Choosing a Math Curriculum

So…it’s that time of year again. Time when many anyway start thinking about heading back into academics…and math.

Wherever I’ve spoken on math, the number one question I usually get is related to curriculum. So I thought it might be a good time to share a couple of thoughts on choosing a math curriculum.

  • Look for one that shows math as a practical tool. As Alfred North Whitehead said, “There can be nothing more destructive of true education than to spend long hours in the acquirement of ideas and methods which lead nowhere.” Not only that, but unless students see a purpose to math, they’re left viewing math as some sort of man-made or self-existent truth rather than as a real-life tool that helps us describe God’s creation.
  • Look for one that really helps student understand why the rules in math work. While there’s a place for memorization, it’s also important that, at whatever level a student can developmentally, they understand that the rules in math are not arbitrary but really are simply shortcuts to help us describe the principles God created and is sustaining.
  • Look for one that incorporates history. History goes a long way towards helping students see math in context and understand that the symbols they’re learning aren’t math itself, but rather a language system that help us name the quantities and consistencies around us. They’ll also see how mathematicians have used their God-given ability to solve real-life problems…and be able to see the role worldviews have played.

On a more personal level, also consider

  • the level of parental involvement. Is it manageable for your schedule?
  • the style of the material. Does it present it in a format your child can work through?

Finding a good math curriculum can be challenging. The need for more good math curriculum prompted me to write a math curriculum for junior high (Principles of Mathematics), along with a handbook (Revealing Arithmetic) to go alongside a curriculum the younger grades and add the elements that are often missing in curriculum (such as history). We also carry an elementary and high school program that many have found helpful. So know that those materials are available for you too.

Whatever curriculum you choose, remember that math isn’t neutral or a mere textbook exercise–it’s a way of describing God’s creation. And viewing it that way should transform how it’s taught at every level.

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Story: Unused Medicine

Maureen stared at the shelves of medicines in awe. Why, Sarah’s medicine cabinet rivaled any pharmacy’s…as did her knowledge of the different medications.

“What does this one do?” Maureen asked, holding up a bottle of pink pills.

“Oh, that’s an antibiotic for infections. It—” Sarah’s voice cut off in a cough that caused her to double over in pain.

“Are you okay?” Maureen asked, concerned.

After the coughing finally finished, Sarah replied in a shaky voice, “I’m fine. I just have a bad infection. But no worries.”

“What’s this cream for?” Maureen asked, pointing to a cream on the shelf.

“Oh, that helps skin infections,” came the quick reply.

Maureen glanced at her friend in confusion. She knew her friend had often complained about her skin infections. In fact, Sarah was constantly sick. “I don’t get it,” she confessed. “If you have all of these medicines, why are you always so sick?”

Sarah hardly looked up from the letter she was attempting to write. “I don’t know. I’ve had the medicines for years, but I guess I’m just doomed to sickness.”

Maureen turned from the medicine cabinet and sat next to her friend. What could be the problem? “Do you take the medicine like it’s prescribed?”

Sarah blushed. “Well, now that you mention it, no, I guess I don’t.”

“So let me get this straight. You have all of these medications, and know all about them, but you don’t take them?”

Sarah nodded, blushing more. “I guess that’s about right.”

Maureen shook her head in disbelief. “I guess we both know now why they’re not working. Sarah, you have to act on what you know.”

“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” James 1:22-25 (KJV)

Story: It Helps to Plug It In

Short Story

Short StorySusan stared at the mixer in positive frustration. Mixing this cake was SO much work! She was trying so hard, yet it seemed she hardly made any progress. She thought baking was supposed to be fun. What was wrong?

“You are supposed to mix this batter,” Susan lectured herself (and, in a way, the mixer). But lecturing about what she was supposed to do didn’t seem to help at all. What was wrong?

Her mom walked by and saw her frustration almost instantly. “Susan, you need to plug the mixer in,” she explained.

