Since I’ve already written at length about how we ended up as relaxed homeschoolers in my series intro and language arts post, I’m going to jump right into explaining our relaxed homeschooling math approach in the early elementary grades.
Mathematics Versus Arithmetic
In The Right Side of Normal: Understanding and Honoring the Natural Learning Path for Right-Brained Children, Cindy Gaddis differentiates between arithmetic and mathematics. She describes arithmetic as “the act of manipulating quantities (facts).” Mathematics, on the other hand, is the “science of finding patterns, coming up with theories about it, and proving its existence (concepts).”
Right-brained children are most comfortable with mathematics.
Left-brained children gravitate toward arithmetic.
The Bluedorns also have an interesting (and lengthy) article about Research on the Teaching of Math: Formal Arithmetic at Age Ten? Hurried or Delayed? In a nutshell, they trace the teaching of arithmetic through history.
For much of history, arithmetic was not taught before age 13 or 15. It was eventually (and recently) pushed down to age 10. And even more recently it has been pushed down to age 4 or 5. If you only have time to read part of it, skip down to the bullet points at the end which sum up the ideas very well. I pretty much concur with their view of things, especially as it relates to the speed at which a child can learn arithmetic at a later age and the importance of spending more time on vocabulary and verbal language skills.
So with that bit of background, here is how we teach math.
Relaxed Homeschooling Math Activities
So far we have been all about mathematics and not much about arithmetic.
Like most right-brained children, Caroline is very into mathematics. She’s incredibly skilled at construction of three-dimensional objects. At her homeschool co-op she has no problem assembling complicated projects and ends up helping children older than herself after she finishes with ease. Her teacher has mentioned a few different times at how skilled she is in this area.
Caroline constructs endless objects out of whatever she can find. She has spent untold hours with her daddy over the past four years building elaborate creations out of our huge collection of pink and purple Tinker Toys.
She was a skilled puzzle solver from a very early age.
She has always been very aware of patterns and wanting to figure out how things fit together or the relationship between objects.
Because writing is not her thing (dysgraphia) and she doesn’t seem to be clicking yet with arithmetic to a large degree, I’ve focused on all forms of math that don’t seem like math to her. (In her mind, math is adding numbers.)
We’ve done extensive work with maps which she thoroughly enjoys. I pull out math workbook pages (which she has no problem with as long as they are colorful) that reinforce different math concepts but do not require arithmetic.
We tried Life of Fred and she flat out rejected it. Completely. And that was fine. I just put it away.
I encourage her to use apps on the Kindle Fire that involve math, but she does very little that has to do with arithmetic. And, again, that’s fine with me.
My main goal right now when it comes to arithmetic is to not make her hate it. I’ve really backed off and am doing whatever I can to make sure she is learning math without making her think numbers are horrible and evil. Eventually I expect that it will all start clicking and we’ll accomplish in a week what would have taken us months if I had tried to push it before she was ready.
As a homeschooling mom, I study my child and try to offer her what she needs, when she needs it. That is the beauty and freedom of homeschooling.
This is part of my Relaxed Homeschooling in the Early Elementary Years series.
Read the Introduction to the series here.