Monday, September 12, 2016

All Things Math

Didn't mean to take such a break from posting. Time got away from me. 

I know I've done math posts before, but now is time for a gigantic post about non-traditional math. First off: Math is not boring! Many traditional programs are boring, but math is an awesome subject and deserves treatment as such.

Now, some resources for elementary kids:

Beast Academy -  this is a hard math program, currently available for 3rd-5th graders, with 2nd grade written soon. They teach concepts and expect kids to be able to figure out the application pretty independently. Some of the questions are things that I have to think about, and can really stump a kid. But it is fantastic, with guides written in colorful graphic novel style, engaging and sometimes unusual math, and an introduction to having to combine arithmetic, logic, and problem solving. This is put out by the Art of Problem Solving company, which also has highly conceptual-proof-heavy books from pre-algebra up.

Books by Ed Zaccaro - These often focus on problem-solving skills, have some cartoonish drawings, and gently lead kids through adding more complex skills to their skill set. I suggest Primary Grade Challenge Math as a first book to try, probably best for someone who has at least 2nd-3rd grade skills.

Time-Life I Love Math series - these are out of print, but easy to find used. Each book has a wide range of skills, maybe Kindy-3rd grade, so they are worth revisiting. The math is typically either in story format or hands-on. 

MathStart books by Stuart J. Murphy - These cover a wide range of topics, with the vast majority being pre-K through 1st grade. Short books that each introduce one concept, from matching pairs to multiplication. These are great, engaging books, but I do suggest getting them from the library, as their usefulness is short-lived.

Sir Cumference books - most of these focus on geometry topics (naturally, with that name!) though a few go outside of that scope. Primarily at a 2nd-4th grade level, these can be great independent reads, or you could base entire math units around each book.

Murderous Maths - Awesome and hilarious. Most of these are written for ages 8+ (and I mean that +, as some venture into high school topics). Awesome Arithmetricks would be where to start for elementary kids. These just didn't work as read aloud material for us, so maybe waiting until your child can read independently and comfortable is a prereq.

Hands On Equations - teaches how to solve algebraic equations, broken down so elementary kids can easily understand. Best done before a child hits pre-algebra, and can be started with 1st graders. I know there's an app version, but that rather defeats the concept of "hands on" equations, and I believe the physical manipulating of the pieces matters here, especially if starting with younger kids.

Dragonbox apps - And immediately, here's the contradiction to recommending Hands On Equations only in tactile format. Dragonbox 5+ and 12+ are great apps that teach algebraic concepts in game format. It's entirely possible that your child won't even realize it is a math app. For younger kids, there is Dragonbox Numbers, which is basically games with C-rod-like creatures that help teach number sense and addition/subtraction. And for the older set, there's Dragonbox Elements to introduce geometry.

Math for Smarty Pants and I Hate Mathematics! - two very different titles for two fairly similar books by the same author and publisher. Kids should have at least basic number sense, addition, and subtraction down before starting to read these. These are classic books covering many unconventional topics, written with kids who believe they dislike math in mind, but appealing to kids who already know they like math as well.

Sideways Arithmetic From Wayside School - Another classic. Nothing is normal at Wayside School, including a math class that requires spelling books. Throughout this book, there are math and logic problems for kids to do themselves, with silly stories to engage. Most of this book involves multi-digit addition and logic problems, with a good bit of puzzling. There is one short section that involves multi-digit multiplication, which can be completed or skipped depending on the abilities of your child. Kids who really enjoy puzzling can do on their own, but we have had a lot of fun figuring these out together on the whiteboard.

Zeus on the Loose - a fast-paced card game that involves adding, subtracting, and rounding as everyone tries to be the one holding the Zeus statue when the count reaches 100.

Toss Up! - great for beginning probability, the only actual math skill needed is counting and adding within 100. We used an abacus for each person to keep score before paper-and-pencil adding was solid.

Yahtzee - is there anyone who doesn't know this game? Adding, multiplication, and probability all wrapped into one game.

Oh, and if you are going to play a bunch of dice games with young kids, I highly recommend a dice tray and dice cup, both lined with felt. It really is sanity saving.

Sleeping Queens - ok, so there's very little actual math here, just adding multiples of 5 to no more than a total of 50. But it's a fun game on it's own.

Highlights MathMania - each issue is full of math puzzles. Some are straightforward arithmetic, some are logic puzzles, some are spatial awareness. There's a good variety of types of puzzles and levels in each one, mostly ranging from 1st-3rd grade. Homeschool Buyers Co-op often has deals on these.

