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Nov 25, 2012

My Math Dilemma

MaryAnn Gaver

Hi everyone!

     In 2001 when I first began teaching at home, I was so excited to get started. Feeling called by the Lord and compelled to teach the boys in a home setting, I went to great lengths to set up a cozy little room upstairs, get all the right books, attend homeschool conferences, and consult with experienced homeschooling moms. That summer, the twins turned seven, and by the time fall arrived -- I was completely ready! Or so I thought....

     I hadn't anticipated that one of the most daunting aspects of homeschooling for me was the mere thought of teaching math. For some reason I felt stressed about math! I was enthusiastic about every other subject, but remember wondering, "What is my problem? I'm teaching second grade!" Was it fear? 

   ... When I was in second grade, I often raised my hand when the teacher asked for volunteers to walk to the board and do simple addition or subtraction calculations. I loved the natural, hands-on approach to math using things like beads or M & M's to show sorting, borrowing, adding. We did interesting games and quick calculations in our heads while our teacher helped us to see that math was all around us -- recipes, rulers, degrees, minutes. 

     Everything changed when I entered third grade. I was in a low reading group and an even lower group for language. We had these weird reading folders called SRA's. All I knew was that everyone had blue, purple and green folders, while mine were tan, brown and mustardly yellow. 

      To make matters worse, early one morning a guest teacher for math solemnly warned us that the whole world was going metric, so we better pay close attention and learn kilometers, grams and liters  -- or we'd be lost! Being the sensitive type, I took it to heart. I'm sure she meant well, but I struggled to understand how to do conversions regarding weight and length. Pounds to kilograms, gallons to liters, yards to meters...it just didn't make sense to me. I got behind and felt bad about math. I knew that I weighed around fifty pounds, but had no idea how many kilograms that was! Instead of admitting my struggles, I floundered and got further behind.  

     ...Back to the fall of 2001 -- I asked for God's help in teaching every subject. And, help me He did! I decided to use everyday opportunities to teach concepts and to show that math was everywhere: scales, grids, maps, baseball, prices, heights, speed limits, quarter notes, half pounds, mileage, tempo, temperature, and so on!

    You know what? Over time, maybe three years -- turned out, math ended up as my favorite subject to teach! I had changed! With A-Beka's colorful, fast moving curriculum, I gained confidence teaching -- and the boys grew in their knowledge and mathematical abilities. In the later years, we switched to BJU Press curriculum, eventually used DVD's for the upper levels, enabling Austin and Justin to get the foundation they needed for higher math. The Lord did this for me -- and He will do it for you, too! If you're in need of guidance for math curriculum, I have a wonderful friend, Belinda Parrish (a dear, devoted mother of eight and experienced homeschooling mom) who will take the time to answer your questions. I already checked with her... she can be reached at Belinda@homesatHelper.com

     The point that I'd like to make is this: Don't skip math lessons! Math is one of those subjects where everything builds on previously learned material. It's similar to building a house; you can't leave one brick out!  Meaning - if you don't nail down fractions in the elementary years, your middle schooler may face an impediment in pre-algebra (or algebra) when it's automatically assumed that students can, say, multiply and divide fractions. It's difficult to go 

back and learn the fundamentals. Sure, in history, if you opt to leave out the section about Lewis and Clark, it's quite easy to go back and learn about their expedition some time in the future.  But - not so in math!       

Whether I taught double time or double distance, it was truly a double blessing teaching math to the twins! So I encourage you to let your imagination fly in using creative ways to teach everyday math to your kids.  You'll be giving them the foundation that they need!

     May the Lord bless you and keep you as you teach! Keep being a great mom!

   love,

   MaryAnn

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