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Math Doesn't Have to be a Headache

When asking other parents about the subjects they struggle to teach (or help teach) their children, their answers overwhelmingly lean towards Math. Even my kids, who don't tend to get emotional over schoolwork very often, get really upset when they can't figure out a math problem. And let me tell you, long division and simplifying fractions can get prettttty dicey around here every now and then! If you're in the same situation, and just want to throw in the towel, stick with me because I just might have some things that work for you and your family!

Schedule in Advance

If you're homeschooling, schedule Math for when your kids are most alert and receptive. For us, it's the first thing we do after "Breakfast & Bible" (I'll talk more about that in a different post!). However, for your family the best time might be after lunch or after snack time. Just make sure they're not hungry or tired (good luck!). When the kids get to their desks, I usually have a warm-up worksheet that is ON or BELOW their level for them to complete before we start the daily lesson. I've found that doing so gets their brains working and allows them to gain a little bit of confidence at the same time. Win-win!

Let's say your child is a virtual learner or attends in-person school. Though you can't necessarily plan when they do a certain subject, you can certainly find a time in the afternoon/evening that works best for them to review the material and do their homework. I remember the rule in my house growing up was that homework was done immediately after coming home from school...but, that might not work for your kids. The important thing is to listen and watch for the cues that something either is or is not working for them. The goal is to set them up for success, and we can at least swing the pendulum in that direction if we put a little forethought into it.

Choose a Curriculum That Fits Your Child

Whew, this is a BIG one. I'll be really honest here...we've tried 5 different Math Curriculums over the past 7 years and we're just now feeling like we're in a groove. Though that might not sound very encouraging on the surface, here's the WILL find the right one, and even if it takes awhile, your kids WILL be ok....eventually! (Just kidding on that last part!)

If you like a lot of review and spiral-type learning, Saxon might be a good place for you to start. It's been used in public schools for years, and is tried and true. If you're looking for fewer math topics, but want your kids to truly master the concepts, you should look into Singapore Math. It can be described as rigorous (I think that's how the website describes it, actually), but that isn't always a bad thing. Math-U-See is fantastic for tactile learners (kids who learn best by touching and experiencing things). We love their manipulatives, and use them almost daily! Abeka Math is another good choice, and it's the one we currently use for our youngest two kids. We've found that it has the perfect balance of review and challenge for their math-minded brains. My oldest uses Teaching Textbooks and does it entirely online. It goes at a slower pace and encourages mastery like Singapore Math, but also has a lot of sample problems, quizzes and tests that she can go back and learn from as well.

For Students Who Attend School In-Person....

If you can't choose your curriculum, I just recently reviewed a site called A+ Interactive Math. It's a subscription based website that caters to 1st grade through Algebra 1. It's completely online, comprehensive, and you can choose to buy it for a single student or as a package (called the Family Plan), and offers just tutoring as well. If your child is struggling at school, or you feel like they are just not getting enough help or support, this site might be a great way to give them a little bit of extra help while making sure they stay in line with grade-level standards.

Set Them Up for Success

This might seem self-explanatory, but sometimes it takes a little bit of planning to get the best result. My oldest had a hard time learning two-digit multiplication, not because the content had her stumped, but because she found it difficult to line up the numbers correctly on notebook paper. So, we got her some graph paper...problem solved! She no longer uses it because she automatically lines up her numbers perfectly now, but that one little tweak made a world of difference while she was learning.

Your child might need a calculator, a ruler or a protractor to do their work. Try to have those available when they start their assignment so that they don't break their concentration by looking around for one after the fact. If they need a few sample problems before hand, try to have a book that helps them with that (we've used BrainQuest and Spectrum books in the past and they are great for a "refresher" of certain concepts). My son seems to break every.single.pencil on the planet, so we invested in an electric pencil sharpener (more for my sanity than his, to be honest!). All of this to say that before you start (your lesson if you homeschool, or their homework if they attend in-person school), make sure they have all the tools they need to be confident in their efforts and that put them in the best position for success.

Another tip I received early on was to find outside sources for help, and Khan Academy is a great place to start for that! First of all, it's free (yay!), but it's also widely used and trusted and is very thorough in its teaching. If you're using Saxon Math, look up Nicole the Math Lady. She comes highly recommended, and helps teach children (and their parents) the concepts in the Saxon curriculum. I've also heard great things about Mathnasium, though we've never tried it personally. Basically, don't ever be afraid to outsource if needed...sometimes it's good to call in the reinforcements!

Keep it FUN!!

I know, I know...some of you might have an issue with putting the word FUN in the same sentence as the word Math! But stick with me, I *may* change your mind. Using manipulatives is one of the easiest ways that we've found to keep Math engaging. We bought a "learning clock" in the Target Dollar spot a few years ago that has been really well-loved, and a great way for my kids to learn how to tell time. You can find a similar one on Amazon here. Math-U-See (as mentioned above) comes with an entire set of mini-blocks that are fantastic, but you can also use things like popsicle sticks, mini pom-pom's, etc. to help teach your kids to count by 2's, 5's and 10's, as well as to help them with addition, subtraction and multiplication.

The other way to keep kids engaged and upbeat about Math is to utilize games. I used Multiplication and Division Wrap-Ups when I was a kid, and they have worked wonders for my children as well. Multiplication Bingo is another really good way to not only have fun, but also include multiple kids at the same time. IXL (a subscription website), Life of Fred (a supplemental book series), and Scratch (allows kids to program their own interactive stories), are all wonderful ways to get kids out of their workbooks and into tangibly grasping the concepts of what they've been learning. And lastly, don't forget to check out Teachers Pay Teachers for some exceptional (and often FREE) games for all ages.

Teaching Math can be hard. Really hard. And everyone learns differently. Add those two things together and often it becomes an emotional endeavor that everyone would really just rather skip! Hopefully some of these tips have helped...if so, I'd love to hear about it! And if you have anything you'd like to add, I'd love to hear that as well. And if you're still struggling, give yourself a little bit of grace. You'll find your groove, I promise.

**All opinions contained are my own. All links to websites are strictly for your information, as I receive no compensation for recommending them. If you end up purchasing anything from any of the Amazon links, I will receive a small %; however, everything I recommended I have purchased on my own and use on an (almost) daily basis while I teach my kiddos at home.**



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