Usborne Illustrated Dictionary of Math - exactly what it sounds like, this is a colorful reference book to many math topics. Covers elementary through at least junior high.

Rat A Tat Cat - enjoyable game for longer than the math provides any challenge, involves adding four single-digit numbers and some logic.

Math Dice and Math Dice Jr - I wish there was a bridge in between these two. The Jr version involves only very simple addition and subtraction, and the standard version is meant to include multiplication, division, and exponents. Definitely much more "this is a math game" than "this is a game that involves math" than most things on this list, probably best for kids who already enjoy math and want to play with it more.

Zometool - We underuse this, and I really need to get it out again. This is a unique building toy, and you can get lesson plans for math, science, and art. The spatial work can be a real challenge. If you want a huge investment, you can purchase the mega-kit on Homeschool Buyers Co-op; it comes with the storage case but the pieces aren't arranged in it yet, apparently resulting in a major discount.

Logic Links - a simple one-person setup, you place colored chips on a card trying to follow the rules laid out on the card. 

Any logic-based game - Solid logic skills are needed for math, especially as you move up in level. Any game that strengthens logic is useful - Connect 4, Qwirkle, Forbidden Island, Gobblet Gobblers, Chess...

Library books - 510 is the Dewey decimal call number for math books. Just go poke around. I've been amazed how many great books we've found!

And an honorable mention to some things I haven't personally used yet, but have heard great things about:
Prime Climb
Muggins and Knockout
Secrets of Mental Math
Short-Cut Math
The Book of Think
The Number Devil


Monday, August 1, 2016

July's Top Ten Books

We read so many books, both from our Literature List and also just randomly chosen from the library's shelves, I thought I'd try to start a monthly Top Ten list.

1. The Art of Miss Chew by Patricia Polacco - a great story that features a main character with learning differences

2. Rapunzel and the Seven Dwarfs by Willy Claflin - We read this as part of our Fairy Tale project (yes, we're still working on that!) and enjoyed the silly mashup of fairy tales.

3. Appelemando's Dreams by Patricia Polacco - an imaginative tale of visible dreams

4. Freedom's School by Lesa Cline-Ransome - set after the Civil War, when schools for African-Americans were being started, but were surrounded by racism

5. Pinduli by Janell Cannon - the author is better known for Stellaluna but I think I like this tale better. Basically a morality tale of "what goes round come around" when you say things that make others feel bad.

6. The Misadventures of Sweetie Pie by Chris Van Allsburg - The story of a mistreated hamster and the many children he is passed around to. Not a happy story, but a simple one that introduced the idea of what happens when animals aren't cared for properly; still has a happy ending for Sweetie Pie.

7. Sugar Cane: A Caribbean Rapunzel by Patricia Storace - This was my favorite of the Rapunzel stories we read this month, with adjustments to the tale as it is typically known in the U.S. to fit the island setting.

8. A Midsummer Night's Dream retild by Bruce Coville - a well-illustrated picture book retelling of the Shakespeare classic. This was The Kid's first introduction to Shakespeare and she enjoyed it so much that we followed up by going to see a local production of the play.

9. The Cloud Spinner by Michael Catchpool - an imaginative story with the theme of taking only what you need and no more, a greedy king orders a woman who can spin the clouds into cloth to make fine clothes for himself and his family until there are no clouds left and the kingdom is without rain

10. The Shaman's Apprentice by Lynne Cherry and Mark J. Plotkin - tells the tale of a boy who wants to become the next shaman in a remote village in the Amazon, and a village caught between tradition and newly introduced Western ways

Thursday, July 7, 2016

RightStart Math: Final Cost, Levels A-C

We've moved on from RightStart Math and I wanted to address one of the most common concerns I hear from people considering this program: cost. Yes, it looks to be a very expensive program, especially with the startup costs of that huge box of manipulatives. Here and there, when people ask online, responses cite the high resale value, but without numbers. Here are my numbers:

RightStart A
I bought the first edition of Level A, before the second edition existed. Costs include the lesson manual, two workbooks (so I could sell with a clean one), and a set of the appendix pages. I believe that the second edition becoming available in the meantime really hurt the resale value on this one!
                Cost: $78.50
                Sold on eBay for: $34.50
                Final Cost to me: $44.00

