How to use SCM living math with my curriculum

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  • queenireneof3
    Participant

    Hello,

    My son (10yo, going into 5th grade) has always found math to be challenging. I started him on RS B (1st edition)for his first grade year. He got stuck about lesson 27 and we switched over to Singapore math. He has struggled his way through it and now at the end of his 4th grade year, he has completed Singapore 2B and has already started 3A this summer. I am planning on keeping him in Singapore for now, but was wondering how I could implement SCM living math with his curriculum and if it would be helpful for him at this point? Is SCM living math something that would replace the Singapore curriculum? I feel like such a failure as a math teacher to him and I am really trying to avoid the urge to switch curriculums when it gets tough since that seemed to put us farther behind. But I feel very burdened to make sure that he doesn’t hate math. Would love any thoughts you have!

    Richele
    Participant

    Hello queenireneof3,

    One of the beautiful things about Charlotte Mason is that she knew from experience that, no matter what age the child began his education with her methods, he developed amazingly.  You are not a failure.  Charlotte Mason herself used a math curriculum and method in her early years (we read of it in her first volume “Home Education) – Sonnenschein’s ‘The ABC of Arithmetic” with her own students only to find out that the children were good at analyzing numbers but couldn’t relate it to real life.   So, she began transferring methods of hers that did work to math.  Oral problems, just like oral narration.  Written problems came later, just as did written narration.  The teacher didn’t stand between the child and arithmetic (note, she did not use what we think of as “living books” or storyline curriculum to teach math) but the child did go in his own power, doing the work himself, making connections himself in a guided way.

    First, let’s dispel the fear.  If you have yet to find faith in yourself be encouraged that Charlotte Mason would have faith in you if she were here today, evidenced in a letter to Mr. Household, the County Secretary for Education in Gloucester and proponent of her work.  Mr. Household was hesitant to allow a “less able teacher” in a poor district to follow the work of the PUS.  She responded that “just as she had faith in all children…her faith extended to all teachers” and that “any teacher brought face to face with the surprising things children do on this method…rises to the children’s level…and that…teachers, as well as children, develop amazingly.”

    Honestly, I don’t know anything about Singapore.  Please know though that my oldest son was in third grade and had used a boxed curriculum when I switched to Charlotte’s methods.  I had bought into what had been touted as “CM-math” but wasn’t seeing the results I saw in other subjects.  He had begun formal lessons with a love of math but it had become a hated “subject.” That is when I decided to find out what her methods really were.  Once I understood, I took him all the way back to the beginning and we flew through until I understood where he had actually lost his way.  He progressed quickly in some areas and slowly in others.  He is now turning fourteen, heading into high school, and enjoys math.

    I hope this helps and am happy to converse further.

    Warmly,

    Richele

    queenireneof3
    Participant

    Thank you, Richele. I am honored that you would take the time to personally respond to me. I appreciate your encouraging words. I would really love to do with my son what you did with yours. I can tell there are some holes in his understanding. He tends to be a bit “bipolar” with his math studies. Sometimes, he really gets it and is so proud of himself; but when he struggles to get a concept he gets so frustrated. (Which, btw, has led us to many great character conversations about perseverance, etc…)

    I am not a mathematician, but I did not struggle with math either. I grew up as a missionary kid in Japan and was always impressed with the Japanese kids’ understanding of math. I chose both Right Start and Singapore because of their Asian influence and emphasis on understanding the concepts instead of memorizing facts.

    Did you stop using curriculum when you applied Charlotte’s teaching to your son’s math? Does he use curriculum now? How might we go about using the SCM math book? Would it replace his curriculum? What might it look like for our family to apply the SCM book to his studies now?

    Thank you again!

    Richele
    Participant

    Hello again, queenireneof3, and you are most welcome.  I will do my best to answer your questions and am happy to continue the discussion of CM’s methods with you.

