Monday, July 28, 2014

Curriculum Exposé #1…or Why I’m Looking for a New Math Program

Our first Exposé is Math in Focus 3.

Math in Focus is an American version of the popular Primary Mathematics (also known as Singapore Math) and is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  It is a popular choice among homeschoolers who like the Singapore method of teaching math, but prefer to have the bulk of the instruction in the actual text (rather than a TM).  This makes it a little easier to teach (less flipping between books), and potentially less expensive.  Some prefer the MiF layout over PM.  This math program is also used by many brick-and-mortar schools and therefore lines up with standards. 

Curriculum Exposé #1…or Why I’m Looking for a New Math Program at Homeschooling Hearts & MindsThe most recent edition of MiF (2013) is marked as Common Core aligned.  I am going to be referring to the 2009 edition, which is virtually identical to the the newest edition (they have made some minor changes, but the content is the same and the pagination is even the same).  It is very common for both homeschoolers and schools to use an older edition---they are readily available, much cheaper, and compatible with the current workbooks.

My examples only apply to the 3rd grade books, however part of what is at the heart of the problems we encountered with this program have to do with its incremental approach.  So, it was useful for me to look ahead to the grade 5 books (which I also own) to see how the instruction progresses.  Some of the concepts that are really just introduced in level 3 are more fully developed in level 5.  Because of that development, the errors that are present in level 3 are less obvious in level 5 (I haven’t gone through it with a fine tooth comb, though). 

In other words, if you are jumping into MiF at a later grade, you may not encounter these flaws or they may be less of an issue. Level 3 was a surprise. 

A big, fat, ugly surprise.

Let me present this to you in the way that I discovered it. 

I randomly opened the A book (1st semester) while preparing for this coming homeschool year and landed on page 59.  The teaching examples were on deciding when to find an exact answer and when to find an estimation by rounding.  Here are the details of one example that made me want to throw the book out the window (the window was open, but I didn’t want to bust my screen):

Snapshot from Math in Focus 3A (2009 edition)

A little clipart depicts---

Sale:

Dining chair $122

Arm chair $177

Computer chair $138

Now for the text of the example---

Darren has $335.

After buying 2 of the chairs, Darren has $136 left.

How much do the 2 chairs cost? (need exact figure)

Which 2 chairs does Darren buy? (an estimate is sufficient to figure out which 2)

Ok, we we are supposed to figure out that we need to find the exact difference to know how much the 2 chairs cost.

That’s easy. $335-$136 = $199. So Darren spent just under $200.

Therefore the correct real world answer to the 2nd question is:

Darren didn’t buy 2 chairs, because he didn’t spend enough money. At a minimum he would have had to spend $244 to get 2 dining chairs.

Maybe he lied and bought some candy instead?  

Or maybe the salesman had an old, drastically reduced relic in the storeroom and he bought that?

But that’s not the answer in the book.  Here’s how they figure it:

Dining chair 122 rounds to 100

Arm chair 177 rounds to 200

Computer chair 138 rounds to 100

$100 + $200 = $300, so he can’t have bought the dining chair and the arm chair, that would cost about $300.

$100 + $100 = $200, the dining chair and the computer chair cost $200 (uh, no, they don’t), so Darren buys (note the tense change, yes it’s in the book) the dining chair and the computer chair.

Insert facepalm here.

Here furniture salesman, how about if I estimate the cost at $200 and just give you that?

Now, to be completely fair, I thought, “Maybe this is an error and they have corrected it in the new edition.”  So I checked an online sample that shows the entire text (you can see it here). 

Nope, this problem is exactly the same in the 2013 edition, right down the the amounts, the procedure, and even the page number. 

I checked the teacher’s manual to see if there was some explanation there that would make it clearer.  Nope, there were no special notes in the manual.

Let’s take a close look at what’s wrong with this example.

The problem itself is poorly written, for one thing.  Editor, where are you?

The answer to question #1 makes it impossible for Darren to have done what we are told he did.  They also keep changing the tense in the problem to (first it’s that he bought 2 chairs and had x left, then it’s that he buys these two chairs). 

If you stick with the problem as written, it’s akin to telling your kid to ignore the fact that it’s illogical.  Please don’t do that.

Once we get past the illogicalness of the problem and how it is written, the method it is teaching is also unsound.  If I am going to estimate the cost of items that are all under $200, I’m not going to round them to the 100s place in the first place.  

