Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Whether Man and a Lament by Lockhart

Just a quick recommend here about a book I wasn't aware of until yesterday, and I'm sure there are LOTS of those, but the journey of discovery is something to be celebrated, I think.  This book passes muster in the clever department and it may help a math-phobe start to open his or her eyes as to how cool math can be!  Adults will appreciate the way the author plays with words and helps us to laugh at our silly selves.  This would be an excellent book within a living math curriculum.  This would probably be an excellent book to read, period.  Go read the reviews on Amazon about it.

And the best for next.  I encourage you to read an essay by a mathematician, Paul Lockhart.  It's titled "Lockhart's Lament" and is linked below as a PDF.  Go ahead - I'll wait while you read it!

All teachers and homeschoolers should read this essay.  It stabs at the heart of the matter as to what's wrong with the way math is taught and what can be done about it.  Math has become dry as toast thanks to the way it is taught; it is supposed to be a language of art and discovery, one steeped in history and deep thought about problems that popped up now and then.  This essay served as an eye-opener for me and it will, in the long run, likely help Max because it helped me to see the light.  Please read it.

I have a child who despises math and sees (as of yet) no need for it.  He places the subject on par with torture and unnecesary gobbledy-gook.  Last year for fourth grade we used a Living Math approach and read a lot ABOUT math.  We didn't DO much math.  We read about Archimedes, Penrose the Cat helped us play with many cool concepts, and we played games.

This year I tried the more traditional (and agonizing) method of teaching math by using a curriculum.  Epic fail.  Epic.  We managed to finish up the fourth grade equivalent in Teaching Textbooks, a program many families love, but boy was it a struggle.  I felt funny about forcing him to do something that he clearly did not want to do and after reading Mr. Lockhart's essay, I gave this predicament some more thought.

Next year, which will be our sixth grade year (technically), I've chosen to use parts of the Math Mammoth curriculum, some Life of Fred, and some more Living Math.  Math Mammoth is a mastery-based program that we can take in bits.  One thing Max despised was having to do addition and subtraction problems over and over and over until he wanted to scream, which he often did.  The spiral program is definitely not a good fit around these parts!  Books like The Phantom Tollbooth and others will help us to hopefully have more fun with math next time around!

A nice mom on the secular homeschool forum recommended these two links to help a math-reluctant child;
the term 'math-reluctant 'makes me want to chuckle.  I need to come up with an anti-math term that more befittingly describes my child - got any ideas?  Something more dark and sinister, perhaps.

Powered by the Discovery Channel; 'Leon's Math Dojo' is supposed to entice kids to learn their math facts

K-5 computer-based math games

I have a few other posts about books and games that can be used to make math more palatable, too.  You can visit them here:

Gee, maybe I'll go back and read some of these posts to refresh my memory and get some new resources!  I for one am looking forward to a break from traditional math, or rather, the angst it seems to cause around here.  A happy learning child - I think that's possible, don't you? 

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