Math. It’s a dreaded word around here.
And, as a former high school math teacher that makes me terribly sad.
Because, honestly, can’t they just love math as much as I do?
But, sadly, I’ve had to give up on my dreams of having math-loving kids and settle for finding a high school math curriculum that they will do without screaming, moaning, flinging themselves on the bed, or any other teen angst diversionary tactic.
And, for the loudest of my bemoaned, exasperated, dramatic teens, that math needed to be something I could implement immediately.
At the beginning of our homeschooling days, I pulled out some of the most rigorous math programs I could find for my little cherubs. After just a few weeks I discovered the trauma from these programs was profound. Quickly, I threw those out and went into the opposite ditch by finding the most laid-back math programs.
Over the years, I found a few different math curricula that worked well for my kids. But, one thing I discovered is that not every program works well for every kid. What worked for my oldest, didn’t work for the youngest two. And what has been successful for my youngest, was a constant battle with my middle kid.
The truth is that none of my kids love math as I do, but they are also very different in the way they learn, which is why I haven’t been able to reuse math curricula.
Simply put, math is like learning a foreign language. For some, the immersion form of learning works. For others, a systematic and grammatical method works. The same can be said for learning math.
My middle kid is a high schooler who doesn’t love math but needs to learn the basics to pursue the career she wants. This means we don’t have to make sure she has the most rigorous high school math curriculum and it means she doesn’t have to take all. the. classes.
We can work to find a program that works best for her.
When she was younger that meant we took a very relaxed approach to math. She was able to learn at her own pace and with leisurely lessons that I worked closely to help her understand. But, as she’s become a high school student, she’s wanted her independence from me as the teacher. She also doesn’t want to spend a lot of time on a subject that she hates. I get it. I certainly don’t want to start learning genotypes!
So here are a few tips I’ve picked up on teaching high school math (and I’ve been teaching it for over 20 years):
Tip 1: Work at the student’s pace
When I taught in the traditional school system, this was practically impossible. I watched as my “math kids” got bored and quit trying, while my “non-math kids” simply gave up.
The truth is there are no “non-math” kids. There are kids who learn at a different pace or in a different way. When we move on because we “need to get through the curriculum,” we do these kids a huge disservice. Math is patterns and puzzles, not just numbers and operations. Help your student to see the beauty of math by taking time to work at their own pace.
Tip 2: Teach math like a foreign language
I mentioned this earlier, but if we taught math like we teach language it would be so much easier for kids to understand. The kid who memorizes formulas and inputs data like a pro is going to balk at this but stay with me.
Understanding “why” math works in certain ways is actually more important than memorizing the formulas. If you understand how to get to the formula, then it’s not necessary to memorize it in the first place. (However, this doesn’t stop me from singing the quadratic formula song to my kids!)
Tip #3: Keep the lessons short and to the point
If you want to halt the melt-downs, then don’t try to cram your teen’s head with lots of different concepts. Keep the lessons short and to the point. Then let them work some example problems to make sure they get the idea (not a zillion problems, but a few different types).
Like I said, the middle kid is a math hater and has a very short attention span. This year she has been using CTCMath for her high school credit of Geometry and she told me just today that she had finished this week’s work AND NEXT WEEK’S.
Y’all, that’s like a miracle in my world. I mean I’m just happy when I don’t have to threaten to cut off the wifi for her to do her math!
But, she’s loving it. And, you know why? Because the lessons are short and to the point. This is what she liked about it:
- Short-lessons: For teenagers with limited attention (and, honestly, limited time available), CTCMath is a great option. The lessons are very short and get to the point. She didn’t have to allocate a large portion of her day to listen to a lecture.
- Straight-forward questions: Teens often feel like they are given “trick” questions — questions that don’t resemble anything from the lesson and are difficult to understand. Not so, with this program. The questions were relevant to the lesson.
- Instant grading: When she missed a question, she was immediately told the answer. This helped her to understand the material better because it was fresh in her mind.
Tip # 4: Try out the high school math program before you buy it
I’m telling you this as a mom who has thrown out more than one curricula because it didn’t work for my kid. Don’t buy before you try. If the high school math curriculum, doesn’t have some sort of trial or free lessons, then just keep looking.
Your kid (and you) need to make sure that it is something with potential. This doesn’t mean you have to fall in love with the math program, but it means you have to see it as a viable way to learn math. So, always check that this option is available.
Tip #5: Don’t freak out
Making sure your student has the math credits they need to graduate or to get into the college or program of their choice can seem like a daunting task for homeschool parents. It can even seem scary. But, I’m here to assure you that you haven’t failed your kid if they aren’t math whizzes after four years of high school.
Check what they need to pursue their eventual career. Under our umbrella school, my children need a math for every year of high school, but that doesn’t mean one of them has to be Calculus (even though it was honestly MY favorite math class in high school). Your requirements may be different. There are lots of class options available to help your student to get what they need without them having math meltdowns.
Earlier I mentioned that my daughter was using CTCMath this year. This program has been great for her. This doesn’t mean it will be great for your student, but that’s the whole point of the tips above! However, it has some great features and it keeps me from having to deal with meltdowns. Ok, so that’s not the best of reasons, but some days I just need life to have a little less drama!
Mostly I like that it’s online, easy to use, and flexible. Another great attribute is that it keeps track of progress and is self-grading. Now, I personally don’t mind grading math papers, but I know that I’m an anomaly in the homeschool world.
If you are curious if CTCMath would be a good fit for your student, then give it a test drive. (See Tip #4.) You can get a FREE TRIAL and let your teen work through a few lessons. You may find it’s just what you were looking for in a high school math curriculum. And, if that’s the case then click on that bright orange button and grab a membership for a steal!
Hi, I’m Dachelle. I’m a homeschooling mom of 3 in the South. I love chocolate and have been known to hide it from my children. I can often be found reading a good book (or even sometimes just an okay book) and enjoying a jar of Nutella — don’t judge. I blog, here, at HideTheChocolate.com when I’m not creating book clubs and making lists…lots and lots of lists (it’s an addiction). Learn more…