Homeschool Essentials

Whether unschooled or highly structured, religious or secular, all homeschools encounter the same challenges. All successful homeschools exhibit the same essential qualities. This weblog will help you understand and apply those qualities, minimize frustration, and enjoy more success sooner.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Homeschool Essentials--Math

Before I resume the Five Essential Qualities of Successful Homeschools, I want to spend just a little time on Math.


I hope to write a booklet on Math exercises for unschooling. In the meantime, here are a few thoughts.

Few things are so poorly understood and poorly taught than Mathematics. In fact, few children are actually exposed to Math in any meaningful way. Most of what's taught in Elementary schools is Arithmetic, and drudgery at that.


Music and mathematics have many commonalities, yet we have a culture almost dominated by music, and at the same time virtually unaware of math.

If we taught music the same way we teach math, maybe there'd never be another garage band. It's hard to imagine a garage math group.



Imagine if you never heard music other than in elevators, or at professional gatherings. The first serious exposure to music began with: "This is a quarter note. Draw the note body, then the stem. Two quarter notes equal a half note." and so on. And the goal of music class was to prepare sheet music with all the notes in the right places.

Well, we do something like that with math. Instead of introducing children to the beauty of patterns, which is at the core of math, we start them with the notation. That's what notes are. They aren't music, they're simply the way we write it so that others can experience the melodies and harmonies we have heard or originated.

Well, that's essentially what numerals are: they are the notation, the way we write down the math we have discovered or observed.

So, what kinds of math experiences can we expose our children to, that will be somewhat comparable to listening to music? Well, we start our children out with lullabies, simple, soothing, easy songs that help the relax and go to sleep.



Most games can serve that same function, and most are mathematically based. Even young children enjoy matching the patterns on dominoes, or playing tic-tac-toe. Children with mathematical aptitudes will quickly demonstrate that they see the patterns involved.

I've worked with many children who had developed a phobia concerning arithmetic, and helped them identify and develop their aptitudes.

As they get older, and their games get more sophisticated, the opportunities are more involved. I learned to convert fractions to percentages by computing batting averages for baseball. My children learned most of their basic arithmetic--and very thoroughly, too-- playing monopoly.

As I said, almost all games are math based, and can be used for learning. I include links to purchase several I've found particularly useful in the past.

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