Q & A: Math By Hand Super Summit, 1/4/11

A big thanks to all of you for listening on the Super Summit call tonight. You will find answers to your questions below (I’ve grouped similar ones). And anyone who would like to have a conversation on any of these (or any other) topics re math, please feel free to call me at (530) 477-8464,

Melinda – Pasco,Wa
I am one who always had math fear and phobia. Now I am the teacher of my five children. I wish I had the type of materials growing up. Where would I start for a group of kids aged 2 to 13?
Sandy – Hamer, ID
What is an effective way to spread mom around to do hands on math for a broad spectrum of ages (ie. ages 2 through 15),
Aimee – Ohio
I am homeschooling three, soon to be four, young children. If I incorporate your curriculum into our learning, how would I balance teaching to each level of development

Hi Melinda. Sandy, and Aimee, Most importantly, instill a love of and fascination with math, and the good news is, this can apply to any age! It would also depend a lot on the strengths and needs of the individual children. Subscribing to the Math By Hand newsletter will provide a lot of fun math activities, but you can also access these fascinating aspects of math by doing a little research, online or at the library. For instance, searching for “math patterns in nature” would be a good place to start. Or look for “math tricks and patterns” for some good materials. The Math By Hand kits focus on grade levels 1-4, but could be applied to any age, where needed.

Tammy Ward – Fielding, UT
Can you give me a specific idea for the “active math?” I would love to have a fresh idea or two on how to do these with drills and practices as you have suggested. THANKS SO MUCH!!!!!!!!!

Thank YOU, Tammy, for listening! The Math By Hand newsletter features at least two fun and effective activities each week. I’d need to know age levels, but here’s one example: Adapt the game “Simon Says” to times tables practice. Here’s how it goes:
1. Simon stands facing the group of players with 2 large times table charts posted on the wall, one behind Simon and one behind the players.
2. Simon says, “Simon Says,” followed by the number of the chosen times table.
3. Then Simon says a number from the chosen table (or not) while performing an action.
4. The players quickly consult the chart, and if the number is correct (from the chosen times table) they repeat it and perform the action.
5. If the number is incorrect, players do nothing.
6. Any player who repeats an incorrect number and/or performs the action with it must drop out.
7. The last player left is the new Simon.
This is just one example, look for lots more ideas in the newsletter.

Julie – Mountain Home
Can this be used as well with an older child that has a hard time with rote learning?

Hi Julie, Yes, definitely. Use the ideas presented in Section 2 of the handout for different learning styles. Along with helping you to “fit” your lessons to each child’s natural bent, any of these suggestions will add interest and motivation to your math lessons for all your children! Be sure to keep it lively, active, and interesting. And don’t hesitate to supply charts and “rules” to be used at all times until a concept is thoroughly learned.

Kim – Boise
My son just found a number that didn’t equal 1089. 151. You must have to use three different numbers?

Hi Kim, Don’t you love it when they challenge concepts? Good for him! Yes, you do need three different numbers so you can successfully reverse them. Also, with low numbers, you need to add a zero to make it work. Like: 231 -132 = 099 / 099 + 990 = 1089. Have fun!!

Do you have any good websites for games?

Yes, do search for games online, at the library, or buy a big games book at any bookstore, then transform a few so they’re math-friendly! You’ll find lots of games in the Math By Hand newsletter. Then, after playing a few, you’ll find it easier to transform some old favorites to math-friendly versions.

Myra – Lindon
I have a son who had menengitis when he was two years old, and it destroyed a portion of his left brain. He’s had to relearn how to do everything physical, from eating, to tracking with the eyes, to sitting up and walking again. He’s learned back very much of these things, but he also has quite a difficulty learning things, even reading, let alone math. He’s 13 now, and I would love some insight on how to help him learn.

Hi Myra, He needs a right-brain approach to most learning then. Use lots of visuals, make charts and card sets for him, and have him use them consistently, as a reference while learning and then practicing what he’s learned. Repetition would be key. Look at the math kits on the Math By Hand website and see if any of the materials would be helpful for him. And subscribe to the newsletter for lots of ideas and fun approaches to math.

Natalie – West Richland
Is there any sort of quiz or checklist that helps us to figure out which learning style best fits our children?

How do you figure out which intelligence your child is or their strongest one is?

Hi Natalie, I just checked and there are LOTS of inventories, quizzes, and assessments online. Search for “learning styles quizzes, etc.”

micki – alpine
Instead of catering to multiple children’s multiple intelliegences, shouldn’t the parent be able to choose a heirarchal method.. in other words the method that is most effective for the lowest of ‘intelligences’ –and therefore the most effective or the most accessible.

