I thought I'd kick off these posts with one about Maths (not my favourite topic) and then I will not have to do it again – at least for a while!
The great thing about maths – and even I can grasp this – is that the unchanging nature of the fundamentals reflects the unchanging nature of God himself. As you introduce topics and talk about maths with your children this is something to savour. Every day one plus one is always two – and always will be. How do we know it always will be? Because of the unchanging character of God.
The very earliest maths topics are covered on the Mothers' Companion through Mousematics. Mousematics was originally developed in North Wales by a group of LEAs to provide an infants' maths scheme in both English and Welsh. It was originally recommended to me by a lady who was in the same church as Mr Harry Roberts, one of the authors of Mousematics. When approached about putting Mousematic on the flashdrive, Mr Roberts was delighted to find his work was still being used and gladly gave permission.
You will probably have had enough of Mousematics before you finish it as the later booklets are not as useful as the earlier ones. We found that question of the “5 plus ? Makes 7” type were too hard. This is really algebra and we decided to leave it until later. Towards the end there are addition and subtraction sums which in my opinion should be set out as in Two Grade Arithmetic before the short cut methods of doing them are attempted. Mousematics does this short cut first – probably to avoid the slog of doing pages of practice sums as in Two Grade Arithmetic. At this point just switch to Two Grade Arithmetic, the first book of which appears on Volume 3 of the Mothers' Companion.
The subsequent books of Two Grade Arithmetic appear on volumes 4, 5, and 6 of the Mothers' Companion with notes on how we personally used the books appearing in the Diary sections on the various volumes. A supporter kindly gave me an answer key to books 1, 3, and 4 and these also have additional exercises. If anyone has a copy of Book Two with answers I'll scan that in too! I had no answer keys when I used the books myself and would double check with a calculator if in doubt.
The way that Two Grade Arithmetic is set out helps you to home in on what your particular child finds difficult. After you have explained a new topic (see below), there are two levels at which you can work. You can do a few sums at the simpler level first. Then if it all seems fine move straight on to the harder level. If on the other hand the child is finding the topic difficult there are plenty of examples for you to continue with on the easier level.
On Volume 2 of the Mothers' Companion is that valuable resource, a good junior maths dictionary. I used this extensively when teaching my children maths. The clear articles enable the non maths specialists among us to keep one step ahead of the children! As each new topic comes up, get to the dictionary and check the explanation.
One of the resources I really loved is on volume 8 of the Mothers' Companion: Take Two! by Frank Tapson. This consists of 32 board games for two players which are great fun and also get you thinking about some mathematical concepts. I'm very grateful to Mrs Valerie Tapson for permission to include this unusual book. There is craft potential here too as the print outs could be mounted on a piece of cardboard for continuous use and decorated or even redrawn completely in your own style.
Don't be afraid of maths (I was!) and do get in touch if you have any comments – I love hearing from you all.