Quick Tips for Classical Education at Home: Math

This week and next we’re featuring a few simple things students can do to continue their classical education in each subject: literature, history, math, science, art, music, and PE.

So, you’re at home for the foreseeable future with your young math student. The textbooks are complicated, and on top of that you have responsibilities of your own, other children to take care of, and your child isn’t really enthusiastic about studying math. Where to begin?

For Younger Kids

In Hillsdale-affilated classical schools, we recommend Singapore math. You can learn more about it here.

For young students, math fact fluency (memorizing the answers to simple problems like 3 times 6, 4 times 6, 7 plus 7, 8 minus 3, and so on) is really important, because a kid who has those simple things memorized can do more complicated math problems (456 times 23) more quickly. There are a ton of ways to practice math facts. Practice with flash cards, have a race between siblings or parent and child. Incorporate math facts into a game of memory or relay races. Make it part of your day at home and you’ll see the benefits when students are older.

Also for younger students, practice skip-counting. Counting by twos, threes, fours, and fives helps with multiplication later and on. At first, practice with pennies or buttons or beans, and later try doing it in your heads.

Playing cards are great for practicing math at home. How many ways can a student make a number, match numbers, or order cards from greatest to smallest or vice versa. Play war, a card game that teaches students to recognize greater than and less than. 

For Older Kids

Teach your student bar modeling, or if he or she already knows it, then practice with harder bar models. You know those math problems we all used to dread when we were little? For example:

Sam had 5 times as many marbles as Tom. If Sam gives 26 marbles to Tom, the two friends will have exactly the same amount. How many marbles do they have all together?

Don’t let that scare you! People who know bar modeling can solve problems like that quickly, and sometimes in their heads. Here’s a demonstration.

If your child is taking Singapore math already, there will be a bunch of practice bar modeling problems in the textbooks, and you can find more to practice here.

I can’t tell you how important bar modeling is. A student who knows how to do it suddenly becomes so confident with math. The math anxiety just vanishes.

For Parents

Getting really serious about teaching your kids math? Or are you just interested for your own sake? There are a bunch of excellent books out there to help you understand the best methods. Here are a few we recommend:

Arithmetic for Parents: A Book for Parents about Children’s Mathematics, by Ron Aharoni

Mathematics for the Nonmathematician, by Morris Kline

The Singapore Model Method for Learning Mathematics, by Kho Tek Hong, Yeo Shu Mei, and James Lim

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