This post continues with our Wisdom’s 7 Pillars resource recommendations, today on the topic of L.E.D. Math.

UPDATE at the end.

LED MATH

Of all the things we teach our children, math is probably the hardest

for parents to implement in a “lifestyle” way, especially beyond the

very young childhood years. In keeping with LED principles, we desire

to keep math instruction as informal as possible for those early years,

and not resort to formal “school book” type programs until the formal

education years (the youth/teen years). We have implemented several

things that have worked well for us. We are working at getting those

things into a “presentable” format for others/you to use. We have also

found & recommend several resources that help us stay true to L.E.D.,

while providing instructional guidance.

INFORMAL

As a part of Lifestyle Education through Discipleship principles, we

believe most academic instruction, including math, should be fairly

informal, up to about the age of 12 or 13. The math concepts can

mostly be taught orally and informally through household objects and

dialog, with a little paperwork instruction included as needed. Our

children’s absolute favorite, and highly effective, math instruction

for the early years, we called “Money Math”. Very simply teaching them

to add and subtract through the use of money. They were “paid” for

doing things, and they “paid” for receiving things; beginning with

pennies, and progressing through nickels, dimes, quarters, half

dollars, and bills. They had to keep a running total, adding what they

were to receive, and subtracting what they were to pay. Money is

definitely the easiest and most logical way to teach our base ten

system, decimal placement, and negative numbers. We offer a booklet

called Freedom & Simplicity in Math (for the Childhood years), that

includes our “Money Math” ideas, as well as some charts and tools for

those early years. Calendars, clocks, and measuring devices round out

the *needs* of the early years.

We also love to incorporate Cusineaire rods (and counting bears) in our

hands-on, build it, see it math instruction. Yes, you can do the same

thing with popsicle sticks and dried beans, but the rods (and bears)

are so colorful, sturdy, uniform and fun. They aren’t just a “school”

tool; they are a fun “toy”, for building houses, complete with a family

to live in them. Our toddlers love the Jumbo rods and bears, too.

Our favorite resource by others, for these early years, which covers

all the topics typically taught in K through third grades, is “An Easy

Start in Arithmetic”, part of the 3 R’s series by Ruth Beechick. (We

recommend the whole series.) Mrs. Beechick includes ideas for teaching

each topic informally as you go through your day in managing your

household with your child alongside. Some written work is also

incorporated, as you design it (very simple, no daily worksheets to

write or such). A few simple chart ideas are also included. To

continue on with these ideas and foundation, Mrs. Beechick has also

written “How to Teach Your Child Successfully”. In it she gives ideas

& guidelines for older children (4-8 grade), in all foundational

subjects. We believe that “An Easy Start in Arithmetic” is all you

would *need* to teach your child math in those early years. Add on the

“Freedom & Simplicity Math”, Cuisenaire rods, and counting bears for

some practical, hands-on application ideas. “How to Teach …” will

guide you through the concepts needed to continue the rest of the later

childhood years, but many will probably want to add a little more from

other resources at this stage.

CONCEPTUAL

For those that desire to add a little more to the subject including

more written “paperwork”, we still recommend keeping the instruction

conceptual, concrete and informal, enjoyable, and “un-school bookish”

as possible. (We don’t feel these resources are necessary, but some of you may.)

The “Miquon” math series of “workbooks” utilizing Cuisenaire rods, by

Key Curriculum Press, provides this type of resource. It translates “real life” math,

that we’ve been doing concretely (with real objects through “An Easy

Start ,”) to paper. If you choose to utilize the “Miquon” books, we

still recommend using “An Easy Start in Arithmetic” as your foundation,

and adding the “paperwork” as an occasional exercise, as enjoyed by the

child, not an “everyday have-to”. There is no reason to begin this

“paperwork” at the same time you start your informal instruction with

“An Easy Start”. It can be begun even a few years later.

DRILL

Along the way, as your child learns the “math facts”, for

addition/subtraction, and in later years for multiplication/division,

you may want to work on these facts becoming “automatic” for him to

remember. This can be done by several methods. The most notorious is

by plain old fashioned flashcards, but many other ways are much more

fun and just as effect, if not more so for various types of learners.

“Math-It” turns the drill into a game, for both sets of facts using

“Add It” and “Timz It”. (Also available are “Pre Math-It”, covering

learning the addition facts through dominos, and “Advanced Math-It”,

covering percents/ decimals/ fractions.) We have devised our own type

of drill similar to “Math-It”, included in our “Freedom & Simplicity

Math”. Our children also all enjoyed learning sing-song jingles of the

facts from audio tapes, such as “Skip Counting”. The hands-on drill

tools called “Wrap-ups” are great for your kinesthetic kids, but we

found that some kids memorized where the string went more than the

actual facts. An alternative to the “Math-It” games, (I mention

because they are extremely popular with home ed parents) are the

“Calculadders” drill sheets. These are timed worksheets, and by far

the least fun and “informal” of the resources mentioned here.

