For many parents, math is the most challenging homeschool subject. Math skills are a critical aspect of lifelong learning and provide huge career advantages, but parents who are not confident in their skills may have concerns about teaching them.
Furthermore, effective math learning depends heavily on the student’s learning style and the teacher’s communication style, and it may not be simple or intuitive. Here is a guide on how to teach homeschool math.
Assessment and Placement
Before designing a math curriculum and teaching at home, it is crucial to accurately assess your child’s math skills. Regular assessments are a great way to ensure your teaching methods are effective and that your child’s math skills are where they should be. Here is a brief overview of math skills by age and grade level.
Before students enter the first grade, they should understand the following math concepts:
- Differentiating between numbers, knowing which numbers are larger and which are smaller
- Simple addition and subtraction
- Basic geometric shapes in 2D and 3D
- Parts of a whole
- Arrays of numbers
- Closed and not-closed figures
- Estimating numbers of items
- Simple addition or subtraction equations
- Reading an analog clock
- Even and odd numbers
- Breaking down larger numbers, ones, and tens
- Associative property
- Counting time, including half and quarter hours
- Counting currency
- Geometric lines, segments, parallels, perimeters
- Basic multiplication and division. Including commutative and identity properties
- Order of operations
- Fractions and decimals
- Adding mixed numbers
- Geometric rays, congruent shapes, arcs, angles, intersections
- Plotting points, making and reading graphs
- Basic algebraic equations
- Word problems for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division
- Converting units of length
- Mean, median, and mode
- Percent, proportions, and ratios
- Adding and subtracting measurements
- Word problems that include fractions and decimals
- Word problems that include algebra
- Simplify equations
- Find square roots
- Convert and compare exponents
- Calculating circumference and area, including irregular shapes
- Finding geometric angles
- Word problems for probabilities and the evaluation of expressions
- Solving multi-step equations
- Scientific notation
- Calculating volumes
Assessing your child’s math skills and understanding whether they are keeping pace with learning standards helps you know where more time or focus is needed and also enables you to choose the right curriculum at the right time.
It is also essential to understand your child’s learning style. While teaching math at home requires a variety of lessons and activities that engage the student on multiple levels, knowing your child’s basic learning style can help you choose the right curriculum for them and tailor your teaching accordingly. For example:
- Visual learners may benefit from math exercises that include drawing out problems and solutions, color-coding elements, or operations
- Auditory learners can learn math through the storytelling of word problems, memorization of songs, or reading problems and solutions out loud
- Tactile learners can better understand math by using an abacus, building geometric models, or manipulating physical objects (beans, toothpicks) and tools (rulers, calculators)
- Kinesthetic learners benefit from using fingers and touching during counting, moving along number lines, acting out word problems, or using the body to replicate geometric shapes and angles
Regardless of learning style, incorporating these types of tools and activities for every learner helps to engage different parts of the brain and promotes a more profound understanding of mathematical concepts.
It is equally important to understand your own learning and communication style. Many teachers make the mistake of explaining concepts how they understand them rather than how the student might understand them. If you have a radically different learning or teaching style from your child, it is essential to remember to modify your method to suit their needs. This may also mean a lot of experimentation and trial-and-error as you find a style or styles that suit multiple people at once.
How to Teach Homeschool Math: Lessons and Curriculum
Combining a daily structured curriculum with spontaneous math activities is the best way to teach homeschool math and raise children’s confidence with STEM. Here are some tips to remember when choosing a math curriculum for your home school.
- Choose multi-format lessons. Look for a math curriculum that includes reading, videos, songs, and activities to keep learning interesting and engaging for different types of learners
- Feel free to customize the lessons. If your student has mastered a concept, feel free to skip ahead. If there are areas where they struggle, feel free to take extra time and go more slowly.
- Be consistent. The best way to teach homeschool math is to learn lessons and practice math every day. This can be the most challenging aspect of homeschooling for some parents, yet it is essential. With consistent work and practice, kids gain the mastery and confidence that allows math skills to progress and build upon each other. Do one formal math lesson and one math-based activity every day.
How to Teach Homeschool Math: Activities and Exercises
In addition to regular and consistent math lessons, math and numeracy skills can be practiced in various fun and casual ways and integrated into normal daily activities.
Aside from specific math learning games, you can use the family game night to practice math by playing card games like 21 or blackjack, or board games like Monopoly, especially when your math student plays the role of the banker. Games like Scrabble, Cribbage, Backgammon, or Boggle can be math activities when scores are calculated and added.
Combine math practice with physical activity like scoring games like basketball, bowling, American football, or tennis for kinetic learners or simply to exercise more daily.
Ask a child to estimate how far they can throw a ball or demonstrate how the angle of the arm changes the direction and distance of the ball. Count how many times a dropped ball bounces, and note the decay of the height over time.
Demonstrate how different paper plane patterns affect flight or how added weight or spoilers influence the speed of a toy car. These mathematical concepts can be actively experienced and explained further in a classroom setting.
The answer to “when will I ever use math?” is that people use math daily in various applications and activities. Notice when you use your math skills and involve your kids and students in the act in real time.
Simple math exercises can be incorporated into almost every activity, giving numerous opportunities for children to practice and demonstrate different math skills. For example, here are some math-intensive daily activities that can become on-the-spot math practice:
- Weighing produce at the grocery store
- Determining unit prices and the best bargains at the store
- Estimating tips or sales tax on purchases
- Mentally calculating the total bill at a shop
- Estimating sale prices and percentages at a shop
- Using coupons, particularly when coupons or promotional prices are combined
- Weighing and measuring during cooking
- Doubling, halving, or converting units in a recipe
- Calculating gas prices and mileage in the car
- Counting calories per serving or percentages of nutrients in dishes and foods
- Analyzing statistics and graphs on the news
- Calculating interest rates on savings or debt
- Measuring the area or volume of a space
- Estimating how much paint is needed for a wall or carpet for a floor, then calculating prices
- Estimating how much time is needed or remaining until something happens
- Measuring heart rate during different activities
- Determining whether hourly or salary wages are better
- Predicting utility bills and payments based on estimated usage or meter readings
- Estimating or calculating averages (for utility bills, grocery bills, temperatures, the weight of a tomato, etc.)
- Currency conversion
- Determining how much fertilizer to use per unit of water when gardening
The advantage of actively incorporating these kinds of mathematic activities into everyday life is that the child’s math skills and confidence improve. In addition, the child is gaining mastery over the very types of math-based problems they will frequently encounter in adult life.
Even if the child chooses to become an artist, a therapist, or another profession that doesn’t rely as much on math skills, they will have an easier time making smarter decisions and wisely managing their money.
Homeschool math is often considered a challenging subject for both students and teachers. Still, understanding how both parties learn and communicate can be easier and more successful, making math and numbers part of everyday life, conversation, and decision-making.
Math confidence and numeracy, especially when acquired young, have a lifetime of rewards for children, so take advantage of all these ways to teach math at home today.