the 3 r’s: first, arithmetic

When I attempted true unschooling for a time, I discovered the unbelievable…there is no way to get away from arithmetic. You need to understand math…add, subtract, multiply and divide, estimate, and understand decimals and percentages. Consumerism requires it.

You want to decide how much produce you can afford? Then you need to understand weights and measurements. You want to build something in the backyard or paint a room? You need to know geometry, area and perimeter. Otherwise, you waste a lot of money, could get ripped off and take forever putting it together. No matter how intense the aversion in my early years of traditional schooling, I discovered, math must be understood.

My simple grasp of rudimentary math skills did indeed prove that one can function in our culture when one is math illiterate. That you can even get a university degree and use math concepts in your paid work, but still not understand them; while I don’t recommend that, it is possible. I am proof.

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Math-U-See has helped me render my math illiteracy moot. I am relearning math. And why didn’t they teach it this way in school anyway? Steve Demme does a bang up job teaching concepts that I thought undecipherable. When I don’t get what he’s talking about, I can thankfully ask my math literate husband.

Through Mr. Demme I’ve learned that it isn’t necessary to ply those little minds with endless math questions. If they get it, they get it…and mama knows when they don’t. You can move on to the next concept when something is understood. There’s always a review later on, and all the concepts introduced build on one another. This program doesn’t fit a standard curriculum. It might not fit my local jurisdiction’s education system, but I’m not feeling pressure to stay on task with the government, cause if I did I would just send them to school.

I am expecting that they understand what they’re being taught though. Which, not surprisingly, doesn’t always stay even on my expected schedule. Sometimes they just don’t get it. So I continue to show them, by doing questions for them, getting them to watch me, until they ask to do it themselves. With a little practice, we move on to the next concept. Why push a Clydesdale up the hill when they want to go up the hill in their own good time?

I am sold on this program at present, because if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I do know that our one daughter would never pick up a math text, and I’m instilling in her logical thinking skills by requiring her to pursue them. And for the others, who are logically, mathematically inclined, they don’t find this program all that colourful, fun or quote: engaging. Math fun, I ask? Somehow I think there might be a way to make it fun, but when I’ve got spare time to play with them, math games don’t come up.

My husband, on the other hand, plays chess, cribbage, Stratego and loads of other card games to hone their skills…or mostly, just for fun. Giving them an allowance and requiring them to save or be charitable with a certain percentage taken off the top requires them to learn percentage. Not answering the question what time is it? requires them to learn clock reading. Letting them buy things for you at the mall if they determine how much tax is and how much they’ll get back is fun for a seven year old. Giving them free iPod time to play math games is fun for a twelve year old.

I’d love to hear your suggestions in making math fun…