Friday, February 19, 2010

Be a Part of History: World Math Day and Guiness Book of World Records!


World Math Day is free and lots of FUN!

Join us in a celebration of numbers as students from
around the globe unite in their quest to set a world record in answering mental arithmetic questions. Be a part of this great education event involving more than 2 million students from over 200 countries.

It's Free and Fun!

• Brand NEW format.

• World Math Day is the education event for the world!

• Your students will love it! Be part of setting a world record!

• It will create an amazing buzz around Math

• Designed for all ages and ability levels. Simple to register and participate. All you need is internet access.

• Great prizes

• And it’s absolutely free!!

HURRY, registration closes March 2nd 2010

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Wow! Our Forefathers Cut Their Teeth on Ray's Arithmetic!

Looking at the sad state of public education today, it isn’t any wonder to those of us that homeschool WHY we chose to homeschool. Certainly the lack of quality and content with the rise of value-based education had some sort of influence on your decision to home educate, (although I don’t presume it is the only reason for that decision). The American school system was not always such a squandering, time-waster that prepared kids to feel good about themselves no matter how poorly they performed (everyone gets a trophy!!!).

There was a time when American’s had the best education in the world. Standards were high and morals were higher. From approximately 1865 to 1916 everyone used the same textbook for math, reading, grammar and science.

“So why did the United States stop using them? It is a sad story: After WWI, John Dewey, the head of the Teachers College at Columbia University launched an all-out campaign to "reform" education. Dewey was a humanist, a socialist, and an atheist. He saw the McGuffey Readers and the entire EES as threats - they emphasize patriotism, traditional values, and the Bible. Dewey believed, in his own words, that public schools should be the "State established church." Dewey viciously attacked the textbooks of the day as "antiquated" and he was able to successfully bring about their demise, as well as the demise of quality public education.”

The above quote is brought to you by Dollar Homeschool Company. They are enabling homeschoolers of today to have the textbooks of yesterday. They sent me a free copy of Ray’s Arithmetic to review from the original Eclectic Education Series that early American's used in their one room schoolhouses.

I have seen McGuffey's Readers, and even had a copy of one of the Readers at some point during my early homeschooling years. I remember how charming, how innocent, how “non-fluff” they were. Yet, also challenging! I had not heard of Ray’s Arithmetic, however, until I received my copy from Dollar Homeschool Company.

Here’s my dilemma: I see the benefit of this rigorous curriculum, I see the lack of intensity that is often present in modern day curricula, and I really appreciate the availability of this material once again. However, if you are not a math-minded sort (which I definitely am not!), I cannot imagine the structure of this math curricula giving you anything but stress.

I feel like the hunter that kills Bambi’s dad saying this; but there’s just no way I could use Ray’s Arithmetic. There are absolutely no visual cues, and it is written much like verses in the Bible. I have never seen math problems in paragraph form until now. Rather than problems separated by space, there are just problems written one after the other for the entire lesson. Although there are directions to use counters such as beans or marbles (in arithmetic, for example), there are not any examples for students to refer to. This would just drive me crazy, as a student or an adult!

I so appreciate what Dollar Homeschool Company is trying to do by bringing back Ray’s Arithmetic, but I also think they may be wise to consider a revised version, in which examples are added and space is provided to have a visual “rest” between problems. Being a visual learner, I would really struggle to do the curriculum as is.

That said, I realize that we are all not alike in our mental wiring. There are probably plenty of you that would see the great potential in this style of textbook and method of learning. After all, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” right? Well, the American education system certainly wasn’t broke before Mr. Dewey came along with his “bright” ideas. I guess I would have figured it out or flunked out as a child back in the day when Ray’s Arithmetic was the only way to do things! I know I would have just adapted in that time period, but I must say I am thankful that I have other choices now.

I will say that if you have a love for all things yesteryear, you should at least give a look to the charming material that Dollar Homeschool carries. The McGuffey’s series is easy to use and has beautiful, old fashioned illustrations as well as providing a solid English foundation. There’s grammar, history and science as well, all at exceptional prices. Ray’s Arithmetic is a phenomenal bargain, giving you the entire collection of textbooks: that’s 12 core textbooks, plus teacher’s manuals, as well as other interesting math texts, such as Surveying and Navigation and Bookkeeping all on one CD for just $59! You couldn’t touch that price for anything similar. Even if it is just for curiosities sake, to peek at what our forefathers used to learn their subjects, I hope you will take a look at the website by clicking here. It is always interesting, to me, to see how other people think and how different we all are in the way that we learn. It will at least give you an appreciation for all the wonderful curriculum choices we have today, and perhaps persuade you to take a stab at the curricula of yesterday, too!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Math Score Takes Your Child to the Next Level, and the Next, and the Next...

