Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Modifying Curriculum to Help a Homeschooled Child

Today we're encountering an issue with my older son's math curriculum. I thought I'd share a concrete example of how homeschooling parents can tweak curriculum in order to custom tailor it to their child's unique needs.

I am surprised at the way that Teaching Textbooks 7 is handling fractions. There is not a lot of repetition of simple fraction work. It goes quickly into multi-step problems. For example there was not a lot of easy practice of finding lowest common denominators before moving into multi-step problems using LCDs. The challenge there is the student can get the answer wrong but we don't know if the issue is the non-mastery of finding the LCD or in doing the operation (addition or subtraction) or if they failed to reduce their final answer. For that matter, the reduction of fractions was not covered enough either.

Today my son was frustrated by subtraction of fractions with mixed numbers and different numerators. To do that problem requires four steps. First conver the mixed number into a fraction. Then make the fraction have the same number as the numerator. Then do the math operation. Then either reduce the final fraction or make it into a mixed number (15/60 = 1/4). By going so quickly into that kind of math problem in the lesson, the student has too many steps they can make an error on during the process. By only knowing that the final answer is wrong, the student does not know at which point they made a mistake. Not enough practice of the first steps in the process didn't make those concrete for my son yet so he was not confident that certain portions of the process were definately correct. He was guessing at what he did wrong.

Because the lessons only have about 20 answers in them that count toward the score, even getting 17/20 correct yields a not great looking grade of 85%, a solid B. I wish there was more practice in this curriculum (Teaching Textbooks 7).

My son has hit a frustration point.

The decision at this point is to stop working on the curriculum. I am going to custom make some math problems that practice each part of these processes. I will look around on the Internet a bit for free worksheets. If I can't find any I'll make them up myself.

Once my son has mastered these more concretely I'll put him back on track with Teaching Textbooks 7.

I have never been a math phobic person. I know some homeschooling mothers worry about teaching their kids math. I will confess that I forgot most of these math operations and had to re-learn them in order to help my son. It is simple because I just follow what the curriculum is teaching my son (since this program is designed to teach directly to the student) then I know what to do and I can help him directly with specific math problems that he is stuck on. I am reminded of how much I loved doing fraction work as a public schooled student. It was easy for me to learn and I loved the repetitive process of doing the work and getting right answers. I loved how math was so black and white, it's either right or wrong, there is no gray area.

Homeschooling moms who hate math or have bad memories of learning math in school may be surprised at how easy it is to learn math when they look at it with their adult mind.

And when your homeschooled child struggles to learn something it is not hard to come up with work-arounds to help them, all it takes is a little creativity.


LivingByLearning said...

Exactly! I think one of the benefits of homeschooling is that we can take the time to make certain that the foundation is in place, before moving on in math, or any subject. Also, we can assess as we go along, reinforcing or clarifying as necessary.

guinever said...

You might find the worksheet generator at helpful. Just look in the left hand sidebar. The book I think you want is Epsilon. This sounds exactly where my son is at though (but if the descriptions sound too easy, then bump up a book.)

Nicole said...

You may want to have your son use the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives website. They have tons of great material.

K said...

We have used Key to...workbooks to help with challenging concepts including fractions.
A good fraction currciulum for less than $15. Can't be beat.

Crimson Wife said...

I was just about to suggest the Key to Fractions book but I see K beat me to it!

Another good one is the "Life of Fred" fractions book.