Saturday, July 08, 2006

Next year: Maths

Angel: Maths 2XL (Key Stage 3)
Star: Finish My Pals Are Here 3, then either My Pals Are Here 4 or Maths Enhancement Programme Year 5
(UK Year 5 is equivalent to US / Singapore Grade 4)
Schedule: Angel - two lessons weekly; Star - daily (4 days per week)

Maths with Angel is my bugbear. Every time we begin a new maths topic, virtually without fail, a blank look spreads over her face and she becomes incapable of remembering how to add two and two (that may be an exaggeration, but only a slight one). This would be less frustrating if she truly struggled with maths. In fact, she has a good maths brain once she stops panicking enough to use it. When we come back to the new topic a day or so later the trauma miraculously disappears and she discovers she can do it after all. You would think that over time she would learn that it is never as bad as it looks at first sight, but no. Over the years I have tried everything I can think of to try to overcome this maths resistance - carrots, sticks, flexibility, inflexibility, dropping maths for a while, and so on - all without success. Despite occasional forays into other maths programmes Singapore Maths and then the newer Singapore My Pals Are Here books seemed to work best with Angel in terms of more progress for less trauma ... until last year we finally hit an impenetrable wall somewhere in My Pals Are Here 5. We switched to a UK maths scheme for a short time until, thanks to maths trauma combined with pregnancy debilitation, I simply gave up and we took a break from the dreaded subject. Faced with maths my normally pleasant daughter turns into a temperamental monster; faced with the a temperamental monster I turn into a bear ... and I just did not (do not!) want to go there any more.

This year I have found the wonder-programme that is going to solve all our maths problems. OK. Dream on. I have enough experience to know that wonder-programmes are never quite as wonderful in practice as they look. What I have found is something sufficiently different to be worth a try, and that just might be the programme that will get us out of the trauma / reluctance loop. Maths 2XL is a CD-Rom covering the entire UK Key Stage 3 (ages 11 to 14) maths curriculum in over 250 lessons. An Australian teacher presents each lesson with an audio-visual demonstration; the student then completes a practice worksheet, and is required to score 90% or more before moving on to the next lesson. The explanations are clear, and the combination of the computer with an audio-visual approach should fit Angel's learning style better than the traditional textbook and workbook. Best of all, someone else will be doing the teaching. A computerised someone who will be impervious to emotional meltdowns.

Star is generally strong at maths and likes to work independently. Until now she has used Singapore Maths and My Pals Are Here in a laid back way - sometimes working through it quickly, other times slowly, and often jumping between topics in a different order to the book. We are currently jumping around in My Pals Are Here 3A and 3B. Next year I want her to finish these books, then move on either to My Pals Are Here 4, or try the Maths Enhancement Programme. This is a maths curriculum being developed by a UK university, based on a Hungarian maths scheme. At the level she would be using it is available freely online, so I am tempted to at least test it out. The challenge this year is not so much mastering the maths concepts, but working on Star's concentration - Charlotte Mason's "habit of attention".


Jan said...

I have constant struggles with Catie with maths too. Though lately I have discovered that she actually likes most things about it except adding subtracting, multiplying and dividing. It's good to know there are others always hoping for the elusive perfect maths curriculum. Let us know how the new one goes, won't you.

Louise said...

Just wanted to let you know that I asked for the password for the Maths Enhancement Programme and they graciously gave it to me. I mentioned in my email that we homeschool and are registered with our state (USA) as a private school. It looks really good!

WJFR said...

I have a couple of kids like Angel. It has been really difficult to find the key to unlock their real math ability. Thanks for this series of "NExt Year" posts, Bookworm; I have linked to them on my blog. I like your approach to seeing how your children think and learn and then putting together the curriculum from there.