What is your Favorite Homeschool Math Curriculum? Thursday Topics

May 28, 2009

Photo by D3 Dan

What’s your favorite math curriculum?  It seems kids love one and hate the other.  I think we all would appreciate your help and advice.  Would you take a second and use the comment section to tell us what math curriculum you’ve used, what you like and don’t like about it, and where to purchase it (if you remember).  Thanks!

I personally really liked Math-U-See, but couldn’t get any of my kids to enjoy it for more than a few weeks or a month at the most.  I also will on occasion pick up my worn copy of Home Learning Year by Year, (that I reviewed here).  I’ll grab one of the kids, find their grade in the book, and we’ll run through all the things they are “supposed” to know and see if there are any gaping holes – like when I realized that since I rarely use a calendar, my kids didn’t really know much about dates and months either.  🙁
But, for simplicity, cost, and mostly painfree math, we keep coming back to a nice set of inexpensive workbooks called Math Made Easy
We tend to learn most of our math during daily activities like cooking, shopping, playing Webkinz (we used the 3-ingredient cooking to learn permutations), etc.  Then, we use the Math Made Easy workbooks to do a few pages a day of grade level math to fill in any gaps.
I like:
  • The price – around $10
  • The workload – there are usually an appropriate amount of problem to learn a concept without overworking.
  • Easy reward system with a chart and star stickers for each page completed.
  • Colorful fun pages with Diego for the little ones and superheroes for the older kids.
  • Workbooks for K through 5th which fits with our family
  • Covers the important math concepts for each grade with a balanced level of repetition. 

I don’t like:

  • They end at 5th grade
  • Some of the math fact pages are a bit repetetive – but I just ask my kids to do a few and explain to me how they did them.  If they’ve ‘got it’ they can move on.

Your turn!  What math curriculum do you like best and why?



Posted under Math Curriculum, Thursday Topics

Gives Kids Money and a Budget – Tuesday Tips

May 26, 2009



Next time you need to buy something for one of your children: clothes, party supplies, shoes,etc., try this:  Give them the money (a budget) and let them do the shopping.  Depending on their age and independence, you may want to offer help with sales shopping, reading ads, price calulation, list making, etc.

For Brooke’s 7th birthday party, I gave her $20 and said she could use it to plan anything she wanted.  Adults may scoff at $20 for a birthday party, but she acted like I’d given her a pot of gold.

We brainstormed party ideas and I helped her make a list for the grocery and dollar stores:

  • cake ingredients
  • ice cream
  • party favors
  • decorations
  • games

We agreed that she could keep half of whatever was left over.  (A little incentive to be frugal.)

Now, I have happy visions of the future where all my kids plan and organize their own birthday parties without any help from me . . . I can’t wait!

Have you had a great idea lately?  A tip that would help us all out?  Please share in the comment section!!

Posted under Math Curriculum, Tuesday Tips

Math At Play Blog Carnival #7 – Onomatopoeia

May 15, 2009

Welcome to the 7th edition of Math Teachers at Play.

I thought I’d stir a little language into our math carnival this time with a few Onomatopoeias – a big word I thought was pretty fun in grade school.  (I did have to look up how to spell it, though)

Onomatopoeias are words that sound like their meaning.  Just think, ‘Batman fighting a villian’ words:  Bam, Pop, Blast!

And I was inspired a bit by Pat Ballew’s obvious fascination with math words in his article: Left Angles and Language Reversals posted at Pat’sBlog.  “Ahh, the hazards of Geometry. What it is depends on WHERE you are.”

Snip and Learn


Photo by LollyKnit

Denise presents Quilt: What Can You Do with This? posted at Let’s play math!, saying, “How could you use this image as a springboard to doing math? What questions would you ask? What concepts would you try to get across? What would you follow it with? Please comment!”

Devorah writes about Math and Crafts on SquidKnits when her children scramble through some math in designing play costumes and using graph paper for sweater patterns.

