Let's Talk About Math!
Teaching math to our special needs homeschoolers. Does that cause frustration and headache for you? It seems like math is a very polarizing topic. It's either something that homeschooling moms love, or it's something we avoid.
In this episode, I shared four different math curriculums that have helped my special learners, who have dyslexia and Down syndrome. I know there are so many other different options for math curriculums. Trust me...I've walked through the homeschool conventions and seen so many of them!! But I can only recommend (or at least I only feel comfortable recommending) what I have personally used. All four of these curriculums made my list because I have seen significant improvement in my kids' math skills using these.
So here they are...in no particular order...
This is a very solid math program that we have used for most of our kids at the younger elementary level. I really love how this curriculum teaches mental math strategies. It also has the right blend of visual interest and review.
If you have a visual or kinesthetic learner, this may not be the right math for you. And if your child has significant delays in math, again, maybe not the best choice of curriculum. But if you have a kid that just is looking for a different way of understanding math than the basic rote memory you might find in curriculums like ABeka or Bob Jones, check this out! FYI, there are several different editions of this curriculum. We just use the US edition.
This curriculum seems to be at the top of the list for many homeschooling families. And my family is no different. Math U See has a been a great help for my struggling learners. I love how Math U See teaches comparison visually and kinesthetically. The foundation of this curriculum is the use of the special Math U See blocks. These are similar to cuisenaire rods that you may have grown up using in school, except each number from 1-10 has a different color.
I have a son who really struggled with understanding "two less than" or "two more than," and the Math U See blocks really helped to visualize number comparison. Math U See also has a fantastically creative way of explaining place value. So if you have a kid that really needs to see things to fully grasp a math concept, be sure to give this curriculum a thorough consideration.
The one negative to this curriculum is that the scope and sequence to Math U See is very different than most other curriculums. So it's really hard to switch back and forth.
Here's another well known curriculum that seems to be growing in popularity with homeschoolers. And for good reason. Teaching Textbooks is a strong math curriculum for special learners (all learners, really.) If you don't really love teaching math to your children, the biggest draw of this curriculum is that it teaches your kids for you.
Kids log in to this web based curriculum (or you can get CD's, but I've found that the CD's are increasingly non-compatible with current operating systems.) The lessons teach your students in a very visual and easy to understand lesson. The lessons are clear and concise. And then the students do their math problems on the program. If the student misses a problem, they have an opportunity to retry the problem and get hints or help. And then the program grades the student's math work as well. So it's a huge help for parents!
I'm told that this math program might not be considered as "rigorous" a math program as some others (if you even like the word "rigorous" in regards to curriculum. I'm not a fan. But that's a story for another day.) However, I have several friends who had children go on to college with no issues after using this program in high school.
There are a couple drawbacks to Teaching Textbooks. First of all, it does require a certain level of independent computer skills. If your child does not have the ability to use a computer independently, that would be a problem. Second, Teaching Textbooks is lacking in the area of review. There are some review problems here and there, but largely you are working only on recent and current concepts. I highly suggest adding in a math drill and review program like XtraMath to supplement. (See more about XtraMath below.)
This is a neurodevelopmental approach to teaching math to kids on a functional level of Preschool through elementary age. It's a fascinating program, and it's what we use for our son with Down syndrome.
I mentioned in the podcast several unique concepts of this curriculum. It incorporates auditory learning, kinesthetic learning as well as verbal and writing elements. There are even little exercises you go through before each lesson to prepare your child's body for learning and crossing the midline. It's pretty neat!
I will say that this is not a visually engaging curriculum. I think that is intentional. If you have a highly distractible child, that's probably a good thing. Ha!
Let's just make a straightforward list, shall we?
Use a Calculator
I remember days when using a calculator seemed to set you up for failure at the grocery store, because who carries a calculator around with them everywhere? Ah, but now we all have a calculator in our pockets on our smart phones.
Another accommodation could be to allow your child to use Siri or Alexa to do math problems.
Right Brained Flash Cards
There are several different approaches to making right brained flash cards. But usually they include the entire math fact on them so that brains can take a picture of the math fact rather than just memorizing.
My absolute favorite set of right brained flash cards is from Dianne Craft. Her right brained multiplication cards tell stories on the cards. They are quite engaging and have helped my kids with dyslexia (which is right brained learning) to master multiplication facts.
This is a very useful website for teaching math drill and recall. Kids drill math facts, starting with addition and moving up from there. Once they master each concept with speed and accuracy, they get to move on. They compete against their personal bests. And in the end, they get a certificate of completion. So it is naturally rewarding and a fun game for kids who are competitive. When my kids were younger, they would work on their math and then get on and do XtraMath each day. Once they complete the lesson for the day, the program will basically shut off and tell them to come back the next day.
Dice, fraction pieces, money, counting objects...really anything can be made into a math manipulative! There's no shame in counting manipulatives or using fraction pieces until the student has grasp of the concept. Get creative in what you turn into a manipulative! And try to think about real life options such as counting money, measuring when cooking, and cutting pizza into fractions.
Card and Board Games
We have found that a way to unlock math for kids is by playing games. In fact, one of our sons was probably 6 or 7 years old and still struggling with identifying numbers. You know how he finally learned? It wasn't by drill. It was by playing Skip Bo with our family. Playing rummy type games is a great way for teaching number sequencing. And we know from brain science that if you teach something through play, it takes far fewer repetitions to learn new material.
Got a wiggly kid? Have them practice skip counting while jumping on the trampoline. Or draw a chalk number line on the driveway and have them physically jump on the number line. There are so many possibilities for this one! And especially with those wiggly boys, moving your body while doing school really helps to engage the brain.
If you have a child who has trouble keeping columns straight when adding, subtracting, etc, or with keeping equations straight, there are a couple good hacks for straightening everything up.
Our family personally uses graph paper to do math. I instruct my kids with write one digit per square. (Obviously you can't use tiny graph paper for this.) I have also seen some people turn the notebook paper sideways so the lines form columns instead of rows. This is pretty brilliant!
A friend also recommended a special math paper called Channie's Line Up pads, which have premade spaces for writing numbers and keeping everything straight.
Oh goodness, moms, I'm sure there are so many other things we've done over the years that I'm not even recalling at this moment. Homeschooling is such a beautiful process, and we have the privilege of not being stuck with only one curriculum, but we can use so many different resources and tools to engage our children. I hope this helps to fill your toolbox! Let me know what works for you by emailing me here.
Looking for extra support? Be sure to join the Flamingo Feathers Community on Facebook. Support and encouragement for special needs homeschooling families, from a Christian perspective.