Think about that.  Rounding a $138 chair to $100 is like knocking 28% off the purchase price.  Part of learning math is learning what type of rounding is appropriate in a given situation.  This type of rounding is not appropriate in this situation and it risks teaching kids poor thinking habits.

There are an infinite number of ways that this problem could have been rewritten in such a way that it would make logical sense and would foster good, solid thinking skills.

But as it is written, there is a disconnect between the theoretical and applying arithmetic in real world applications.  In a theoretical world, it might be ok in some instances to round a dollar amount to the hundreds to get a ballpark figure on what can be purchased.  But in the real world, you cannot spend $200 and purchase two items that together cost $250.

That’s just plain sloppy thinking and sloppy teaching.

This is just one of many similar issues my husband and I found with this text.   And we just randomly flipped, we did not go through it systematically. 

Over and over there was a disconnect between the theoretical and real world applications.   That’s disturbing when you consider that one of the big goals of teaching kids how to do math is so they can use it in real life.

What’s at the heart of this sloppy teaching? 

Are the textbook writers trying to lead our children astray?  Do they want to encourage the type of  lazy, imprecise thinking that will cripple our children when it comes time to do things like make a budget or decide whether they have enough cash in hand to buy the groceries in their cart?

Some people seem to think so.  They say that the curricula writers want our kids to be stupid. 

But I don’t think so.  I can’t see into the hearts of these people, obviously, but after comparing level 3 of Math in Focus to level 5 and seeing the progression through concepts, I think the answer boils down to:   over-incrementalization (I made that word up) of instruction and premature introduction of abstract concepts, which in turn leads to oversimplification of those concepts.   Oh, and bad editing.

In defense of the book’s author, I can kind of see what went wrong here and why.  It’s likely that there was a list of concepts that needed to be taught at this level (standards) and a list of specific types of problems that needed to be practiced (Estimation with money!  Rounding to the hundreds! Knowing when to find the exact number or to estimate!  Check, check, check!), and the need to address specific topics at a specific grade level got the upper-hand. 

It’s possible that what’s at issue here is how we are teaching math in this country. 

Perhaps there is too much emphasis on standards and not enough on logical progression of skills?

Someone’s liable to slam me for that.  But let me give you an example:  how important is it for a 2nd grader to learn to tell time to the 5s if she learns all of how to tell time by the end of 3rd grade?  What if I wait until 3rd grade when she is fully capable of learning it all and that’s it? 

Here’s another example we found in the Math in Focus books: 

The level 3 lesson on “front end estimation” only takes into account the first digit of the number and it’s place value, whereas the level 5 lesson makes adjustments based on the rest of the number.  That’s a difference between front-end estimating 989 as “900” (level 3) and “1000” (level 5).  Pretty significant difference, right?

Over-incrementalization, y’all.   We’ve got to wait two years to find out that our original front-end estimation wasn’t really quite right.  Here’s how to make it more right.

What if…oh forgive me…but if we think kids won’t/can’t really understand the whole of front-end estimation until 5th grade, why not wait until 5th grade to teach it? 

I realize that’s hard in the public school system, having a different teacher for each grade, and the general mobility of the population…but the reality is that if you use Math in Focus in 3rd grade and then a completely different book in 5th grade, you just might never fully understand front-end estimation at all and grow into an adult who tells someone that something that costs $2.89 at the local store is $2 (almost a third less than its actual cost) and not understand why they are annoyed when the $5 they brought to buy 2 isn’t enough (based on a true story).

Of course, there are some who will say, why teach it at all?

(warning:  ramble alert)  

Front-end estimation, as I see it, tries to distill a logical thought process down into specific baby steps for kids to follow.  Interestingly, it’s the type of strategy that someone who has a solid foundation in arithmetic may come up with on her own to simplify figuring stuff out in her head. 

It’s shower math.  It’s ruminating over your homeschool budget as you try to go to sleep math.  It’s wielding an overfull cart and 3 crazy children through a grocery store math. 

It’s the type of math that someone who is comfy with figuring stuff does.  That’s an admirable goal for our kids---getting them comfy with math, yes!

But, the catch here is that you don’t get comfy with math by learning short cuts or strategies---you use short cuts or strategies when you already know what you’re doing and are comfortable with it. 

