Thursday, December 3, 2009

Math Learning~ Sequence Charts and Concept Charts the MOTL Way~



I wanted to share a bit more about our Math Program we use in our home learning~ the other day the subject came up about Concept Charts and Sequence Charts on the MOTL yahoo group I belong to.

I really think it was a good question, and wanted to write a bit more about this here since I consider MOTL an important part of our math learning at home and the reason why we have been so successful in math at home.

For those who have not heard about Math on the Level (MOTL) you can learn much more about it from the direct website found here.

For others who are using MOTL here are a few thoughts I have about this program regarding the sequence charts and concept charts from MOTL ~

When I was first looking at MOTL I knew this was something that could work for my boys who dreaded math. (5 problems or so a day practicing concepts that have already been taught, while slowly teaching a new concept as needed from the teaching books)

This is a math program like no other program I have seen to date, there are no workbooks, no drilling, unless you make up drilling sheets for your child.

My boys really hated math, so I needed to find some way to teach something they hated and actually help them understand that at some point math "can" be fun.

My two needs right away for our math was to find something that didn't do alot of boring drilling and also something that moved along once a learner knew the concept. I began using a program and a workbook and only did certain problems then we began skipping concepts in the book after I saw they mastered something... eventually I found that by doing this I was wasting time and wasting money that could be better spent in other places for their learning.

I searched all over for a scope and sequence for our math learning... once it was written up, I quickly found that my boys were all over the map with their abilities in math.. at all different grades and concepts that really did not fit many of the scope and sequences I was finding... while still considering MOTL I researched on-line various math sites and made up my own sequence chart according to topics and every once in a while comparing it to our state GLE's (grade level expectations).

This was a ton of work and I felt as though I was writing my own math program (which in fact I kind of was~ ). As I joined the MOTL yahoo group and learned more and more about this program I began to see this would be it for us~ or at the very least our math foundation.

I started out using the sequence chart that Carlita (MOTL author) has for new MOTL users- I was never so relieved to have gotten this "recommended" sequence chart. I supppose it gave me a starting place to where I needed my boys to be. I went through the chart and hi-lited everything they had already mastered and from there I knew what concepts to begin at.. I was also able to see some wholes so I could very easily incorporate those into the new concepts every week or so.

There is also the Concept Chart with I also filled out at the same time. This is quite different from the recommended sequence chart because the concept chart follows along with the teaching books according to each topic/concept.

I have found recently since we have been doing MOTL for over a year now that I no longer need to follow the sequence chart~ it helped me gain confidence in my math teaching and is a great guide but I now will use the concept chart since I allow my children to s-t-r-e-t-c-h their math knowledge while I am teaching new concepts.. if they and I both feel they can understand a further step in a problem or concept further into a particular topic we go there and this has inspired them and me with our math learning. Many times my youngest's eyes will light up at learning something new and being able to try his ability at something that, well might not have been tried, if we were following a program or a particular sequence chart.

It has completely changed my teaching style and has helped my boys become quite confident in their abilities as well~ while working on math we tend to work as a team~

When I get stuck my son comes to the rescue... when he gets stuck I come to the rescue.. etc... it works so well. I don't seem like the "knowing all" teacher they are used to and they even laugh at some of the things I forget! lol It also helps my sons because they feel a bit more confident in their abilities going ahead and "helping out" when needed... it is mostly how I teach many subjects. I guess they feel they are not being lectured at.. they hated that at school it is more "ok, lets see about working on this today"- perspectives have shifted and math seems more of a challenge or puzzle than a dreaded daily chore. Something I honestly never thought I would see. One other thing that MOTL has really taught me is how to "see" math both in books and in everyday life. It has given me a kind of awareness as to what to look for in math programs and even possibly other areas of learning that can benefit my boys.

We are eclectic in our math learning, while consistent with topics we now use a few different things for our math learning~ MOTL has taught me to do this- we had gone back to a workbook which the boys openly welcomed on days when we travel or just want to do fun puzzles for our math- they like Horizons it is very colorful and fun, but we do not do EVERY problem, those days are gone~ :) We also use math readers which each learner has assigned to read.. that is reading/age level appropriate. :)

Some more thoughts;
Even in math we need to remain "mindful" of our childrens learning styles and strengths. This can play a big part in how we choose programs for teaching our children, HOW we teach are children and also WHAT we teach our children and WHEN. Being boxed in by a particular program doesn't work for many learners and there are many signs of this in our schools and also in homeschooling as well.

Learners who say they are "bored" or how this is "stupid" or procrastinate with homework or lose worksheets are all signs that something really may not be working. Math anxiety can build to a point where a child cringes at even looking at a page of math problems. This will not help them later on in their adult life or will help them while attempting to learn now.

There was something I heard recently while watching a book interview on C-Span- it was talking about teachers and schools and their efforts and also included homeschoolers as well~ "all the effort in the world will not matter if the end results are not there". This really made such sense to me... we put SO much effort in all these particular programs in our schools and in our homeschooling but in the end the results are what matter - considering this makes me understand how our efforts can be unsuccessful unless we see things for what they are~ I started thinking, could this mean that it is better to open our minds and our hearts if something isnt quite working top place our efforts in other areas? only then may we start to see successful results.

Math where a child has to do problems over and over and over again IS overkill, in my opinion... many doctors and educators recommend that topics be repeated and the repetition is very helpful, which I also agree with, but the way I see it, one or two practice problems on a concept is much more efficient for the learner and creates a much greater "intensity" for focus on than 10 or 20 problems. I feel it is better to have two problems correct and the understanding there than to have 8 out of 20 problems correct, why? it all comes back to the learner and how they feel about their abilities, it is that simple~

Math learning has become just that for us in our home learning - simple.

Happy Math Learning in your own homes ~

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