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Hi, so there is a woman in one of my online groups I've gotten to know a bit and I have sort of followed her social media with some jealousy. They are radical unschoolers and are always in nature and doing cool things and going cool places. Anyway, she and I were chatting via messenger when she mentions her soon to be sixth grader HAS NEVER DONE MATH. I nearly spit my coffee out all over the screen. There is part of me that is so entrenched in certain ideas about education that I cannot wrap my mind around it at all. The child sort of naturally learned how to add and subtract just by doing things, and the child knows a lot about measuring, because she is an avid sewer who makes her own clothes. That's it though. Never picked up a math book. No arithmetic. ZERO. I asked about fractions and percents because it seems like you'd need that for clothes to fit right, and the mom said she does a bit of guesstimation and understands simple fractions like half and third, etc. 

Why am I sharing this? Two reasons, one, the mom has asked for help, and two, I think it'll be interesting to see the progress of this child. Her other children just eventually gravitated towards an interest in Arithmetic, and she worked with them, sans curricula, according to what they needed to know via a lot of oral math and math with c-rods and stuff. One of her older kids became interested enough to self-teach lower level Algebra and Geometry. Otherwise, her kids are all free spirit types, attempting to move out into the world in crafty and artsy careers. This child though shows not one iota of interest and the Mom is beginning to worry. She's asked for advice and ideas. I'm not an unschooler, I don't even have any idea how that works. I tend to be eclectic but a user of curriculum and we are basically a mom-led and organized homeschool.

First, what would you tell her? I want to be nice and not dwell on the "I can't believe you didn't make your kids do math" thing. She's given me a lot of helpful wisdom and advice in parenting and schooling over the years. The mom has said this child is an exceptional reader, consumes a lot of high quality literature, reads a lot of nonfiction regarding animals and their care, various sewing manuals, and a ton of things about clothes and fashion design. She is also interested in art and architecture and spends a lot of time in their local museum in the portrait and abstracts galleries. They have all been natural spellers, and picked up most of their grammar through usage and good lit. I don't have any reason to suspect (at this point) that the girl is anything other than neurotypical. Is there anything to tell the mom to consider besides pick up a textbook and get to it? I was thinking of recommending Strayer-Upton.

Second, as I sat here thinking about this, I wondered what I would do if I found myself in charge of a middle schooler with no Math at all under their belt. I don't know if there is anything like a one or two year long basic arithmetic course. I'm wondering if there is some kind of comprehensive Arithmetic that just takes all of what you'd teach a kid normally stretched out over 6 or 7 years and puts it into an all-in-one course. I guess I'd have to find a adult text or something. Does anyone here know of something like this?

I am really freaked out by this. I don't know why. I guess I feel like it is a mistake, to not have certain age kids learn certain things whether they want to or not. But if it is, then I guess I'd want someone to be gentle with me as I learned from my mistake and decided to change. What do you guys think?

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Math Mammoth sells their math by grade level and by topic--she might check out the topical math series and see where she thinks her daughter would fit.

She could get a lot of mileage out of c-rods if she wanted to go for something like Education Unboxed and then place her daughter in MM. MM also has a lot of measuring and geometry that might attract interest if her daughter likes architecture. 

I think if she's wondering how to push more when she hasn't before, I would treat this as getting a cavity taking care of, but maybe put a more positive spin on it--the child has avoided math, and it's going to hurt her in the long-run if she doesn't pick up some skills. They're going for the least painful solution possible to get the job done. 

 

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If she is an avid reader, encourage her to read The Phantom Tollbooth and Number Devil, as they might help inspire an interest in math concepts.  Also the book series by Danica McKeller, starting with Math Doesn't Suck, is a good overview of math concepts.  For a one year cover of elementary arithmetic that isn't a huge textbook, I would suggest Mastering Essential Math Skills book 1.  It's one worksheet a day and since mom can fill in the missing pieces of instruction it could get the job done without being overwhelming. 

 

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I WISH I had the guts to wait until 6th grade for math. 🙂  There are actually quite a few benefits to waiting a bit. Strayer-Upton is good, and cheap, as long as you know not to do every practice problem. The practice banks are huge.

Learn Math Fast is perfect for start-to-finish, accelerated, thorough math for older students who want a complete math education in just a couple years.

Strayer-Upton has more story-problems and review; Learn Math Fast has the best explanations.

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It's shocking to hear when someone does something so unusual compared to what we're used to.

But, actually, there are some interesting arguments for saying that arithmetic study SHOULD BE delayed until around grade 6.  Whether that's the final answer, who knows.  It's not what I chose, we did do math earlier.  But...there's something to be said for delaying it, so at least when you're talking with her about it, allow that it could well be a really great choice, not a completely lunatic one.

And, the child has done math, just not formally-instructed math.  It will be interesting to see if she does do formal math at this point, whether the child shoots ahead in it and grasps it all easily...

As to unschooling and how this would fit in, if the child is very interested in architecture, math is a natural association to that. Angles, geometry, areas, volumes, heights, quantities, weights...architects need quite a bit of math.

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If she is committed to radical unschooling, then she needs to consult with "her people" on this topic.  Just to preserve your friendship, I would really ask her if she is willing to compromise her educational philosophy that she has followed successfully with all her other children.  (Radical unschoolers tend to be a bit prickly in my experience.)   

On 7/6/2020 at 11:18 AM, bevwdi said:

Second, as I sat here thinking about this, I wondered what I would do if I found myself in charge of a middle schooler with no Math at all under their belt. 

 

Since you didn't follow her path, it will be difficult for you to advise her anyway, except to describe your own path and what positive and negative  outcomes you personally experienced.   Be honest with your friend on this point.  She will be better served by asking parents who have had this sort of situation.  There are parents on this board I suspect who have.  If she is ready to look at other approaches to teaching math, she might want to join this board and ask herself.  

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On 7/6/2020 at 11:18 AM, bevwdi said:

I want to be nice and not dwell on the "I can't believe you didn't make your kids do math" thing.

 

Not making your kids do math is very typical for radical unschoolers.  I can believe it.  

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  • 1 month later...
On 8/17/2020 at 3:33 PM, Servant4Christ said:

Sorry, I don't mean to hijack. I'm just really curious about this one but cannot find much info about it for younger students. Would this work well for an elementary age kid who just wants to get it done?

 

Yes, with the caveat that there is no review. I have found when I use it with a younger student that I need to back up a bit at the beginning of the schoolyear to refresh their memory.

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