Math Curriculums in Public SchoolsI am not a homeschooler. My daughter goes to a public school and plods with her classmates through a math curriculum selected by her school district. I believe their curriculum is called Investigations. Its website claims that it helps all children understand fundamental ideas of number and operations, geometry, data, measurement and early algebra. What happens in reality though is that this curriculum is too fast for some kids and incredibly slow for others. I don’t think that it’s necessarily the fault of this particular curriculum (even though some of the assignments cause a triple eye roll in our family). It’s just a simple matter of averages – you cannot create a perfect curriculum unless your curriculum adapts to a student using it.
Math Curriculums in Home SchoolsI have a lot of online buddies that homeschool their children, and I enjoy reading their posts about pros and cons of various math curriculums. Quite often I’ve seen one curriculum replaced in the middle of the year by something else and I applauded to parents who have flexibility to get rid of things that don’t work. However, these changes can be expensive and exhausting for children and their teachers alike.
Try a Free Math Curriculum for Grades 2-8I wouldn’t buy a math curriculum at all if your child is in grade 2 or higher, at least not without giving Khan Academy a try. We are using it for about 2 months now with a child in the second grade (but working on 4th grade level in math), and we are all in love with it. Here are a few things why we love Khan Academy:
1. Math Missions that are aligned with common core math curriculum for US schools. My daughter is working through 4th grade mission, but it’s also possible to just go into free exploration choosing different topics from the “World of Math”.
2. Mastery Challenges every day where students get a chance to progress in the concepts they are learning. The number of challenges is limited, so students who work with a certain time limit are “forced” to choose something new to learn.
3. No blasted worksheets! Nobody in our family enjoys worksheets. Of course, there are problems to solve, but, most of the time they are presented one at a time. Khan Academy has a “scratch pad” that works reasonably well on iPad. We usually have a pad of paper nearby when more involved calculations are needed.
4. Created by people who love and “get” math. When I watch Khan Academy 3-5 minutes videos, I “get” concepts right away, and so does my daughter. This cannot be said about some of her math lessons in school that I observed when volunteering. It’s not that Smarty’s teacher doesn’t know math for the second grade, it’s just presented in a way that is not accessible by some and way too slow for others.
5. Most problems don’t come with multiple choice answers. My husband and I are entertained by dependency here on multiple choice answers. Kids in school are taught to eliminate unlikely answers as part of testing prep instead of being taught how to find the solution without a crutch. For most problems Khan Academy expects a student to type an answer and not to select it from the list.
6. Badges and point system are appealing to my daughter and provide natural milestones in learning. We celebrated her 50,000 points by going to Jamba Juice, so she is very interested in getting to 100,000.
7. Accelerated learning. Salman Khan didn’t create his academy to get everyone somewhere at the same time. His mission is to “accelerate learning for students of all ages”. It really warms my heart to see my daughter flying through fourth grade math at her speed of learning instead of doing dozens of worksheets on the same topic, because this is required by her curriculum.
8. Progress reports. In Khan Academy there is a concept of a “coach”. I can see everything my daughter is doing – how much time she spent, what she practiced, where she backed out of a task and where she was “downgraded” from mastery to “needs practice” (Khan Academy retests students on learned skills from time to time). As a person who love data, I enjoy this degree of visibility into my daughter’s learning.
9. Promotes self-reliance and competency. A student is working at its own pace, reviewing videos and practicing skills as needed. A coach is in supporting role, stepping in when a student is stuck. In two months I tried to step in once and was told to butt out. My daughter needed some time to think about the concept and then a few days later she “got it” and moved on.
10. I know I told it before, but this amazing program is free. I would have used it for my entire curriculum in homeschool, but it could also be a supplementary tool for advanced learners or for struggling learners depending on your needs.
The Future of Khan AcademyI am excited to see that Khan Academy is piloted in more schools across Silicon Valley. We have asked our school to let Smarty spend 30 minutes of every math period on Khan Academy to allow her learn math at her speed. I am convinced that the United States needs more innovation in its educational approaches if we want to stay competitive with the world, and Khan Academy is a ray of hope in a rather bleak landscape of math curriculums available to our students.
- How Khan Academy is Reinventing Education from Forbes Magazine
- Khan Academy – the Future of Education from CBS News
- TED Talk – Salman Khan on YouTube
More Math?Follow my Pinterest Math Board for Elementary school and my Pinterest Preschool Math board.
Your Turn:Have you tried Khan Academy? Did it work for your students? If not, why not?
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