Math is the hardest school subject to integrate into the yearly theme. That said, it is still not necessary to use a set curriculum in order to learn math. There are many fun and organic ways to learn math.
People often want to use a traditional math curriculum because it provides a path to follow and it gives parents a sense of security, knowing that nothing will be missed. Truth is, the only place where math has to be learned in order is in school. The only place where you will ever use all the math you learn in school is in school. Yet even then, students who take math classes for twelve straight years, graduate from high school, then go to college still need help. 40% - 60% of college students take remedial math in their freshman year. You start to wonder what's the point of all this hoopla over math.
Math Does Not Need to Be Linear.
I allowed my children to learn math on their own terms. My son decided that long division was too hard so he skipped it – at least until he was 17, when he taught it to himself in one day.
My daughter struggled with math and was still doing 4th grade math in 6th grade. One day a neighbor kid in 7th grade brought home an algebra book. She was jealous that he was doing harder math than her and she decided that she's going to do algebra too. Determined, she finished her 4th grade math book in a matter of weeks, skipped 5th grade math, plowed through a 6th-grade book in a couple months and soon started algebra. I was very surprised to see her get ahead of her peers in math – just because she wanted to.
Daniel Greenberg, one of the founders of the Sudbury Valley School, once had an experience where he taught math a dozen boys and girls, aged nine to twelve. None of them had previously had any formal math instruction. In just twenty contact hours every one of them learned all k-6th grade math – cold. Because they wanted to learn it.
There is actually a growing movement to teach math backward! Some teachers start at the back of the book, introducing the hardest math problems first. Given that perspective, there is more meaning to all the problems in between.
Math Does Not Have to Come From a Book.
There are many ways to gain math skills. It doesn't have to be a certain order or any one curriculum. As a matter of fact, math learning can be just as easy and fun as any other subject. K-6th-grade math in particular can be learned through a variety of adventures.
Here are some ideas to help you and your children get out of the books and into math – real math.
Read story books that introduce mathematical concepts.
Play a variety of games to learn, memorize, and reinforce basic math facts: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division. They can be dice games, board games, and online games.
Practice ratios by making a scale model of something.
Do some cooking to practice fractions.
Practice geometry in Minecraft.
Do a survey and graph the results.
Make guesses about outcomes, perform experiments, and compare results.
Complete math-based projects.
This is not an exhaustive list, but hopefully it's enough to help you start thinking in terms of what's possible when you start using authentic learning experiences for math. Here are some additional resources you can use to help you and your child continue to have fun and powerful math learning experiences:
Daniel Greenberg's article about math at a democratic school
A Mathematician's Lament: How School Cheats Us Out of Our Most Fascinating and Imaginative Art Form by Paul Lockhart
Living Math: Resources for math learning, exploring and enjoying math in a dynamic and holistic manner, for all ages
Playing With Math (free download)
ViHart – Female math YouTuber
Reading books sets:
Math reading books lists