Where were all of these math programs when I was struggling through math as a child? Ok, if you want to get technical, I am old. At least too old to have had access to computers for more than learning DOS, and there certainly WASN’T an internet when I was in school. So, I guess that explains it; I’m old. I need to get over it, I suppose.
I have been homeschooling for13 years now and I can see a huge difference in what is being offered in the math realm for students in more recent years, as opposed to the choices even five years ago. Homeschooling parents no longer need to be a math whiz to make one out of their students. With programs like Math Score, kids can move ahead at their own pace, concentrate on topics that make them frustrated, practice on a huge variety of subjects, and all the while parents can sit back and watch the results (or at least read about them in the handy reports that are emailed to you!).
So, what is Math Score? It is a completely internet based math site that requires zero installation on your computer. No software to malfunction or become dated when you buy a new computer. It was designed by some braniacs from MIT, which automatically means (to me) that they must have designed a pretty sweet website and thought of everything!  I think that seems quite likely as some of the topics are so specific, it never would have occurred to me (a non-braniac, NOT from MIT) to set up practice for some of these functions.
For example, there’s practice for things such as tally and pictographs (not sure what that is), odd or even theory (I know the odd and even part...not so sure about the theory), using parentheses (who doesn’t need more practice with that?!), Perimeter and Area of Composite Figures (huh?), and even batting averages! Wow, and that’s just a smidgeon of the topics that Math Score will give your students, from 1st grade through Algebra 1, the ability to practice. Of course, there are loads of the usuals to work through as well. In grade 6, for instance, there are 86 different things to choose from!
If you have read many of my reviews, you know I can get overwhelmed by having almost too much information and choices to wade through. I do feel a bit like that when I get on the website, but that is mostly due to my own wiring. And although there’s much to take in on Math Score, it is arranged very logically and there are links to help you learn to navigate and understand what you are looking at. 
My daughters jumped in with ease, taking assessments and getting started on the worksheets. My 6th grader really loved racing against the timer, and then trying again to  beat her last score. Each worksheet is generated right then, so there is never the same set of problems, and the software is intelligent enough to adjust the level of difficulty to your students progress. Within each topic are different levels, beginning with the basics of that subject and moving on to more complex problems. To move up a notch you must get a certain score, showing mastery in the basics before moving on. By the time all of the levels are complete, you can be fairly certain your child knows that topic!
Parents, you will receive frequent email updates from Math Score (or you can log in and check anytime) that show your child’s progress, what they have mastered, what they are working through and what may need some intervention if they just aren’t showing any grasp or cognizance in a certain area.
Furthermore, there is detailed information for you to know exactly when and for how long your student worked on each subject. Even beyond that, you will see actual working time on the subject in addition to the time logged in; in this way you can see the fruitful time spent learning the subject, not just time logged on but potentially goofing off. I told you they thought of everything!
Although it seems that Math Score is marketed more for serious math practice and skill building, most likely used with other curriculum, it would not be a stretch to see this site used exclusively as a math curriculum as well. With sample problems and step by step solutions, most subjects could likely be grasped through the support offered on each topic. In fact, if you explore the parent section of their website, you can read how Math Score is working in just such a way for homeschooling families.
Of course, one nice thing about the internet based programs is that they usually offer a free trial, so you can really see whether their product will meet your needs. You can check Math Score for yourself, as well as sign up for a free trial by clicking here. If you like what you see, a membership costs just $9.95 per month for the first student, $5.00 for the second and $3.95 for each additional child. I would encourage you to peruse the site and just read up on the information given to see all that is offered by purchasing Math Score. I feel smarter just looking at it!

Math Tutor...Affordable and Specialized Math Help!

