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How do you choose a math curriculum? May 18, 2009

Posted by inspiremath in Curriculum, Q&A.
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That’s a question I get a lot.   Everyone wants to know what I, someone who actually likes math, use to inspire my kids.  I do have my favorites, but I do change around, depending on each kid.  When I look for math curriculum, I consider the following:

  • Price – I prefer inexpensive over pricey, flashy curriculum.
  • Teaching methodology – I prefer math programs that emphasize applying what you’ve learned, rather than just all memorization.  However, sometimes I’ll use workbooks that are simply for practice in a certain area.
  • Teacher involvement – Some people prefer to have a lot of teacher resources, including DVDs and scripted teacher plans.  I would rather have books that allow the student to teach themselves.  That’s because when you figure it out yourself, you understand it better than having someone tell you how to do it.  Plus I’d rather spend math teaching time playing games.  Some people don’t feel comfortable and want more direction – and that’s fine too.
  • Appealing to Senses – I like math programs that are visual and kinesthetic, but of course it varies from kid to kid.  Some prefer colorful workbooks, others don’t care.   I do like the problems to be explained visually and/or in a hands-on manner.

Based on the criteria listed above, these are some of the programs I like.  Not every kid uses every one of these math books!


1,2,3 – Miquon Math

1,2,3,4,5,6 – Singapore Math (I get the workbooks only)

4,5,6,7,8 – Keys To… (good for extra practice)

1,2,3,4,5 – Math Mammoth (good for extra practice)

6,7,8, 9 and on – Life of Fred (not a complete math program, but excellent at explaining math for those that don’t like it as much)

5,6,7,8 – Challenge Math & Challenge Algebra

8+ – Jacob’s Math

8+ – Art of Problem Solving

What if my child hates math? March 9, 2009

Posted by inspiremath in Motivation, Q&A.
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Well, then, you’re going to have to change what you’re doing. Isn’t insanity defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting the different results?

It’s my belief that any child can learn to love math, however, it may not be in the traditional way we are used to. So what can you do?

#1. Talk to your child. Find out what his frustrations are, and why he hates it. You can still tell him he’s gotta do some math, but you could work out a plan to do it differently. Often a child will come up with a much better solution than one you thought of. He’s in charge of his education, not you. But the parent does set boundaries.

#2. Set the example. Be sure you’re not saying you hate math or complaining about it. Start reading some fun math books on your child’s level or even just above. Talk about what you learned and say how cool it is. Read the book at the lunch table, and then leave the books out. Point out when you use math, but don’t lecture. It has been said that mathematics is the language that God used to write the universe, show him why math is important and tell him how cool it is that God gave us math to be able to understand our surroundings. Look for patterns around you.

#3. Ditch the workbooks for a while. Most children who are hating math hate it because they don’t like the dryness of step-by-step workbooks. Do living math to teach your child to love learning. Read real math books out loud. Play games. See my site at www.inspiremath.com to get started.

#4. Try a math certification program. Sometimes we get so bogged down doing workbooks, we don’t have time to fit in the fun stuff. A math certification program could be tailored to your own child. It would list the items to be accomplished in a year, such as choosing 4-5 math titles from a list, playing a game with a sibling weekly, estimating the cost of a cart of groceries 4 times, etc. The award for completion could be whatever you determine, from a certificate, a trophy (buy one at a thrift shop and make a new nameplate), a party, etc. Allow your child to come up with ideas for the year’s certification with your approval, and offer to do the certification too.

#5. Motivators. Write a list of things that motivate your child. What does he love to do? When he finishes his schoolwork, let him do it.

#6.  Positive Peer Pressure.  Try doing a math games class with children around your child’s level.  Be careful about using peer pressure, though, it could be demotivating if the child feels dumb.  Do family math challenges.  Whoever can tell me 7×8 first gets out of dinner chores!

#7.  Outside Help.  Sometimes the situation may call for a someone else to tutor your child.  However, I think it’s more important to try the attitude of the child at home first.  If you’ve exhausted all your resources, maybe it would be helpful to find a tutor.  But be sure that the tutor will motivate and teach positive attitudes, or the problem could become worse.

Whatever you do, if your child is hating math, don’t keep forcing it. Start inspiring it.