Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Mental math

Many years ago when my math-loving uncle was so kindly and patiently helping me through college algebra (and so many tears), he told me things like "math is fun" and "anyone can understand math" and many other phrases that I considered absolute hogwash. But I have to say, homeschooling my children is opening my eyes to this way of thinking. I'm fairly sure that people who claim to be "bad" at math often have simply not been taught the foundations of mathematics well enough. Going back to the basics has been eye-opening for me. 

Benjamin is so quick with mental math because he really understands how to manipulate numbers. It's quite amazing. And as I'm working through the curriculum with him, I'm finding that my mental math is getting better as well. My understanding of basic mathematical principles applies to higher math. Anyway, it's just been a great experience.

Today, for example, Benjamin had the following problem:

(187 + 188 + 189) ÷ 75

He solved it in just a few seconds, writing very little down. 

"39!" he declared. 

"You didn't show your work," I reminded him. 

"Don't need to," he said. "It's easy."

I often have him write down or explain what's going on in his brain (for my sake if not his), so this is how he explained his answer:

"Two groups of 75 is 150, so we see that 75 can easily fit into each of those numbers two times. That leaves us with a remainders of 37, 38, and 39, consecutively. You don't even have to think about it for the other two numbers, really. It's just an increase of 1 each time, so if you solve the first problem and get a remainder of 37, the next two remainders must be 38 and 39. Add the first two remainders together and you get 75. Cancel that out (because it's another group of 75) and you're left with 39. That's your answer. 7, remainder 39."

I showed that to Andrew and he agreed that that would not be how he would have approached that problem (today or back when he was 8 years old).

So, my hat's off to Beast Academy because the way they have things explained and the activities they have us do to understand these concepts? Phenomenal. Half the time Benjamin doesn't realize he's even doing math. They had us play this division game yesterday, for example, that was so "fun" Benjamin suggested we play it for FHE (but we played Mexican Train instead). He didn't even realize he was practicing.

And hat's off to me for sitting beside Benjamin while he does is math and working through everything with him as he's learning. I always think, "There's no way he's possibly getting this!" because he does not ever seem to stay on task and I'm forever reminding him, "And then...what?" But then he goes and solves a problem like the one above in his mind and I think to myself, "Oh! He's getting it!" 

He's learning multiplication and division entirely at home. And he's doing just fine. Which, guys, I was really worried about because I've never felt like math is one of my strong suits. I still feel that's fairly accurate. However, I feel like it doesn't have to be that way for my children. 

The girls are working through The Art of Problem Solving, which is the more advanced curriculum through the same company as Beast Academy. Their textbooks aren't done in comic book, but I'm still impressed with how thorough the explanations are and I can see how Beast Academy sets children up to excel in The Art of Problem Solving. Maybe I should make his sisters take turns tutoring him so they can learn the same methods he's learning because the methods are good. I'm thinking about numbers in ways I've never thought about them before, which makes math kind of fun and even exciting.

So I guess my Uncle Bruce was right.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you. It's nice to be right about something. Glad you're enjoying some math.