I have a confession to make. Math is not my thing. Actually, to be more precise, numbers give me hives.
I hate balancing a budget, would rather get a root canal than think about taxes, and have probably paid more for an item because I didn’t take the time to calculate the real savings. (I know. *gasp* Aren’t you ashamed of me?)
All kidding aside, God designed every one of us differently. I am gifted in many ways, but math is just not one He picked for me.
Let me tell you a little story. It dates way back to prehistoric days when I was in college (ok, not really prehistoric, but that’s what my kids think). Because of my AP and CLEP credits earned in high school, I had to jump right into higher level math my freshman year. The dreaded CALCULUS was the only option (picture gnashing of teeth).
I went to class and paid attention to every word the professor uttered. I took notes. I studied every single night. But calculus felt like swimming in quicksand with metal buckets around your ankles. I started doing poorly on tests and saw my perfect 4.0 GPA going down the tubes.
So I did what any sensible college girl would do. I bought a tub of ice cream and cried as I confessed my inadequacies to my college roommate. As God would have it, said roommate had decided to get a math minor (unknown to me at the time) and was delighted to spend extra time helping me stay away from the failing grades and the tubs of ice cream.
I learned something huge that year: Never be afraid to seek the help you need to succeed.
Fast forward 20 something years and I’ll tell you a secret. Math is still not my friend. I’d rather write a 5 million word essay or dissect a cadaver after lunch than work an algebra problem. But when I need to do math, I can… because I didn’t give up and I got the help I needed.
Which brings me to the topic of math and homeschooling. It’s a common reality that sometimes KIDS struggle with math and sometimes PARENTS struggle with math. Sometimes it’s BOTH!
So is there a math curriculum to help moms who may have cried during their calculus (or even algebra) exam? Isn’t there something that will make both the student and teacher smile (even if they feel a little reluctant)?
I thought you’d never ask. Let me introduce you to my secret recipe for homeschool math success: Teaching Textbooks.
First, let me mention that I laid out a step-by-step math plan here in case you missed that post. It goes from K-12 and focuses on the skills and tools you need at each level. The goal of this post isn’t to cover that, but to specifically feature our most beloved curriculum for 3rd grade and up: Teaching Textbooks. (If you need curriculum under 3rd grade, you’ll find suggestions in that other post.)
I’ll just let the cat out of the bag and tell you right now that Teaching Textbooks is more than just a secret recipe, it’s a lifeline in our homeschool.
Top 10 Reasons We LOVE Teaching Textbooks 3.0
The lessons are short and easy to understand
So often a math curriculum will have really long lessons and an even longer list of practice problems. Teaching Textbooks is intentional about keeping lessons short for young attention spans, which is a huge win in our home. In fact, most days math takes less than 20 minutes from start to finish.
Encourages independent learning
Perhaps the most important factor in curriculum around our house is its ability to teach my kids without requiring me to clone myself or create a time machine to add more hours to the day. I’m always on the look out for resources that assume independent learning as a priority. Teaching Textbooks is the perfect fit for this. It’s easy for kids to navigate and the computer does all of the teaching, freeing up mom to tackle the other 947 items on her list.
No reading required
The program reads every question out loud, making math about MATH instead of forcing kids to jump the hurdle of having good reading skills to understand math problems. This is a huge plus for struggling readers and kids with special needs. I think it’s a welcome break for kids who don’t struggle with reading, too. My oldest is a fantastic reader, but math is a sore spot for her. Being able to listen saves some brain space to focus on the more difficult task of math.
Each lesson is interactive and engaging, providing guided practice
This is a huge feature. Kids can’t really “tune out” during the lesson because it’s constantly inviting them to type in and interact. There are several practice problems worked DURING the lesson and then a few before it starts grading them. We are also fond of the buddies and wallpaper selections that make the experience personalized and fun.
During the lesson, if the child gets an answer wrong, they can see how to do the problem immediately (instead of doing the whole page like that). Also, most problems allow 2 tries to help students rethink the answer. Since math really should be about mastery, this is a wonderful feature to have as it enables kids to make sure they understand.
As the parent, you can see if they viewed the solution when they got the problem wrong (a requirement in my home). You can also see how many times they attempted the problem.
