# To delay formal math instruction or not?

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I've been thinking about this question lately, and am wondering what others thoughts and experience have been. I have so far leaned heavily towards delaying formal math instruction until about 3rd grade, or age 8. This was based on my reading of educational and child development literature, including Raymond Moore and Jane Healy, and also on my own experience growing up. By delaying formal math I do not mean delaying exposure and instruction in math concepts, but that these are learned in a more natural way through use and discovery rather than through textbooks and worksheets.

Here's how this worked in my family growing up: my mother kept us home from school until we were 8, on the theory that the formal educational system was both unnecessary and inappropriate for young children (she had been a teacher before having kids). She filled the house with books and music and building blocks and math manipulatives like cuisinaire rods and pattern blocks--but she did very little in the way of formal instruction. Both my parents read to us, we took violin and piano and gymnastics lessons, and we helped run the small family farm we lived on.

Since I'm interested particularly in discussing math, I will share my own experience with that: I learned in those early years to see numbers and number operations as an integral part of life. I never struggled with the concept of fractions because we used them all the time in cooking. Addition and subtraction and place value I understood through handling money while helping with our roadside produce stand--by the time I was 8 I had not trouble adding up a customer's purchases and making change for them (we didn't use a cash register). I particularly remember how excited I was when I figured out what multiplication was--that when someone said "eight times five" they meant eight fives, and I could figure out that was forty. I started school in third grade a few months after turning 8, and breezed through the concepts I had never been taught (such as the algorithm for multiple digit addition with regrouping). I had the sense from fairly early on that my approach to school and learning was different from most of the kids in my classes--I expected to look at a problem and figure it out, while they expected to be told how to do it.

I have so far followed a similar approach with my own children, although I badly miss the family farm experience. I have tried to make up for that by more conscientious exploration of mathematical concepts--we use cuisinaire rods, base ten blocks, pattern blocks, balance scales, and games to explore math. I started my 8 year old on formal math this year using Math Mammoth 2B, then moving to 3A (actually, we tried a couple of other programs first, but Math Mammoth proved to be the best at helping her work past her anxiety and perfectionism--things she has struggled with since she was tiny). Dd8 is doing well--she understands and applies the concepts and very rarely makes mistakes (and when she does it is usually because she mis-read the problem).

So if what I have done so-far is working, why am I posting? Mostly because I am I can't help wondering if another approach would work even better. There are so many good programs available for younger kids that teach math conceptually--I hear people sing the praises of Miquon, Right Start, MEP, Singapore and Math Mammoth and what a great foundation they lay. I can see with my 8 year old, for example, that more experience working with addition/subtraction within 20 would have made the work she is doing this year easier. Also, I worry that I won't have the time to keep up with all the Mommy-facilitated math exploration we have been doing with my youngers as I have more school-age children to direct. It might be better to have a program to work through to keep us on track.

At the same time, I am afraid of losing the joy of mathematical discovery and the feeling that it is an integral part of our lives rather than a subject we study every day. I felt like that was such an important part of my own development.

Really I just want to hear other people's thoughts and experiences related to this subject.

:bigear:

Sarah

Edited by thegardener
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Here's an article you might find interesting.

We delayed formal math, but not purposely. It was just that when we started hsing back in the early 80s, many of the products that hsers use today had not yet been published; either that or there just wasn't yet a way to network information and so I didn't know about them.

Both dds aced two years of college algebra and statistics; I'm okay with not having worked on math for 12 years before then. :)

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Here's an article you might find interesting.

We delayed formal math, but not purposely. It was just that when we started hsing back in the early 80s, many of the products that hsers use today had not yet been published; either that or there just wasn't yet a way to network information and so I didn't know about them.

Both dds aced two years of college algebra and statistics; I'm okay with not having worked on math for 12 years before then. :)

I've seen that article before but don't think I've ever read all the way through it. I'll have to give it a go.

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Anyone else want to chime in? I was hoping for more input. I go around and around in circles in my own mind, it's nice to get other people's perspectives!

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I guess my thinking is that this:

I have tried to make up for that by more conscientious exploration of mathematical concepts--we use cuisinaire rods, base ten blocks, pattern blocks, balance scales, and games to explore math.

isn't really "delaying formal math instruction." From what I've seen, that is what most formal math programs do for young kids- gives them a framework to conscientiously explore the concepts using the same kinds of manipulatives. My dd is using Saxon K, and we do much the same thing. A formal program just gives you more structure so that it's easier to build on things you've already taught.

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You might pick up Miquon and flip through it. The teacher's materials can be found rather inexpensively. There is still plenty of "aha moments" facilitated by Miquon.

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