Making Math Memorable

   Gnomes_and_gnumbers_001_2I am a product of every crazy math idea of 1970s elementary education. If it was "innovative" and destined to later be dubbed "ineffective," I was there. One particularly bad experience was IMS. In the fourth, fifth, and sixth grades, a cart was rolled into the classroom at the same time every day. On the cart were laminated file folders of various colors. Each child chose her folder, read the lesson and completed the exercises in grease pencils. She checked her own work and then recorded it and erased the grease. Then, she moved to the next uninspiring pencil. I distinctly remember that my math goal for the year was to make sure that I was always at least one folder ahead of Greg K. I'm not sure where the teachers were--perhaps that was their lunch time. I am certain that the experience forever ruined me for laminated plastic learning materials. I remember very little of the content, but I do know that grease pencils are brutal on one's cuffs.

In nineteen years of home education, we've used a lot of math programs. I've quested after vanquishing my bad experiences and I've longed to make math memorable (in a good way). Honestly, elementary math is very simple in terms of concepts to be taught. Children need to understand numerals and what they represent. They need to know the four basic operations. They need measurement skills and some beginning geometry. This content is not all that complicated, though the books on my "math" shelf belie that fact.

Gnomes_2 Looking beyond the concepts, I'd really like for my children to have a "relationship" with math. I'd like them to be unafraid of numbers, even to watch their eyes light up when they see how it all works. I'd like for math to be memorable, but not for the plastic and grease pencils.This year, we're taking a story approach to math. We are weaving those basics into a story about gnomes and a wise, Tolkein-inspired tree. It's too soon to tell if this will make masterful mathematicians of my children, but I do know that their eyes light up when the gnomes come out and they sit wide-eyed for the story. Sure beats the way I'd cringe when I heard the squeaky wheels of that IMS cart all those years ago...This is therapeutic math and maybe, just maybe, it can cure the ills of way too much individualized, impersonal plastic instruction.

The story has begun at Serendipity . Katherine has woven an endearing tale-- the gnomes are learning how numbers work and there is lots of useful information on supplies for mom. won't you join us as we discover how math is memorable and even beautiful?