I’m not a math person. While I did pretty well in math during my school years, I had to really apply myself to get decent grades.
Fast forward to our decision to begin homeschooling: I would wake up in the middle of the night in a panic with the realization that I would actually have to teach math! Addition, counting by 5’s, the distributive property – these were things I thought I could handle fairly well. On the other hand, I was petrified that when it came time for me to teach algebra (and beyond) I would be standing at the white board spitting out “Well… uh… uh… see, it’s like this. What I mean to say, is uh…. um…” Twenty years plus after suffering through Miss Wright’s class, I could now easily understand algebra, but could I explain it?
So when our oldest started pre-algebra, I began to break out in hives. Up to this point in our homeschooling, we’d been using Math-U-See, and were fairly happy with it overall. But son #1 was beginning to become bored with it . And when school ceased to interest him, well, let’s just say… I had a very grumpy, unwilling student (read: child) on my hands. He thrives on mental challenge. So we switched to a different math curriculum. That went about as well as feeding him a bowl of cold brusselsprouts. For algebra then, we found yet another curriculum. It was an improvement for our son, but for me, it was still a nail-biting teaching experience. When he had questions about certain concepts, I had difficulty explaining them easily and to his satisfaction. We called my uncle, a former high school math teacher, on more than one occasion to fully illuminate the concepts I just couldn’t get across. In fact, we sent son #1 to my uncle for a week in preparation for his entrance exams into private school. He did quite well on those exams, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d be breaking out into hives in another few years.
Luckily, I had those couple years before our next child was ready for any algebraic study. I began to do something I’m very good at – research. I spent hours upon hours on the internet investigating all sorts of math curriculum. Singapore Math, Indian Math, Aleks, VideoText, Thinkwell Math, you name it, I looked at it. In depth.
By the time our next oldest was ready for pre-algebra, we chose curriculum that we thought would be the best for him, and the most affordable for us as well. It… didn’t work out so well. My son developed a major math anxiety, which is exactly what we were hoping to prevent.
It was back to the drawing board for us, because my daughter, who was a grade behind son #2, and dyslexic to boot, was already fighting Math-U-See. I couldn’t see using either of the pre-algebra curriculum used by her brothers for her. By sheer chance, on a message board, I came upon the relatively new Teaching Textbooks math curriculum. Since they had sample lectures, problems, and solutions, as well as downloadable placement tests on their site, I felt I was able to look at it thoroughly. It was almost even better than looking at it at at a curriculum fair. It’s kind of expensive, but we decided to suck it up and order their algebra program. And their pre-algebra for our daughter.
Best move we’ve ever made.
On occasion, my kids will call me over to ask a question. Usually, I can stutter through the answer, but if I can’t, they can always pop in the solutions cd and watch a step-by-step explanation of their homework and/or test problems. But that’s usually never an issue, because 9 times out of 10 they understand what they’re doing. And their tests back it up. I don’t think either child has ever scored less than an 87% on any of their tests. Beyond that, when they’ve done their end of the year tests (Stanford or Iowa), they’ve scored above the 90th percentile in the mathematics sections. So yeah, I’m pretty happy with Teaching Textbooks.
Math anxiety is long gone at our house.