Monday, 14 March 2011

Teaching Mathematics

We only embarked on a proper Mathematics curriculum recently, as I had initially planned to spend the first year concentrating on Emily's reading skills. 

In deciding to take the plunge into the daunting world of numbers, geometry, fractions and equations, I drew inspiration from the Homeschool at SG blog, which belongs to a mum of a boy who is Emily's age, and I started researching Maths options for Emily. 

First, I was introduced to the Montessori approach, which advocates that you should teach Maths to young children between the ages of 3 and 6 using a "hands-on" approach to teaching.   So far so good....but I still hadn't a clue on how to start teaching Maths to a three and a half year old.  While the general Montessori principles made a lot of sense, I wanted a programme which gave me more direction and provided more detailed guidance, as one thing I've learnt over the past few months is that Emily and I do best when we're following some sort of structured curriculum.  Thus, I set out to look for something along those lines. 

After stalking my friend Angie's informative blog, Teaching Our Own, and discussing curricula with her over email, I decided to go with Right Start Mathematics (RSM).

RSM uses an abacus which is designed to encourage students to visualise numbers.  Counting items ("1...2...3...4...5....") is verboten.  Instead, students are taught to spot groups of five and think in terms of "five plus" (e.g. "7 is 5 plus 2") until quantities 1 to 10 are known.  Thereafter, 10 is used as a unit - "1 ten-1" is 11, "2 ten-3" is 23, etc. 

There is a strong focus on manipulatives, which makes Maths feel very real to young children.  For example, tally sticks are used to teach quantities and place value cards are used for recording ones and tens, followed by hundreds and thousands.  The programme also comes with worksheets and a Card Games book to give students practice. 

We ambitiously decided to start at Level B of the RSM programme.  There are about 100 lessons in Level B, and it should take us about 12-18 months to complete, assuming there are no major hiccups along the way.  It's early days yet, and Emily is only at Lesson 7, but she's enjoying the lessons and I'm excited that I'm actually "teaching Maths"!

By the end of Level B, Emily is supposed to be able to do four-digit addition on the abacus, count by 2s to 30, count by 5s to 50 and count by 10s to 100; add two-digit numbers mentally; know number facts subtracting from numbers up to 10; know some basic geometry; know days of the week and months of the year; tell the time in five-minute intervals and then to the minute; identify perimeter; divide wholes into halves and fourths and know unit fractions up to 1/10. 

Here are some of the materials that we are currently using. Emily can accurately reflect numbers up to 10 on the abacus.  The quantity "6" (using the tally sticks and using the abacus) is shown below.

Emily working on her worksheet last night - writing numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 and 7 (numbers that start in the "middle" and at the left):

Emily showing "seven bananas" on her abacus:

As I said, it's early days yet, and I hope Emily continues to enjoy RSM.  I am slightly nervous because US-based homeschoolers seem to be using Level B for older students, including some in the first or second grade.  Is it honestly realistic to expect a four year old to attempt four digit addition?  I suppose time will tell! 

1 comment:

  1. I get to know your side thru Homeschool @ SG. I love the way you teach Maths and indeed has given me some insight to improve my teaching.

    Thanks for sharing.