Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Formula for Math

My family is celebrating Mother's Day today, Saturday, by giving me the day off! It is a wonderful, thoughtful gift. I am enjoying it so much.
The beautiful flowers all my men gave me for Mother's Day. A girl's dream!

Thor and Nick Fury from The Avengers. One of my other Mother's Day gifts! A nerdy girl's dream!

 I have been sitting in my quiet room (except for the times the Monkey comes in to let me know people are not doing his bidding), watching movies on my computer and reading books. I just received Cookie Boy's new math book today, and could not put it down until I read it cover-to-cover.

You will draw one of two conclusions from that last sentence. Either:
a) "She must be one of those "math nerds", who really gets into Khan Academy and things like chemistry."
b) "She is really weird."

Both of those would be incorrect. Well, okay...I am a little weird. But mostly, b is an incorrect answer to this particular question.

First, to clarify, I am not a math nerd.

I am, generally, abysmal in math. For example, I was never in the "higher math" classes in school. Except eighth grade. The school sent my mother and me a letter the summer before eighth grade, informing us I was being placed in advanced pre-algebra.
 My mother read it, and promptly called the school to see if there had been a mistake.
There had not been a mistake.

Now, this seems like the kind of incident that a child might resent her mother for, holding it against her for life.
"You never believed in me and my ability to do higher math! If you had just believed in me, I could be teaching Linear Algebra at Harvard right now!"

 I believe I was standing at my mother's elbow when she made the call, and when we found out there had been no mistake, we looked at one another and shrugged. She said something equivalent to, "If you want to take advanced Pre-algebra, that is up to you."
I gulped, thought about it, and accepted the challenge.
It was the only year I ever attempted an advanced math class.
Except chemistry - which is not a math class, per se, but a science class with a lot of advanced math in it.  Ms. Alfieri had pity on me and let me wash lab equipment for bonus points to bring me to a passing grade. Saintly woman.

I even chose a college major based on how much math I had to take.

True (embarrassing) stories.

Suffice it to say, math was never my forte.

Which is why it totally makes sense that I coach an engineering and robotics team.

Life is full of irony.
Which brings us back to the question: Why was I eagerly reading a math book on my day off today?

Let me first say this: I am finishing up my 9th year homeschooling my children. I have come to this truth: I could have learned math, and learned it well. I am learning, even as I teach my children, even at my ripe old age of thirty-mumblemumble. 

There are many different ways to approach math, it turns out. I always thought numbers were not complicated, opposed to learning the different rules for using the comma, reading TS Elliot, or learning all the reasons why the War of 1812 occurred. I mean, 2+2=4, and there just is not any other way about it.
Turns out, math is just as simple and complicated as anything else. And there are many ways to teach it, approach it, and learn it.
The way I was traditionally taught in school just did not work for me. I was always confused. I could memorize formulas, but use them???? Hah! (Actually, taking Metaphysics was much the same experience for me. I memorized every single thing I could, but just could not apply any of it. For one year. Then, it all made sense. I guess I have a slow brain.)

Each of my three big boys is taking a different math course. I used Saxon with all of them in their younger elementary years. When The Young Adult was in 6th grade, he almost exploded from hatred of Saxon math. Perhaps "hatred" is not a strong enough word for what he felt. He had a complete aversion, antipathy to the abomination he felt Saxon math to be.
And his grades
He begged me to find him a new math course. I could see the sense in that. I looked around.

Don't let anyone tell you homeschoolers are always nice and without prejudice. All you need to do to counteract that little fallacy is get on a message board about math and read the threads about what math curriculum to purchase. I have never in my life felt so much like I was walking a battlefield laced with mines, which were constantly exploding in my face.
Apparently, math curriculum is a very hot topic.

In the end, I found a program called LIVE Online Math. The Young Adult needed a teacher, and this program offered a video course along with a once-a-week online classroom meeting. It is a great program. Mr. Bovey is an excellent teacher. He might also become a saint after a few years of teaching The Young Adult.
I thought, as homeschoolers, I would never have the experience of of getting a note sent home from a teacher.
God bless Mr. Bovey.

Romeo also wanted to switch. After braving the math threads again, I decided to try him out on Singapore Math. He took to it like a nerd takes to Tolkien, and he has been happily zooming through Singapore, learning the ability to do mental math in a very speedy manner.

Cookie Boy, however, decided to stick with Saxon. (He is not a fan of change, in general.) Fine. It works for him. But now he is taking Saxon Algebra 1/2 and is doing fine, but....I have not been totally convinced it is meeting his needs. However, I could not find a program to switch him to that offered enough....mathy reasons to switch. Cookie Boy really likes math. He says he maybe even wants to teach math when he grows up.
I wonder if he is actually related to me?

Almost two weeks ago, I attended a conference where the speaker brought some curriculum she used, in order to show us examples of what her family did.

Now, another thing to know about homeschoolers - most of us are kind of crazy about curricula. We love us some good curricula! Homeschool fairs or homeschool conventions? All KINDS of curricula to explore! We are forever talking shop with one another: "What do you use for science/math/history/literature/Latin? how does that work? Can I see?" We like to swap curricula, borrow curricula, try out new curricula - we are all kind of nerdy-nerds.

So, like the good homeschooler I am, I listened up as the speaker displayed all her books on two tables. Books I have never used! Some I have never heard of! Some I have heard of, but never witnessed in person. Dozens of books for me to flip to through! Sigh!!!!

One was a math series, Life of Fred, by Stanley F. Schmidt, Ph. D.. I had heard of it, but only in passing. She even spent a few moments talking about that series. As I sat there and listened, it intrigued me. At break, I went and got my hands on that book. As soon as I read two pages, I KNEW I had found the new math program for Cookie Boy.

In fact, if Cookie Boy grew up and wrote a math program, he would write Life of Fred.
Math awesomeness - Life of Fred

 It is genius. Smart, witty, funny, thoughtful and simple. I actually read one whole book and felt cheated when the book ended, mid-story. A math cliff-hanger?

Fred, in the book I purchased, is a 5 1/2 year old little boy who teaches mathematics at KITTENS University. He is kind of smart and kind of gullible. He gets into all kinds of interesting situations, like, is he supposed to use the lamb in the back yard to make lamb pizza? How do you open a box with blunt scissors (and how NOT to open said box)? And how to get fired from a job in a pizza place in one day. Oh yeah, you also learn all about fractions, as well.
You can go here to read a sample from the book we purchased, Life of Fred: Fractions. We are going back a little to make sure Cookie Boy has all the concepts, as taught in this sequence.

I can't wait for Cookie Boy to begin this. I have a feeling we have a winner.


cbse board physics syllabus said...

The information which you have provided is phenomenal.The children have fear that maths is very difficult subject but this fear just resides in their mind.There is only need to teach them in a good manner and they will understand it.Maths requires practice.Practice is the only key of perfection in Mathematics.

Melissa said...

We use and love Singapore too!