You may be able to teach that type of thinking explicitly.  But it may make more sense to lay the foundation and present opportunities for using those skills so that kids can discover patterns and strategies as they become more and more well-versed in how to figure stuff out.

Because what do they do when the short-cut doesn’t work and they don’t understand why?

(end of ramble)

In the end, we decided that Math in Focus was not going to be a good math program for our family simply by virtue of the fact that it might lead our kids into sloppy thinking.  I would either need to skip some of the material or modify it---and sometimes it’s just easier to either start from scratch or use a program that doesn’t have obvious problems.

So we are looking for  math program that doesn’t have that same disconnect between the theoretical and reality.

What do you recommend?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Mapping the World with Art---My Favorite Social Studies Program is in the Bundle Sale!


Our family’s favorite middle school level history and geography program is Ellen McHenry’s Mapping the World with Art.  I’ve recommended this year-long course over and over again to my in-real-life homeschool buddies with kids who are looking for a little independence around grade 5-6. 

My oldest used it for his social studies in 6th grade and his younger sister will likely use it next year for 6th grade (she was originally going to use it this year, but got a hankering for American history instead). 

A Review of Mapping the World with Art, just one of the many great programs available in the Build Your Own Bundle Homeschool Edition Sale.  Mapping the World with Art will take your child through a survey of the history of mapmaking and exploration.  This is a self-contained course that requires no additional supplements (unless you want to add some extras from your library).  In addition to readings, the course includes lots of hands-on activities, links to videos and online resources, plus step-by-step instructions for actually mapping the world. 

I’ve written in-depth about this program in the past here and here

(note:  this post contains affiliate links)

I’m so excited because Mapping the World with Art is just ONE of the many great programs available through the "Build Your Bundle" - Homeschool Edition sale going on for one week only (July 21-28)!

You’ll find Mapping in the Elementary Bundle below.  (Psst…scroll down to find out how you can also get it in a custom bundle…)

Take a look at the Elementary
4th - 6th Grade Bundle:


Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!
$220.35 ONLY $39.00 Save: 82%


Your 4th-6th graders will develop foundational skills and gain insight into the ancient world using the comprehensive collection of resources found in our 4th-6th Grade Bundle. This bundle features science curriculum and a creative writing course from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 picks, Mapping the World with Art - a blend of history, geography, and art, math, Bible, handwriting and copywork resources, writing guides, timeline cards, ancient history notebooking pages, creative writing for both boys and girls, and an editable weekly homeschool planner for Mom!

All products are e-books, so you can view them on your digital device or print what you need.  That means there’s no shipping cost and you can get them delivered right to your email inbox!

There are 2 products in Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Pics in this bundle!

Buy more & save more! Purchase 2 pre-assembled bundles and get the 3rd one 50% off! See site for details.

 

Checkout the items in the 4-6 bundle:

Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!

Wordsmith Apprentice - Retail $16.00

This Cathy Duffy Top 100 curriculum is a creative writing course for grade 4 through 6. All the practicality, humor and fun of Wordsmith, but written for the younger student, ages 9-12. An easy to use writing course encouraging students to develop their writing skills as they participate in every role on a newspaper staff: editor, reporter, writer, etc.

Click here to learn more!

 

 

Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!

Creation Geology: A Study Guide to Fossils, Formations and the Flood - Retail $18.95

Flood geology comes alive with the 57-page teaching outline included. This study includes easy to follow lesson plans for K-12, over 300 activities and experiments, information about radiometric dating, oil and coal formation and Geologic formations and fossils occurred during the time of Noah's Flood, vocabulary list, recommended reading (not necessary to complete this study), math activities, book reviews, reproducible sheets and much more!

Click here to learn more!

Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!Mapping the World with Art - Retail $14.95

"Mapping the World with Art" is a blend of history, geography, and art for ages 10 and up. This curriculum is actually three books in one. The first section is a history text history lessons that tell the story of cartography from ancient Mesopotamia up through the discovery of Antarctica in the late 1800s. The second section of the book provides step-by-step drawing lessons for each of the history lessons.

After you learn some history, you draw the primary place you read about.

Click here to learn more!

Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!Bible Road Trip - Year One: The Books of the Law and History - Retail $20.00

The Bible Road Trip Year One Curriculum is a 480-page digital PDF download of the full Bible Road Trip Year One curriculum for all five levels, preschool through high school. The Bible Road Trip Year One Curriculum includes the Parent / Teacher Guide and 32 weeks of curriculum schedules for all grades.

Click here to learn more!

Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!Keyboarding for the Christian School Elementary (KJV available in options) - Retail $12.95

Do you anticipate your student using computers in the future? Is your student going into a technological field? How far your student will go will be determined by their proficiency in computers. Give them the edge in computer applications by purchasing curriculum that really works.

Click here to learn more! 

Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!Weekly Homeschool Planner - Retail $20.00

Tired of looking for a brand-new homeschool planner each year? What if you could buy ONE planner, type in your plans, save them and use the same planner year after year? The Weekly Homeschool Planner will help you organize your school day and record your daily learning. Additional forms help you keep track of testing results, evaluations and special events.

Click here to learn more!

Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!

Ancient Times Notebooking Pages - Retail $19.95

This is the entire collection of Ancient Times notebooking pages. This COMPLETE package contains notebooking pages for:
- Ancient Africa & Egypt
- Ancient Americas
- Ancient China, Japan, & India
- Ancient Greeks, Minoans, & Mycenaeans
- Ancient Mesopotamia
- Ancient Romans, the Early Christian Church, & Other European Cultures

Click here to learn more!

Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!Timeline Cards - Creation-Early Greeks - Retail $5.00

136 timeline cards covering Ancient History: Creation to Early Greeks. Includes: 2 sets of cards: 1 with dates and 1 without dates / Memory Work & Copywork pages / Blank Timeline Cards / Blank lines & generic design to print on backside of cards / 3 different style timelines.

Click here to learn more!

Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!Math Mammoth Bundle - Introduction to Fractions & Fractions 1 - $8.80 Retail

Math Mammoth Introduction to Fractions contains lessons for fraction arithmetic for grades 1-4. The topics covered are on a simple level, constantly illustrated with visual models, and with small denominators.

Fractions 1 covers the concepts of fraction and mixed numbers, equivalent fractions, adding and subtracting like and unlike fractions, adding and subtracting mixed numbers, and comparing fractions.

Click here to learn more!

Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!Writing Guides for Children - Retail $14.00

These Writing Guides are for beginning and reluctant writers. Each set can be used with children as young as Grade 1, starting with Writing Instructions, and Writing Poetry, and children in Grade 2 for Writing a Biography and Writing a Research Paper.

Includes: Writing a Biography, Writing Poetry, Writing Instructions, and Writing a Research Paper

Click here to learn more!

Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!Creative Writing Made Easy Bundle- Retail $25.90

Your students will be guided step by step in creating an adventure where both the student and her characters grow in faith towards God. Each of the 12 lessons will teach the basics of creative writing such as: creating the princess character, developing a faith filled plot, using your senses in a setting, and spicing up your dialogue.

Click here to learn more!

Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!Spies of the Revolutionary War Creative Writing Unit and Lapbook - Retail $10.95

Creative Writing has never been easier! Eighty pages of lessons and lapbook fun- it's a wonderful way to engage boys to write! Create a secret code, make a battle drum, become a spy and write about it! Kids can't wait for school time!

Click here to learn more!

Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!

Homeschool Copywork Membership - Retail $24.95

Homeschool Copywork is a brand new membership site with a Charlotte mason flare. There are currently 18 different copywork e-books and 1 artist study available in the Homeschool Copywork Full Membership Area. By purchasing this bundle, you will be given a full membership for one year.

Click here to learn more!

Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!Dragons of the Bible Copywork - Retail $7.95

Did you know that dragons are mentioned in the Bible 22 times? Dragons of the Bible contains each of the 22 verses for copywork in lined manuscript, regular cursive, and regular print PLUS notebooking pages and coloring pages for each featured dragon graphic. The beautiful line art graphics are perfect for coloring as a reward for a job well done.

Click here to learn more!

We have the Ancient Times Notebooking Pages, too---this is a great set that we’ve been using for years.  For a few dollar more than the regular price of Mapping the World with Art + the Ancient Times Notebooking Pages, you’ll also receive math, writing, copywork (enough copywork to last years), keyboarding, and more.  That’s a deal that’s hard to beat.

 

 

Or maybe you like Mapping the World with Art, but would rather bundle it with other things…

Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!



