Algebra 1/2… Or How I do Middle School Math

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From talking with my friends locally (homeschool and traditional school moms), and reading a lot online, I think it’s pretty common for middle school math to start freaking out moms. PreAlgebra is usually fine, but mention “Algebra” and a ton of people start to lose it. I’ve read and talked to so many moms who start to leave homeschooling due to math. I will admit, math at PreAlgebra (and now Algebra 1) takes more time and is harder – it’s not impossible and it doesn’t mean you have to bail from homeschooling.

I’d love to take credit for how we do math here, but I really can’t. I have an **amazing** mentor and friend who used this method with her kids and I stole it from her. I modified a little, but not much. Here goes….

1. I had to recognize that homeschooling IS my job, and I had to take it seriously. Ouch. No more, “Here’s your math – bring it to me when you’re done”. Some subjects I can monitor and outsource – others I cannot. (Though anything outsourced must also be CLOSELY monitored or progress and problems.) Math is a must in our family – and our goals are rigor and challenge to prep the kids for math/science/engineer majors in college. My kids have always done well in math, so other than new concepts it wasn’t a big deal to let them work out the drill part. No more!!!

2. Based on this theory of being a full time teacher, starting in Algebra 1/2 I work alongside my student.

* First, we watch our video with Mr. Reed. He rocks. We joke and greet him. We welcome “Uncle Al”, Mr. Reed’s poster of Albert Einstein.

20140123-102718.jpg Some days the dog helps…

* Then, we bust out our notebooks or white boards and get to work. I don’t do their math. I don’t hand hold. I do every problem they do (or 90% of them) on a separate white board or notebook. Then I check the solutions manual on mine, and when my student is done we compare answers. We prefer white boards as they are more fun and easier to work with. 🙂

Why is this great?
* If they have a problem or question, I just did the same problem. I can explain. I can help. No flipping around looking for the solutions or leaving the kids to look it up, see the correct answer worked out, assume they know it, and later bomb an identical problem on a test. No waiting until 30 minutes after they did a problem to find out they got it wrong. I just did it. I just figured out WHY I got it wrong (too often!!). We fix it RIGHT then.

* There’s a camaraderie in this. WE do math. It’s something we do together not something I do TO them.

*During the particularly difficult tween time – we’re in it together. It’s actually fun. Really!! Some days I rock math. Other days I’m being a lazy adult and my kid outperforms me. That’s cool! There is some great bonding over math!

* I also take all the tests. I can see if a problem is tricky or poorly worded. I get it. I’m rocking a sold A-… My DD is doing better than me. {As an aside, 12 tests in I have YET to ace an Algebra 1 test! I will! Just wait!!}

* It’s very good for my middle aged brain to be stretched. Very good. 🙂

Why this is bad?
* It takes time. A lot. Some days we take 30 minutes, but some its over an hour. I have 1 kid I’m doing this with now, but next month I’ll have 2. 3 or 4 would be hard – but totally worth it.

* It can be challenging. I’m good at math. I will admit that I have an MBA and a BS. BUT – I totally think anyone can use this method. If you’re weak at math – start doing this in elementary to brush up. It can be done!! Yes, it’s work, but it’s worth it!!

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One thought on “Algebra 1/2… Or How I do Middle School Math

  1. I came over from WTM forums. This is great! I sort of do this already since our curriculum–Right Start–is very teacher intensive. However, it’s great to be reminded of this as we move into a different curriculum when my eldest finishes this level of RS.

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