one disadvantage though is, it isn’t designed as a complete stand alone program, the writers expect it to be a supporting programs to supplement school lessons.  So whilst all concepts are covered they don’t feel there are enough repetition questions for mastery.  Whilst we haven’t found the shorter amount of questions to be a problem for our ‘quicker to grasp students’  it perhaps is a problem for one of our children.

This year we trialled The Life of Fred for one of our children as we hoped the living maths style would catch his interest, a change did help in the short term. For this student who is destined to go a different route he is now using Kahn Academy, watching the maths tutorials and answering the questions. I’m not sure what has caused a change, but he has clicked and his confidence has grown and for the first time he has begun to believe that he is “not bad at maths”.   Fantastic news!:)

Knowing your child’s strengths and weaknesses,  working with them,  keeping in mind the’bigger picture’ of where they may go with their maths talent, these have all been part of our maths journey.

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