I can’t believe it’s been nearly FIVE years since I wrote this 2-part blog post series on “Seeing Math Differently” and “Doing Math Differently“. Back then, I was on my way out of public school, just embarking on our WonderHere journey, and so very excited to explore what learning without limitations was like. Math was probably my least favorite subject to teach in public school, mostly because the way we were mandated to teach math was boring, and boring learning is definitely not something I wanted to be known for (I explain this more in-depth in the post “Seeing Math Differently“). But in my last year as a public school teacher, I got the opportunity to be in a math leadership co-hort that trained us on inquiry and project based math learning. I was hooked. Turns out… after all those years of the dreaded math hour… math COULD be fun (and relevant and creative and applicable) after all!
Fast forward five years, and it’s so neat to see the kind of math our sweet kids at WonderHere get to do. It’s also encouraging to see that the tips I listed out in the post “Doing Math Differently” still apply:
- Ditch the workbooks.
Back then, I explained that workbooks in and of themselves are not the problem, and can be beneficial for reviewing and reinforcing skills. But when we use workbooks as a springboard for learning, that’s not a super exciting way to start. With WonderHere, workbooks are used as needed, but we find way more exciting and relevant ways to teach math, like projects and game-based curriculum!
- Explore Before Explain / Question Before Tell
This goes back to the fundamental idea we believe in at WonderHere: it’s not our goal as adults to dump all our knowledge into kids’ “empty” brains. Children naturally possess the insight, critical thinking skills, and persistence needed to question the world around them. So, instead of the “stand and deliver” method of lecturing and students copying our methods, at WonderHere we pose inquiries and allow kids to explore math problems and manipulatives before jumping right into “do it this way.”
- Use Alternative Algorithms
Did you know there’s usually more than one way to solve a math problem? In fact, there are usually many ways to solve a math problem. Traditionally, we teach one way and expect all children of all different learning styles and modalities to understand. But alternative algorithms (seriously, check this link out!) help show kids various ways of solving a problem. In our WonderHere classes, we use the Right Start Math Curriculum, which is great at posing different ways of solving math problems through the use of tools like the abacus, the math balance, and a ton of cool games!
- Use REAL WORLD SCENARIOS!
THIS! Out of all the tips I wrote five years ago, this is THE ONE. What is math if it is not applicable to the real world? How many kids, as early as second grade and the way through high school, start to dread math because of how completely irrelevant it is to their lives? At WonderHere, we have always prioritized making math interesting and applicable to life, and we’ve done so with our originally created WonderHere Math Projects. By summer 2021, we will have created FIFTEEN thematic six-week math projects, ranging from themes like Taking acre of Business (Economics focused) to Hazmat(h) (Environmental studies focused) to World War Math (World History focused). Our students love these projects, and get lots of fun, real-world learning through them.
It’s humbling and exciting to see that what Tiffany and I (and now our amazing team of teachers) set out to do five years ago has come to fruition! If math is frustrating for your kids – whether you homeschool or support their at-school learning – know that there is another way. Math CAN be done differently.