Mumble and Solve


Jason Dyer presents Plat Diviseur (Fractions on a plate) posted at The Number Warrior. He says, “Simple questions about a French plate lead to a complex lesson.”

Solve the latest Monday Math Madness by Daniel at BlinkDagger and win a prize.

Clap for Ideas


Zac give tips on How to Understand Math Formulas posted at SquareCircleZ.

Maria gives some tips on teaching long division to kids with Dyslexia, posted at Homeschool Math Blog.

My kids have been enjoying the free version of Timez Attack, a fun, arcade-styled game to review multiplication facts.

Buzzing Brain


My bees in a hive I built myself 🙂

Vlorbik on Math Ed presents Buy Conditionally posted at Community College Calculus

John Cook presents Connecting Fibonacci and geometric sequences — The Endeavour posted at The Endeavour.

Sam Shah presents My Exponential Function Unit posted at Continuous Everywhere but Differentiable Nowhere.  He asks his kids if they would rather have a million dollars every day in the month, or $1 the first day, $2 the second, $4 the third, etc.  Read his article to find the answer.

SK19 starts a series explaining square roots on SK19Math.

Crack the books


Photo by kennymatic

Meaghan Montrose presents Effective Learning Strategies and Study Skills Part 3 posted at TutorFi.

Alvaro Fernandez presents 10% Students may have working memory problems: Why does it matter? posted at SharpBrains, saying, “In screening of over 3000 school-aged students, 1 in 10 was identified as having working memory difficulties. Why does this matter?”

I hope you enjoyed this edition of the Math at Play Blog Carnival!  Click here to check out past editions and submit new articles for future ones.

Keep playing math!

Posted under Blog Carnivals, Math Curriculum

Fritz and Chesster Game Review – My Kids Love Learning Chess!

April 21, 2009


My husband enjoys a chess puzzle every morning, which is the only reason the game appeals to my kids: Dad likes it so there must be something there. Then we found the Fritz and Chesster game for the PC. It uses a great story line and fun games to teach all the concepts of chess.

Gone are the days of Mom saying, “Uh, I don’t think the knight can go there,” and “Where do I set the bishops at again?”

In the day of XBox’s, DS’s, etc., how do you get kids interested in playing chess? And why would you anyway?

Because chess can:

  • Help on test scores.
  • Teach kids problem solving.
  • Thinking of all the possible moves in your head helps a lot with abstract reasoning.
  • Ups memory, language, and math skills.
  • Encourages creative thinking.
  • It’s fun, and gives the mind a workout at the same time!
  • You can do it together!

    Why Fritz and Chesster?

    It’s fun and teaches all the moves in chess: pawn moves, castling rules, promotion, mate, stalemate, everything! And then the second program, Fritz and Chesster 2, goes on to teach even more tactics and strategies.

    How it Teaches Chess with Stories and Games:

    It starts with a storyline about young Fritz who is left in charge of the kingdom while his mom and dad, the King and Queen, are away. Here’s a picture of the crew with King Black, the hardest king to defeat.


    Here’s a fun game using Sumo wrestlers facing off against each other. They teach how a king moves and the idea of ‘opposition’ as you try to force the other wrestler off the game mat. They are too fat to be right next to each other, so the rules are that they stay at least one square apart 🙂


    And how about bouncing a ball diagnally across a game board to smash toilet bowls? Yes, the potty humor is funny to kids, and meanwhile, they are learning how the bishop moves diagonally.


    What better way to learn how a rook moves in straight lines than trying to escape these spiders in the rook maze and earn a high score.


    And this horse has to jump over the fences, but in the “L”-shaped movement that a knight makes. What a great mind puzzle for kids!


    Once you learn all the rules, you get to practice by playing against opponents of various difficulties.

    At around $20, it’s cheaper than any chess lesson by an expert and with the ability to enter multiple names, all your kids can play.