Occasionally these can be used with older children for brush up, but we

don’t use them with our younger “informal stage” children. Freedom &

Simplicity Math (or “Math-It/Advanced Math-It”) and the “Skip Counting”

tapes are our recommendations.

TOPICAL

Shortly before your child advances to formal math instruction you will

want to make sure they have not only the basic facts “drilled”, but

also all their basic arithmetic down pat. This “transitional” stage is

usually between the ages of 10 and 12. During this time they will

begin doing regular “workpage” “math problems”, covering all concepts

of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, decimals

(money), and percents, as well as measurements, time, place value,

negative numbers, and Roman Numerals concepts. Much of this will be

review, but also solidifying and pulling it all together. The “Key to

” series by Key Curriculum Press has booklets covering Fractions,

Decimals, Percents, and Measurements. Also, you could begin utilizing

the program recommended below, by covering each concept (not workpage)

in the beginning levels and using some of the word problems and/or

tests from the “extra practice” booklets/pages as indicators that the

child has good comprehension.

INCREMENTAL

Formal instruction, including formal math instruction, begins for our

children around 12 or 13 years of age. We believe the best math

program, that includes all elementary and high school math concepts,

taught in a line upon line, incremental, conceptual (understanding of

the principles, not just rote memorization) and concrete way (with

manipulatives) is “Math U See”, by Steve Demme. So, if this program is

complete, conceptual, and concrete why do we bother recommending the

other resources and not just start with “Math U See” and use it all the

way through? We feel “Math U See” is an excellent program, & love the

way it integrates conceptual teaching & concrete manipulatives for

applying math to “real life”. However, and for us and Lifestyle

Education this is a big however, we do not feel such a formal

structured program should be implemented for young children. We do

feel it is the best program for our older students, in those formal

instruction years.

All the resources recommended here have their own strengths for their

own stages of learning. We have picked the best in each category (as

we see it, from the wide variety we have used and thoroughly reviewed,)

for working within the principles of Lifestyle Education through

Discipleship. In review, those are: “Freedom & Simplicity in Math” and

“An Easy Start in Arithmetic” for early Childhood stage (and

optionally, “Miquon” math w/ Cuisenaire rods); for the later Chilhood

stage, “You Can Teach Your Child Successfully”, “Freedom & Simplicity

Math” (or”Math-It”), “Skip Count” tapes, “Key to …” series, (and

optionally, “Wrap-ups”); and for the Youth/teen stage, the

complete series of “Math U See” (which goes up through Trigonometry, if

you so desire).

One key component of Lifestyle Education is through “Notebooking”. Our

“Freedom & Simplicity in Math” includes guidelines for Notebooking

Math. As with all the other topics/subjects we Notebook, the goal is

to produce the child’s own Book of what they’ve learned and now know,

their own “teaching” guideline, – their own “text”, if you must. This

provides the “written work” the child does and provides him his own

personal reference book for looking up concepts and procedures for

figuring out problems. As far as we know this is the only resource of

this kind. It will, Lord willing, be available for purchase later this

Spring. Please pray for its timely completion as we put the finishing

touches on this “published version” of our L.E.D. Math methods for

Freedom & Simplicity™ in YOUR homeschool.

**UPDATE:** We have not changed our opinions on the above mentioned resources. We still like them and all the “pros” of them still stand. However, there is one more addition to our list, and also another preferred resource.

I would add *Making Math Meaningful* by David Quine of Cornerstone Curriculum, as another option alongside of Math U See. It too teaches math in a real life setting, using manipulatives, and teaches reasoning. There are some lesson “perspectives” I prefer in it, but some presentations, (like Steve’s video examples, and the uniformity of manipulatives) that I like better in MUS.

My preferred resource now though is Ray’s Arithmetic. It is a completely non-consumable program (a big plus for big families), and teaches completely through the principles of math, real life application, and reasoning skills. It is a series from the 1800’s, and therefore a bit more advanced than today’s teaching, but the books are not “grade-leveled” so that doesn’t really matter. It does not come with manipulatives, but it is expected that you will use real objects to present the lessons. It explains how you reason through to the solution of the problems. It also expects early lessons to be done orally and mentally with manipulatives, not paper and pencil, so it can be used with our informal early teaching.