Ahhh, Math! Just the sound of the me hives and sends me into a panic-- especially if I am supposed to teach it!!! Thankfully, there are more and more homeschooling math products available to help those mathematically challenged mother’s like myself!
I would say, that beyond being intimidated by math in general, I find word problems especially troubling, particularly when they get just a wee bit complex. It is rather humbling to help your child through a problem only to arrive at the wrong answer! 
Recently Math Tutor sent me a couple of DVD’s to review and one of them just happened to be “The Basic Math Word Problem Tutor.” In this set of 2 DVD’s, Jason Gibson walks math students through 8 hours of word problem instruction. (Oh glee! Pop some popcorn and put that baby in the player! LOL) From the most basic of word problems (addition) through much more complex calculations such as dividing fractions or decimals, Mr. Gibson leads the students step by step through each word problem. 
Since the DVD is divided into chapters for word problems using a certain math function, the DVD can easily be used as a resource that is specific to a problem (“I don’t understand when I am supposed to subtract...”) or can be used systematically to build in complexity through the course of a school year. (In other words, it isn’t intended to be used all at once! Put the popcorn back...).
This video is definitely not a high-tech media blitz. However, such graphics really aren’t needed. It is a lot like being in a classroom, with the teacher at the front of the room explaining things on the white board. (Ok, in my day, it would have been a chalk board!). No bells and whistles here, just straightforward explanations from an easy to listen to math teacher. 
After a short explanation of the terms and what hints within a problem to look for, Mr. Gibson jumps in, reading a word problem (which is also shown on the screen), and solving it on the white board. He does a good job of walking students through the different steps and explaining what is necessary to structure the problem correctly. He then solves the problem (with neat handwriting). It would be a good idea to have your child write down and solve the problems along with Jason Gibson. It would have been nice to be able to print out the problems in each section and give kids the choice to try some of them as they go along and become more comfortable with these sort of problems.
The only other suggestions I would have for future DVD’s (assuming that Mr. Gibson will read this, be struck by my genius, and incorporate it next time), is to write the “keywords” on the board, as he calls them out, giving a visual child (like me) an extra advantage by getting to see his hints. For instance, if keywords such as “altogether”, “the sum”, and “how many in all” are clues that the problem is addition, then take a moment to write those on the board as they are explained, letting the visual learner take it in via the best manner possible.
Furthermore, it would be my recommendation to have a small music stand or podium nearby for Mr. Gibson to place his notes and pages of problems that he is working from. I found the way he waved the pages around as he talked a bit distracting (did I mention that I am visual?).
However, those are small items that don’t take much away from the big picture of leading kids through the toil of word problems. Truly, this is a most important concept to be grasped in math, since it parallels the sort of math problems we all use in day to day life.
The other DVD that was sent to me was sweet, delightful and lovely to watch. “Young Minds, Numbers and Counting” is geared toward the preschooler that is just learning their numbers. However, this video was not the parental-torture trap that many DVD’s can be for this age group! Set to beautiful classical music, and using vivid nature photos and video clips, the DVD takes its time exploring the beauty of creation while identifying “how many” things are in the particular photo/video. 
The quality of each image is National Geographic-good. A clear and innocent child’s voice counts and identifies objects for the viewer. The pace is slow and leisurely, giving time to soak up the beauty and concept. No wonder this DVD has won several awards including a DR. TOY award for one of the top 10 Audio/Visual products. There are also some simple games/puzzles included in the bonus material of this DVD that reinforce the concepts, such as dot to dots that are solved while counting from 1 to 10.
“Basic Math Word Problems” sells for $26.99, (Strangely, I cannot find anything on the website about the "Young Minds DVD. I will contact the company and update this blog when I get the info-- sorry!) If there are other math subjects that stump you or your child, there are MANY other Math Tutor videos on a wide range of subjects, including advance math, carried on the Math Tutor website. You can even watch samples of the DVDs to get a feel for how they work. Check out all of the helpful products by clicking here

At the Intersection of Creation and Evolution: A Dream

The alliterating story below is based on a dream I had several years ago. Please contact me for permission to reproduce.

Darkness devours me.

I am enveloped in emptiness.

Are my eyes open or are they closed? I strain against this shroud of night and still see nothing.

What is this place?

An image illuminates in front of me. A large, leafy tree streaks past and vanishes.

It deserts me to the darkness again.

In a moment, more images appear. A rapid succession of snapshots and thoughts clamor before my eyes and mingle in my mind.

I see seedlings. Several supple shoots have emerged before me and then swiftly stream away.

“The first trees on earth were not seedlings”, my mind observes. “They were not created as small insignificant saplings.”

That thought is rapidly replaced with a vision of a man.

He’s maybe 30; he is muscular and needs to shave.

He fades away.

In his place I see an infant.

A tiny bundle of pink skin upon a soft blanket flickers briefly in my brain.

“Man was created with age,” is the next statement I hear. “Adam did not begin his life as a baby, he began as a grown man.”

The voice seems like my own.

The thoughts do not.

Reeling before me now is a blur of rivers, forests, mountains and even layers of the earth. It is like a movie rushing rapidly before my retina.

The soundtrack of this epic is proclaiming a peculiarly plain concept:

“The earth was created with age. Creation and evolution are not in total opposition. There is a reason that science finds the earth to be quite old: it was made that way.”

Thoughts continue to tumble through my mind; pictures parade before me. I listen in amazement to what seems to be puzzlingly profound and yet rather apparent all at once.

“Adam was created as an adult. Trees and plants were made fully grown.”

I suddenly feel quite certain that, if I were to chop down some of the trees that had been spoken into existence, I would find a range of rings running through their trunks.

“The earth was brought to life with age built into it… just like Adam. He did not begin life as an infant. The earth came into being with what it would need to sustain the life that was created. It was old when it was young. The world was
made with maturity; it was also produced with purpose.”

These thoughts are thrilling. Why had I not seen this before? It seems so simple. Obtusely obvious. Had others not observed this correlation? If they had, why wasn’t it being candidly conveyed?

In the span of thirty seconds I have been ravaged by a radical revelation. I feel the weight of its worth resting on me; it is tantamount to tangible.

I am neither a theologian nor am I a scientist. I don’t claim that the ethics of evolution are completely compatible with the Bible’s account of creation. But certainly Science can come concurrent to creation and affirm our faith with facts.

Of course, the Omnipotent Originator of the Universe is exceedingly elusive to what our mind could ever envision. Above what science could ever extensively elucidate.

Accordingly, creation is confounding too. Each diverse discovery deems it more marvelous to grasp. Many scientists have reluctantly relented to the theory of Intelligent Design.

That’s why, alongside those facts, we also need faith.

Lying inexplicably at the intersection of those two essential elements is an exceptional endowment: the intermittent insight of our dreams.