    What about yourself? If you never took the time to understand how chess really works, give yourself a fun mental workout and learn it together with your child. Isn’t that half the fun of homeschooling? Learning together!

    (You can help support HomeschoolBytes by purchasing Learn to Play Chess with Fritz and Chesster from this link and/or doing any Amazon shopping from there also – Thanks!)

    I’d like to review a few more of my favorite learning software programs. Do you have any favorites? Or requests to review? Let me know in the comment section 🙂

    Posted under Homeschool Software, Math Curriculum

    Steps that Multiply – “Math Teachers at Play” Blog Carnival #4

    April 3, 2009

    I’m happy to host the 4th edition of the “Math Teachers at Play” Blog Carnival!

    Learning math starts with baby steps and as our skills multiply, we need less and less help to take bigger and bigger steps.  So, here are some great articles organized by steps. 🙂

    Baby Steps

    (We need lots of help understanding math to make any progress)


    Wendy Piersall presents Spring Math Worksheets: Counting Money posted at Animal Jr..

    And just in time for Easter and all its candy, Shauna presents candy math posted at Treasure Seekers.  She says, “While homeschooling my older daughter for kindergarten, I used some Halloween candy to help teach basic math concepts. (At this time of year, you may have extra Easter candy on hand!) The ideas can easily be adapted and expanded on depending on the student’s level.”

    Denise presents How DO We Learn Math? posted at Let’s Play Math!.  She says, “To teach effectively, I need to understand how students learn. I can think of at least 3 ways that I have learned math — what about you? How do you and your children learn?”

    Elissa presents Red Light Green Light: 9 Tips to Organizing Your Classroom posted at Miss Cal.Q.L8

    Here is a fun set of lessons teaching the ways to add to 10: Magic Number Lesson Ideas

    Childhood Steps

    (A little math help is appreciate, but we’re ready to step out a bit on our own)


     Bogusia Gierus presents Subtractions and Decomposing Numbers | Nucleus Learning posted at Nucleus Learning.

    Brent Yorgey presents Chessboard counting posted at The Math Less Traveled. See also the solutions here.

    Here’s a fun article about Math Salons, a great idea for get-togethers based around a math lesson.  What a fun idea to make math more interesting and fun:  Sue VanHattum presents Math Salons and Base Eight posted at Math Mama Writes….  She says, “This is about my math salon, and a children’s story I wrote.”

    Adventuring Steps

    (We’re off on our own, but may fall in a few puddles along the way)


    Praveen presents What’s the Chance That the Patient Has the Disease? posted at Math and Logic Play.

    If you have a child multiplying 2-digit + numbers, you’ll have to take a look at the video in this article showing how to do calculate by drawing a few lines on paper.  Fascinating!:  Marco DSouza presents Become a human calculator posted at Technology at work and play. Understanding the concepts of Trachtenberg and Vedic mathematics to solve complex math in your mind!

    Here is an interesting discussion on the philosophy of real world math:  Michael Croucher presents Martial Mathematics posted at Walking Randomly.

    Check out Maria’s video lessons – if you have some visual learners:  Maria Miller presents Division of fractions conceptually posted at Homeschool Math Blog.

    Running Steps

    (We take all we’ve learned and leap over the math hurdles we encounter.)


    Dave Marain presents Another Quadratic Function SAT Problem posted at MathNotations.  An example of the type of quadratic function (parabola) question that is currently being tested on the SATs with answers, solution and discussion.

    Pat Ballew presents Testing Understanding of Slope posted at Pat’sBlog. What a difference a subtle shift in a graph can make…

    If you are looking for an interesting field to apply math skills:  TeacherC presents Investigating Social Inequity in the Mathematics Classroom posted at An (aspiring) Educator’s Blog. The mathematics classroom is a place where students can explore inequity and social justice issues that affect their communities and the world.

