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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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