Different Math for Different Kids

I love Singapore Math, AKA Primary Mathematics. I love the mastery approach and the way the material is presented and I anticipate I’ll keep using it for all of my kids.

However, I am learning that my math-minded 7 year old and my up-and-coming kindergartner thrive with very different approaches to math.

The Math-Minded 7 Year Old

She has always had an innate number sense. Things like 3 + 5 = 8, therefore 5 + 3 = 8 have come nearly instantly. She had a solid grasp on fractions, base 10 values up to a thousand, addition, subtraction, multiplication and division before we even started a math curriculum.

I started her on Singapore 1A textbook and workbook, adding Singapore Intensive Practice when I discovered it down the road. I also added Singapore Challenging Word Problems, just the extra challenging ones in each section.

This girl thrives on a challenge and loves to have her mind blown. She is patient with drill work, but her eyes really light up when you take a simple concept and then take a huge leap past it and show her the possibilities.

Example: When I taught her to “carry” when adding on paper, as soon as she thoroughly understood it (~10 minutes), I told her she could then do any addition problem and I wrote down something like 2349283944 + 102972767 on a piece of paper. She immediately leaped out of her chair, started chewing on a pencil and several minutes later proudly showed the answer to her dad and started a new problem she made up herself.

Sometimes in the middle of the pencil chewing stage there can be tears of frustration as she’s wrestling with a big concept, but then the triumph of reaching the answer is even greater.

For this school year, I really started looking for ways to broaden and challenge her application of math skills and I came across a perfect fit: Beast Academy. The samples online were enough to sell me on them completely and I haven’t been disappointed.

We bought all the Level 3 workbooks and Mackenzie and I are both delighted with them. They present material in truly creative and mind-stretching ways and she eats it up. So she’s now doing Singapore Math and Beast Academy. I have her do one complete concept from each and then switch to the other, and I’ve scaled back her Singapore to focus more on Intensive Practice than on the workbook. I don’t think we’ll get through a whole level in one year anymore, but she’s sure learning a ton and enjoying her 30 minutes of math every day.

The Up-And-Coming Kindergartner

This girl is a polar opposite from her sister in so many, many ways. With math, their brains are just wired differently.

My littler girl does much better having things taught in tiny steps. If I go too fast, she’ll let me know by completely checking out. 🙂

She is a great little memorizer, which can mask a lack of conceptual understanding if I’m not observant.

She does best when repetition of the same skills builds her confidence.

Instead of starting her on Singapore 1A, we are taking as much time as she needs to focus on “Number Sense”. I used the second half of this book, (purchased back when it was a less expensive eBook) to help her visualize numbers without counting. E.g. I’m holding 7 fingers up, because 5 and 2 makes 7. I have 3 fingers hiding because 10 is 7 and 3.

We play a simple math game every day, either from that book or from this excellent game book from RightStart. I bought both the book and the cards/manipulatives for a steal of a deal on HomeschoolClassified.com.

She’s learning the concepts of odd and even, how to use an abacus (there are some great videos here), more base 10 savvy, and the concepts of addition and subtraction with simple games we do each day.

I anticipate starting her on Singapore Math like her older sister when her number sense is developed further, but I’ll be choosing a pace that allows for plenty of confidence-building practice for each skill along the way. I think we’ll also continue to include the abacus, more manipulatives, and more games than I did with her older sister.

Khan Academy Example

If you’re familiar with Khan Academy, here is one more illustration of my kids’ different approaches to math. My older daughter loves to jump in and take a Mastery Challenge so she can see new concepts and find something fun to learn about. My younger daughter prefers to start at the first concept she hasn’t yet mastered and do it again and again and again and again. 🙂


About beanland

Scott is a family practice doctor and Anne is a full-time mother and teacher to three beautiful girls and one boy.
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