My approach to math in my homeschool is non-traditional, to say the least. I am not a fan of the standard drill and kill approach to mathematics. For this reason, I have made my own math curriculum since my oldest was in first grade. This 6th grade minimalist math curriculum was his 6th year using this approach. When I started this method, I had no idea how it would turn out. Part of me worried that I was experimenting with my own children. However, my oldest is currently going into 7th grade this year and all of my kids are consistently scoring better than average on their standardized tests.
If you would like to learn more about the process I used to make these curricula, you can check out my methodology here. Basically, what I do is take notes on three separate curricula (Saxon, Singapore, and Math Mammoth). I write all the different types of problems on notecards, then I sort them into 10 different categories and arrange them from easiest to hardest. I use these stacks of cards to create 36 problems in each of the 10 categories, one for each week of the school year.
The 10 categories that my 6th grade minimalist math curriculum cover are:
- Understanding Numbers
- Word Problems
- Graphs, Charts, and Tables
- Ratios and Percentages
- Factors and Multiples
- Statistics and Probability
For each week, I have created a worksheet with 10 problems, one from each of these categories. Over the course of the 36 weeks of school, the problems get progressively more difficult. Even though my child is only covering 36 problems from each topic, I have made sure that those 36 problems are representative of the range of difficulties that my children encounter using a more traditional curriculum.
Each worksheet takes my child about 30 minutes. My kids start off looking through all 10 problems and seeing which ones they can figure out on their own in previous weeks. There will undoubtedly be problems that they do not know how to do since there is not a lot of repetition. In this case, I will sit with them and explain how to do it as best as I can, giving them hints until they find their way to the answer. My goal has always been to go over these same problems again later, but so far, I have never managed to this and it still turns out okay. The following week they will have another problem that is similar, but a little harder, which gives them the chance to think through these concepts again.
What these worksheets lack is repetition that is a cornerstone of standard curricula. Does it matter? I can’t say for sure, but personally, I don’t think so. I do not want my kids to memorize procedures. I want them to understand conceptually what math problems are asking. They are getting repeated exposure week after week to the same concepts, so over time, I do find that my kids conceptually understand these concepts better.
The one part of math that I would like my kids to memorize are math facts. Therefore, I do have my kids practice math facts separately from these sheets. Here are some free multiplication practice sheets that I created. We also play math games to help my kids become more comfortable with these facts. Two that are particularly helpful for learning multiplication facts are Math Sprint and Multiplication Splat.
What my kids have gained by doing this minimalist curriculum is a whole lot of time. Especially while they are in elementary school, I want my homeschooled children to have plenty of time to just be kids. I feel like I have succeeded in this goal. Now that my oldest is in middle school, I am having him do a more traditional curriculum. So far he is enjoying Mr. D Math‘s prealgebra class. In the beginning, he was a little overwhelmed with the quantity of work, but he adjusted over a month or two and grew to really like it.
While extended time sitting at the table doing math problems over and over was too much for him in first grade, now that he is 12 he doesn’t mind it. I am so thankful to say that all those years of only doing math for about 30 minutes each week do not seem to have harmed him in the least.
Recommended Age Range: Sixth Grade
Time Required: about 30 minutes per week
Difficulty: starts off fairly easy and gets harder as weeks progress
Cost: Free printable
Print out the curriculum and help your child complete one worksheet each week for each of the 36 weeks of school.
Click here for all the Minimalist Math curricula available for different grade levels.