Friday, November 6, 2009

Math on the Level

If you've been reading a while, then you probably know that we left behind Horizons Math for the more relaxed Math on the Level. My plan had been to switch to a living math approach and finding Math on the Level was a terrific bonus because it is perfect support for doing just that. We purchased the whole package which includes the items in the picture below in August and I've been working with it since then.

I want to qualify before going on that Math on the Level is not for everyone. If you are not a person who likes to sit and work together with your students on problems and activities or if you don't like having math as something you need to facilitate, then this is not the program for your family.

I had two goals in mind when I made the switch. First, my kinestetic (big word for people who like to manipulate things with their hands) daughter, R9 really could not handle one more workbook page out of the Horizons program. It wasn't that she was not capable of the work or didn't know her stuff. Quite to the contrary, she is an excellent math student who just does not thrive in drill and kill land. E11 likes his math laid out so it's full speed ahead. However, he is enjoying the challenges that are coming his way with the new approach.

The second goal is to engage my children in their math studies rather than have them just fill in the workbook pages. When I first noticed that R9 was not doing well with this method, I purposed to do a full lesson with her using the teacher's manual. Unfortunately, to do this with three other kids means doing it three times at three different levels. It was cumbersome and not easy to follow through on. As a result, it was easier to inform the kids of the page they were to do today and let them get on with it.

So, I made the bold decision to abandon the workbooks and to look for math in our everyday experiences, in our unit studies, and in our many math resources. I've shared some of those with you along the way, but not so much about Math on the Level particularly.

Being a somewhat structured person and given the fact that I am not innately a math scholar (no laughing Dad!), I wanted some guidelines on important concepts and in general some support for this new journey I'd decided to undertake.

For the most part, we have a daily math experience of some sort whether it be cooking together, calculating the velocity of a marble, or simply graphing something from our unit studies. Then the kids do a 5-A-Day sheet which I make from the Math on the Level resources. The idea is that I rotate in and out skills that the kids need to work on and those that they have mastered. Below are some examples of a 5-A-Day sheet for each student. Each day the student is only required to do 5 problems. I can target the skills that really need work. Sometimes I do that by making a multi-step problem.

In addition to the books relating to the different areas of math, there are three other resources that are very useful. Math Adventures is all about how to use math in the real world and has many ideas of how to introduce those things to your kids. Math Resources talks about graphs, tables and things to use with your student and what kinds of resources they should be able to use. I also really like the record keeping system book from Math on the Level. There is a nice chart you can use to record how your child is achieving with respect to each concept taught. There's even a checklist for young students who are not doing 5-A-Days yet. I like being able to check off the skills I work on with J4 as we play and do preschool.

I will fully admit, this is hard work! However, it is paying off. Math is an adventure we take together. Instead of doing multiple lessons everyday, we work together on a lesson at varying levels depending on what each child is working on. Math on the Level really is about flexibility. The author Carlita Boyles really wants kids to approach math concepts as they are ready to do so- she calls it mental maturation. Do you ever think about something you learned when you were young that you understand so much better now that you are older? This happens with math all the time. There were a lot of things I did in math because I was told that is how it's done. Now that I'm older and teaching my own kids, I get it now! Things that seemed so difficult to me then, make total sense now. I'd rather not take on Calculus again, but it is helpful in explaining things to my kids.

Though it is hard work to make sure I'm prepared for the adventures and to make sure we are mindful to work on areas that need attention while we explore, it has really enriched our math time and we've had a lot of great math journeys together so far this year.

It has been worth the investment of my time and energy to steer our math education in a new direction. In the future, I'm going to be sharing the various lessons and adventures with you. I hope you will join me!


Jimmie said...

I don't have Math on the Level, but I keep looking at it... Great review, BTW. But any type of living math is going to be the same -- quite an investment on mom's part to plan, make and do. (Those games don't make themselves!)
BUT as you said, the pay off is well worth the investment. And another thing is the child's joy. I mean, tears over workbook pages or laughter over Bingo? Is that a hard call to make, REALLY? Sure, Bingo makes me crazy. But hearing her say, "Oh great! It's math time" or "What game do we have for math today?" makes it WORTH it.

Heather said...

Very true Jimmie! Plus MOTL isn't really a curriculum because there is no scope and sequence. It's really a set of concepts to make sure you teach and it gives you ideas, but it doesn't say in what order you teach.

To me it was just a way of having something tangible with me along the way.

That's why unless you are up for doing living math and up for the investment of's not for you!

And if you go boldly into the unknown with math, then really you don't need MOTL at all!

But I like the tips and guidelines and the knowledge that I can track our progress easily.

Tracey said...

Heather, I am glad this is working out so well for you guys.

Joni said...

This looks really good. As a former elementary school teacher, I'm never happy with our math. Right now, my oldest does Horizons and my middle does CLP. They are focused mostly on computation and drill and less on problem solving. This looks like a good choice, but the work scares me a little. I'll be looking really forward to hearing more about this as you go. I tried to find a MOTL booth at our homeschool convention, but no luck.

Thanks for sharing!

Christi said...

Thanks for sharing. Our oldest is a natural math kind of guy. He is really bored with workbooks and is starting to dislike math. I may just have to check this out and give it a go.

Alana said...

Kinewhat??? I just stopped reading at Kinesthetic...

Jk, good review! You rock!

Heather said...

Hahahaha! Alana when I typed that word you KNOW I thought of you friend!!!


Gail in NY said...

Great review Heather. My 6yo just bogged down Friday. I saw it in his eyes. I knew we were going nowhere. Just filling in the pages. Actually by Friday, he wasn't even filling in the pages.....

I am very interested in this curriculum, so I will be following your adventures!

BTW - today we had a blast with Jelly Beans for Sale by Bruce McMillan. He didn't even know he was learning!

Aimee said...

Just got home from a homeschool convention, googled Math on the Level and your blog came up...I know it's been a while since you wrote this post. Do you still use Math on the Level now? thoughts about it now that you have used it a while?