Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Read: Learning math through stories

I've alway struggled with math, and didn't enjoyed learning it, since I didn't see how we could actually use most of the concepts taught in real life. Learning how to multiply and divide made sense, since you need that to calculate your grocery bills and figure out how to split your pizza between four people. But differentiation? Complicated formulas that were used, just to help you find that ever elusive x? All those didn't seem relevant or useful at all.

However, while I'm more or less done with my own math education, now I have to teach my own little boys the subject. Preschool math is still more or less straightforward, and still very useful in real life, so I have not found it hard to teach. After all, you can teach simple math anywhere: by counting leaves, during a trip to the supermarket, watching the numbers change as you go up and down in the lift.

I've shared how we've been using Math U See as our main curriculum for math, and that has been serving us well (even Lil J has started, and is on the Primer level since he loves counting and dealing with numbers). However, while the Math U See curriculum is great for establishing a good foundation in math, and the manipulatives enable kids to really understand the concepts, I find it pretty dry. There is a fair bit of practice involved, which is inevitable since you really need to practise working out those concepts to master them, but that means kids can get a little bored after awhile. So to spice things up a little and to help them to retain their interest in math, we've been looking at stories to supplement their learning in this area. Here are some books that the boys particularly enjoyed:

:: Life of Fred Mathematics: This is a series of books, written novel-style, featuring five year old Fred Gauss, who is a math professor at Kittens University. The stories are funny, since poor Fred is constantly making unwise decisions that land him into trouble! Each book covers mathematical concepts in a way that is relevant to real life, and also introduces various nuggets of general knowledge too.

As these are chapter books with some black and white illustrations, this is probably suitable for slightly older preschoolers aged 5 and up. Junior J loves the stories, and we've learnt many concepts by just reading one chapter a day together. (Sometimes, Lil J wants to sit in too!) Each book has approximately 18-19 chapters and each chapter ends with a "Your Turn to Play" section that allows kids to practise what they've learnt, with the answers printed on the next page for further discussion.

We've already finished the first seven books in the Elementary Math series (there are ten books for the first series), and will continue to use Life of Fred to supplement our math learning. I find that while Life of Fred is a very interesting way to learn math (Junior J even learnt to add four digit numbers together through this book, and is learning multiplication now), it cannot be used as a stand-alone curriculum as it does not provide enough structure or practice. Because of that, it complements the Math U See curriculum perfectly, and I've heard of quite a few homeschoolers using these two hand in hand to teach math. One warning though: these books are rather pricey. However, they are of good quality, and we figured it'll be an investment since a few kids would get to use them.

Life of Fred is not available in the libraries here, and while I purchased our copies locally, the distributer here is not longer selling the books. As such, these can only be purchased in the US, either directly from the publisher, or through Educents. Educents is having a sale on the series right now which is ending soon, and the books are now cheaper than if you buy direct from the publisher. Do note that you will need to arrange for your own shipping back to Singapore if you do purchase the books.

:: Sir Cumference series: This series of books introduces geometry through adventure stories featuring knights! Kids get to learn concepts such as area, perimeter, circumference, pi and radius, while reading these books with full colored illustrations.  Again, these are more suitable for those five and up, but the younger kids might just enjoy hearing the stories being read to them.

Source: Amazon

We've borrowed some of the titles from this series from the library (see here for details), and have also chanced on one book when we were digging amidst the second-hand books at Evernew Bookstore. That aside, you can purchase the books from Amazon here.

:: Books by Loreen Leedy: Loreen Leedy has written several books dealing with math concepts. Her stories are mainly told through comic book form with full-colour illustrations, and I find these are simple enough for four year olds to understand. We particularly liked "Measuring Penny", which introduces the concepts of measurements, as well as "The Great Graph Contest" which teaches kids how to draw various types of graphs to represent information.

Source: Amazon

Loreen Leedy's books can be borrowed from the library, or purchased from Amazon.

:: MathStart Series: These books are simple stories that are accompanied with full colour illustrations, which introduce various math concepts to younger children. The series is split into three levels, with the first teaching concepts such as comparing sizes, shapes, matching and sorting, the second introducing topics such as addition, subtraction, tallying and symmetry, and the third teaching topics like division, fractions and angles. The first level books are probably simple enough for 3 year olds to understand, and Lil J enjoys flipping through these books.

Source: Amazon

You can borrow some of the titles from the library, or purchase them from Amazon or locally at The Learning Store (Note: These may be slightly cheaper at The Learning Store, but only when they have a good warehouse sale. Otherwise, the prices are better on Amazon.)

I hope these recommendations might come in useful, and we'll share more titles in time to come as we explore specific math topics. Meanwhile, do check out our list of book recommendations for Science, or our Rave Reads folder on the FB page. Happy reading!

PS: This is not a sponsored post, and we are sharing these titles because we love them! However, this post contains affiliate links to Amazon, but at no added cost to yourself.

1 comment:

  1. Life of Fred sounds like a nice series. May get it for Sean who loves Maths! Thanks, you are really good at book recommendations!



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