Hi Micki, There’s a difference between intelligence “levels” and intelligence “styles.” Yes, when dealing with levels (i.e., IQ scores) it would be helpful to teach to the lowest to reach all levels. But, when dealing with styles, they are not translatable to higher or lower, I would say they are more parallel, but different. It’s comparable to language differences, i.e., if you’re French, you would learn best in that language. Similarly, if you’re visually oriented, you would learn best in the visual mode. I hope that answers your question.

Bailey – Placerville
Are you familiar with The Core Knowledge Series (What your ?grader needs to know) by E.D. Hirsch? If yes, can you share your opinion on the series in relation to your educational philosophy for younger children.

Hi Bailey, I just did a quick review online, and it seems that this is a very holistic approach, with lots of concrete rather than abstract teaching guides. (I saw an activity related to the Plains Indians: having the children draw relevant designs on brown butcher paper, simulating Buffalo hide.) So, I am impressed with what seems to be an experiential approach. But I was not able to find much on math other than day-planners. Am I missing something?

Heather Ludlow – Folsom
We’d love to hear discussion of how to apply these theories and concepts rather than simply reading the handout.

Hi Heather, You will find lots of applied ideas in the Math By Hand newsletter, and some of the handouts (i.e. Learning Styles) do have very specific suggestions for applying the concepts to individual children and your math lessons.

Lisa – Placerville
Do you have any suggestions or recommendations for a math program or approach that embraces your philosophy for high schoolers?
Danielle – North Pole, Alaska
Any suggestions on where to go with middle schoolers, to encourage these same ideas without “insulting” 🙂 him? We pulled our oldest out of public school in 3rd grade and he is still “relearning” many principles.

Hi Lisa and Danielle, Depending where strengths and needs are, some of the very same principles used in the lower grades can be used successfully with older children. Recap skills-learning with lots of visual aids and concrete teaching tools. If they’re struggling with Algebra, there’s a great set of books from Key Curriculum Press called “Key to Algebra.” It shouldn’t be considered a replacement for a standard Algebra 1 course, but is a really good, user-friendly introduction. It’s a workbook format, with answer keys that can either be used to self-check work or to work backward from the answer as a means of “getting” the concepts.

Rebecca Webb – Lake Oswego, OR
Do you have any suggestions for teaching math to the preschooler or kindergartener?

Hi Rebecca, I would have to agree with Piaget’s and other research theories (including Steiner’s) that until age 7, it’s best to stay away from academics. It seems that play, play, and more play is the best format for the pre-schooler and kindergartner! What may seem at first glance to be “delayed” academics may be better in the long run. My daughter attended Waldorf schools from grades 1-8, and did not learn to read independently until fourth grade! She’s now a PhD candidate at UC Berkeley, and is a prolific reader, researcher, and writer.

Janae – Pleasant Grove
Not knowing anything about Piaget’s Theory, what is the difference between this and the Montessori way of teaching math?

The one possible down side of the Montessori method is the “mixed age” classroom, in that age-readiness may not be as much of a focus as it needs to be. But the Montessori method is the quintessential hands-on, experiential approach. And this is wonderful for teaching and learning math. So, Piaget’s idea of concrete vs abstract learning is beautifully and effectively used by the Montessori method!

Julie – Oregon City
Any ideas for someone with dyscalculia? We start over every day with multiplication tables and any double digit problem (my daughter is 15).

Hi Julie, Most of the games and activities in the newsletter would be helpful. And as I said on the call, it could be a big help to your daughter to make a really large times table chart. Here’s how:
1. Use a large piece of paper, preferably at least 3’ square. You can ask your local newspaper for “end rolls.” They’re free or very inexpensive newsprint or white bond paper rolls that are given away because they’re too small to use in the press.
2. Fold the paper, in 1/2 and in 1/2 again so you have 4 columns. Then fold that in 1/3s (like folding a letter) so you now have 12 columns.
3. Open the paper and repeat the same folds the other way, so you have 144 squares.
4. Open the paper and spread it out on a large work surface.
5. Go over all the folded lines with the blunt end of a yellow crayon.
6. Have your daughter fill in all the tables she knows, horizontally and vertically, with a #2 pencil. She will be pleasantly surprised at how much of the chart is filled in: 1s, 2s, 5s, 10s, 11s. You can help by saying things like, “The 11s are just double numbers, and the 10s are numbers with zeros after them.” So, coach her along, then have her copy the higher tables from a chart. Check her work and help to correct any mistakes.
7. You could go over the rows with colored pencils to help differentiate. (Using a different color for each vertical row is best, since too much color can be confusing.)
8. Post the chart in a prominent place, like her bedroom wall. Sit with her and ask if she notices any patterns (the square numbers run diagonally from top left to bottom right.)
9. Have her use the chart as much as she needs to for skills practice and even math tests, until she knows the times tables “by heart.”
Here’s the 9s pattern: 09-18-2736-45 54-63-72-81-90. Note how they run up and down in both columns, and mirror each other. Patterns like these are helpful for memorization!
Look for the 9s hand trick online.

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