Our "Build Your Own" bundles offer you the opportunity to select certain products with a retail price of $19.99 or less for up to 80% off!

Yes, Mapping the World with Art is on the the list of possibles!

There are MANY items to choose from, including Cathy Duffy Top 100 Picks!

Plus, when you purchase a combination of any 2 "Build Your Own" bundles…

You will get the 3rd one for FREE!

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Buy more & save more! Purchase 2 "build your own" bundles and get the 3rd one FREE! See site for details.


You will also find the following pre-assembled bundles with saving up to 92% off retail: Tot/Pre-K Bundle, K-3 Bundle, 4-6 Elementary Bundle, Middle School Bundle, High School Bundle, Charlotte Mason Bundle, & the Homeschooling/Homemaking Mom Bundle!

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BUY MORE & SAVE MORE!
 
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*Lots of ways to save!

  1. When you purchase ANY 2 pre-assembled bundles you will get the 3rd pre-assembled bundle of equal or lesser value for FREE!
  2. When you purchase ANY 2 "build your own" bundles you will get the 3rd "build your own" bundle of equal or lesser value for FREE!
  3. Tell your friends about the "Build Your Bundle" - Homeschool Edition Sale using our referral system that is found on the top of the website! When 10 of your referrals visit our site using your unique link, we will give you a code to save 10% off your total purchase!

*The B2G1 Free offer applies to pre-assembled or "Build Your Own" Bundles only. The lowest priced bundle will be free. See site for complete details and FAQ.

Prefer to pick and choose what you want?

All products are e-books, great for viewing on your digital advice or printing what you need, and available WORLDWIDE!

This sale is a great way to fill in some odds and ends for just a little bit of money.  Definitely worth a look-see.

Plus, every single person who buys a bundle (any bundle) will receive a bonus package valued at $500, which includes discounts and freebies you won’t believe.

Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale - Up to 92% Off!

Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links.  I may earn a commission if you purchase through my affiliate links.  Thank you for supporting Homeschooling Hearts & Minds.

Friday, July 18, 2014

New Series Coming: Curriculum Exposés

Curriculum Exposés was inspired by the experience of going over a new math book with my husband and coming to the realization that this book was so flawed that I could not use it in my homeschool. 

Period.

This is not the first time that I’ve considered chucking a popular curriculum out the window (literally, the window was open) and, though I hope that it will be a rare occurrence, I know that it’s likely to happen again.  So I thought---not enough people are willing to step forward and say, “Hey, this math book?  It’s a bad math book.”

I haven’t written anything particularly controversial lately.  Let me take a crack at it.

Winking smile

Let me tell you what I have in mind for Curriculum Exposés so we are on the same page.

Curriculum Exposés will take an in-depth look into some the flaws in popular homeschool curricula.  A new series starting soon at Homeschooling Hearts & MindsI have spent soooo many hours of my life combing the curriculum minefield for the good stuff.   You probably have, too.

I’ll pick up this and then drop it like a hot potato because of its rather obtrusive worldview,…

…postpone that because it’s a little too difficult for my child,…

…pass on this other thing because it overlaps too much with what we’ve already studied,…

…and give up on this truly awesome thing because it’s not something I can make work in my situation.

There are lots of things out there, good things that work for other  homeschool families, that are just not a good fit for our particular situation. 

And that’s great! 

It’s wonderful that we’re not all forced to used the same things even if they don’t fit us---this is part of what homeschooling is about.

But every once in a while I’ll settle on something that seems like it’s just right, only to get it in my hands and discover that there’s something wrong with it.  I don’t mean a poor fit, I mean really wrong, whether it be due to factual inaccuracies, unsound methodology, or something that just won’t work in the real world.

This is not a rant on Common Core or a complaint about a particular publisher’s worldview or whatever. 

It’s not a whine because I couldn’t figure out how to teach something or it wouldn’t teach itself.

It’s a real look at the some of the real problems with current popular resources that are being used by both homeschoolers and brick-and-mortar schools.

It’s reporting, not scandalmongering. 

And it’s a “heads-up” so you can learn what to watch out for while selecting things for your own homeschool.

Coming soon:  Curriculum Exposé #1…or Why I’m Looking for a New Math Program

Have you run into any real curriculum duds?  I mean things that make you doubt the future of education.

Tell me about it.