New Math, Reform Math…and How Homeschool Moms Measure Up

As I was visiting Parenting Magazine for a completely different reason other then math, a blog post caught my eye. Well…okay, I must admit, the blog picture caught my eye as an obsessed homeschooling mamma. I saw these fantastic flashcards and wanted them! Then I read the article that went with them and my mind started churning.

photo courtesy of Parenting Magazine

New Math. It made me think of the Tom Lehrer song, which had my husband and me rolling on the floor as we listened while shaking our heads, tears streaming down our faces. Okay, maybe it wasn’t that funny. But it was pretty funny!

Is this the same New Math he was singing about? What is New Math? Or Reform Math? Or Inquiry Math? According to the teachers interviewed by Parenting Magazine it is

…a catchall phrase for a group of new methodologies that aim to teach students how to reason their way through a problem instead of simply regurgitating a set of facts and formulas to get the answer…

Sounds a lot like living math. Sounds a lot like homeschooling math. Usually I find homeschooling curriculum trying to find different ways of teaching concepts that a public school teaches. But in this instance it seems we’re on the same page which, I admit, raises my hair a bit.

When I was first looking into math programs for Gabe this new way of learning was exactly what I wanted for him. In fact, when I was introduced to Math U See this is exactly what I liked about the program. It was so different then how I learned. I wanted that for Gabe. I wanted him to never ask the question, “And how am I going to really use this in real life?” So we bought the program and he has done wonderfully with it. Of course, his amazing math abilities stem much more from who God created him to be naturally and less to do with the actual program. This I didn’t come to see until Lily started down the same path. I quickly realized she was blessed in mathemetical abilities about as much as her mother, that is to say not at all! So I was going to have to actually teach her this material. And the only way I knew how to teach was the way I had been taught…the old math..finger counting, carrying the one, borrowing, tens columns, and plain old memorization.

But this week I was reminded that it really doesn’t matter which program you are using or not using or plan to use. It matters that your children understand with the least amount of tears. This week I spent two one-on-one sessions with each of my children and was so glad we homeschool.

Did you ever have one of those lessons where the teacher was asking you to do something that didn’t make any sense and actually distracted you from doing the work the way you’d normally do it? And you know the lesson is to teach you why something is done the way it is but it ends up being more distracting then helpful? That is Gabe’s lesson this week. I admit, I don’t watch the lessons with him. He is mathematically inclined and does just fine watching the teaching DVD then doing the lesson on his own. But today I heard whines of why he just couldn’t get this long division problem and after a half hour of him struggling and only getting four problems done, two of them wrong, I stepped in. He tried to explain to me what the DVD was explaining to him. I had NO CLUE what he was talking about!

But the great thing about homeschooling is…

I told him to ignore everything his lesson is trying to teach him and just work the problems. (Didn’t you ever want to tell you teacher this at least once during a math lesson???) When I realized he couldn’t because of the now mass-confusion swimming in his head, we threw out all he knew of long division and went back to the drawing board. For this homeschool mom going back to the drawing board means doing what works for you in real life. I showed him how I did division and I saw everything click for him. “This is easy, mom!” So much for new math!

And the same went for Lily this week. As she is moving on in money counting to mixing dollars with cents, she was introduced to that pesky decimal point. She already has problems understanding place value so how to explain? I did the same as what I did for Gabe…explained using what works best for me. Once she got it, she really got it.

So my point, you ask? Don’t feel bad as a homeschooling momma that you grew up learning touch-point adding and still find yourself doing that in the grocery aisle. Don’t feel bad that you use a calculator for any two-digit long division number. Math ultimately comes down to doing what works at the time you need it, whether in your head or with a calculator. (Isn’t that what the unschoolers keep trying to tell us?) And you may have invested in some new math program that your kid excels in…or hates, but the bottom line will be how do you, as teacher, explain it so that they get it?

Math U See ~ $65

Right Start Math ~ $50-$150

Teaching Textbooks ~ $120

Your kid getting it ~ Priceless!


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11 thoughts on “New Math, Reform Math…and How Homeschool Moms Measure Up

  1. Thanks for the reminder! I often find that I have to use multiple ways of explaining things, and eventually one will just click for Kiddo. Once it does, he is set. Until it does, we can’t move. Those are the times I am glad we homeschool!

  2. great post, i agree. that is one huge blessing with HS, i can adapt learning style to the child, and i am amazed at how different my children are.

    my boys loved mathusee, my daughter prefers horizons. so far they all do math better than me 😉

    • LOL I’m pretty sure when I’m done with this whole homeschooling adventure, I’ll own a little of every math program out there! So much for buying a program that I can save money with by using with every child!

  3. Love this post! We have been going through the same things at home with our daughter. I found something I hope will work for her. And my son does math better than I ever did with math u see!
    Found your blog on the Weekly Wrap-Up and wanted to drop by and say hi!

  4. It’s been delightful to visit your blog. Math is always such a topic for homeschooling mamas. We’ve done Math u see, Singapore and Life of Fred. All good at different times for different people. We love Family Math and Mathematicians are People Too. I’m so happy to learn a little about ‘new math’ from you. We’ve decided old math is more interesting…like Euclid ;).

  5. Amy, this was prob. one of my fav. posts. Even though I don’t have kids, I completely understand about how you were taught cuz I still use touch point and Chuck looks at me like I am crazy. haha. Love the video!

  6. Love it!!! I have two with special needs and one really gets math and the other doesn’t. I don’t get Higher math! I am glad to be able to have a choice to sit down and use different ways to make the kids “get it”. I love the flexibility of homeschooling.

    New follower from blog hop. Can’t wait to read more of your blog. Visit us sometime…www.krazykuehnerdays.com.

    Have a great week!
    Renita

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