How We Do…Math


That was my homeschool math experience.  😦 I guess I liked it early on, when there were speed drills, and counting M&Ms that I got to eat, and pennies that I got to keep…but fast-forward a couple years, and math was the most misery-inducing subject imaginable. I finished homeschool knowing I was horrible at math, and had to take an intermediate algebra class at the community college before going on to Algebra 101 or whatever it was….and I almost laughed out loud when the sweet professor told me I was good at the class and should go on to higher math! No thanks….but it was amazing what a difference it made having a professor teach me concepts, and having tutors available to help, rather than staring at a workbook page and trying to figure out problems that didn’t come out right no matter what I did. This is not meant to reflect poorly on my parents; homeschooling options were a lot more limited in the ’80s and ’90s than today!

And Ambleside Online, like most un-boxed homeschool curricula, leaves it up to the parent to choose a method for learning math. So, when it came to our children and math, I had two goals: They will not be afraid of math, and they will have a strong foundation in math so they can choose STEM careers if that’s the direction they want to take. And I decided that math would be one of the core elements of our homeschooling (along with writing and reading). So I started sorting through all the options; good old process of elimination. A Beka–bad memories. Saxon–maybe, but so many years of workbooks. Singapore–very interesting, but still a workbook…maybe later. Math-U-See and Math Mammoth–weird names 🙂 An abacus based curriculum a friend gave us–I couldn’t figure out the abacus before Kid Uno started kindergarten 😦 Ray’s–hmmm, that looked promising! A hundred year plus track record, inexpensive, non-consumable, compact (one little book for 2 years of school), all mental math and no writing, lots of manipulative practice, teacher intensive…It has been a good fit so far. Teacher intensive is important for reading, writing, and arithmetic, in my opinion. I discovered the Eclectic Manual of Methods about halfway through the Primary book, and it has been a great help in knowing how to use Ray’s. (BTW, the manual also contains teacher instruction for the McGuffey’s Readers, as well as other vintage books). So Ray’s is our main math source. We do it daily, usually a lesson or half a lesson. Kid Uno started when she was about 6. We first worked through the Addition section, and then the Subtraction section, using beans or marbles or matches for each problem. Then we went back through both sections, alternating addition and subtraction problems, and she answered them without using manipulatives, unless she got stuck on a problem.

But I also wanted to have the kids learn things from different angles; that way, if one approach doesn’t click, hopefully they won’t get bogged down and discouraged. So I started looking into some supplements. Life of Fred looked interesting. I bought the first couple elementary books, and Kid Uno loves LoF (she likes the stories and the questions) and I enjoy reading it. DH thinks it’s weird; obviously, he must have a different sense of humor! 🙂 I know some people use it as their main math, but I like it as a supplement…we read it once or twice a week, and I love how it introduces “advanced” concepts so naturally, and it just feels like a lighthearted approach. It is spendy, so it’s definitely the frosting on the cake. If I had to drop anything based on budget, LoF would be the first to go. Miquon is our other supplement, which Kid Uno does once or twice a week. It’s a very novel approach for me, so there is a little bit of prep involved before I hand her a few pages to complete. I definitely need the Lab Sheet Annotations–I don’t think I would understand how Miquon works without it. I haven’t used their other two books for teachers. I like that it gives her a bit of practice with writing and reading math problems, and how it covers math topics with a less straightforward approach than Ray’s. It also fills in some gaps (telling time, measurement, geometry). And although it’s consumable, it’s cheap enough that I don’t mind buying it for each child. Our final supplement is living books–there are some fun math books out there. Life of Fred fits in this category, and I also bought the I Love Math series, and some Anno books, and a few of the Young Math series. Our library has some random good options, too. Kid Uno picks whichever book she wants, and reads it for about 20-30 minutes once a week.

So far, so good! With Ray’s, Kid Uno covered Addition and Subtraction in Year 1, and I anticipate her working through Multiplication and Division in Year 2, as well as the measurements and other miscellaneous topics at the end of Ray’s. I plan to work through the Intellectual and Practical books after she finishes the Primary. According to the Manual of Methods, they are supposed to be used simultaneously, not subsequently the way Mott Media shows them.

She worked through a good chunk of the Miquon Orange and Red books; I think she’ll finish the series by the end of Year 3. And we will probably just keep reading through the Life of Fred series.

I also have Kitchen Table Math which I read and liked but haven’t really used. Maybe I’ll do some of it with the younger kids. Three or four different math approaches have been more than enough for me to juggle. 🙂 Ruth Beechik’s The Three R’s and You Can Teach Your Child Successfully: Grades 4-8 have been really useful resources for me, and they include a scope and sequence for each grade, if that is important to you. There are plenty of other resources out there for those of us without a strong background in math who might be a bit intimidated at teaching it to our kids!

After the kids complete the Ray’s series, I’m not sure what to do….maybe Singapore? Maybe Khan? We have a couple years to decide. Meanwhile, Kid Uno and Kid Dos are counting the money they just earned selling lemonade at the park 🙂




2 thoughts on “How We Do…Math

  1. janey

    How do you do what you do? Wow!! So many interesting and great resources for math – grands will be learning and enjoying it at the same time. Thanks for loving them and teaching them – praying for you every day!!! my love MOM G


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