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Need a Hand with Math?

  |   Charlotte Mason Mondays, Curriculum, Language Arts, Teaching Elementary School   |   No comment

need help teaching mathAlthough Epi Kardia doesn’t sell  math curricula, we have taught a lot of math over the years! Someone recently asked me what math curriculum I would recommend, and I hesitated answering because it seems as though there is a new program out every week! Whichever program you choose to use, here are a few ideas about  teaching math effectively, some living book recommendations on mathematical topics, as well as a few fantastic free resources you will not want to miss!

Charlotte Mason on Math

The practical value of arithmetic to persons in every class of life goes without remark. But the use of the study in practical life is the least of its uses. The chief value of arithmetic, like that of the higher mathematics, lies in the training it affords the reasoning powers, and in the habits of insight, readiness, accuracy, intellectual truthfulness it engenders.


Charlotte Mason advocated lots more talking about how we use arithmetic and math in our daily lives, rather than just making our students work endless problems. (Our modern equivalent to her slate is our worksheet.)  We must help our children connect arithmetic with real life situations. Cooking, measuring, telling time, traveling, buying groceries and even just cutting pizza are all routine activities perfect for incorporating ‘math’ conversations – and don’t forget to combine living books with your math study!

(Incidentally, my children have always had a miraculous ability with math when it comes to figuring out how to divide any dessert into an equal number of pieces so no one receives more than anyone else.)

Help Your Students See Math

We recommend a program that emphasizes mastery of concepts, beginning with manipulative use in the primary years for hands-on learning. It takes children a while to connect numbers with concepts. We know that the number 3 stands for three items, but young children need to learn this, and they aren’t all ready to grasp this concept at the same age.  Using buttons, toothpicks (be careful if you have littler ones around!), soup cans, M&Ms, blocks, or any other smaller objects can be extremely helpful in helping your child understand what numbers mean.  Especially as your child begins to learn arithmetic operations, it is very helpful to use manipulatives to illustrate problems. Continuing the use of manipulatives past the primary years is helpful for many students.

Another way to help your students see math is through making mini-books.  If you are not familiar with those, reading this post might help.  This photo below is a math fact mini-book we made.  These are ‘mini matchbooks’  in Dinah Zike-speak.  🙂  The math fact questions are on the outside and you lift the flap and look inside for the answer.

math mini-book 2Making mini-books helps children with different learning styles as they are colorful, kinesthetic and provide a fun way to review.  My sweet friend Jimmie found this fantastic free resource: Dinah Zike’s Teaching Mathematics with Foldables. All of you Epi Kardia users have at least one Dinah Zike title in your library, I am sure, so you will be as delighted as I was to be able to download this 102 page tool for free!  Thank you, Jimmie!

One of the best things you can do for your children, especially if they tend to be more spatial in the way they learn, is to help them see the patterns in arithmetic.  One way to do this is encourage them to frequently count by twos, threes, fives, etc.  Additionally, using a one hundred number chart is very useful to help them identify number patterns.

As we approach the end of the school year and move into the summer, it is a beneficial time to review your math facts to get ready for next year.  Memorization of addition and subtraction facts by the end of 2nd grade promotes ease in dealing with 3rd grade concepts.  The same is true for memorization of multiplication and division facts by the end of 3rd grade in preparation for 4th – if your children are ready, of course. Gently practicing math facts throughout the summer is a helpful strategy for most elementary aged students!

Study Math through Living Books

Don’t forget to incorporate living books into your study of arithmetic and mathematics!  Reading about the real people behind the math helps bring it alive, as Charlotte Mason relates:

How interesting Arithmetic and Geometry might be if we gave a short history of their principal theorems, if the child were meant to be present at the labours of a Pythagoras, a Plato, a Euclid, or in modern times, of a Descartes, a Pascal, or a Leibnitz. Great theories instead of being lifeless and anonymous abstractions would become living human truths each with its own history like a statue by Michael Angelo or like a painting by Raphael.”


For the child that thinks she ‘hates’ math, letting her read as part of the math lesson might really help her learn to enjoy it more.  Here are some of our favorite living books with mathematical themes – check them out by clicking on the images.

Do you have any particular books that you would like to add that helped your students with understanding mathematical concepts?  If so, please leave the title(s) in our comments section below!  Thanks!

Blessings on your math studies!

Image credit:  title photo by Simon Howden via freedigitalphotos.net

No Comments
  • Tricia (Hodgepodgemom) | Apr 27, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    The apple fractions book caught my eye! Fractions have driven us to distraction lately. Thanks for the practical advice.

  • Jamie | Apr 27, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    Good inspiration here, so thanks for posting. I am wanting to incorporate more living math, but particularly having a difficult time with my teen daughter.
    .-= Jamie´s last blog ..CM Blog Carnival =-.

  • Debra | Apr 20, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    What a great post. The more I read on this site the more I like it. Simple, straightforward advice and it works.

  • Dana | Apr 20, 2010 at 10:17 am

    Thanks, Jimmie, for clarifying – I agree that manipulatives are very helpful as long as possible for math studies. Thanks for the additional book title as well; I will certainly check it out!

  • Jimmie | Apr 19, 2010 at 10:35 pm

    Dana, You’re so welcome!
    We really enjoyed The Great Number Rumble as an introduction to a living math approach. And I want to add that using manipulatives does not need to stop once children are in intermediate or even middle grades. Hands-on sometimes has the connotation of being juvenile and a crutch. That is simply not true. How do you and I best learn something? By reading directions or by DOING it ourselves? Of course by doing. So hands-on is an ongoing approach.

  • Tweets that mention Epi Kardia » Blog Archive » Need a Hand with Math? -- Topsy.com | Apr 19, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by dana_wilson, Mo Spell. Mo Spell said: RT @dana_wilson: Do you need a hand teaching math? Some #Charlotte Mason inspired #homeschooling tips! http://tinyurl.com/y2fh9mt […]

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