Sure enough, a plugged-in mixer made a world of a difference!

“I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” John 15: 5 (KJV)

Math and Traveling (Includes Word Problems)

Math & Traveling

Math & TravelingOn a recent flight, I was reminded of how often we use math when traveling without even thinking about it. Below are a few examples (complete with example word problems) of math in action while on a flight–many of the same ideas would apply to car trips as well.

So if you’re traveling this summer, you can use the trip to remind your children how math isn’t a mere textbook exercise. It’s a way of describing the quantities and consistencies God created and sustains around us–and as such, it’s a useful, real-life tool.

Happy traveling!

  • How Much Will This Airplane Ticket Cost? There’s the ticket price…and then there are the taxes, fees, baggage cost, etc., that get added on top. How much is the ticket really costing altogether? To answer that, you need–drum roll please–math! Simply add all the costs together to find the total. Example Word Problem: An airplane ticket costs $119.98, plus $5.50 and $4.78 in taxes and fees. You also need to check 1 bag, which costs $20. What is the total cost? Answer: $119.98 + $5.50 + $4.78 + $20.00 = $150.26
  • What Time Should I Get Up to Make My Flight? How early should we set that alarm for? Math can help us decide!
    Example Word Problem: If it takes you 1 hour to get ready and 30 minutes to get to the airport, and you want to be at the airport 2 hours before your flight leaves at 9 am, what time should you wake up? Answer: You need to get up 3 hours and 30 minutes before your flight (1 hour + 30 minutes + 2 hours = 3 hours and 30 minutes), which would be at 5:30 am.
  • How Much Longer Do we Have Left? At the beginning of the flight, the pilot will often announce how long the flight will be. But after an hour goes by, how long is left? Again, you can use math to figure it out. Example Word Problem: If the flight is 2 hours and 45 minutes long, and you’ve been in the air now for 1 hour, how long in the flight do you have left? If it’s 3 pm right now, at what time should the plane land? Answer: Since you’ve completed 1 hour out of 2 hours and 45 minutes, you still have 1 hour and 45 minutes left, so that would mean the plane should land around 4:45 pm.
  • What Time Is It Back Home? Now that you’ve reached your destination, you want to call back home and let them know you’re safe. What time is it back there? Use math to figure it out! Example Word Problem: If it’s 5 pm in California and you want to call back home to Maryland, what time is it in Maryland if Maryland is 3 hours ahead of California? Answer: 8 pm

Tip: If the example word problems given are too advanced for your child, round the numbers used. For example, in the first word problem, change the cost of the ticket to an even $120, the fees to $6, etc., so as to avoid any decimals. By rounding or changing prices, you can simplify real-life situations so that younger students can begin applying math at their level.

Short Story: Missing Out?

Short Story: Missing Out?

Short Story: Missing Out?Hannah saw her father every day—at least technically. That is, she passed him in the hallway and briefly said hello. Or sometimes she’d slip into his office and ask him to help her…or complain about her day. Yet while she saw him regularly, she strangely missed him.

When she paused long enough in her busy day, she could remember back to the sweet times she used to have with her father. How they’d sit and talk for hours. You know—really talked. Not a few quick words while racing off to an event, but focused, deep, daddy-daughter time.

What had happened? It was a question Hannah began asking herself. She knew her father hadn’t changed—he was still there, available to talk with, arms open wide. No, the problem wasn’t his—it was hers. She’d had her mind so occupied in a thousand different directions that she’d failed to quiet her thoughts long enough to really spend time with her father. She’d been missing out.

“Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10 (KJV)

Upcoming Events

I wanted to quickly let you all know about some upcoming events.

This Thursday, April 6, at 8:45 pm EST, I’m going to give Facebook Live a try. I hope you can join me as we talk about math curricula. I’ll share some general thoughts, and explain the new curricula we’re carrying. And of course, I’ll take questions! I’m hoping to also record the session and post it on my website afterwards for those unable to make it live.

