By Sarah and Abbie
Abbie had an early interest in numbers that continued to grow as she learned more about how they worked. We started with number recognition games that concentrated on one-to-one correspondence. At first I would lay out cards that each had a numeral on them. We started with 1, 2, 3 and I showed her that we could put one bear (we used plastic counting bears but you could use anything from dried beans to M&M’s) on the 1, two on the 2, etc. We moved quickly through the numbers and in no time I could pick five random numbers, lay down the cards, and she would count out the correct number of bears for each card. Her awareness of adding began early when she told me that she had two biscuits and if I gave her one more biscuit then she would have three. Subtraction went hand in hand with addition and I decided to look into math curriculums.
At 3 ½ years old Abbie was very interested in writing things down. I think she felt important and grown up with a pencil in hand. She was very excited when her new math book arrived and was eager to complete a few (sometimes much more than a few) pages each day. We continued on with many of the games from Peggy Kaye’s ‘Games for Math’ and did a lot of work with manipulatives. We worked with pattern blocks, counting bears, linking cubes, beads, and anything we could find around the house. One of her favourite math games was the story game from Peggy Kay’s book. Whenever we walked anywhere I would tell her a story that could go something like this, ‘two bears were out in the woods and they got very hungry. The first bear suggested that they split up and each hunt for good things to eat. They decided to meet back at the cave when they were finished. The second bear went along the river. He scooped up a pink salmon as it swam past. Then another salmon swam past and he scooped it up too. How many salmon did he have? (child answers) The second bear went straight for the berry bushes. He collected 6 berries in one hand and two in the other. How many berries did he have altogether? Both bears were very happy with what they had found and went back to the cave. How many salmon did the first bear have? How many berries did the second bear have? How many things to eat did they have altogether?, etc, etc.’ We did this for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
At 4 ½ Abbie was ready to start the Grade 1 book. I ordered it but within a week I knew we would need something different. It was much the same as the kindergarten book, only more boring. It was simply page after page of math problems. I knew I didn’t want Abbie learning math by rote memorization, I wanted her learning in a more involved way. After careful research into many different math programs I decided on Singapore Math. The lessons are based on conceptual understanding instead of rote memorization. There is little repetition and it moves along at a quick pace. It has turned out to be the perfect curriculum for Abbie. She will be starting Singapore 3A in August.
I love the fact that her interest in math has continued to be so strong. It seems as though each time she encounters a new concept in her curriculum she finds ways to reinforce the learning through day to day living. She mentally calculates my purchases when I go to pick up a few things at the store and then she lets me know whether my change was correct or not. Her aunt was in a fashion show a couple of weeks ago and Abbie figured out that if there were ten girls in the show and each girl had to wear two outfits and each walk down the runway would take approximately 3 minutes then the fashion show would be one hour long. She looked up at my Risk board that had a picture of each of the three pieces around the number 360 and then told me that there were 120 of each piece. It’s those types of observations that make home-educating so exciting for me. I know she’s learning new things because I see her progress through her math books, but I know she’s loving the process when I hear how she is applying her knowledge to the world around her.