Our family had a love/hate relationship with math. My sons loved it and my daughter hated it. While my sons typically excelled in their math studies no matter which curriculum we used, my daughter struggled. And, depending on what concept she was learning, we often had to change curriculum mid-stream to try to find something that would work for her.
In most of my daughter's other studies she was a very visual learner and was quite successful with a "read and do" methodology. But mathematics was a whole other story. We would spend a lot of time researching a variety of math approaches and using programs that would work for a while only to hit a wall after a time. Algebra was especially difficult. She ended up repeating that course three times using three different curricula before she was able to grasp it and move on. And, yes, we went through each curriculum all three times. But once she mastered it, Algebra 2 and Geometry were a whole lot less painful. 😊
Here are a few things we learned through those trying years.
- Never be afraid to try a different curriculum. We had mostly used a popular textbook program and my middle son did wonderful with it all the way through his homeschool years. My daughter did well with it in the early elementary years, but once we hit about 5th grade level the math struggles really began. We switched programs several times and depending on what math topic she was trying to learn, what worked for one thing did not work for the other. Eventually we made it through with a lot of trial and error.
- Make math fun with math games. In addition to online or software math games, we also played games using dominoes, a deck of cards, flashcards, and other things we had around the house, often making our own.
- Make math hands-on. We had a ton of math manipulatives such as fraction circles, scales, geometric shapes, tangrams, practice clocks, balance scales, abacus, geoboards and more.
- Demonstrate how math is applicable to their life. On a regular basis, we would try to slide in some everyday math practice into our non-schooling hours with such things as doubling or halving a recipe, determining how much time it would take to reach a destination, calculating the square footage needed to grow a certain number of plants in our garden and estimating the grocery bill.
- Reach out for outside help. There were times when I realized that perhaps the way I was trying to teach my children a concept was just not making sense to them, so I would seek out help from other family members and friends. Sometimes all it takes to reach a breakthrough is a fresh viewpoint.
- Take a break. On those days when it seemed like math was becoming a torturous ordeal, we simply would just take a break from it. It is amazing what a walk around the block, a night's rest, and a new beginning can do.
I am happy to say that we did make it through those tough math days with my daughter, even if it often felt like we would not. And the icing on the cake is that she went to college to study business but decided to switch her major to accounting. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that. So, hang in there, keep looking for what will work, and you just never know.