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# What do you want in a curriculum?

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On to the point of this email: I want pre-feedback. I’m starting to write up some curriculum, suitable for use at home. My target age is 2nd-6th graders. The working titles is How Numbers Work: Divisibility, Primes, and Mods. I’m hoping to end up with a useful, motivated, engaging, and rigorous mathematical curriculum for homeschoolers or young students who are languishing in school. Also, there will be lots of games. And possibly video.

In an effort for it to be as useful as possible, I’d like you to solicit comments in advance. If you’re a parent or teacher with a kid in this age group, what would be the most helpful? Do you want a curriculum written for you, or for your child, or both?

1. Stephanie O

My oldest son is 7, and we’re currently using a mix of Math Without Words and Primary Grade Challenge Math as our primary math curriculum. He loves reading The Number Devil, and we have a variety of “math readers” around.

My current plan (which seems to be working pretty well) is to use the puzzles to motivate my son to *want* to learn to add/subtract/multiply/divide. I haven’t really shown him the standard algorithms yet – most of the problems we do are with easy or small numbers so we can do the math in our heads. When there’s a tougher bit of arithmetic, I’ll work it out on paper, talking as I go to let him know a bit of what’s going on. He’s already talking about wanting to know his times tables to make some of the solving easier. (Woo hoo!) Even though he’s young, we deal with decimals, fractions, percents, negative numbers, and simple algebraic equations as they’re needed by the problems we’re solving.

I was always “good at math” in school, but more in the “I know how to push the numbers around to get the right answers” way than in the “I love math” way. I’m actually having fun with it this time around, so I love curriculum that engages me as well as my son. The “working title” sounds fun!

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2. Jason Buell

I would go with an incredibly small amount of ridiculously good problems. You can use Avery’s definition if you want. But the thing that always frustrates me with math textbooks is that they’d rather give you 50 of the same problem (but the numbers are changed!) rather than 1 really juicy problem that you can work with over and over again from various angles and variations. You think you’ve beaten it into submission and then someone looks at the problem, and adjusts it slightly with, “What if …..?” and you’re off again. These are really hard to identify, much less write. And I realize there’s a certain amount of “thickness” required in a book for it to sell to schools, but that’s my Santa’s wish.

3. Denise

“My current plan (which seems to be working pretty well) is to use the puzzles to motivate my son to *want* to learn…”

This is what I would love to see, too! I know lots of puzzles, but they are such a jumble in my mind that I am often unable to pull the applicable one out at math time. And I have a lot more in the books on my shelves, but there they primarily gather dust. I don’t know of any resource that puts interesting puzzles together in such a way as to motivate the curriculum. Usually they are just treated as an optional add-on, when really they should be the heart of the matter.

[Correction to the above: I have seen a couple attempts at puzzle-based teaching, just not at the elementary level. In fact, both of them are outside the standard curriculum. Howard Jacobs created a puzzle-based math program in Mathematics: A Human Endeavor, but it assumes mastery of elementary arithmetic and at least a little algebra/geometry. And Problem Solving Through Recreational Mathematics is fun, too.]

4. Avery

I would love to see more more more more on habits of mind. Specifically, a reference that can help teach students how to create, critique, and explore their own interesting questions. There’s something somewhere about a man and fishing and eating for life that might be relavent. ðŸ™‚

1. Stephanie O

If this were posted on Facebook, I’d “like” it. ðŸ™‚ Instead, I’ll have to actually type a few words to say that this is an idea worth exploring!

I need a math curriculum that is 1.) play/exploration-based, and 2.) does not require a teacher who is mathematical. I am sadly stunted from my own math schooling and thus can only recently look at numbers without getting shallow breathing. I am committed to not passing on my math aversion to my kids.
We used the Math U See curriculum for a while. It was pretty good in that it used a number of ways to teach math concepts, (creative explanations, visual, manipulatives) but still based in repetition and worksheets and we stopped using it when my kid argued about doing it. What I liked about it was the DVDs that taught the parent how to talk about math. For me that was helpful. I always worry that my teaching methods are doing more harm than good.
Anymore, we just try to talk about math concepts that we encounter in life, but honestly I am ill-equipped to do a good enough job at this.
Cooking, legos, and board games are about all we have right now. My 10 year old is taking up Dungeons and Dragons, so I am hopeful that there will be opportunity there.
I have been trying to get some other folks who are interested in math teaching to start a math lab sort of thing where homeschoolers could get together and do math play together, with facilitation from someone who knows more than I do.
Your curriculum is something I would be most definitely interested in. I have not found one I could live with yet.

6. Dorothea Steinke

I notice that the working title for your materials is HOW NUMBERS WORK.

I have copyrighted math materials with the same title.

Please check the Library of Congress copyright registration list for another name that is not already in use. Thank you.