    Test your math skills on these ancient Algebra problems:  Jon Ingram presents Ten 16th century word problems posted at Lessons taught; Lessons learnt. Ten algebra word problems, taken from The Whetstone of Witte, the first book on algebra ever published in English, slightly over 450 years ago.

    John D. Cook presents Springs, resistors, and harmonic means posted at The Endeavour.

    Edmund Harriss presents Surfaces 1: The ooze of the past posted at Maxwell’s Demon.

    Dave Marain presents Those “Function” Questions on the SATs – Practice, Tips posted at MathNotations. This post looks at a different kind of function question of the type that could appear on the SATs. Issues of coping with function notation and convoluted wording are addressed. The problem also deals with number theory topics appropriate for middle schoolers.

    I hope you’ve enjoyed these articles!  Feel free to post a blurb about the carnival on your blog.  Enjoy! 

    Posted under Blog Carnivals, Math Curriculum, Math Websites

    A Homeschool Mom’s Great Math Blog – Let’s Play Math

    February 25, 2009


    Denise is a homeschool mom who knows math inside and out and has put together tons of great articles, ideas, and links in her blog with the great name:  Let’s Play Math!

    Here are some of what I enjoyed on her blog:

    Thank you for all the ideas!

    Posted under Math Curriculum, Math Websites

    Is Math Too Hard to Learn or Teach? Try Living Math!

    February 24, 2009


    Do you think you are bad at math? Does you child think he or she is?

    Math seems to come up often in complaints about early education.

    So, if you’re looking for a new approach, you might want to try Living Math which consists of:

    • Early exposure to math as it is used in real life, instead of contrived worksheets.
    • Not requiring mastery of math on a set time table
    • Liberal use of math literature and history to make math come alive and feel more real.
    • A goal to encourage a child’s natural love of learning (even while learning math 🙂

    Julie Brennan, a homeschool mom of four, offers lots of Living Math resources on her website:


    Posted under Math Curriculum, Math Websites

    Timez Attack Review! The best and FREE multiplication game ever!

    January 19, 2009

    Timez Attack

    We found an awesome game called Timez Attack that does wonders for practicing the 2 through 12 multiplication facts.  Here’s a review of the pros, cons, and our own family’s experiences.  (my kids loved the free version of Timez Attack enough to fork over their own money for the upgrade.)

    There aren’t many things more boring than doing times table flash cards over and over.  The designers of Timez Attack wanted to make math practice more fun, so they designed a real video game with a great environment, graphics, and monsters you defeat by knowing your multiplication facts.

    And as their service to kids everywhere, the full functioning base version of the game can be downloaded for free.  If you want to upgrade to the full version, you get extra graphics and worlds to practice your facts.

    Free Version Pros and Cons:

    • Pro:  It’s FREE!
    • Pro:  The math is complete = ALL the math facts from 2 to 12.
    • ProShows the concept of multiplication lots of different ways:  a matching number of creatures appear when the fact is presented, a matching number of dice-like dots appear on the door, and the multiplicands appear on the belly of the monster.
    • Pro:  There is ‘exciting’ time pressure to get the answer right.  The monster will ‘bonk’ you if you take too long.
    • Pro:  Children learn where the number keys are on the keyboard, and how to use them quickly.
    • Con:  You only have access to the dungeon level, so each time you complete a set of math facts, you start over in the same dungeon with the same monsters behind the same doors.  It can get a bit boring.

