This might be the most unpopular subject in our house. Not because we don’t like it but because the other subjects are just more fun. I’ll start with what my kindergartener did for his math curriculum:
Mathematical Reasoning A is from The Critical Thinking Co. and is a full color worksheet book that gives your child mathematical skills through easy and fun little activities. There’s not a lot of drill work but at the end of the year, my 5-year-old is proficient in addition, subtraction, coins, beginning fractions, shapes, calendar, graphs, number lines and more. In fact, he’s finished this first book and we’ve gone ahead and began his first grade Mathematical Reasoning B book. I was a little nervous that it would jump up in difficulty but #2 seems to have transferred over seamlessly. He does a page or two about 3x’s a week.
Inchimals is a math rod set that use adorable animals to teach math concepts. They go from the 1″ ladybug to the 12″ giraffe and have 1″ markings on two sides and animal pictures on the other two sides. On the ends, the rods sport a written numeral for easy identification and dice dots for counting. It is a great visual tool to show lengths but it also helps the child work on addition, subtraction and even a little early algebra.
The problem came when I used these two exclusively for my Kinder’s math – he burned through the Mathematical Reasoning book at top speed and was burned out on the Inchimals within 6 weeks. I’d had him doing a page or two of the book every day and the Inchimals 3x’s a week. He was completely bored and tired of the same old thing every day.
Not to say that these aren’t very good math tools!!! They really are and I recommend them if you’re looking for a good math base for your young one. (The Inchimals felt a little pricey for what they are but I’ve found that BOTH of my boys use them for many purposes and they’ve been a well-used and well-loved set this year.)
BUT . . . with kindergarten, you must have a lot more variety to keep the burnout from happening. I’m guessing you all know that already and I just was a little slow on the uptake. My mother-in-law, who has recently retired, was a K-2nd grade teacher for her whole career and she’s been a wealth of knowledge and borrowed manipulatives. Not only has she been highly supportive but she’s helped me get through many road-blocks during this first year of homeschooling. She gave me many new fun activities for #2’s math time like – a number balance scale, counting teddy bears, worksheets galore, and several children’s books with math activities to go along with them.
Add in a geo board, pattern blocks and a Math Dice game (thanks Grandpa!), and the boredom is completely gone!
Second Grade Math
I’ve been very pleased with the Horizons Math program from Alpha Omega Publications. This is the base of our second grade math curriculum and in itself, it’s a fully functional math program. Its spiral approach introduces new concepts lightly, reviews and then reinforces them. I’ve learned to trust Horizons. For about half of the school year, there would be random activities that he’d be asked to do on the worksheet. I couldn’t see what they had to do with anything but after a few weeks of learning one of these “base skills”, it would be introduced as part of the new concept. With him already being comfortable with the base skill, the new concept was usually quickly mastered. He’s doing very well with this program and he loves the color images and fun design of the worksheet pages. The complete set comes with 2 student books of worksheets and 1 teacher’s manual. I’ve gotten a lot of value from the manual and can’t imagine teaching this subject without it.
Horizons has drills (addition/subtraction/multiplication) on worksheets in the back of the teacher’s manual that I copy once a week and he uses for that week. Due to a friend’s suggestion, we time his drills to get his weekly personal best and he likes this small bit of competition with himself. There are also other optional worksheets that you can copy from the back of the manual that correspond with new concepts that he’s learning. They tend to come along about once a week. They’re often chock full of problems and can be daunting to a 7-year-old. I’ve learned to cross out at least half of them and just have him do a smaller part.
Although Horizons is a complete math program, we used a few other books to supplement and give him an extra boost in math. Daily Word Problems Grade 2 by Evan-Moor is an easy supplement because it has only one math word problem for him to do each day. It’s pretty kid-friendly with lots of pictures and a good layout. I’m not sure if I’ll continue using this next year though since he gets plenty of word problems with the Horizons worksheet.
Mathematical Reasoning C by The Critical Thinking Co. is very similar to the one I described above for our Kindergarten math. It’s colorful and full of math reasoning problems that are a bit different from the straight math problems in Horizons. There’s more logic and critical thinking skills involved although many of the worksheets dove-tail very nicely with what he’s doing in his regular math time. I did find that my 2nd grader just couldn’t handle doing all this math at one time in the school day so I separate this worksheet to a time slot near the end of the day while the main math is closer to the start of the day. Overall, I’m happy with this book. We only do this worksheets from this book 2-3 times a week because we mix it up with any optional Horizons worksheet and the following book:
Building Thinking Skills Book 1 by The Critical Thinking Co.. Although this is focused more on critical thinking than math per se, the beginning half is very math oriented. Because of this, it rotates in with the Mathematical Reasoning and Horizons copy sheet. We’re moving through it fairly slowly this way but since it’s geared toward 2 & 3 grades, I’m not too concerned. We’ll just keep plugging along at it until it’s finished. I think this one has a great purpose but it’s a lot less flashy than the other books. I’m impressed with how it makes my son really think about things though so I consider it a benefit to him. I’ll have to reevaluate when #2 gets to 2nd grade though because I’m not sure if it will fit his learning type. He gets easily frustrated and tends to shut down instead of patiently working through a problem. Or maybe that just comes with a little more maturity. We’ll see.