Traditional math curriculum is so repetitive. I understand that kids need repeated exposure in order to fully grasp a concept. However, I worry that traditional math curriculum takes SO MUCH time that elementary-aged kids are missing out on more important activities, like playing. Sometimes kids don’t need to do 20 of the same problem to understand a concept. Other times doing the same type of problem 20 times in a row doesn’t lead to deep understanding. For this reason, I created my own elementary-aged minimalist math curriculum for my children.
The curriculum I created covers the same breadth and difficulty of problems as a traditional curriculum. However, it doesn’t have all the repetition. You can learn more about my minimalist math curriculum methodology here. To summarize, in order to create this minimalist curricula I purchased and perused Saxon Math, Singapore, Kumon, and Mammoth Math curricula. I took notes on what I found in each curriculum. Then I divided the problems into 10 categories and created a 10 problem worksheet for each of the 36 weeks of school.
For fourth grade, these categories include:
- Understanding Numbers
- Word Problems
- Graphs, Charts, and Tables
- Telling Time
- Units and Measurement
Each week a child is presented with one problem from each of these ten categories. As the year goes on, the questions get progressively more difficult. Some of the problems will be very easy for children. Others will be much more difficult. Having so few problems to go through each week allows me to be very aware of what seems to come naturally for my kids, and what needs more attention.
When I give my child their weekly worksheet, I make sure I am always close by. Since there is not a lot of repetition, nearly every problem a child sees is new in some way. I like my kids to try to work through the problems on their own at first, but I don’t want them to become frustrated. I am quick to offer support before attitudes start going downhill. In this way, I hope to foster an open mind towards attempting new and unfamiliar problems.
It is my belief that if my fourth grader fully understands all 360 problems in this minimalist curriculum, they would have a solid understanding of all the math concepts that are taught in fourth grade. I think they would be at least as well off as if they had done the thousands of problems in a traditional curriculum.
The one caveat to this minimalist approach is that since kids are not spending a significant amount of time practicing simple math facts, they may be a little slow to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. As an engineer I’m well aware that the real value of mathematics is critical thinking, not memorization of math facts.
However, if you would like your child to be faster at these drilled skills, you can always supplement this curriculum. I have a set of free printable multiplication practice sheets that might help. My kids and I have also enjoyed Kate Snow’s Math Facts that Stick series, though we focus more on the games than the worksheets. There are also several games which can get kids practicing some basic math such as Clumsy Thief or Prime Climb.
Recommended Age Range: Fourth Grade
Time Required: about 20 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.