5 Secrets to Teaching Math When You Hate It
Please note: I received access to CTCMath for free in exchange for the following review. My opinions are honest and I was not required to post a positive review.
I hate math.
I have tried my whole life not to hate it. I’ve actually tried and struggled (and often failed) to understand it.
After college, and before I had kids, I decided to simply embrace that math was not my gift…and never be more than an arm’s reach from a calculator (thank you smartphone).
But once I made the decision to homeschool, I realized that math and I were going to have to have the ultimate face-off.
Because now I had to teach it.
As I was writing Ace’s preschool curriculum, I quickly discovered that figuring out lesson plans and activities for all the other subjects came fairly easily. But not when it came to math.
That’s when I knew that I was not going to be able to rely on my natural inclinations. I needed to figure out what to do…and fast.
If you are in the same boat as me, here are 5 secrets I’ve learned that help me slay the math beast.
5 Secrets to Teaching Math When You Hate It
1. Know your comfort level with the subject.
Be honest with yourself. There’s no shame here!! This is an important step because it helps you to know what kind of resources and support you will need to present the material with confidence.
Since I know that I struggle with all the concepts, I know I need extra help and guidance. This means that I go straight for a curriculum or other resource that either doesn’t require much from me or gives me a step-by-step breakdown. Knowing that I need as much help as I can get lets me skip right to the support I need most.
2. Be prepared.
When math is a big struggle for you, you need to take extra time to prepare yourself and your lessons. Just winging it is not going to be a recipe for success for either you or your child. Even if you have the best and most complete resources at your disposal. You will both end up crying tears of frustration before the lesson is complete (or before you’ve even started)!
You need to know what material you’re covering. And if you don’t or can’t understand it, you may need to ask for help from someone who does. After all, it’s pretty hard to explain a concept to someone if you don’t fully understand it yourself.
Fortunately for me, my husband is brilliant at math (and explaining it) so he can usually step in when I’m at a loss.
But there are lots of tutoring resources available to help you and your child…in some cases, you needn’t look further than your homeschooling group or community. Chances are there is a parent (or a math-loving teenager) who can step in and offer the help you need.
3. Know your child’s learning style.
This is an important point when teaching any subject, but especially a subject like math.
Trying to teach your child something outside of their learning style will usually result in frustration and tears. But if you’re already prone to frustration because you don’t enjoy the subject you’re teaching (like math), then you face a double-whammy.
Know how your child learns best and seek out curriculum and resources that speak to his style…even if it ultimately isn’t what you would choose for yourself.
Remember, your learning and teaching styles can be polar opposites from your child’s. So don’t discount something that seems awkward or out of your comfort zone. It may just be the key that opens the world of math to your child!
4. Keep it short and simple.
No one likes a long lecture. Especially a long lecture about a sometimes intensive subject. No one.
So keep your math lessons short and sweet. Make sure they are broken down into easily digestible chunks which will make it easier for everyone. Of course, if your child has a passion for learning math, don’t feel like you have to slow their pace…it just means your child will likely want more of those short and sweet lessons back-to-back.
5. Finally, bring it all together.
Find a curriculum that gives you the support and resources you need while speaking the learning language your child needs to hear.
There are just about as many math curricula out there as there are stars in the sky. Well, maybe not quite that many (I told you math wasn’t my strong suit!), but you get the idea.
It can be hard to wade through them all to find one that helps you achieve math teaching (and learning) bliss.
CTCMath and RightStart™ Math are two really great (but very different) options that have helped guide me on our homeschool math journey. However, it can be hard to decide which one is right for you and your child.
Let’s dive in to a little deeper comparison of the two programs.
CTCMath vs. RightStart™ Math
Each student has his/her own login and parents can assign tasks (lessons, quizzes, etc.) to each student based on whatever is being studied.
Homeschool families can purchase a very affordable yearly subscription that gives their entire family unlimited access to ALL levels (Kindergarten through Calculus) for one year.
It is self-paced and each video lesson usually lasts no more than 4 minutes to help capture, and keep, your child’s attention.
RightStart™ Math is a hands-on program created by Dr. Joan A. Cotter and based on her proprietary method of teaching math by “de-emphasizing counting” and focusing instead on creating “visualizations of quantities” among other things.
