Friday, June 29, 2007


My poor, neglected homeschool blog! Well, my absence of blogging about school is definitely NOT an indication that I haven't been *thinking* about school. No way! As a matter of fact, with July 1 looming ahead, I'm about ready to pop with ideas and planning, ready to coordinate curriculum and finish buying what I need. It seems each day I "ponder" a different topic. Since we've been enjoying lots of summer fun (outings, swimming, a trip to the lake, etc) I'm not exactly doing anything about any of those thoughts at the moment, but they are brewing.

Yesterday's topic for me was math. Algebra, to be exact. As I mentioned, I'm in "summer school" this summer, and one of my "classes" is Algebra 1. This time around, I love Algebra! I can bring refreshments to class and there's a "pause" button on the teacher. :::ahhh:::: I'm enjoying going through the Teaching Textbooks course my daughter will be doing this year. He's starting off with lots of review (from the pre algebra course), so I'm not watching most of the lectures just yet. All I can think as I'm going through it is, "I wish I had been taught math this way!"

For me, as a student, math was a very frustrating subject. Once I was in college it was better, but all the way up through public school I felt like the math train had left the station and I hadn't gotten on it. Sometimes I felt like I was in front of the math train, about to be hit! Other times I felt like I could get a glimpse through the windows of the train and see my classmates sitting contentedly "on board" while I struggled. I remember sitting in class, completely not "getting it", but not feeling the teacher was available to ask questions or get explanations before the bell rang. Then I would slog it all home and wrestle with it with the help of my math-major Dad who couldn't "get" why I didn't "get" it. Oh, my stomach is hurting all over again!

I wanted math to be a different type of experience for my children. They've been onto me for several years. One time I called my daughter to the kitchen, saying, "I've got a plate of cookies and some lemonade!" in my sing-songy voice and she said, "You're trying to get me to like math, aren't you?" Well, hyeah. Aside from offering refreshments and suddenly becoming the Romper Room lady during math instruction, I also chose a curriculum that was "hands on" and approached it from a different angle (so to speak)- Math U See. We began in the Pre-K years with the "Introduction" level (now called "Primer") and worked our way up through the Zeta level, faithfully building Decimal Street, memorizing our skip counting songs and layering fractions. I highly recommend it. I had many "aha" moments myself during our MUS years, as it's not how I was taught either as a student or as a math teacher, and it really helped me to "see" it differently. It's an aptly named program!

After sixth grade, my daughter indicated that she was ready for a change. Not that the program wasn't working, but she was just ready for something... different. As she came out of the grammar stage (grades 1-4) and entered the logic stage (grades 5-8) I saw a definite shift towards "textbookiness" in her (which I posted about here and here.) So, I went with it. I knew after a brief stint of Saxon in fourth grade (when she had the homeschooler's version of keeping up with her peers: it wasn't the latest tennis shoes she wanted but the same math everyone else was doing. We both hated it. She hasn't copied anyone else since!) that Saxon wasn't for us. I began clicking around and found the glowing reviews of Teaching Textbooks on the Sonlight and Timberdoodle websites, so I decided to take a closer look. At the time, there were no online samples so I just ordered it to check it out (knowing that I could send it back if I didn't like it.) I loved the way it was laid out, and it fit the bill for my daughter. So we did the Pre Algebra for grade 7, which turned out to be a great fit on the heels of finishing the levels leading up to Pre Algebra in Math U See. My son is on the same track.

There has been some concern on the Well-Trained Mind boards lately that TT is a bit "behind" other programs. Others who are comparing them say that some of what is in Algebra 2 in TT is in Algebra 1 in other programs. This doesn't concern me, really, for two reasons. First, if it's all in there by the end of Algebra 2 ("it" being what they need for PSAT and SAT prep), then I don't care which book it's in. Secondly, we are a year "ahead" in this curriculum so she'll have plenty of time to finish PA, A1, Geometry and A2 by the PSAT in 10th grade, which is my goal. My understanding is that the advanced math levels are forthcoming from TT (Precalculus, etc.)

ALL THIS being said (this is turning into a longer post than I thought!) I had the pleasure of meeting a wonderful math teacher last weekend during my stay at my sister-in-law's lake house. Once I figured out that this very fun and "with it" woman taught eighth grade math, I did what any good homeschooler would do... I acted like I wasn't intimidated picked her brain. She pointed me to the Charles A. Dana Center website (out of UT Austin) from which their math curriculum comes. She directed me to some fun projects she has done with her classes, which I found from the main website by following: Higher Education: P-16 Connections, to Higher Education Projects, to Teacher Quality Modules, to Middle School Module. (There are also Algebra I - Pre Calc Modules as well). There are some fun projects at that site! Through noodling around in one of the lesson plans, I found my way to a fun PBS site, where there are some great videos of teachers presenting hands-on lessons with printable lessons plans to go with it. You can plug in the grade and topic. Here's a lesson I found yesterday by plugging in "grade 6-8" and "algebra." This looks like one we'll do!

So, this has gotten me in the mood to find more "math enrichment" sites for the middle school/high school level. In the early grades I found it pretty easy to make math "hands on" and "real life" but it's gone beyond recipes and going to the grocery store. It's probability, linear equations, variables and irrationals. (At our house, not just numbers can be irrational!) There are gobs of fun math sites out there, but if you know of some for middle/high school, share! If I find some more I'll post links.

Thanks for reading this far about my topic du jour: math. I hope your day adds up to something fun!

1 comment:

Alycia said...

Hi Cyndi, Just stopping by your homeschool blog to look at your curriculum suggestions! I'm so happy to read your post today :) I have been contemplating the Math-U-See program for my boys and I was very happy to read that you enjoyed it. I will have a 2nd grader and a 1st grader ~ so we have been very interested in this program.

Thanks for a great review!! Happy Alegebra studying!



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