Monday, July 14, 2008

Math Tools

There are oodles of elementary math programs available for homeschoolers. I have tried more than my fair share of them and have finally settled on books and manipulatives that we all love.

Claire and Faith are using Miquon Math for their math program. It offers an intuitive approach to mathematics as it stresses finding patterns and breaking down problems in ways that make them easy to solve. The girls are learning their multiplication tables by skip counting. They are just in first and second grade and have been working through fractions, decimals, division, multiplication and some simple algebra. I often need to sit with the girls and ask them questions to help them think their way through their work. This helps them to do math that is far beyond their natural ability. I am amazed at how quickly the two of them grasp each concept. We only do a page or two a day because this is hard stuff but I feel like they are making progress. Besides being extremely effective, this program is cheap. Each workbook is about seven dollars and it takes about a year to work through two of them.

Thanks to what I have learned from teaching Miquon, my approach to math with Charlie has been pretty laid back. He doesn't use a math program. We count. He skips around the living room counting by fives and tens. He counts by ones to twenty. He counts backward from 10 while he races toward the sofa and flings his little body down when he gets to zero. We'll move on to counting by twos and twenty-fives and fifteens and counting backward from one hundred by tens. We count by lining up his little animals so he can touch and count each animal and make the animals and the number come out even at the end. We use a little abacus that I got from Right Start Mathematics. I think their math program is a lot more involved than I have time for but I really like this abacus because it makes it easy to count visualize counting by fives and tens. It also is a good tool to have when the kids learn to carry and borrow.

Here are a few other math helps that we could not live without. These have been pulled out time and again for all five children.

We use Cuisenaire rods for everything. The kids have learned skip counting, addition, subtraction and fraction using these little blocks. They are an intregal part of the Miquon Math program. We have several sets so that the children can have as many as they need to see things like how many sevens are in forty-nine.

We have a set of Base 10 blocks that the kids use for counting, carrying, borrowing and decimals. They also like to use them to build very fragile, sway-in-the-breeze towers.

The final thing that we cannot live without is this clock.

I like it because the minutes are labled around the outside of the clock and the hour and minute hands are different colors.

I wish ten years and more than a few hundred dollars ago that some mother had said, "Look, this is all you need to do a really good job with math." And that is why I am writing this post.


Jennifer@DoingTheNextThing said...

Great tips! I have several friends who have used Miquon and loved it. I also love the rods and base ten blocks. Have to check out that abacus! Thanks!

Mary@notbefore7 said...


Thanks! I think I will put the rods on my wish list! I loved them as a teacher in school. We'll need some at home for sure.

I was looking around for your phonics suggestions post, but can't find categories. I was wondering if you had experience wiht Ordinary Parents Guide.

Do you know the link to the phonics one you did ages ago?


ValleyGirl said...

And should I ever actually decide to take the plunge and try homeschooling, you will be among the first to receive a lengthy email from me asking tons of questions to pick your brain!!

I love these posts. I think each one brings me closer and closer...

Mama JJ said...

I just ordered Saxon math for J and R (did you ever use it?). It will be the first that we've done math. I need something very concrete and specific since math is not my thing. But your advice is worth an awful lot to me, so I'll keep this post in mind. Thanks!

Joy said...

That is really helpful. Thanks! My oldest is just starting 1st grade and I used just everyday life for math last year but I wanted to step it up slightly this year. I did get that abacus but not the whole progam - looked like too much to do it all so I'm glad to see you agree with that decision. It helps me feel better because it's sure tempting to buy everything!

Christy said...

I debated for so long between Miquon and Math U See, and went with MUS. I'm still thinking I may order Miquon one day and do both. We'll see.

I definitely need to get that clock, though!

The Small Scribbler said...


We used Miquon with another math program for quite a while until I saw that Miquon could stand on its own. I think Math U See is a great program...very visual. Steve Demme is one of my favorite homeschool conference speakers.