ETA a disclaimer really. First my computer is playing up a bit and I think I might only have read the first page of replies. Second, I am absolutely not trying to over-ride the unschooling approach, I'm just explaining what has worked for us, which has been a more structured approach. For all I know, the unschooling approach would have been as effective, its just that my personal hang ups don't allow me to leave math in the slightest to chance!

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Just to add, we are a family where math is important, as parents we are a mathematician and a scientist-in-training and I do feel rather strongly about the importance of teaching math-to my kids. My experience was that despite coming from a mathsy family, despite going to a free-range school, I never really understood math and developed a strong self image of myself as someone who could not do it. I was actually borderline phobic about math for a long time, and self-identified as a non-math, arty/languages person. I've sorted this out now and am midway through a part time science degree but my god it is HARD to do it this way. I needed, when i was eight, for someone to sit me down and say, don't be silly, of course you can do this stuff, now what is actually the problem, lets sort it out. So I'm coming at this one as someone who strongly believes in the importance of early, good, inspired math teaching, especially for any kid who self-identifies as bad at math. I have to say, I'm especially on the look out for this with my girls because I'm aware of society telling them constantly that math, like heavy lifting, is something you get a man to do. I'm also married to a mathematician who is also (despite it not being his job) a really, really good teacher of maths and science.Â

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I'm not pushing this approach, but if, as I understand it, you are, like us, reasonably structured, you might find our experience helpful. Or not!Â

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Soooo what I have learnt so far (my kids are 9, 7 and 4, I'm aware I have an awful lot more to learn!).

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First, I really do believe in the importance of play til around age 7. Both my older kids went straight from an early childhood of play to being slightly ahead in math (we use a computer program which happens to track them according to grade level-not my favourite feature).

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Second, I believe in using manipulatives for absolutely as long as they need them. My just 9 year old is doing decimal and fraction work right now, and we absolutely still use manipulatives to explain the concepts, for him to use as long as he needs. We also use things like number boards, hundreds charts and so on. To be honest, even with the university level math courses I now do, if need be I use manipulatives for complex ideas. We have a good range of manipulatives, including coins for decimal/place value work. My rule is to ALWAYS start out visual then move to abstract only when kids can certainly cope.Â

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In terms of textbooks, my absolute favourite program is Miquon. Miquon is wonderful, the epitomy of a the hands on approach. We have never used it as a textbook though, sometimes we just used it as a a jumping off point for work. There is a teacher's manual with lots of great further activities, although for many of them you can easily work out how to supplement. When they had thoroughly finished Miquon we reluctantly moved to Singapore. But we did Miquon very thoroughly first, plus loads of maths games, real life maths, etc. I think if I had a math-reluctant child I'd actually just work with Miquon for a while, even if parts are too easy. I actually think you could probably go on til around 9 or 10 with Miquon, though mine moved on before than. It would certainly be my curriculum of choice if, say, I were teaching a math-phobic older learner.

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There are other good books with a more structured approach, but I think what a math-reluctant child probably needs is a boost to their self-confidence in math (and every child is a mathematician, IMO) and Miquon is wonderful for that.

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oh eta2. Don't use fingers, they are no good. You need something that can be put in one place to mean its already counted, IYSWIM. Even just coins are fine and better than fingers. Marks on paper. Anything.

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