How we homeschool math, Part Two (Live a rich everyday life)

Homeschooling math at the preschool and early elementary school level is easily incorporated into everyday life with conversations, projects, and games. With our toddlers, we made a game of counting things (toes, blocks, arms, ears, food, stairs climbed). We play how many fingers am I holding up, varying which fingers we are holding up (so any combination of two fingers for two, not just the index and middle fingers).

We mapped out and built a raised bed garden. We figure out how many plants we can fit in our raised bed if each plant needs 1 square foot, etc. We look to see if staggering plants in a diamond pattern lets us squeeze in more plants in given area. We talk about how huglekultur gives more room to grow due to more surface area.  This year, we are going to start weighing our produce yields and we’ll compare grocery store prices for similar amounts. We keep an eye on the rain gauge and check the temperature on our thermometer. My little entrepreneur made herself into a mobile garden stand and sold vegetables and berries to our neighbors and her grandparents.

We cook. We follow recipes and get a feel for relative volumes and amounts. Other times the right measuring cup is dirty and we substitute a different one and figure out how to adjust for that. We only have one egg when the recipe calls for two, so the whole thing gets halved. I don’t artificially create these situations for teaching purposes, but we do talk about them when they come up. We figure out how many muffins each person will get if we bake all 12 (division and fractions). We discuss whether each of us should get 1/5th of the pizza and how many slices that would be, or whether adults should get more.

We made doll clothes and felt food and gifts with wood scraps. My oldest finger knit a belt, so we talked about how long it would need to be to go around her waist.  We made fabric-covered window valences. We built a child-sized canoe paddle. We built a wood growth chart for my nephew and my son. We built cubbies for our “drop zone.” We figured out how many gallons of paint we would need to repaint our shutters.

We passed a powerball billboard and talked about the likelihood of winning the lottery and compared it to other statistics like being struck by lightning. We talked about how much 2-3 bags of playground sand cost when the kids left the cover off the sandbox again. We figured out how much the \$5 carwash would cost when we got a \$0.20/gallon discount with our gas. We discussed the costs of flying versus driving in terms of both money and time. We discussed whether to buy the smaller box of cereal that was on sale or the bigger box that usually has the lower unit price. We watched the rabbits in our meadow and discussed ideas of population growth and exponential growth (and fixed the rabbit fence around the vegetable garden). We discussed interest and the financial benefit of paying off the car loan early (or not financing it in the first place).

We went out to eat and calculated the tip. We joined our local astronomy group for stargazing nights and enjoyed learning astronomy and had numerous discussions about angles and relative distances. We figured out how much longer we had until we needed to leave to get to soccer practice on time.

We played games. We played Rat-a-Tat-Cat, Rush Hour, Tangoes, Tanagrams, and Set. We played Spot-it and discussed the math behind the creation of the game. We played Zingo. We goofed off with math dice. I will dedicate another post to the games we love in the future, as playing games is a huge part of our learning.

When you start thinking about it, math is everywhere. We don’t need some drill and kill assignment to learn math. We sometimes enjoy the order and clear explanations from formal math materials, but the majority of our children’s math education occurs in the context of living.

1 Response

1. The Yellowwood School says:

I know often high school level math is when holes in their previous understanding becomes more apparent. Often some of the conceptual understanding has been missing, but a student has gotten through the problems in the past with pattern recognition. When they get into more difficult math, that sometimes isn’t enough. Learning to read the textbook is a very helpful math skill. Also back up to fill in conceptual holes as needed. If that, putting in the time, and online resources (Khan Academy etc.) are not enough, a good tutor or an outside class might be essential.

What is “not to be missed” depends in part on your daughter’s goals. Is she is trying to get into a top-notch college, a math/science career, just do well on standardized tests, or just pass high school? I assume she has high aspirations based on tackling both courses at the same time. If you look at the average public school student in a more advanced math class, I would guess they are typically doing about 10+ hours/week of work per math class (5 hours in class, about 5+hours studying/homework). So for your daughter, that would add up to about 20 hours/week. I am not sure that there is a great shortcut. A good tutor or math teacher friend might be able to help you figure out what is “not to be missed” for her specifically. Perhaps check in with a local university math department for suggestions of tutors.

Also, it seems some students just don’t like geometry. Most people have some preference for either algebra or geometry and I think it is a rare student who enjoys both equally. Hope for a more smooth math journey soon!