Also, below are two conventions at which we’ll have a booth this spring. If you’re there, I’d love it if you would stop by and say hello.

MACHE – Frederick, MD – April 21-22
HEAV – Richmond, VA – June 8-10 (I’m scheduled to do several workshops on math here as well.)

I hope you can join in on one of these events–it would be a blessing to see you there.

As always, please jot me a note or leave a comment if you have any thoughts or questions.

God bless,

Katherine

Short Story: Test It

story test it

story test itThe jeweler turned the stone over and over again in his hand, rubbing it, smelling it, and examining it carefully under polarized light. He wasn’t about to buy a fake stone.

Julie waited patiently. She had no idea her stone would be subjected to so many different tests! “It’s real, I tell you. I paid good money for it.”

The jeweler looked up and shook his head. “I’m sorry to hear that,” he replied. “It’s not real amber. See? Look at it in the light.” The jeweler held the stone up to the ultraviolet light again.

Julie looked at the stone. It simply looked like the stone to her.

“As you turn it around and examine it in the light, you don’t see a rainbow full of colors, do you?” The jeweler asked.

Julie shook her head. “No. So what, though?”

“True amber would have an iridescent look under polarized light. I’m sorry, but I’m afraid what you have there isn’t really amber. The light doesn’t lie.”

Julie buried her head in her hands. Oh, why hadn’t she tested the stone before she invested everything she had to buy it?

“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” Acts 17:11 (KJV)

but test everything; hold fast what is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21 (ESV)

Now Available: Elementary and High School Math Curriculum

Looking for a math curriculum for your elementary students that is easy to use, teaches math as a real-life tool, AND encourage students spiritually through explorations of God’s creation and character-building stories? How about an algebra and geometry course that shows students why they’re learning what they’re learning?

I’m excited to announce that we’re now carrying elementary through high school math curriculum that teach math as a real-life tool. I’ve put more details about the curriculum below. And you can read more and view samples in our store. I hope they will prove helpful to you in showing your students how math isn’t meaningless—it’s a real-life tool that proclaims the Creator’s praises.


Elementary Math Curriculum: Math Lessons for a Living Education

This is the first program I’ve found that

  • presents math as a real-life tool;
  • has an easy-to-use textbook approach that minimizes parental preparation and thought, AND
  • encourages students spiritually through explorations of God’s creation and character-building stories.

Students will love the stories about children who discover different math concepts in real life. Rather than just being told to memorize facts, they’ll get to discover those facts along with the children and then work worksheets related to that story. The stories all come from a young-earth creationist perspective and illustrate life lessons and good character along the way. Plus, they’re full-color and beautifully illustrated!

Another thing I love about this program is that there’s only one book to buy for the program itself–you don’t need to purchase separate student and teacher’s books. All of the levels include an easy-to-use schedule at the front, along with any notes the teacher needs right there. Level 1 and 2 include a link to download the answers, while Level 3-5 include the answers in the back of the book (the pages are all perforated and hole punched, so parents/teachers can easily pull this section out and place in a binder).

While the program doesn’t necessarily talk about the philosophy of math (why it works, how its very existence points to God, etc.) or math’s history, it presents math in conjunction with God’s creation in a refreshingly simple way. Unlike with many curricula, you won’t have to rework the presentations or try to figure out how to add science or real-life examples—they’re already there, and done amazingly well. Parents could easily add little nuggets about the “why” and the history of math as they go (see Revealing Arithmetic or Beyond Numbers for ideas).

Learn more and view samples.


Junior High Math Curriculum: Principles of Mathematics

Junior High Math Curriculum

This is the series I wrote to both firm up elementary math and give students a big picture understanding of high school math—all while intensively building their biblical worldview and problem-solving skills. When finished, students will be ready to jump right into algebra, understanding both what algebra is about, why it’s important, and how it points to the Creator. There’s even an optional eCourse component available.