RightStart B
I bought the second edition of Level B, with an extra workbook and an extra set of Appendix pages (so I could sell a complete, clean set). I did get the extra workbook and Appendix during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale for a discount.
               Cost: $97.50
               Sold on eBay for: $65.00
               Final Cost to me: $32.50

RightStart C
I bought the second edition of Level C, with an extra workbook so I could sell a complete, clean set. All on sale during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale.
               Cost: $80.00
               Sold on eBay for: $55.00
               Final Cost to me: $25.00

Manipulatives Package
I originally bought the set for version 1 and then upgraded. For ease of numbers (and not being able to find my receipt for the original purchase) I am going to use the current price of the full Version 2 Package, which is what I had by the end and sold on eBay.
                Cost: $205.50
                Sold on eBay for: $152.50
                Final Cost to me: $53.00

Taking the total cost to me of the three levels plus the manipulatives ($154.50) and dividing it over the three years this would be expected to last, I come up with a Final Total Cost of $51.50 per year. 

Not bad. And it would have come in even cheaper for me if I had started with Version 2 of Level A (the new version had much better resale value) and if I had planned ahead and always bought during the Cyber Monday sale

Monday, July 4, 2016

Second Grade Curriculum and Resources

For kindergarten and first grade, I did massive posts about our planned curriculum and resources. I've been more hesitant this year. Our current setup is six-week sessions with five subjects at a time - Spanish, Math, Language Arts, and two of The Kid's choosing. This means that our plans are even more up in the air than usual because all of the "other stuff" is decided on bit by bit.Anyway, here is the list, with a lot more uncertainty than usual.

Language Arts
Science, History, Art, Music...
These will be unschooled unless The Kid chooses a specific topic as one of her class choices. I will decide on resources at that time. BFSU will still be my go-to for science, Art Tango will be my go-to for general art.

Who knows? The Kid wants to take gymnastics, dance, circus arts, nature classes, soccer, choir, ice skating, roller skating, art classes, science classes, tennis, and I'm sure I'm forgetting something. It's not all going to fit, so there will be some choices to be made this fall. For the summer, she's doing a couple of weeks of gymnastics camp and a week of science camp.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Second Grade Literature List

This has been the most difficult book list for me to put together. I had two big problems. The first is that there are way too many good books! The second is that while The Kid is capable of reading anything in front of her, she still has a strong preference for a high pictures-to-text ratio. Her pleasure reading currently consists of really good picture books and meh chapter books. Her picture books have more complex stories, cover some history, and have amazing language. Her preferred chapter books, well, don't. After some thought and a lot of hours in the library, I decided that this year would focus on a big stack of the best picture books I can find, with a few chapter books thrown in near the end of the year.

Poetry to add to our shelves for Poetry Teas
Child's Book of Poems by Gyo Fujikawa
Several selections from the Poetry for Young People series

Picture Books
Life Doesn't Frighten Me by Maya Angelou (poetry)
The Sorcerer's Apprentice by Mary Jane Begin
Kid Blink Beats the World by Don Brown
Odd Boy Out: Young Albert Einstein by Don Brown
Behind the Mask by Yangsook Choi
Midsummer Night's Dream adapted by Bruce Coville
Fairy Tales by e.e. cummings
Bat Boy and His Violin by Gavin Curtis
My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers by Christine King Farris
How My Parents Learned to Eat by Ina R. Friedman
Storyteller's Candle by Lucia Gonzalez
Meet Danitra Brown by Nikki Grimes (poetry)
Sami and the Time of the Troubles by Florence Parry Heide
Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce
Island of the Skog by Steven Kellogg
Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez by Kathleen Krull
The Librarian Who Measured the Earth by Kathryn Lasky
Erandi's Braids by Antonio Hernandez Madrigal
Escape of Oney Judge by Emily Arnold McCully
Mirandy and Brother Wind by Patricia C. McKissack
Precious and the Boo Hag by Patricia C. McKissack
The Rag Coat by Lauren Mills
Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki
Passage to Freedom: the Sugihara Story by Ken Mochizuki
My Rows and Piles of Coins by Tololwa M. Mollel
Raising Dragons by Jerdine Nolen
Capyboppy by Bill Peet
Eli by Bill Peet
The Bee Tree by Patricia Polacco
Mrs. Katz and Tush by Patricia Polacco
Belle, the Last Mule at Gee's Bend by Calvin Alexander Ramsey and Bettye Stroud
The Apple-Pip Princess by Jane Ray
And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Testing the Ice by Sharon Robinson
Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown
Sukey and the Mermaid by Robert D. San Souci
Talking Eggs by Robert D. San Souci
Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka
Johnny on the Spot by Edward Sorel
The Old Man and His Door by Gary Soto
Black Ships Before Troy by Rosemary Sutcliff
Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin by Chieri Uegaki
Suki's Kimono by Chieri Uegaki
Garden of Abdul Gasazi by Chris Van Allsburg
Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg
Freedom on the Menu by Carole Boston Weatherford
Stories for Children by Oscar Wilde
Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles
Follow the Drinking Gourd by Jeanette Winter
Watcher: Jane Goodall's Life With Chimps by Jeanette Winter

