Thursday, April 15, 2010

In the Trenches: Math

I've been wondering for quite some time if we need to make a change with our math curriculum.  We currently use MEP (Mathematics Enhancement Programme), and I have really liked it.  In fact, in teaching with MEP, I've had a few a-ha! moments, myself!  Jeanne ("A Peaceful Day") wrote an excellent post on her blog regarding MEP, which she also uses, and I encourage you to read her thoughts about MEP as a Charlotte Mason-esque curriculum.

One of my dc excels with this curriculum, but the other does not seem to flourish, and therein lies the problem.

In my quest to discover if we should switch to another curriculum for this child, I've been doing a lot of reading and researching (as I am wont to do) and a bit of cogitating (ditto first parenthetical comment).  Nail biting might be a better description, alas.  Just in the nick of time, Silvia at "Homeschooling in a Bilingual Home" embarked on a wonderful three-part post/discussion regarding mastery versus spiral methodology in mathematics.  It makes for fascinating reading.  And when I commented (on Part II) about my worries with my daughter, Silvia was quick to encourage me to look for different ways to teach this child AND to provide suggestions.  You can read her response here (down at the bottom of the page).

So here's what I've done thus far.  Both girls are doing their math lessons from the BrainQuest workbooks, which they are enjoying.  (By the way, these are really fun workbooks chock full of solid material -- great for some summer work.  And I see that it's much cheaper on Amazon than the store where I bought mine. )  But really, this has been more of a review or supplemental work for them.  I've ordered the book Family Math, just to see what it's all about.  I've been reading reviews on Teaching Textbooks (which my dd would hate, I can already tell), Bob Jones math, CLE (Christian Light Education) math, Developmental Mathematics, and several others.  Here's the rub: for every person who just loves a curriculum, you can count on others who don't.  That's just the way of the world.

And I really don't want to spend money on any curriculum simply to find out it's not what she needs, after all.

At the crux of this issue is my own feelings of weakness.  Math is not my bag.  My academic gifts lie elsewhere, and I told myself throughout my later school years that I am just not good at math.  I nearly failed college algebra, for Pete's sake.  My father, a math person if there ever was one (math and physics double major, master's degree in physics, and a career as a nuclear health physicist) has told me time and again that my problem was the way I was taught math.

Which makes me consider the solid B I earned in college calculus.  (I'm still not sure how that happened -- maybe I'm better at theoretical math?)  Perhaps if I'd been taught to think mathematically throughout my education, to see the whys behind the hows, I may have considered math differently.  I still may not have chosen to major in math, true, but I may not have felt like a mathematics idiot, either.

This particular child takes after her mama.  Her natural gifts lie elsewhere.  But I want her experience to be different, better, than mine.  So I'm struggling to find a way for her to feel confident and comfortable with mathematics, to give her a strong foundation I so sorely lacked.


  1. Here's the rub: for every person who just loves a curriculum, you can count on others who don't. That's just the way of the world.

    You've got it in one here, Ellen.
    Some kids (and their mummys!) are never going to love maths, no often how many times you change the curriculum. I'm not a curriculum hopper for this reason. Probably any of them will work - sometimes you might as well stick with the devil you know - an entirely appropriate metaphor when applied to maths, maybe?!!

    For my two bob's worth, I would look at ways of altering MEP in a way to better suit your daughter rather than looking at something entirely different. Every time you change curricula you lose valuable ground IMHO. Summer is coming. Have a real break and then start again. With the same stuff but differently. That's my take on it...for what that's worth.

  2. I think you and Jeanne are RIGHT ON THE SPOT. Thanks for comments about my posts.
    I forgot to tell you this too, that Jeanne points out perfectly, Julie in the Livingmath has said how 'all curriculums' will in time go through 'all the math', so hopping is not the solution.
    I only stressed you made curriculum your slave and tweaking MEP and adjusting it seems a great solution I hope it helps with your dd. I AGREE it's best to have just one math thing. But you can certainly add other things (and leave others out) when it comes to the particular lesson your dd is learning about. I think that's what Jimmie did, she did not leave Singapore math. And Family Math is not a curriculum, that and other books are perfect complements because they just have activities and ideas for the many math concepts that are introduced and taught in all the different curriculum.
    And YOU ARE SOOOO RIGHT, there are as many detractors as supporters of the same curriculum. So why change?
    I'm so very glad if I've helped to inspire you to find your own solution, after all you have to be the one deciding.
    Hey, if your dd does as good as you in math and your other stronger areas, what a smart lady you are raising ;-) (I did not take calculus and got a B in college, if I had, I'd be bragging about my math skills, ha ha ha ha)

  3. Jeanne and Silvia, I think you are spot on about altering MEP to better "fit" this child. Eureka! And Silvia, if I had any idea how I *managed* to earn a B in college calculus, I might brag, too. But considering I felt like I was floundering around the whole time. . . Maybe not. :-)

    You ladies are fabulous!

  4. Ha, ha ha...I went back to my comment, and I'm ashamed...who told me to ever start any sentence with an 'I strongly advice', that's the formula for disaster...ha ha ha. What I meant it's what you are doing, tweak, complement, adjust, and Jeanne put it great. I just couldn't bear the thought of your dd and her lovely mom having a hard time with a math program, sigh!


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