The program will help you transform your math class, show students why math (including algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and probability) matters, help students understand the mechanics of math, and leave students awed at God’s faithfulness.

Learn more and view samples.


High School CurriculumAlgebra and Geometry Curriculum

I’ve always had a high regard for Jacob’s high school math series, and was excited when I saw they were being reprinted. I love how this program incorporates history and teaches the student to use math in problem-solving situations. Students won’t be left wondering what all those xs and ys or geometric proofs are about anyway. Instead, they’ll learn to apply the skills their learning and truly think mathematically. While the program doesn’t connect math to God, it does teach math as a practical tool. If students have already completed Principles of Mathematics, they should be able to see how what they’re learning declares the Creator’s praises. There are also DVD lessons available to help with mastering the skills.

Learn more and view samples.

Why, Oh, Why Must I Learn Math?

I recently asked some folks this question:

What are you/your children’s biggest struggles in math?

The responses varied (stay tuned for others in future blogs), but several voiced the same struggle: why.

Knowing why you need to learn something certainly doesn’t seem like too much to expect. It’s actually a very reasonable question. As Alfred North Whitehead said, “There can be nothing more destructive of true education than to spend long hours in the acquirement of ideas and methods that lead nowhere.”

So why math? Well, math is a way of describing the consistent manner in which God holds His creation together. Thus it helps us work with the world around us—from everyday tasks to sending men to the moon. It helps us complete various tasks that God gives us to do here on earth.

For example, fractions give us a handy way of describing division, helping us work with real-life relationships. Oh, and don’t forget that music notes, sewing, and cooking all use fractions! (There’s more on the why of fractions in my previous post “Why Learn Fractions?”)

One mother shared that her child wondered why finding the area of triangles matters. While triangles might not at first appear to be the most practical shape, they can actually help us measure such real-life distances as the height of a building and the distance across a stream. (In fact, that’s exactly what students learn to do in Principles of Mathematics while studying triangles.) As for finding their area, triangles also help us measure other shapes. For example, if we want to find the area of a hexagon (which is what bees make their honeycombs out of), we would use triangles to do it. Triangles—along with the rest of geometry—are incredibly practical!

For those of you wondering the “why” of high school math, I recently had an article published in The Old Schoolhouse magazine on that exact topic. You can read “What’s the Purpose of High School Math?” online (note: it may take a minute to load)…and I’d love if you’d then leave a comment here and let me know what you think.

And for those wondering how to teach math in such a way that your students will understand why they’re learning each skill they study, check out the math resources I wrote specifically to help students understand math’s true purpose…and to praise the Creator of all as they study. After all, math applies because Jesus is upholding all things by the power of His Word (Hebrews 1:3) in such a predictable way that we can describe it mathematically! Math, when properly taught, should encourage us to trust Him more and more.

Have a specific math topic you’d like to know the “why” of? Leave it as a comment!

Short Story: The Private Who Expected Steak

Justin walked around the army camp dejected. He was a new recruit and was still getting used to army life.

Nothing so far was going the way he’d pictured. He wanted steak for dinner—or at least something edible—but instead was served a pot of something or other that tasted more akin to poison. He wanted a soft bed to lie on, but instead he had to sleep on the bare ground. Was a mattress too much to expect?

“Hey, why the long face?” Mark said with a friendly pat on the shoulder.

Justin explained his woes. “Life is just so hard,” he wined. “Why does it have to be this way?”

To his surprise, Mark looked like he was working hard to restrain a laugh. “Did you really think the army would be easy?”

“Would you please explain what is so funny?” Justin asked.

“Sorry,” Mark apologized, trying to put on a serious look. “It’s just, well, Justin, you joined an army, not a restaurant.”

Justin squirmed. Mark was right. He’d been forgetting what really mattered.

“Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops.” 2 Timothy 2:3-6 (ESV)

“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14 (ESV)

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2 (ESV)