Today I’d like to share one more way to help your homeschooling kids, grades 3-8, to learn MATH….through unit chunks at approximately the same “chunk” at a time but in multi-levels! Be sure to download the 2-page plan at the bottom of this post if you are interested in this approach to multi-grade math! 🙂
You can also check out our online shop’s math section to see if any of the books there interest you for a unit-study approach.
This blog post is especially written for moms who have been homeschooling for a while and who have more than one student in this grade range. It is also for moms who like to prepare some lessons such as in the summer break before school or even in the spring. This isn’t for all families but I wanted to post it as an idea for folks who would like to do something different than the typical.
Do you ever get overwhelmed with explaining so much about math or language arts skills in a school day individually (i.e. to single students) that there is little time for doing anything else? I think the math plan which I’m about to explain on today’s post does take more time to begin and get rolling with but probably, overall, it would end up taking approximately the same amount of time or less compared to the mom who often gets asked with questions one by one throughout the year.
And despite MORE organization and prep work for it BEFORE the school year begins, I like how it looks because, as a mom, I can keep track of which skills need to be taught or reviewed BETTER and am NOT relying on keeping up with a bunch of worktexts/textbooks for all these grades.
To me it is worth the extra time to prepare and be purposely effective because it is a way of having that “ounce of prevention”…sorry, fellow Canadians, but a “gram of prevention” just doesn’t have the right ring to this sayin’! 😉
My main issue with just using textbooks/worktexts for math every year
With a large family of multi-grade levels, I personally find it very challenging (sometimes impossible) to keep from fading out (a.k.a. staring blankly for a few moments) on what my kids are studying in math if each one of them is on a different sub-topic because they have separate math textbooks or programs – I didn’t even like that style as much years ago when I just had 2 or 3 kids to teach (now there are 6 plus a preschooler)…
Let’s say one kid is doing addition of fractions but forgot how, another kid is multiplying by triple factors for the first time, and another one is learning about exponents and graphing – and one by one, they pop over to your work area one morning for extra help as you’re getting set up for the history unit in the afternoon while baking some vittles, and keeping an eye on a toddler who wants her brother’s pencil case. Sure, we can do OK with the traditional approach of “come to me or to an older sibling or Dad as needed” with their questions and I’m thankful my kids are generally quite good with being independent learners. Yes, we sometimes use DVDs (e.g. Mastering Essential Math Skills by Richard W. Fisher – full disclosure – we do not sell that product at this time and haven’t yet done so) or a Youtube video to teach math but our family doesn’t like using video regularly for math. However, I really would like to see a more cohesive sense to homeschooling math with all these ages from around grades 3/4 to grades 7/8.
My other issue
Another drawback to just having a math book for each grade level is that some math programs tend to have a few gaps or less-taught skills so that concerns our family. I’d like to see more time spent with linear metric, mental math for splitting into 10s, 100s to multiply/divide (working with distributive properties and also moving a decimal point left or right), short vs. long division (both ways are not taught in all programs), adding and subtracting fractions horizontally (most books teach only vertical), and more graphing/charting.
Next year, I’d like to go back to more of a unit study approach for math, covering the sub-topics in an orderly manner which will be a review/reinforcement to some kids and an introduction of a concept to others. I haven’t done much of this for a number of years but I really feel that math was/is much more fun and effective that way! I have the resources already that I know I liked using in the past and so when I packed them up a couple of months ago to move with us (at some point hopefully relatively soon), it was a great time to go over the plan so that it is ready to do when we unpack. (The specific “when and where”for moving elsewhere are yet unknown.)
So, I’m going to share with you how I organized my “stuff” for this.
First, to think of the grade levels to plan for… for me, it means Math Sticks 1 (for my grade 1 boy and it should hold some interest for my toddler too), 2 teens doing high school math (not needing my input as much), and 3 kids for this stage that this post is about – one in grade 3, one in grade 5, and one in grade 8.
My teaching plan –
- Teach the Math Sticks for the younger one(s) on one day of the week (e.g. Tuesdays).
- Teach the Grades 3-8 math in “unit chunk format” on a different day of the week (e.g. Mondays) – at all levels of that sub-topic. (This way, my brain only has to think one type of math sub-topic per day but my kids get to do their math most days.) I am aiming for once a week instruction to go over the main skill(s) with [easy] examples. If they need me beyond that, that is fine but I’m really not expecting them to need me as much for math.
How I Put My Resources and Lesson Plan Together for Grades 3-8 –
- Storage of Manipulatives: “Math Sticks” is easy curriculum and done for me so all I have to do with that one is to make sure my hands-on supplies are organized and handy to grab. They are in clear boxes and labelled in my basement. One box (which equals one or more unit chunks) can be brought up to my school area at a time. When we are finished with those units, that box will go back to the basement shelf and the next one brought up. The reason I mention manipulatives that I mainly use for younger grades in this blog post is because, for STORAGE OF OLDER LEVEL MANIPULATIVES, GAMES, and SMALL VISUALS, THE BOXES ARE THE SAME AS THE YOUNGER LEVEL. (It’s easier to find and reuse stuff for review when you are just searching for a topic, for example, counting. Example: My stuff for simple counting to 30 or 100 is in the same box as my roll of paper and storybook about counting with negative numbers and fraction/decimal number line – it’s all “counting”.) I tend to use my sets of manipulatives for only 1-3 unit topics each type so it does keep everything together and fresh for learning. Go here to grab a helpful list of what you can do with manipulatives.
