Princess’ Math Story; Why we’re switching to Teaching Textbooks.

Last year Princess used Switched on Schoolhouse for 5th grade. We used it because it was passed on to us, it’s what we had, and we wanted to try it out. We had high hopes for it, really.

Princess began the year using all the S.O.S. subjects except for math, because she wasn’t yet ready for it. Instead, she began the year with a Saxon 5/4 book (also free and given to us.) She had used Saxon for two years, so math that year was pretty much like math every other year. I gave her about 5 minutes of instruction introducing the new concept and having her work out a few examples. Then I set her about her lesson and suddenly e v e r y t h i n g s l o w e d d o w n…

Princess had the most amazing knack for dragging out a lesson as long as possible. I had already identified that (like her Daddy and her uncle when they were younger) she was bored with it. I had already adjusted for that by skipping easy lessons she already knew, combining two simple lessons into one short lecture and having her do the problem set for the 2nd, and having her to only half the problems. Still, she tortuously dragged herself through each lesson.

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I feel the need to clarify that even though we combined lessons together and only had her do half the problems, she really did understand the material. That’s never been a problem for her. If you asked her how to do this or that, she would tell you. But once you put the lesson in front of her, she began to get mixed up. She repeatedly added when she was supposed to subtract and all sorts of things. She would overall pass each assignment but not without a handful of silly mistakes. So it’s not like she couldn’t do it, it’s more like she wasn’t fluent with it. And just scraping by isn’t good enough for me; if she’s not quite there 100%, I want to help her get there.

It was when I was researching math options for Drama Queen that I learned/realized that Saxon math simply may not be structured the same way her right brain thinks. She may be able to muddle her way through it, but there may be options out there that she responds to better. It was at that point that I looked at the SOS math that we already had, saw how the material was grouped with only two or three concepts in each unit, saw that the material began at the same point that she was at in the Saxon 5/4 book and realized that she could transition from one to the other without missing any material at all. So we took the leap and we did it!

I will say this: as far as the organization of the material goes, Switched on Schoolhouse was better for Princess than the Saxon 5/4. That much is true. On the other hand, one of the big bonuses of SOS is supposed to be the student independence, as they read the lessons on their own. For Princess, this is less of a bonus and more of a con. Though she was able to handle that for the other subjects, reading her math lesson would really weigh her down. By the time she got to math problems she was already checking out mentally. I did try to be more involved so she didn’t have to be so independent with it, but I finally got to the point where I thought, “this is really not the best way to be doing math; it doesn’t have to be like this.”

Math is non-negotiable. It must be done. But it does not have to be sheer torture, I’m sure of it.

I began to remember Teaching Textbooks. I’d looked over their curriculum before. Several times. But then we used Saxon because we had it and it was free. And then we used SOS because we had it and it was free. But I keep coming back to Teaching Textbooks. I’m drawn to it!

Another computer-based curriculum, Princess and I have done several of the demo lessons online and we both like it. The lecture is animated, with both audio and video instruction, which will definitely appeal to Princess’ learning style. (Though, truly, having both I think it will appeal to any learning style.) As an added bonus the lectures are short, about five minutes or so, but thorough not lacking. And if that weren’t enough the lecture also involves student feedback, asking questions for the student to answer, having them try a practice problem.. the same way a teacher would. It’s like having a tutor sit in front of your child rather than a textbook.

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The lessons weren’t too long either. Most of the lessons in the demonstrations had less than 20 math problems. And last but not least, I’ve looked over the table of contents and the way the material is organized also seems to be more like SOS with an entire chapter covering concepts that go together. You can also order a physical workbook (which we did, for all the reasons they listed on their website.)

Teaching Textbooks really seems like the answer to our math problem. (Snicker at the pun.) I’ve talked to a lot of homeschool moms who use it and it comes very highly recommended. It’s expensive (the most I’ve ever spent on one subject for one grade!!) but we’ll be able to reuse it with subsequent children–which we should be able to do with no problem since it accommodates a wide range of learning styles. For Princess, the lecture style and lesson style both seem ideal for her so she should actually be able to do this *truly* independently. And that’s an added bonus for her because that’s an area that she needs to grow in, not to mention that I need her to do some things independently while I teach her younger siblings!

Our Teaching Textbooks are scheduled to arrive later today. (I don’t know about Princess but I’m excited.) I’m looking forward to giving it a go, and really hoping that this makes a big difference in our school day as far as math is concerned. After we’ve gotten our feet wet with it, I’ll check back in and let you know how it’s going… we’re committing to seeing this through to the very last lesson. Looking ahead, I’m really hoping we love it because they offer curriculum all the way through Pre-Calculus — and a program of this nature is definitely going to come in handy with higher math!

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October 6, 2010 1:54 pm

Thanks for sharing the story of your math switch. We’re taking note. – Ryan from Alpha Omega Publications

October 6, 2010 1:55 pm

That comment doesn’t look very friendly now that I look at it 🙂 All I meant to say is that we really value your feedback and we’re listening! – Ryan

October 6, 2010 2:42 pm

LOL! Thanks, Ryan. =)

October 8, 2010 1:13 pm

You might want to check out the Life of Fred math series some time. It’s particularly effective for right brain learners but still keeps the math instruction at a strong and challenging level.

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