Is math the worst part of your homeschool day? Does your child resist doing their math work and say they hate math? Is the sheer number of problems your child has to complete overwhelming? Does it seem to just take up too much time?
If any of this sounds familiar, I’ve been in your boat. I experienced these problems with my oldest using a traditional curriculum. As someone who LOVES math, I refused to accept this attitude towards math from my own children. I figured there had to be a better way.
What I decided to do was use my own knowledge and a variety of purchased curricula to create my own math curriculum for each grade. You can read more about my methodology here. This curriculum consists of 10 problems per week for 36 weeks. The 10 weekly problems are each very distinct and cover 10 different subject areas. The weeks progressively get more difficult.
At the end of the year, your child will have been exposed to 360 different types of math problems. This exposure covers the full range of difficulty of that they would see in a more traditional curricula. What is missing is the vast repetition.
Therefore, it is your job as a parent to make sure that your child really understands these problems as they are doing their weekly assignment. Since the difficultly grows from week to week, as long as they understand while they are doing the assignment, you don’t really need to worry about retention. They will see repeated exposure from week to week as the problems progress in difficulty and their understanding will grow.
So far this strategy has been working very well with my kids, the oldest of which will be starting 6th grade math next year. I admit it does take a leap of faith to approach math this way. I find the strengths of this approach to be that it has helped with critical thinking skills and an openness to trying new problems.
What this curriculum is lacking is the practice required to become quick at math facts. As a research scientist and engineer, I can affirm that addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division are a very small part of math. While it is important to not be dependent on a calculator, I would never do math by hand in my career. The outcome is too important and computers are too reliable to allow for the possibility of human error.
That being said, I do recommend supplementing this Minimalist Math curriculum with math games such Clumsy Thief or Prime Climb or math worksheets that allow a child to just practice basic math facts. It does not need to be daily. It does not even need to be weekly. I give my kids a math worksheet a couple times a month and we try to play a math game once a week. I highly recommend Kate Snows’s Facts that Stick series if you are concerned about your child’s adeptness with basic math facts.
For many years, all I did for math was this minimalist curriculum. However, I am currently working on creating separate math cards which repeat these same 36 problems in each of the 10 categories. I am using these cards to have my kids play games with the problems they find more challenging. That way I can keep track of my kids mastery of each of the 360 problems and give them repeated exposure where needed.
Whether you use this as your full curriculum or are just supplementing to locate gaps in your child’s math education, I hope this Miminalist Math curricula is helpful to you!