    The caveat emptor is that I’ve never held Singapore in my hands but did look at page images from 3A and read through its methodology both on their homepage and from an outside source.  My understanding is that Singapore goes from concrete to pictorial/model drawing to abstract.  Charlotte’s methodology does not use the pictorial in that way.  Rather CM’s methods would be 1) concrete followed by 2) working with imaginary objects in the mind and then 3) advancing to abstract numbers.

    The manipulatives and cards found on Singapore’s site look surprisingly like the Sonnenschein manipulatives that Charlotte’s schools started out using. The teachers found though that their students formed an iron-clad relationship with the objects that they couldn’t bridge in real life and that contrived apparatus either required too much teaching or replaced the importance of the idea it was supposed to represent.  Charlotte realized it was best to use simple and varied manipulatives, all found in the home, to use in the presentation and investigation of ideas.

    Charlotte’s methodology also isn’t worksheet or workbook driven.  There were no pages of problems staring the child in his face.  Rather, problems were mainly oral, writing was done sparingly and in a gridded math notebook.  Now, this doesn’t mean that you couldn’t read through the handbook and apply Charlotte’s philosophy and methods to the problems found in a Singapore book.  It might be simpler to use a different book though, one that looks more like the books Charlotte used.

    Per your questions:

    Did you stop using curriculum when you applied Charlotte’s teaching to your son’s math?  

    I stopped using a formal curriculum but used Ray’s Primary Arithmetic for my second son’s first year (he is now 11) and followed with Strayer-Upton Book One and Two for both of my boys.  I use the SCM handbook “Mathematics, An Instrument for Living Teaching” side by side with these books.  So, if I’m about to begin a new concept, I look to see how Charlotte taught it and then just use the other books for real problems that relate to the life and interests of my kids (which is what she encouraged her teachers to do).  I also use Charlotte’s scope and sequence found in the handbook along with the methods that are foundational in her teaching of math. There are things in the Strayer-Upton books I skip (some wordy and convoluted explanations, diagnostic tests) but also much that I use.  They aren’t expensive, about $14 from Christian Book Distributors and can take one through.  I also use one of the books Charlotte used for Practical Geometry found in the handbook -they are both in the public domain along with the practical geometry found in the Strayer-Upton books on Friday.

    I have gone through all of Charlotte’s math books mentioned in her programmes page by page so feel confident in the use of Strayer-Upton.  Her particular arithmetic books mentioned use the former British currency system so are unwieldy for today.

    Does he use curriculum now?  By this question do you mean is my almost 14-year-old sitting and working alone with a textbook?  I still have him for his formal lessons.  Sometimes when I think of just having him “go it alone” I think about the private school down the road and how non-plussed I would be if I sent my children there and the teacher were not an active guide.  The current plan is Harold Jacobs for Algebra and Geometry but this summer we are trying out a newly published curriculum to see how it fits Charlotte’s living teaching.  We haven’t decided what we will use for business math (he ran his own bookstore with SCM’s business math resource) and it may just be that I teach him to take over the bookkeeping for my husband’s business.  I’ve picked something tentatively for Calculus but truly, this is the summer I plan his next four years of high school.

    How might we go about using the SCM math book? Would it replace his curriculum? What might it look like for our family to apply the SCM book to his studies now?  The handbook allows you to grasp Charlotte’s principles and methods and goes deeper into the teaching of mathematics.  It gives the “do’s and don’ts” and shares how you might apply it to the curriculum of your choice.

    My youngest is also a bit of a fatalist when it comes to his math.  I am not a mathematician but a dreamer/writer-type.  I have rediscovered the innate love of math I had as a child and am thrilled to see beauty and truth in math.  Charlotte’s methods means each step taken is on firm ground in cooperation with the One who is Life.  Her methods not only develop intellectual and moral habits but awaken a sense of awe in God’s fixed laws of the universe and His love for us in giving us such tools.  This is a gradual unfolding of ideas we are talking about.  It is as relationship building as any other subject in a Charlotte Mason education.  It keeps the child as a born person paramount and keeps the teacher from standing in the way, offering crutches, or denying the child the joy of self-discovery.  The how-to and why is found in greater depth in the handbook.  The dilution into 1-2-3 steps are in the dvd’s.

