Living maths has always appealed to me, but I have never been confident enough to do it long term. I did, however, take Lillie off the traditional maths she was obviously struggling with (and very behind in) and we did living maths for a year together, starting from the very beginning. I was completely surprised when, not only did she catch up but she also surpassed the level she ‘should’ have been at and is now about a year ahead, having worked her way through half of the maths IGCSE curriculum.
That said, I have three older children, none of whom enjoy maths. Lillie enjoys it when she understands, Thomas does it willingly and is a fairly strong mathematician, but still does not love it, and Charlotte outright hates it! I found this interesting and wondered if I would maybe have the courage to take the little ones off their curriculum and focus only on playing with maths. A8, I think, could be quite good with numbers, but she was beginning to groan each time she did a maths lesson, and B6 had already decided months ago that she did not see the point to maths.
Then I came up with a brain wave. What if I could have it both ways – use a specific curriculum so I could be confident of learning the right stuff, but also spend most of our maths time playing. We already owned Life of Fred maths and I had used it with my older ones but never as their main curriculum. I wondered if maybe the Life of Fred books could be my core but that I use them alongside lots of hands on, practical, ‘living’ maths, with the goal of making maths fun but most of all relevant.
What is Life of Fred Maths?
Life of Fred is a literature based curriculum, which on the surface, looks like it doesn’t have enough actual maths in it to be a full and complete scheme of learning. The author claims it has more maths than the average maths curriculum, and when you look a bit deeper you realise this is true. What it doesn’t have is lots and lots of problems to solve, certainly in the younger years. But isn’t that what children dislike about traditional methods of teaching maths? Mine certainly do.
I took Apples, the first book in the series, and wrote down everything it covered. Based on a lesson a day the book would be completed easily within a month, and seemed to have far less than the girls’ normal maths, Conquer Maths. However, I could see the potential for using the maths contained in Apples and playing with it so that the girls could learn principals to apply universally.
This will constitute the girls’ main learning. My goal is to work with the two girls together, helping B6 when she needs it. Her concentration is so much better than A8’s that I do feel that working together will work fairly well.
Each week I will look over the next five lessons in the current Life of Fred book and jot down what I want them to learn and ideas for hands on activities and journaling activities. I will be using the book below for ideas for mini books and the such, which the girls will use to key word their learning:
Their journals will contain their journal pages, a folder with any cardboard resources I find (such as a days of the week book mark to help B6 learn to spell the days of the week, or any printable maths games), the answers to the Life of Fred questions and a sheet containing the Problem of the Week (see below)
I will be transforming the area where my office is situated into a maths center. So far I have brought in the girls’ table and chairs, cleared the wall space and the white board as well as emptying the shelving unit for all our maths supplies:
Problem of the Week
I will be setting one harder, multiple stage problem each week, to see if they can apply what they are learning in a broader context. I will want to see their working out and am happy for them to use any method to work out the answer, the more creative the better!
The problem of the week will be based on their cultural studies, so they will be using what they are learning across the board of their homeschool.
At the end of each week there will be a reward for them both. If only one is able to work it out, she has to explain to her sister how she did it, until they are both able to understand and receive the reward. Either they both receive it or neither receive it. I am hoping this will encourage them to work together as a team, and share their knowledge and understanding together.
The problem will be written up on our white board and a space left for the girls to play around with ideas:
Living Maths Situations
As well as taking the opportunities for number work in real life situations, I will also be setting up situations which will mirror life but have controllable variables, such as the shop in which everything cost 1p, 2p, 3p, 4p, 5p, 6p and 7p (all the addends of 7):
As you can see, I roped the older ones into helping 🙂 The littles then took it in turn to be the shop keeper or shopper, had great fun working out how much their stuff cost and working out change. For each round the shopper was given 7p to spend, although they didn’t have to spend it all….
The Littles as shoppers:
Paying for their goods:
A as cashier:
B as cashier:
Working out change:
This was a great way for them to fully internalise the number bonds of 7 (Life of Fred Apple book covers this set of bonds).
I have other ideas as well but I haven’t fully developed them yet, but will share if successful.
So far (we have only been at it a week) the girls have ADORED this way of doing maths and keep asking for just one more lesson! The proof of the pudding will, of course, be how enthusiastic they are a few months in. I will be posting about each Life of Fred book as I complete it with the girls.
Other Living Maths posts