    Paid Version Pros and Cons:

    • Pro:  All the great benefits of the free version.
    • Pro:  Two additional levels with MANY more graphics and interactions for the kiddoes while they are practicing.
    • Pro:  The game play is more ‘video-game’ like, ie. lava to dodge and rivers of fire to cross on the dragon level, moving platforms and crawling spiders to catch on the robot level, etc.
    • Cons:  It’s not free – the full version costs $39.99 – (However, this is similar to costs for a Wii, Playstation, or XBox Game)

    Our family’s experiences:

    • Kids loved it:  My 9-, 7-, and 5-year-olds all loved the free version and got the rest of their school done so they could play “that cool math game.”
    • Played with friends: My 7-year-old daughter had two friends over to play and dragged them over to play Timez Attack.  The three girls played for half an hour, cheering each other on and racing to yell out the answers in time.  The same girls asked could they please play Timez Attack the next time they came over.
    • Spent their own money: After a month of the free version my children began begging asking politely for the paid version.  I refused, for a while (after all, the math is the same), but then made them a deal.  Any child who put $5 of their own money towards the upgrade could play it, and I would pay the rest.  All three of the older kids gave me $5 from their own savings.
    • Times tables before addition: My 5-year-old completed the 12th level and is probably one of the few in the world who knows his multiplications facts to 12 . . . but not his addition.  🙂
    • Just the facts: The only downside is the lack of real world application or word problem type practice, but I figure that comes in the regular math curriculum.  This game is to make the repetitive practice of the times table fun and addictive until you know them backwards and forwards.  Timez Attack does that better than any game or flashcard system we’ve tried yet.

    Having my kids ask to practice math . . . it’s as gratifying as having your kids ask for seconds of broccoli 🙂

    For other multiplication ideas, see these posts:

    Posted under Math Curriculum, Math Websites

    Learn the Multiplication Times Tables Fast and Easy!

    January 13, 2009

    Lately for math time, my three oldest kids, 9, 7, and 5-years-old, sit around listening to stories like:

    “A huge tree (three) decided it wanted to skate (eight). At the skating rink, he was having a grand ol’ time when the owner said he had to leave because he was so big and heavy he was leaving dents in the floor (denty floor = twenty four)”

    We’ve finished the whole times table in 6 days or so, spending 10 – 20 minutes a day. Now we review the tables once or twice a week to help them get faster at with the facts.

    What a fun way to learn math – listening and remembering silly stories. And unlike repeated boring numbers over and over, you’re a lot more likely to remember the denty floor and the big tree in skates.

    Here’s the book: Memorize in Minutes : The Times Tables

    And the teacher who wrote this book has a website, www.Multiplication.com with tons of great math ideas, games, and more. If you have a student struggling with multiplication, definitely give him a visit.

    And to address the skeptics:

    Two main objections to this method:

    1. It doesn’t teach math concepts or what multiplication actually means. You’re right. I teach that separately. This method is strictly an effective way to memorize a fact I want to know without having to calculate it.
    2. It takes too long – you have to translate numbers into ‘tree’ and ‘skate’, then remember the story, then translate ‘denty floor’ back into 24. Yes, it take a bit longer to start with, but your mind quickly learns and will eventually skip the whole story part and you’ll find the answer immediately jumps to mind. The more silly the story the easier you remember the facts with much less repetition. It’s fun, easy, and much faster.

    Posted under Math Curriculum, Math Websites

    Free Math Videos Done By Teachers – MathVids.com

    December 1, 2008


    Looking for some help with upper level math?  Math Vids is a new website, launched in March, that is connecting math teachers and students via online video math lessons.  As the website is getting up to speed collecting video math lessons, they are offering a free membership along with their paid subscription service.  So, if you have a middle school up through college math student, sign up right away while the free membership is still available. 

    How it works: 

    • Math teachers (like you) make and contribute videos. 
    • Math Vids staff review the videos for appropriateness and accuracy after which the video is posted.  Student rate the videos and the best ones move to the top of the list. 
    • Since there are multiple videos on the same topic, so you get a variety of teaching styles, which makes it more likely one will fit you.

    Are you a good math teacher yourself?  MathVids also offers an opportunity to earn free stuff, like a graphing calculator, if you can make high quality math tutoring videos that are consistently highly rated by the students.  It’s your chance to contribute and get a few prizes as well.

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    Posted under Math Curriculum, Math Websites