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Mathematics: Choosing a Home School Mathematics Curriculum for Any Age

Mathematics in the home school curriculum is one of the basics. Local, State, and National governments have mathematics standards that all students must meet in addition, subtraction, multiplication, algebra, geometry and so forth. Because mathematics is such an important feature in any curriculum it is important to choose a program that not only covers the basics, but also instills interest and confidence in the student as well as the instructor. The student will need enough information to complete the mathematics assignments and tasks as well as to develop an in-depth understanding of the concepts so that they can apply it to real-life situations. The instructor should be given mathematics teaching materials that will help them to present new material in a way that each student will understand. This may involve a wide variety of teaching techniques.

When you are choosing a mathematics curriculum for your home school program you have many options. You can get a text-based mathematics program that includes not only a student manual but also a teacher manual and testing materials. Or, you can print out addition, subtraction, multiplication, or any other type of worksheet tailored to meet your students' needs. There are even online tutorials and courses, games and programs to teach and reinforce mathematics skills.

The first thing that you will need to think about in order to choose a mathematics curriculum is the age and the abilities of the student. Following are some basic recommendations about what mathematics curriculum a child could be ready for and at what age. (Remember that each child is unique and may vary in mathematics readiness and skills.)

At the Pre-K level of mathematics, children are just beginning to get some number knowledge. If you want to introduce addition or subtraction, you should use manipulatives such as small blocks, beads or other objects. They can also learn counting and one-to-one correspondence which is the beginning of mathematics readiness. This is an ideal age to start teaching about how mathematics helps us in everyday life.

In kindergarten, children still prefer tactile and concrete learning to other types of learning-therefore you should continue to use mathematics manipulatives to teach counting, addition and subtraction (single digit.) Children of this age are also learning to write, so include number writing in their instruction. A child who has finished kindergarten should be able to count to 100. Another mathematics skill beyond addition, subtraction, and counting can be comparison (i.e. less/more, bigger/smaller, etc.)

In first and second grade children continue to build their mathematics addition and subtraction skills. They use 2 and 3 digit numbers for both addition and subtraction and start borrowing and carrying numbers. Some mathematics curriculum programs also start introducing some early multiplication skills for more advanced learners. However, just because they are older does not mean that they are ready to move completely into abstract thinking. They will still benefit from using manipulatives when they are doing addition and subtraction. Some manipulatives even assist in learning place value (ones, tens, hundreds, etc.)

Third grade is usually the time that the mathematics curriculum introduces multiplication and the times tables. While it is important for children to "see" what they are learning through grouping and manipulatives, some children may learn their multiplication facts the best through rote memorization using multiplication flash cards or even songs. After children have a good understanding of multiplication, simple division is introduced. Most mathematics curriculum programs do not introduce double digit multiplication or division until the multiplication facts are mastered and the student has a solid understanding of division as well. Decimals and place value as well as fractions are also introduced in third grade.

Fourth through sixth grade mathematics mainly builds on what was learned in third grade. Long division and multiplication with multiple digit numbers are staples, as well as more work with fractions, decimals, and percentages as well as estimation.
Once all of the basics of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division are covered, the middle school years of mathematics begin. Students may start pre-algebra, simple geometry, and even statistics which still use multiplication and division as well as addition and subtraction.

In the high-school curriculum standards students may have more options as to what types of mathematics courses they are required to take. Some students take advanced math courses of calculus and trigonometry while others limit themselves to the required Algebra 1 and 2 and Geometry. It may be important to see what university entrance requirements are when deciding which courses to take. When dealing with advanced math courses, some home school instructors may feel unqualified and inadequate. If this is the case, you can always find an accredited mathematics course online or even a correspondence course. Just make sure that there is adequate support and teacher help.

The key to making mathematics interesting and exciting for any student is to make it tie in to real life. Many students complain "I" am never going to use this, so why do I have to learn it? You will find that much of the home school mathematics curriculum does include real-life applications that will give students a view of how they can use this in their own life. You can also make the instruction more fun and exciting by using some of the online games and programs that teach while entertaining. 
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