My 3 school aged children and I are all sitting around the table. Each of them has their separate level math lesson out. I am trying to explain to Faith (5) how to do her problems when Grace (9) interrupts with a problem she can’t solve. Meanwhile Ben (7) is basically sitting and playing with his pencil. Apparently he can only focus when mom is looking at him. Strange.
To solve this problem, I tried teaching each of them separate math lessons each day. At half hour lessons, we were doing just math for 90 minutes. Or, I was anyway. I only have a 2 hour window to do homeschool toddler free. And it felt so…inefficient.
That’s when I started trying out Family Math.
What is Family Math?
Family math is learning math altogether. I have 5 children, 3 of whom are school aged. I do family math with those 3 ages 5-9 (sometimes the toddler joins in too). My 5 year old is “behind” and can’t count to 5 and my 9 year old is gifted. So, the gap between them is more significant than 4 years.
And yet we do math together.
Why would I do that? What follows are the benefits I have found in learning math as a family.
One Lesson=One Prep Time=One hour (or less) of Instruction
I prepare one lesson a day for all 3 students, instead of 3 lessons per day. This saves so much prep time a week. Once I have all 5 children to be school aged–I will save even more time.
During the school day, the time saving continues. I can spend about 15-60 minutes on math with my 3 children learning math together. Normally it’s only 15 minutes. 15 minutes! If I were doing individual lessons, it would be minimum of 45 minutes a day.
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Students have a Chance to Work Together
My students don’t always take that chance, but it’s always there. Since the students are all working on the same problem, they have a chance to ask each other questions and brain storm the best way to solve the problem.
Since having started family math, I’ve noticed an increase in my students helping each other outside of math. They are more aware of others needs and thoughts. They still fight or pick on each other, they are normal children after all, but it seems less than it used to be.
Students See Different Ways to Solve Problems
Before having had kids, I didn’t realize how differently kids from the same family would think. It’s amazing to me, watching my students solve problems and realizing how differently we all solved it.
As my students grow, they will not have the expectation that there is only one way to solve a problem (how the book/teacher does it) because they will have all of the memories of sharing their work with their siblings.
Students Take on a Teacher Role
One of the most important elements of family math is the discussion. Students are given the opportunity to explain their work and reasoning behind it.
It’s nice to be able to sit back and watch them teach each other.
Students Grow in Other Areas, Not Just Math
While the main goal is to grow mathematically, there are other ways students grow.
Patience–listening to the 5 year old show how she counted oranges requires a lot of patience for my 9 year old.
Explaining–Students practice being able to explain their thinking mathematically, but that transfers to other areas of their life as well.
Asking polite questions–They are learning that it’s kind of rude to point out someone else’s mistakes by yelling, “You’re wrong!”. Instead they are learning to ask questions like, “How did you get your answer?”
Accepting correction from not just mom–Students teach each other and learn to learn from each other too, even a younger sibling.
A Different Role for the Teacher (A.K.A. You)
When I teach skills based math (this is how you add double digit numbers) I easily get frustrated if there is a lack of progress. I get hung up on my checklist and have a hard time thinking about my learner and what they need.
When leading a family math lesson, my role is to keep them on task and encourage their learning.
This feels so freeing to not be worried about the checklist.
We All Enjoy Math More
I feel less stressed.
The kids are interested in solving problems.
Has it solved all of my problems? No, it brought different problems. But sometimes, different is good.
I am just starting out on this journey of learning together. For some examples of lessons I have used altogether visit:
Halloween Place Value Games for Family Math
Thank you for reading. If you were inspired, please share!
What do you think of this Family Math idea? Comment below.