(For a more in-depth review and description focused solely on RightStart™ Math, check out this post from Lextin Eclectic.)
CTCMath uses online videos and interactive tests and can be accessed anywhere, anytime. This means that your kids can easily complete lessons no matter whether your day is going according to plan or if unexpected errands crop up. All you need is online access and a computer, smartphone (it’s both iOS and Android compatible) or tablet.
RightStart™ Math is not quite so portable. For simpler lessons, you will only need the teacher’s manual and abacus. However, lessons can require more manipulatives, games, the student workbook, etc. This makes it harder to complete your lessons outside the home without bringing cumbersome manipulatives along, which often have small or multiple pieces.
Level of Student-Teacher Involvement
With CTCMath, parents act more as administrators and assign students tasks (lessons, quizzes, etc.) via the main dashboard. Students can then complete lessons on their own, giving them a sense of accomplishment and independence.
Even though parents aren’t teaching math directly, they can still choose their level of involvement with the lessons. They can either let the videos do all the talking or chime in with additional comments or supplementary content.
Students can watch the lessons as many times as they need to without requiring the parent to repeat the lesson over and over again. This can be a huge benefit for situations where having a little parental distance from frustrating topics is helpful (and will probably result in fewer tears for both you and your child!)
RightStart™ Math is heavily teacher-dependent. It is up to you to lead your child through each lesson. And though they have provided extensive and very detailed instructions for how to teach it, it is still up to you to get through it. I have admittedly stumbled more than once through lessons that I didn’t quite understand.
CTC appeals primarily to the visual learner (and secondarily to the audio learner) due to its video-based content delivery.
RightStart™ appeals primarily to the kinesthetic, or hands-on learner through the use of the hands-on manipulatives, games, and activities. However it does have a secondary appeal to the visual learner partly through the same use of manipulatives but mainly through its focus on the visualization of quantities.
Ease of Use
Parents need only to acquaint themselves with the online dashboard and how to assign, view, and follow-up on their child’s work to use CTCMath. Video tutorials (in the User Guide) and tech support are always there to help with any questions.
When using RightStart™ math, there are many components a parent needs to learn. Most people have never used an abacus before, and while it is an extremely useful tool once you understand it, there is a learning curve. Especially if math isn’t your strongest subject.
There are also other tools, games, and manipulatives that are used. The manuals are incredibly detailed. Though parents need only to read the instructions to be able to follow along, these are still extra preparation steps that need to be taken.
Both curricula have broken lessons up into short chunks but the time it takes to compete a RightStart™ lesson can vary depending on the teacher’s familiarity and comfort level with the subject matter, whether or not there are any games or other related activities to complete, etc.
Flexibility of Curriculum
CTC is very flexible. It can be used as a complete, stand-alone math curriculum or it can be used as a supplement to another curriculum. Although the lessons are listed in a traditional order – concept building on concept – students can easily jump around or skip content as appropriate or necessary.
RightStart™ Math is very linear. Each lesson builds upon previous lessons and, while students can complete as many of them in a sitting as they choose, it is not designed to be a pick-and-choose curriculum.
As mentioned earlier, CTCMath is a subscription-based program with one low annual price giving you access to all levels for all family members for an entire year. This makes it easy on the wallet and predictable for your budget. You also have the advantage of a free trial to make sure it will work for your family.
In addition, homeschooling families receive a 60% discount off regular price!! They have also offered a special offer: Purchase a 12 month membership (either single or family) and get 6 months free!!! If you purchase now, you’ll enjoy access for this entire school year PLUS half of the next! (Make sure you enter the giveaway at the bottom of this post too!)
RightStart™ Math has to be purchased one level at a time. They have done an excellent job with their use of the manipulatives and have created a kit for their second edition that includes all items you will need for levels A through Geometry (middle-school level). However, it can make for a pricey initial investment despite their 60-day money back guarantee.
Ultimately, when you’re not a math fan and you decide to choose a curriculum, choose whatever gives you the support you want with the engagement your kids need. That will go a long way to helping make it fun for everyone!
Do you struggle with math or teaching math? How do you overcome that struggle to teach it to your kids? Do you have any secrets to add to my list? I’d love to hear about your experience!
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