If you’re interested in what my boxes are labelled as, here is that list:
- Box 1 has stuff for the units of “Count & Group & Calendars” and “Fractions and Money”.
- Box 2 has stuff for the units of “Operations (add/subtract)”, “Operations (multiply/divide)” plus “Geometry” (shapes, perimeter, area).
- Box 3 has stuff for the “Patterning”, “Logic”, and “Probability” units.
- Box 4 has stuff for “Graphing and Sorting” skills.
- Box 5 has stuff for the “Measurement” and “Time (clocks, cycles)” units.
(I could split these into just one unit per box but it would take up more space.) The point here is that I don’t have all manipulatives stored where the kids are doing math (or else it gets quite disorganized – been there, done that). I limit their access to only the box which relates to their unit. This works! 🙂
2. I looked at the skills taught in a set of Canadian Nelson Math Handbooks (as well as double-checked a few things in some math programs I have around). (Full disclosure: We have sold these Nelson math handbooks and have the remaining ones of those in our clearance. They are excellent resources to encourage independent learning or to refer to as a teaching parent!) I made a list of those skills and organized them the way I liked to see them. This list is what helped me to create the 2-page plan that you can download at the bottom of this post. This list helps me to know that I have covered the levels of skills needed by the end of grade 8. I’m not worried if my grade 5 kid likes to listen in on a slope equation with x and y and I’m not worried if my grade 8 teen listens in on reviewing equivalent fractions. I would present each topic from the basic level up to the highest level that I have in the group. Yes, my grades 3 -5 kids might not stay for the grade 8 level but they are welcome.
3. I found an old, mostly blank, review math book of Rob’s (it happened to be grade 7 from our generation back in the 1980’s) and a handful of other pages from various reproducible books and notes of our schooldays for grades 3-8. Some of these were enlarged for our use (partly because we deal with vision challenges sometimes). There is approximately 1 page per sub-topic or lesson. These pages become “teaching pages” – AND are pages with SIMPLE numbers for me to “show how” something is done. I began to mount them on cardboard for durability. I plan to number them too for a reasonable order that fits the 2-page plan. If you want to do something similar, you might look for a math skills “summer review” book for grade 7 or 8 and then tear out the pages you’d like to use. The idea is to find something with simple-to-work examples for the Mommy brain – you likely don’t want the tough puzzlers to solve in front of your kids. 🙂 (Hint: If you buy 2 copies of the same consumable book, you don’t have to worry about losing something if you glue a page down to mount it on cardboard.) You could colour-coordinate the cardboard colours and/or decorate with washti tape if you want. My example below is “orange”.
4. I gathered the books I have liked over the years which teach skills in unit chunks, usually one skill per reproducible book. I also added odds and ends of single worksheets, again, from my old schooldays or from my relatives’ who were schoolteachers. I ripped books apart as needed, hole-punched the pages, and put them into a series of binders as you can see in the photo ABOVE. There are tabs between each main unit. Do not be afraid to rip books along the binding, recycle the pages you don’t like or which are similar to a page you like better, and re-organize papers to how you like them! These are the pages I can photocopy (or ask students to copy a few questions from) to handout as examples of the skill(s) of the week. (The books I used come from a variety of places including Remedia Publications and Scholastic. We have sold some of the titles and have some currently in math section of our online shop.)
5. If one had enough practice sheets, one could actually design this into a stand-alone homemade curriculum. However, that might be harder to make sure there is sufficient application (e.g. word problems, real life math scenarios) for each of the topics. So this plan is likely more so supplemental. A lot depends on “what” reproducible pages you’re able to find for the topics as to if you want to make it just supplemental and fun with just a few problems to do or if you want it with a page or two for each day of the week.
Because I see this math plan for unit chunks as more of a supplementary math lesson idea, what are our “other math books” for next year? Well, I packed each student one or two other workbooks to complete as well, such as Prism Math or Math Mammoth (Golden) and one of my children has an old textbook instead in order to learn how to do math with a textbook (but not all questions/problems need to be assigned). On the other days of our school week and on weeks that I can’t do as much teaching of math with the teaching posters (e.g. “life happens”), then they can move on as usual through those books.
I think this math unit chunk plan helps to lessen the questions/concerns on various topics not only for the year but for future years. It’s really all about taking a bit of time to teach the same type of topic at a few different levels to meet the needs of a group of students, rather than just teaching things one student at a time, over and over.
Here is the 2-page plan, free to download and print for your home use: