Thank you! :)

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]]>Here’s one more quick mention of what worked for us (just to broaden the range of math learning possibilities). Another of my homeschooled boys went far beyond my math ability quite early. When he was 15 we hired a high school math teacher to moonlight as his tutor. The tutor was thrilled to have an enthusiastic and friendly student. He sat at the kitchen table with my son once a week to work together. They rapidly accelerated through calculus and trig, not only with plenty of real teaching backed up with homework but also with brain twisters, games, math hacks, and lots of laughter. The teacher loved the freedom to bring all sorts of new ideas to their lessons, the freedom he didn’t have at school. Each week this gentleman stayed well past the time we paid him to stay, This continued for a little over a year. The tutor told us it was the best experience of his teaching career.

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]]>The one subject that’s always made me nervous is math, because it just seems like trying to learn it away from paper won’t work, specifically when it comes to things like regrouping, long division, times tables, et cetera. I hate making decisions out of fear, but that’s definitely what’s been happening.

On the flip side, I’m keenly aware that trying to force-teach doesn’t work – the material doesn’t click, because there’s little-to-no interest.

I’ve had to come up with inventive ideas, like you talked about above. Right now we’re doing 10-minute math 3x per week (the timer tells him exactly how long he’ll have to work, and he likes that). He also has a daily “math vitamin” that I write based on his current interests.

He enjoys doing problems out loud, and he’s really good at it, probably because it feels like a game. But I’m never sure it’s ‘enough’, especially because he’s talking about careers like physics, chemistry, and astronomy, and I’ve seen the math that goes into those. I don’t see how we’ll be able to manage algebra and above without a pencil and paper, and that’s where the nerves kick in.

All that to say this: what you wrote about your son who is studying mechanical engineering really bolstered me. I’ve read your posts on math for a while now, especially the ones about the class at the democratic school that was able to cover all the basics in short amount of time. Maybe that’s what I need to remember: that when it’s needed, he’ll find a way to learn it.

It’s tough to loosen the need for control, but I’m going to repeat the mantra “Why not?” until it sticks.

Thank you again so much for the helpful advice and links!

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]]>I understand your concerns. I hope the emphasis in this post isn’t on at all about ditching math. Instead I hope it shows how important it is to fling our concept of math wide open by using it naturally and eagerly in our lives.

I don’t know how old your child is, but I’ll give you examples of how more natural math worked for two of my kids, both boys. Most weeks of their homeschooling lives they did, indeed, do a small amount of structured math although nothing close to the hours and hours they’d be expected to put in on a school or homeschool math curriculum. Sometimes they did worksheets I made up with silly problems related to their lives, sometime various types of math workbooks (I kept trying different approaches), sometimes hands-on challenges that had math hidden in them. Later on in their teen years one of them used an online math program Aleks.com, then took a few community college courses for a boost. Overall, they spent very little time on math. I worried that I was not preparing them well for a math-related future.

But most of their math smarts came from hands-on interests, much of it of their own devising. They used math to make chores on our house and farm easier, to do all sorts of projects like audio sound system repair and woodworking, to alter recipes, to win arguments, to design and build their own model planes and rockets, to stay current with their science/tech interests, to restore a vintage car, to keep up with experts on forums, to come up with projects for their science club, and so on.

One of these boys had attended school up to third grade, where he was diagnosed with dyscalculia—-basically a math-related learning disability. I can attest, he simply could not memorize math facts and had to recalculate the problem each time. All forms of math instruction at school as well as at home went slowly, with much resistance. I despaired of his ever achieving any real success in any field requiring math, hoping his many math-y experiences were some help. He went on to college, wowing admissions with his many independent (entirely self-motivated projects), and did wonderfully there. His only problem in college was being interested in too many subject areas! He now works full-time in a field that requires him to calculate loads and stresses, estimate and order materials, design structures, and efficiently run a team of co-workers. He’s very happy, loves the math in his work, and is planning to go back to college to study physics.

The other boy homeschooled from 5 years old on. He was good at math but had so many other competing interests that he just didn’t spend much time on it. When he announced he wanted to become an engineer I was distraught, sure that he was hugely behind in math. I knew he’d be in college with kids who’d been taking upper level AP math for years. He’s now a senior majoring in mechanical engineering and an all A student. His professors tell him all the time how far ahead he is from so much real world math experience. He’s on course to graduate into a high-paying career.

These are only two examples, I realize, but it’s always illuminating to talk to parents of grown homeschoolers and grown homeschoolers themselves. The now-adult homeschooled kids we’ve known for years are flourishing in a wide range of careers, no matter if they unschooled or homeschooled. I sum up the crux of our experience in the post with this sentence, “Hands-on math experience and an understanding of oneself as capable of finding answersâ€” these are the portals to enjoying and understanding computational math.”

For more posts about how we’ve approached math and related subjects, here are some links.

Help Kids Learn about Business and Finance: 60 Resources http://lauragraceweldon.com/2014/03/06/help-kids-learn-about-business-finance-60-resources/

Getting Science on Everything

http://lauragraceweldon.com/2013/06/19/getting-science-on-everything/

Benefits of Special Interests Groups

http://lauragraceweldon.com/2012/05/08/benefits-of-special-interest-groups/

We Don’t Need No Age Segregation

http://lauragraceweldon.com/2012/11/07/we-dont-need-no-age-segregation/

Successful Teen Homeschooling

http://lauragraceweldon.com/2012/05/24/successful-teen-homeschooling-two-vital-factors/

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]]>We homeschool and my wife and I were discussing this issue just last night. We keep asking our son to keep up with the school curriculum in maths just ‘because’.

We have not ourselves used almost any of the concepts taught, ever – despite me being an accountant and programmer and my wife an audiologist.

We certainly have never needed to prove the similarity of two triangles, which is what we were explaining last night. So as far as we could see, he was learning it to pass the required module test and then could comfortably forget it until he needs to force his child to learn it for their module test. Seems pretty pointless.

I get the importance of maths and do use advanced maths sometimes for business analysis (regression analysis mainly), but each time I do I just learn what I need to know in 15-20 minutes and it is almost never difficult. As the Sudbury experience showed, it is just the process used in school that is difficult as it has no value at all.

So much food for thought here – thanks again. ]]>

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