Math has 5 skill categories. We think that each school year should ideally include skills taught/caught in all of the categories.
Numbers and Operations (e.g. counting, +, -, x, ÷, money)
Geometry (e.g. shapes, fractions, angles, perimeter, area)
Measurement (e.g. time, weight, length, capacity, metric system)
Patterns and Algebra (e.g. patterning, percent, exponents, roots, equations)
Data Analysis, Probability, Logic (e.g. graphing, statistics, problem solving, estimation)
(As the basic skills become more familiar over the years, math questions/problems will involve more than one category at times.)
Our math curriculum was originally designed to help a very visual/hands-on learner(s) because other options for young learners were very frustrating to use. (For example, we found was that typical tiny, colourful graphics to count were too distracting. Why not count real items, then learn how to work with written numbers? Our cute and simple drawings add to a storyline or a theme for fun.)
Our books suggest using some manipulatives (both around-the-home kind and the commercially-available kind) for the best learning experiences. To see why they are important and what YOU might want to do with manipulatives, click here for download a popular past seminar handout:
Our math curriculum is arranged in “unit chunks”. It is neither spiral nor mastery-based. It represents how Rob and I used to be taught math in the 1980’s. We really like this approach since it allows for focused time to be spent learning one skill at a time! Foundational lessons stick when learning in unit chunks rather than getting mixed and muddled. There are tasks in future years of any math usage that, of course, have some of that mixing together, but when you’re just new to a concept, we don’t feel that it is ideal to have a constant review of various topics. Instead, work with one topic at a time for a week to a month, then move on to see what you can learn in the next topic, setting the past topic aside for a while. In general, our unit chunks can be rearranged too so if an older sibling is in a measurement unit, then the younger child can be too! ♥ This type of topical learning can help to reinforce/review lessons for the older sibling and enhance the eagerness of a younger learner. We want to make it easy for you to be able to arrange things like this, if you want to do that.
We have designed math for early levels ONLY. From a solid foundation, you can then figure out what style your student prefers for junior levels and up. I have a blog post (click here) about suggestions for grades 3-12 or you can check our online shop. Look ahead to skill levels expected in future schools and plan accordingly to meet goals with whatever math program you do with your growing students. But it is much easier to figure out a student’s preferences/learning style when they have first grasped the foundations of math and have an ability to speak to you in more detail rather than trying to flip from curriculum to curriculum in the early years through trial-and-error. Thus, we offer our Beginner Math Sticks, Math Sticks 1, and Math Sticks 2 books which are so much fun to use! Math just might become YOUR child’s flavourite subject!
So, how does math “stick” better?
- With a “unit chunks” arrangement of topics (mentioned above)
- With a balance of hands-on, written, and verbal activities for lessons
- With a design to build independent study skills
- With a variety of topics within the categories to get interested in and build confidence – at least some parts of math should be easy to understand and do! Children who see the wide variety of types of math (i.e. the 5 categories listed at the top of this page) may tend to be more eager to open and enjoy their math books in comparison to those who only have routine pages of operations to compute.
- With storylines and word problem examples which are relevant to the life of a child and easily understood by a child. Math isn’t the most ideal time to be expanding one’s thoughts about world geography and cultures for example. We want to start with storylines that a child can understand in their own family and community because the focus of learning a new math skill should be on that skill and not distracting the student with a separate concept at the same time.
- With teaching first “how” to do math. “What” and “how” come before “why”. Some students will like to know why something works but other students simply want to learn how to do math so they can use it and don’t care as much about the theories, proofs, or history behind it. Seeing patterns of how to do something is one of the first parts to understanding math skills. “Challenges” in math problems are only eagerly accepted when one has confidence in doing the problems that have a pattern or easier numbers in them. Our early math curriculum focuses on the “what” and the “how” to build that knowledge and confidence.
- With age-appropriate, good-size print and enough space to work on a page. Math lessons should have an appealing layout to welcome a student who opens a book to learn! ♥
Q: How “independent” is your math curriculum?
A: Beginner Math originally was printed and bound on the top so that it could be hung up on a wall for a busy mom (like me with full hands caring for a baby/toddler), could read it and verbally give instructions to a kindergartener who couldn’t read well yet. If you organize your manipulatives well, I found it was quite easy and fun to teach this level. Some activities are together, other activities would be modelled first by you, and a few are with a handful of sentences to read so that a child can complete a page or so. Most of the Beginner Math level has no written work to do.
Math Sticks 1 & 2 have some written work and although strong readers are able to generally do most of the work by themselves, an older sibling or a parent will need to provide guidance at least some of the time (e.g. to model a skill with a manipulative or sample question). There are no teacher’s manuals and no answer keys because all lesson books in these levels are very straightforward and easily understood on the lesson pages themselves. The “large-print, simple and few sentences” aspect not only helps young children to read better for themselves, it also helps a mom who is standing/walking nearby to glance over and help a child rather than having to always sit down beside him or her to help read the printed part.
About “free-play” with manipulatives (i.e. independent play-time with the purpose of learning something):
May I also suggest that because we like to use a variety of manipulatives throughout our math program, that if a child needs more reinforcement or if he/she is stuck and waiting your help, these hands-on things hold a significant amount of purposeful interest and can continue to “teach” children while they freely-play with these “little toys”.
If you were just doing math in a “written-method” only, you be chasing after lots of review pages to grab for those situations.
If you were just offering a small variety of manipulatives, a child might be bored with the free-play of them by say, March.
With our “Peppermint Stick” approach, gathering a reasonable variety of suggested things and having them arranged so that they aren’t the same ones topic after topic, offers both strength and freshness in learning opportunities, even when a child might be stuck and waiting for help. ♥
Just posting this here again so you don’t miss it 🙂