I am not normally one to completely give up on something right out of the starting gate. But about 2 years ago, I gave up on kindergarten math about 3 lessons in. Yep. 3 lessons. I thought we could go back later, when I had a little more patience. Later ended up being an entire year. We said good-bye to kindergarten math and we never looked back. Two years later and one kid more in kindergarten and I have absolutely no regrets.
Is it time for you to say good-bye to kindergarten math, too? Or should you not even waste your time, energy, and money on a math curriculum for your kindergartner? I don’t know. But I don’t mind sharing my thinking behind this epiphany to help you decide.
Let me fill you in on those 3 math days from the place of torment. We tried a couple of “gentle” curricula to get us started: Life of Fred and another one I can’t even remember at this point. I figured my early reader would love math told in a story form. Well…she liked the story a lot, but when it came time to work on the questions at the end of the chapter, we were sunk. I followed the instructions and when I showed her 2 + 3 = 5, I was stuck. She didn’t get it and I didn’t have a CLUE of how to explain it to her another way.
I took a deep breath and tried again.
And now we are done.
Why I Didn’t Stress
I beat myself up about this failure for a little bit – “Why can’t I explain this? Am I ever going to be able to teach my kid math?” All those questions and frustrations I just pushed aside. I took a good look at what my kid already knew and what I assumed a kindergarten kid would learn in kindergarten math. And I told myself, “She will be fine.” She already knew SO many math concepts from our daily life.
Early Math Concepts in Preschool
We had spent quite a bit of time with a Calendar and the Days of the Week during our preschool years. So, my kid already had some basic concepts regarding time. This apparently is a BIG focus for kids in kindergarten.
We had also already learned all the shapes and colors. We could sort them, count them, compare them, etc.
The only thing we couldn’t do right out of box was add. I decided we were going to be OK.
When Math Doesn’t Look Like Math
I decided, when I said good-bye to kindergarten math, to shift my focus. We focused on the simple math facts in the Classical Conversations Foundations program we had chosen. Classical Conversations focuses on early memorization of skip counting, basic formulas, and conversions. They don’t have a formal, walk me through how to teach my kid math program (yet). But they do have lots of songs to help the kids learn these super basic math concepts.
The songs and the activities we did were so much fun (here are my best tips for teaching skip counting in early elementary), we forgot we were doing math.
And from what I hear (from those in the know about these things) skip counting is a huge help for kids as they work through the early elementary years in math. It helps them to see the relationships between numbers. And as I look back now with a 2nd grader and another kindergartner, I can see this in practice. My second grader gets concepts so quickly because of skip counting. She often notes when we are working on math concepts together, “Oh, that is like skip counting!” We also can identify and create math problems using the Identity Laws of Addition and Multiplication and the Commutative Law of Addition. (I couldn’t do that in high school!)
What we Do Instead
We have a rising Kindergartener and some preschoolers/tots coming up behind her. These are the things we did/do with them to introduce math concepts whilst steering clear of worksheets and formal or informal curricula.
We have the manipulative kit for the K-3 Saxon curriculum. This gets a LOT of play in our house. We use the hundred number chart with all the manipulatives to work on counting. We play with the geoboards and geobands (an absolute favorite around here). My kindergartener LOVES to set up dominos and knock them down. I haven’t exactly figured out how this will contribute to her future math success, but she sure likes it.
This is the set we have, so this is the set we use. I am sure there are tons of others out there.
I have gotten away from this more since we started homeschool “official.” We need to get back to this! Our kids are making so many connections during sensory play time. Vocabulary, math, science…you name it. They are getting it through sensory play. I am by no means an expert on sensory play, but I can throw a sensory bin with colored water and some scoops and measuring cups together in a heartbeat. Play proceeds for hours from that small effort.
Randomly, W (my kindergartener) will shout out some random math fact. “2 + 2 = 4!” And we will enthusiastically cheer her on. Then we will ask, “What’s 2 + 3?” Also randomly, my preschooler/toddler will point out a shape of some sort. Follow up questions ask about other shapes, colors, quantities, what have you. This math learning stuff is happening if we just pay attention to the opportunites and take them when they arise.
Commitment to my farewell to kindergarten math is not a hard and fast, “Adios!” If one of my kids in the future (2 more coming behind my current Kindergartener) needs or wants more formal math education, I will consider it. But the freedom we gave ourselves when we decided to remove it was life-changing. I just didn’t regret it. I didn’t feel a burdern anymore. And two years later, I am still not regretting it.
Have you removed the burden of a kindergarten curricula option, too? I would love to hear your experiences! Leave a comment and share!