This week my daughter and I are submerged in a muddy bog of math.
We home school, and she's enrolled in a terrific charter school, so we have access to curriculum, classes and activities to supplement her learning.
Saxon Math is a great curriculum, and she's learned a lot so far. But it does give her brain quite a work-out.
Every student probably asks the question, "Why do I have to learn this stuff? I'll never use it!"
It's taking her hours to get through her lessons now. Partly attributed to a D.R.A. (Dirty Rotten Attitude) on her part, and partly to time-consuming busy work (long division and the like). So I e-mailed her E.C. (Education Coordinator):
"My bubbly, sweet teen is turning into a bit of a grouch, and this mom is not far behind if we don't do something to help her. When is it justifiable to let the students use a calculator? I want her to learn the concepts and how to work through them--not just learn how to use a calculator to do the work for her."
But, why math? It is a legitimate question, especially in this modern world with machines and technology to accomplish what used to require hours of manual labor. And who cares how far the kids riding the Gravitron at the fair will travel as they spin in a chamber 30 feet in diameter, going around 30 times in one ride?
My husband used to sit in speech class as a long-haired, bell-bottomed teen, and say, "I'll never use this."
Little did he know that within a short decade he'd be teaching young people and preparing for the pastorate.
Our kids don't know what the future holds for them.
But besides that, this is what the author, Stephen Hake, says about his and John Saxon's math curriculum...
"We study mathematics because of its importance to our lives... As you work through the pages, you will see that similar problems are presented over and over again. Solving each problem day after day is the secret to success... With honest effort, you will experience success and true learning that will stay with you and serve you well in the future...
"...teach the way your child learns best--step-by-step... each new skill builds on those already taught, daily reviews of earlier material increase understanding, and frequent, cumulative assessments ensure that your child masters each skill before new ones are added..."
(In adult life math is a valuable part of everyday activities: measuring to lay tile, cut and apply wallpaper, build a piece of furniture and in the kitchen; when traveling abroad, trading U.S. currency for foreign, or planning a trip and figuring how long, how far, how much gas and money it will take, for instance.)
At the beginning of this year, she still didn't know all her multiplication facts, but now she does. This is why:
"With incremental development, topics are developed in small steps spread over time. One facet of a concept is taught and practiced before the next facet is introduced. Both facets are then practiced together until it is time for the third to be introduced... This approach gives students the time to develop a deeper understanding of concepts and how to apply them...
"Mathematics is not difficult. Mathematics is just different, and time is the elixir that turns things different into things familiar."
These principles are valuable in every aspect of our lives. Doing right things over and over again, with someone knowledgeable in that area to guide us, helps us to learn, grow and develop good habits that will produce strength of character, as in being disciplined, responsible, honest, etc. These strengths will build strong families, communities, and a strong nation and world... Citizens who are not a burden to society, but a benefit.
Why math? These are a few good reasons to keep at it.