August 14, 2013

Math Journals

Math is my nemesis. Homeschooling would be as simple as 2+2 if I didn't have to teach this subject.

It's really not the subject matter that confounds me. It's more of the overwhelming amount of patience I must have every day to teach my easily-distractible, numerically-unmotivated twin daughters. These girls would rather be singing songs and catching lizards. So at the first noise or movement, I've lost them.

They also like color and art and doodling.

So, since I prefer to teach to their strengths (life's a whole lot easier that way!), I decided to make math colorful this year a la math journals.

I bought gridded composition books, complete with storage jackets filled with colored pencils and regular lead pencils (they have since added their geometry compass set to the pocket). They didn't necessarily need the grid paper, but I thought it added an element of seriousness to the study, plus it's different from their other notebooks.

Our math text is Oak Meadow 7, which is really a general math. Honestly it starts a bit basic, but I figured it would help with their notetaking skills and shore up any gaps in their abilities. About half-way through the text is some algebra concepts. I'm hoping that they'll be confident problem solvers by the time we get there.

For now they simple write what I write. I teach from my own journal, set up just like theirs. I read through the Oak Meadow lesson, but present it in my own words, in my own colorful way. They are free to use whatever colors they prefer. They also have the freedom to write their own words...but they must demonstrate understanding of the lesson's concept.

Here's my page:

Here's one of the girls page of the same lesson:

After I finish teaching the lesson, they both have to "teach" me the lesson using their notes. Since they are auditory learners, they love to talk! This is an easy assessment time for me because I immediately recognize shortcomings in their comprehension. So I answer any questions and then let them complete the problems from Oak Meadow's text. 

This picture is a bit difficult to see, but they have to write and solve each problem with lead pencil. They both chose to draw squares to keep each problem separate. Then I use a pen to check the right problems and circle the wrong ones. They hate the circles so they really do try to get just check marks! Then they write their own big 100 in the middle when everything is right!

I only have one math book for the both of them. I suppose it could be a consumable workbook, but I don't let them write in it. Knowing that they will be doing algebra soon and will probably have to copy problems from a text, I figured they need to learn how to do that correctly now. It is a learning process but each day gets better as they develop the skills to precisely copy numbers.

Occasionally I take a picture of lesson with my Evernote app camera and email them the page. This way they can work on the go. They still have to write the problems and answers in their composition book.

If time allows, I will print off some foldable activities that they can glue into their journals. The web, especially Pinterest, have thousands of ideas! But learning to take notes is a priority this year so that's our focus for now. 

Organization is also a goal, so they also have to keep a table of contents. We left the first two pages blank for this. On the first day they numbered every page in the comp books. When we do a lesson, they add the lesson title to table of contents page and write the page number of the corresponding note page.

We have been using this system for two weeks now with great success. I haven't seen a single tear, felt no struggles and they feel much better about their math abilities. They really aren't as frustrated and neither am I. A true win-win in this house!