Year-End Math Summary

Last fall we started with the Saxon math curriculum. At first, we loved it. But as time went on, both the kids and I began to dread math. This particular curriculum was entirely too repetitive and did not fit their learning styles at all. S9 is a very goal-oriented learner; she wants to get the right answer and move on. O7 is dealing with some anxiety and insecurity about various performance-based things, including writing (of all things!). She found the worksheets incredibly stressful and frustrating. The turning point for me was when she had a problem that read something like this:

“Six girls are on a bus. Four girls get onto the bus at the next stop. Draw a picture for this addition problem.”

O7 read the problem, threw her pencil across the table and burst into tears. “I don’t WANT to draw TEN GIRLS!” she sobbed.

There’s no point in making her do extra steps that are just frustrating when the real point is to get her to understand the concept of addition, which she obviously gets. So we quit Saxon math right then and there.

Since then, we have focused on project-based math. Our favorite tool is the grocery store. I have started sending the kids on “scavenger hunts”, which is totally exciting because they get their own shopping cart and list, just like Mom. We started with simple things, like getting three items on a list (loaf of bread, box of cereal, block of cheese. Etc.) Then, I gradually added puzzles and problems. Here are some examples:

  • Get as many bananas for $1 as you can.
  • Compare Tropicana and Florida’s Natural orange juices.  Which one is cheaper per ounce?  Get one jug of the less expensive juice.
  • I use xx brand of coffee cream.  If it is more than $2, buy one carton.  If it is on sale for less than $2, buy two cartons.
  • Here are three brands of toilet paper. (a, b, c).  Which is cheapest per 12-roll package?  Get one package of the least expensive of the three.

Sometimes the scavenger hunt is just to get information, and sometimes we use that data later at home to figure out more complex problems.

  • Write down the prices of your top three cereal choices.   Also write down the number of ounces in each box.  (we figure out later which is the best deal)
  • Which is more expensive per pound: lettuce or carrots?
  • How much is Swiss cheese in the deli?  (Later we calculate the prices of a half-pound, quarter-pound, etc).
  • List three foods that are sold by the pound, three that are sold by volume, and three that are sold by the piece (such as bagels!)
  • I have a coupon for $55 cents off xxx item.  Giant Eagle will double the coupon.  What will the final price of xxx item be if I use the coupon when I buy it?

The grocery store has been a great tool because we go there every week anyway.  It takes me a little bit longer to write out my list, but that’s not a big deal.  The kids love to shop and work independently, and this is a skill that they will use their entire lives.

Meanwhile, we have been talking about what to do with math in the upcoming year.  The kids have started playing around with Khan Academy’s website, and really dig the online format.  S9 has already started teaching herself some geometry.  O7 likes working on the computer, though she is not as motivated to teach herself new things.  I think we are going to play around with it some more over the summer and see if it is something we can use for the long-term.  I love that I can be their “coach” and see what they’ve been working on.  We are thinking of using the “energy points” for some kind of reward system for O7, who is not quite as self-motivated as her sister.

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