    I hope this is of help.

    Warmly,

    Richele

     

    queenireneof3
    Participant

    Thank you, Richele! I am grateful that your took so much time to look at Singapore and write your thoughts. I noticed that SCM advocates Right Start Math in their sample curriculum choices on the website. My daughter (8yo) just switched from Singapore to Right Start (since I still had my level B from when my older son had tried it). She is doing wonderfully so far, but she is working through a lower level for her age to try to “catch up” with the Right Start method. I like how they visualize the numbers in their heads without counting. Joan Cotter says the abacus does not become a crutch. Is that consistent with CM’s ideas?

    I looked at the Strayer-Upton books and they look really great. I did not notice a teacher’s guide for the Strayer-Upton books, so when you say you use these books side by side with the SCM living math book, does your SCM math provide the info you need to teach the concepts? I suppose until I read the SCM book for myself, I would not know if I feel confident teaching without some kind of teacher’s guide. I would be afraid to miss something or teach it poorly. I plan on getting the SCM living math book soon so I can look at the scope and sequence you mentioned. I noticed in the description of the SCM living math book that included in the book are curriculum recommendations. Do you talk more about those Strayer-Upton books and how to use them in that chapter?

    I also noticed there are three Strayer-Upton books. Do you use the third? About how long should it take to get through all the books (2 or 3 of them)?

    Thank you for your time and patience. It is so nice to be able to ask all these questions!

    greenebalts
    Participant

    Oh my…this is a very timely discussion! I bought the SCM Living Math DVD a couple of years ago at a convention, but seriously just took the plastic wrap off today and watched the first couple parts. Then I logged on the forum to ask a few questions and here you all are talking about it!

    A little background, my kids are ages 12, 11, and 4. My two oldest are both struggling math learners. Our 11 year old has a dyslexia diagnosis. Reading has been remediated, so math is our next subject to tackle. He will be entering 6th grade in the fall and has always been homeschooled. I have tried MEP, Math Lessons for a Living Education, Math-U-See, RightStart, Singapore, ST Math, and Life of Fred (Apples through Honey) over the years….yikes, it’s a lot when it’s typed out 🙁

    Anyway, he recently underwent testing by a neuropsychologist as a follow-up to his initial testing nearly four years ago. The assessment notes things like:

    On a task of fundamental arithmetic skills, performance was in the very low range. Did not show an understanding of carrying, simple multiplication or simple division. When asked to demonstrate his math knowledge in a more applied manner, performance in the low average range….continues to struggle in the area of mathematics and fundamental arithmetic skills are significantly behind what would be expected for his age. Continues to do better with problem solving and applying related knowledge which again is a function of his strong verbal skills.

    The neuropsych recommended I continue to develop curriculum at his level including working on fundamental arithmetic. He also recommended looking into Khan Academy.

    I’ve been using Charlotte’s methods with him for years as far as reading aloud quality living books, expecting narration, copywork, nature study, etc., but feel like I’m failing in math because there’s just not a lot out there regarding Charlotte Mason and math. I am convinced her methods are best for him and am delighted to find the SCM Living Math. I do also own Ray’s and the Strayer-Upton you mentioned, but I’m struggling to wrap my mind around how to implement.

    My first major question is in regard to placement. Where to I start an 11 year old? Does Ray’s New Intellectual Arithmetic sound right? Or maybe, Strayer-Upton? Or, would I go back to Ray’s Primary? The thing is, he has an extremely low tolerance and becomes irritated very easily, particularly when it’s difficult or if he feels it’s too easy. We seem to walk a fine line here, lol.