Offers review in every lesson
Perhaps the most important feature of any math program is review of what has already been taught. If kids don’t practice the things they learn, they won’t remember how to do the problems later. Teaching Textbooks mixes the perfect amount of review into each lesson. They also list the lesson it was first taught in, just in case students need to go back and review that lesson for help.
All assignments can be reset
As a homeschool mom, my job is to monitor and supervise my child’s education. I love that Teaching Textbooks allows me to reset lessons, tests, and even problems when I’d like my child to review or rework them. Especially as my kids get older, this feature is invaluable for mastery of each topic. When I see a grade below expectation, it gives us the opportunity to revisit what we may have missed before it’s too late.
Self-grading lessons and tests
Yes, you can really throw out the red pen, because Teaching Textbooks does all of the grading for you! (Can you hear me shouting amen from over there?) We first started using Teaching Textbooks many years ago because of this one factor. I couldn’t keep up with grading 3 different math lessons each day and I was dropping the ball. Teaching Textbooks was literally a lifeline for this busy mom!
Now with 3.0 I can do it all from one computer with the click of a button. (Can you tell I’m in love with this upgrade?)
Reasonable number of lessons
I love that Teaching Textbooks doesn’t have 180 lessons (one for each school day). This allows us plenty of time for field trips and other learning experiences without feeling tied down to a math book that demands completion. Most levels have between 120-140 lessons, and to be honest, that’s more than enough to master the concepts!
Works on any computer
Since we’re long time users of Teaching Textbooks, I’ll be the first to admit we’ve lost data from a computer crash. We loved the curriculum so much, we just worked around the reality that computers are fickle. We always had to be careful to print or save grade books often, just in case the unexpected happened. But those days are over with 3.0. Released just this year, 3.0 is completely online. Data will never be lost again. Plus… students can log in from the basement, work on a laptop, and even take math on vacation to Hawaii. (Be sure to bring me if you’re going to Hawaii, ok? Haha) This is such a blessing for us since we are on the road much of the spring and always feel the pressure to finish math before we go.
A few hacks for making Teaching Textbooks the perfect secret weapon for math
Like any curriculum, you’ll have to make tweaks to fit it in with the unique needs of your family, of course. You might also want to consider a few of these hacks we’ve learned over the years.
Hold your students accountable for the lessons and their grades.
Almost every time a parent has negative things to say about Teaching Textbooks it’s because they are not properly monitoring the program as a parent. I hate to step on your toes, but monitoring is YOUR job in the homeschool. It doesn’t matter what you use to teach your kids, you’ve got to help them be accountable!
We use the Student Record and Planner to help us check off assignments each day. As a part of that process, grades are written down next to the lesson numbers. This helps everyone know that they will be held accountable for doing the lesson and for the score they get. We also use the assessment graph in the planner to help us identify any potential drops in grade.
Have a math notebook.
Math has to be written down. If your kids are anything like mine, they will avoid this unless you make them. You could just use scrap paper each day to complete assignments, but we prefer to have a math notebook. The 10 cent variety is perfect. As an added bonus, let your child pick something “cool.” Every little bit helps when it comes to building up enthusiasm for school, right?
Use Xtramath to build rock solid math facts.
Another common issue with math programs in general is math fact practice. It’s essential to learning math, but often not the focus of our efforts. I suggest using a program like Xtramath.com to help build that rock solid foundation. It requires a LOT of repetitive practice. While there are great apps out there and countless games, Xtramath remembers your student and tests them only where they need it most. Just a few minutes a day goes a long way!
Throw out the chair (if you need to).
If you have an active child who struggles to sit through the math lesson, don’t make him/her! Throw out the chair. Ok, not literally, but you get the idea. Who says you have to sit while doing school work? You learn just as much (maybe even more for the active kids) when you stand or move around.
Did someone say FREE trial?
The first thing you are going to want to do is RUN (not walk) over to Teaching Textbooks and sign up for a FREE TRIAL. This enables you to go through lesson 15 of ANY and EVERY level of their math program. You don’t have to enter a credit card or remember to come back and cancel it. It’s truly a FREE trial. (Oh, and there is no expiration date either.)
It’s the perfect way to get your feet wet and see why we love this program so much.
Then come back here and tell me what you think? Has your family used Teaching Textbooks? What is your favorite feature?