Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Our New Math Curriculum has Arrived!

FYI- This post is long and detailed...you have been warned. :)

Over the last year or so I have read hundreds of reviews on various math programs for homeschoolers. Of course, they all include those who love it and those who were not impressed. It really comes down to personal preference and what your goals are for your children. Also, it is important to realize that there is no perfect curriculum and the success of any curriculum one chooses depends a lot on how it is implemented.
I finally decided on Shiller Math. It is a Montessori based program developed by Larry Shiller ( MIT math graduate) and edited by Montessori experts at the Princeton Center for Teacher Education, a nationally renowned Montessori teachers training institute.
Here are some things I like about Shiller Math:
Shiller Math is Montessori based.
ThreeStep Approach similar to the Montessori three phase lesson.
"This is..."
"Show me..."
"What is..."
This method scaffolds learning by allowing the child to build on prior knowledge and internalize new information. When the child completes all three steps the parent can be confident the child understands the information.
Children are introduced to the decimal system and learn to be comfortable with and use large numbers very early on.
Math concepts are introduced from concrete to abstract using a spiral approach.
Shiller Math addresses all learning styles.
Kinesthetic - gross motor movement, stimulating the muscle neurons and enhancing blood chemistry

Visual - looking at pictures, finding patterns in shape, size, and color
Auditory - listening to music, stimulating the auditory portion of the brain
Tactile - working with manipulatives, stimulating the neurons of the hands and fingers
Writing - using fine motor skills in a more abstract way, when developmentally appropriate
Mental - thinking using only the mind, once a concept is understood.
Everything is included in the kit.
I have already learned over the last two months of "formal" homeschooling that I NEED everything laid out for me. It needs to be easy to grab what I need without a lot of prep work. Shiller math provides for this through their all-inclusive kits. All of the manipulatives and the scripted lesson books are packaged as a together. They claim there is ZERO Preparation time and that works great for me.
So What's in the Box?
When I opened the box, everything was neatly packaged and labeled. (This is a view from above looking into the box.)

This is the decimal material.

These are all the other manipulatives included in Kit 1 (Ages 4-8)

And now unpacked, you can get a better view.

This is the workmat we do our lessons on. (Another Montessori aspect of the program.) It unfolds to a pretty good size work space.

Completed work binder.

The lesson books and answer guides are all spiral bound and printed in an attractive four-color format.

I hope this post helps anyone who is considering Shiller Math and was not toooo boring for anyone else who may be reading.
Oh yes...I also wanted to note...I am not a math person. I always struggled in math and never thought I was very good at it through school. In college I faced my fears and passed college Algebra with an "A" after taking quite a few remedial classes beforehand. However, I do not intend to pass on this trait to my children. I do think it was a learned phobia. If I would have been taught math in a way that required true understanding of the concepts being presented, I think it would have greatly benefited me.
Stan on the other hand is great at math...always has been. He has helped me through my struggles and never made me feel stupid for my sub-standard math skills. He has been interested in Montessori math methods for some time now as I have showed him many Montessori materials and lessons online and in books/catalogs. He is impressed so far with the curriculum and spent some time looking through the lesson books. He already told Amelia he wants to teach some lessons too!

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