What to do when math gets dry

Have you ever felt like your child needed something different for math than whatever you were currently doing? Like your math program didn't work anymore: your child didn't learn, or was bored? What to do?

Here a little while back I received a question along those lines. We exchanged a few emails and I got permission to post her situation here on this blog. I think it is a good example of what many times happens in home school.

"We have 4 children; boy-12, girl-8, girl-5 and boy-3. With oldest we have used the gamut of curricula for math and eventually settled out with Abeka for the past 3 years.

However, the material seemed to not sufficiently explain new material, but run old material in the ground until the grinding sensation was numbing. That in itself seems to be contradictory, but my son was really not getting much better at the basics, mainly I think because he was bored with the repetition.

I narrowed his assignments down to every other one and if I found he missed a problem, he had to do the complete set of that type of problem. He was terribly slow in doing his assignments and spacing out everytime I looked over toward him.

I found your e-books somehow during a search for explaining some concept in decimals. He needed better
explanation than what his text was offering and I could only put it so many

The samples seemed promising and the price was worthwhile so we ordered the Decimal book. His interest, comprehension and speed picked up noticeably. I ordered the Multiplication one for my daughter then.

Now we are nearly finished with the Geometry one we ordered when he finished the decimals book. He really likes the Geometry book and I wish there were more to go on to such as Pre-Algebra and further.

His ability to do basic math seems to be fine, it was just he wasn't focusing or interested and making silly mistakes all the time. The break away and into the two books we did from you was what he needed!

I then suggested to her a change in curriculum, perhaps to Singapore or Math-U-See. Or, giving him more responsibility in completing his lessons. I also suggested RightStart Geometry since he seemed to like geometry, and Developmental Math workbooks, or Key To... workbooks.

She responded back:

We've pretty much done the gamut of approaches. He is responsible for his lessons, but math is the one thing that zones him out. We've done Singapore and he did like it, but I didn't think it was complete and took too long to get to certain concepts that are typically achieved at a certain level here.

The first math curriculum we tried was Math-U-See and we use it to introduce math and reinforce certain concepts like place value. I still had the same complaint with it as I did the Singapore.

I look forward to looking into the curriculum you sent a link to
[meaning RightStart Geometry]. I am not really looking for a new curriculum though, but rather something more like your individual books covering, and covering well, the individual concept levels. I was given some math software awhile ago and looked into its approach this morning. It may be helpful for now. Thanks for answering my questions and trying to help, its appreciated! Sonya

Then, as of last week, she said, "...we've had a bit of a break and been experimenting with some software and online resources. We have not settled on any one thing yet."

THE MORALE... Sometimes a change in approach or material is beneficial. Or even just a break from math. I've written along these lines before, in my article How to choose a homeschool math curriculum.

You don't always need to hunt for a new curriculum, though. Internet is full of all sorts of math tutorials, as you can imagine. And learning games.

Remember the principle of "variable learning": use various materials or resources to teach the same thing. When the child encounters the same topic several times with slightly different wordings, it helps to solidify his knowledge.

How about using some software or interactive online math curriculum to supplement the existing curriculum? The child could get instruction from those lessons, then read the corresponding material in the existing textbook and do SOME practice problems found in there.

Parents don't always realize this, but math textbooks include lots of practice problems to accommodate all kinds of learners. You certainly don't have to have your child do all of them.
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