Longer Books with Few/No Pictures
Molly's Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen
26 Fairmount Avenue by Tomie de Paola
Stone Fox by John R. Gardiner
Pearl Verses the World by Sally Murphy (poetry)
Tales From the Odyssey by Mary Pope Osborne
Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective by Donal J. Sobel

Family Read Alouds
Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater
Freckle Juice by Judy Blume
The Chocolate Touch by Patrick Skene Catling
Ramona and Her Mother by Beverly Cleary
Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
Household Stories by the Brothers Grimm translated by Lucy Crane
Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dagliesh
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Danny, the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl
The Cabin Faced West by Jean Fritz
Igraine the Brave by Cornelia Funke
Wonder Book for Boys and Girls by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling
Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang
Gooney Bird Green by Lois Lowry
Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
The Princess and Curdie by George McDonald
The Princess and the Goblin by George McDonald
Five Children and It by E. Nesbit
The Borrowers by Mary Norton
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (there is a phenomenal pop-up version of this!)
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

BFSU: Physics Unit

Prerequisites: Energy Unit and Time and Maps Unit

Resources: Magic School Bus episodes

Lesson 1: BFSU C-5: Inertia, part 1
Lesson 2: BFSU C-5: Inertia, part 2
Lesson 3: Magic School Bus Revving Up
Lesson 4: BFSU C-6 Friction, part 1
Lesson 5: BFSU C-6 Friction, part 2
Lesson 6: BFSU C-6 Friction, part 3
Lesson 7: BFSU C-6 Friction, part 4
Lesson 8: Magic School Bus Plays Ball
Lesson 9: BFSU D-7: Gravity II: Rate of Fall. Weightlessness in Space. Distinction Between Weight and Mass, part 1
Lesson 10: BFSU D-7: Gravity II: Rate of Fall. Weightlessness in Space. Distinction Between Weight and Mass, part 2
Lesson 11: BFSU D-7: Gravity II: Rate of Fall. Weightlessness in Space. Distinction Between Weight and Mass, part 3
Lesson 12: BFSU C-7: Push Pushes Back
Lesson 13: Magic School Bus Gets a Bright Idea

This post is part of my series on using BFSU as a science unit study.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

First Grade Wrap Up

It's about that time to review what went well and not over the last year.

First, the good:
  • Science. Wow, the level and amount of science! We finished the first volume of Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding. As we moved into more child-led studies, there hasn't been a session go by without The Kid choosing a science topic. While we haven't left BFSU behind, we've added a lot of other resources - Ellen McHenry has especially been a hit.
  • Handwriting. Finally, after much struggle, The Kid has legible handwriting. Not awesome, but legible. I'm calling it good for now. At the end of last year, I wrote, "But we're still nowhere near being able to do copywork and dictation to start first grade." It took us the whole #@%& year, but she can now do copywork. And I might even attempt dictation in the near future.
  • Changes to our school subjects. I wrote in this post about our six-week blocks of four subjects at a time. The Kid feels that she has real power in her school choices now. I have gained clarity about my educational priorities for her. It's been good.
The not so good:
  • Math. This is really coming back around, but we went into full math meltdown last winter. Over the last five months, we have done no formal/required math. Slowly, slowly, the love of math has been creeping back and our math break is looking a lot mathier.  But I suspect we'll have a balancing act on our hands as we incorporate more math into our days again.
  • Executive Functioning. This wasn't even a term I knew until the last couple years, but oh boy, do I know it now. It includes a pile of abilities that The Kid struggles mightily with and make me want to pull my hair out. We've been focused on the basics of emotional regulation for months now, and are just barely starting to edge into more focus on time management and focus. This category is going to be a major part of goals for second grade.
I hope the next year has some great things in store for us!