“I can’t find a home school math program my son likes. We’ve tried Singapore Math, Right Start, Saxon, and Math Mammoth. We subscribed to a month of IXL Math to keep him in practice, but he hates that, too. I know I shouldn’t have changed so many times, but this was our first year of homeschooling, and I was trying to please him. But I’m running out of things to try. Do you think Life of Fred might work?”
You’ve tried all those math programs in one year? Many people recommend that new homeschoolers take a few months off to “detox” from the classroom setting, to relax and enjoy the freedom of making their own choices. But your son might want a few months to detox from his homeschool experience.
I suggest you set aside all those books and focus on games and informal math. Try to avoid schoolish lessons until your son starts to enjoy learning for its own sake. The Internet offers an abundance of creative math ideas.
- For example, download the Wuzzit Trouble or DragonBox apps to play with, but don’t make it a homework assignment.
- Or let him choose one of the activities at Gordon Hamilton’s Math Pickle website and explore it for a day or a week or as long as it remains interesting.
- Browse through the Primary Level 1 or Level 2 puzzles and games at the Nrich Mathematics website for more ideas.
Look for more playful math on my blog’s resource pages:
Explore Big Concepts: Infinity
Math that captures a child’s imagination can make the more tedious work seem bearable. For instance, in the 1920s, mathematician David Hilbert created a story about an imaginary grand hotel with an infinite number of rooms.
Explore Big Concepts: Fractals
Take a mental trip to infinity by playing with fractals. Cynthia Lanius’s online Fractals Unit for Elementary and Middle School Students offers a child-friendly starting point.
Fractals are self-similar, which means that subsections of the object look like smaller versions of the whole thing.
Most children enjoy exploring the concept of infinity with hands-on fractal patterns, such as this Sierpinski triangle made of tortilla chips. Talk about what you notice and wonder: How does the triangle grow? How many chips will we need for the next stage?
The Daily Four
If you worry that your son needs to keep practicing traditional arithmetic during his break, try making him a series of Daily Four pages:
- Fold a sheet of plain paper in half both ways, making four quarter sections.
- Write one math problem in each part. Choose them from any of your math books.
- Make sure each problem is different — one addition, one fractions, one multiplication, or whatever — and that none of them are hard enough to cause frustration.
- Don’t worry about an answer sheet. Show him how to use a calculator to check his work.
You can make up a whole week’s worth of these problem sheets at once, with a balanced mix of problems for each day. Your son won’t feel overwhelmed, but you’ll know he’s reviewing his number skills.
Or download some of the Corbettmaths 5-a-Day practice sheets for him. Some problems may seem too easy while others require concepts he hasn’t studied yet. Easy review won’t hurt anything, but do let him skip the problems that feel too hard.
This post is an excerpt from my book Let’s Play Math: How Families Can Learn Math Together—and Enjoy It, as are many of the articles in my Let’s Play Math FAQ series.