Rethinking Maths

Maths was my thing at school, loved it!  When I went to university it was to train as a Maths teacher.  Despite this Maths is the only subject that I have always used an ‘off the peg’ curriculum for.  Reasons being;

a) I believe Maths knowledge is very much like building blocks.  If you come to try to add higher levels without firm foundations below then things will collapse.  It worried me that I’d leave gaps.

b) As a child (or most adults actually) you really don’t use a great deal of maths in everyday life.  Decent ability to add/subtract/multiply and divide covers most things.  However, maths is interesting on a purely abstract level and if you stick to what you come across you miss out.  I believe Maths differs from most subjects in that is easier to learn and make sense of abstract concepts and then apply it to the real world rather than the other way around.  Most people with a decent grounding will easily apply higher topics, the sort that people say they never use, without realising that they are.

Over the years I have tried a number of curricula with both boys.   I eventually settled on Saxon for Sam (although thinned down as it is rather longwinded) and it served us well for 15 months.  However, a few months ago it started to seem a chore and he was complaining about not liking Maths.  Well that simply won’t do.  Maths should be enjoyable.  Routine and repetition were getting to us both.  Changing curriculum didn’t feel like it would work.  At about the same time I came across this blog which inspired me to say we can do it.

My hope is that we’ll come back to using Saxon, maybe in a few months but if we stay ‘freerange’ for the rest of KS2 I don’t think it matters, glancing through the NC I am pretty confident that anything on there can be built in easily.  We don’t stick to the NC (and Saxon is American) but will do GCSE at some point so keep an eye on it.

First stage was to litter the book shelves with books.  Sam likes learning by reading to himself.  A number of Murderous Maths, Sir Cumference books and the Number Devil have ‘appeared’ and been read.

We then researched and tried out some online sites, settling on using Timez Attack (we have free version) more and a subscription to Mathletics.  Shine is going off the latter though as I think we’ll probably reduce use of computer.  It was a quick fix to grab his interest.

The stage stage was to add more games to our collection.  I bought 3 varieties of Maths snap cards and a set of Maths board games.

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We added City of Zombies at Christmas which is brilliant.

Maths for the last few months has been a bit of computer time and a game.  Not always one of the specific maths games mentioned above as we have loads of games the majority of which cover some maths.  Interest is waning in computer based maths and we’re ready for bit more variety.

As we settle into the no curriculum thing I am hoping to make use of more hands on ideas and puzzles in some of the books we have.  Particularly Think of a Number and How Maths Works.

Will also aim to introduce a bit of written maths again on an occasional basis using some of the many Math’s puzzle and extension downloads I’ve bought from Scholastic’s Teacher Express over the years when they have their dollar deals.  Perhaps diverge into a bit of logic study as I’ve had this book lying around for a quite a while.

The idea is that we will incorporate some maths every day into our schedule without really worrying about what.  I’ll keep a mental (or blog) note of what we’re doing to make sure we’ve some variety.  But main thing is to keep things fun and interesting.

We’ll just have to see how we go.

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