    Also, I mentioned our 12 year old also struggles in math. I believe she has some form of dyslexia as well, but has never been formally diagnosed. She reads post high school and has for some time, but struggles greatly with math and spelling. Is it possible to begin this process with a rising 7th grader? Again, where to begin with placement? She already feels frustrated from the struggle and knows she is “behind” others her age. I wonder if starting back from square one will only exacerbate this?

    Thanks,
    Melissa

    Richele
    Participant

    Hi queenireneof3 and Melissa (greenbalts),

    A note to let you know that I’ve written all your questions down and am working on answering them.  Sleepover season has begun and I’m in the midst of a gaggle of kids but I haven’t forgotten you.

    Warmly,

    Richele

    Richele
    Participant

    Hello queenireneof3 and greenbalts,

    I’m greatly encouraged that you want to have an understanding of Charlotte Mason’s living teaching of math and that you want to incorporate her methods into your children’s math lessons.  And, Melissa, I’m glad you finally took the wrapping off that dvd set.  My apologies for not being able to field your questions immediately.

    I’ll begin with queenireneof3’s questions regarding Strayer-Upton and the handbook published by SCM then will do my best to answer your questions regarding RightStart in my next post and then a third post addressing Melissa’s questions.   We currently live without wi-fi so I’m at a coffee shop typing furiously 🙂 but happily.

    The handbook (and the dvd’s if you want to see how elementary arithmetic using CM’s methods looks carried out with a student) would be the teacher’s guide to using the Strayer-Upton books.  I think if you read the handbook you would be able to more clearly make a decision on how you would like to proceed you’re your children.  As it currently stands, if mother is not comfortable with coming up with her own little interesting problems then the examples found in Ray’s Primary (free), along with manipulatives found in your own home, will take you and your child through the first year of Numbers with the caveat that you are using Charlotte’s methods, based upon her philosophy of education.

    The first two Strayer-Upton provides all the example problems necessary to take your students from approximately 2nd grade to mid-8th grade arithmetic with the understanding that your child will take each consecutive step on firm ground.  You don’t move forward based on Charlotte’s scope & sequence and her Forms –they are tools– you move forward as your child achieves comfort and understanding with each concept.  Why rush through mathematics when it has the power to transform our children and ourselves through an expanded knowledge of God and the universe?

    Book 3 of  Strayer-Upton covers things like profit and loss, bank interest, investment buying, ratio and proportion, geometry and square roots.  My book is currently packed away due to our recent move.  These business-math type things would be the things Charlotte’s schools began covering in the last term of Arithmetic in (our) eighth grade and then continued through high school.

    My handbook does not suggest which book to use.  It is a big job to review all the math curricula out there along with the continued stream of new being published.  The handbook does provide you with the guidelines to review curriculum and test whether or not it is as “CM-friendly” as it or others might claim.

    Warmly,

    Richele

    Richele
    Participant

    RightStart.  I will ask for an extra portion of grace, queenireneof3, as I answer your questions regarding RightStart.  People I know and respect have used have used or recommend this curriculum and if you choose to go forward with it, please know that I will not look at you cross-eyed.  My intention is only to speak of it in light of my knowledge of Charlotte Mason’s living teaching of mathematics.

    You’ve asked if the use of the AL abacus and visualization is consistent with Charlotte Mason’s ideas.  My understanding is that the AL abacus was developed based on Montessori Black and White Bead Stairs.  Visualization in RightStart is based on groups of fives and is not what Charlotte Mason meant when she said a student may work with imaginary objects as a step between the concrete –using beans, coins, or other manipulatives– and envisioning objects (beans, coins, sheep, ducks) in one’s mind before advancing to the abstract.

    In her paper, Montessori Mathematics and Right Start Mathematics, Dr. Joan Cotter states that all “RightStart Mathematics manuals are written with Montessori principles in mind.”  Charlotte Mason had “deep contentions” with Maria Montessori’s methods and writes about them in great detail in a letter to the editor of The Times in 1918 after the paper ran an article titled “The Montessori Method.”  (Note: I link only for the purpose of the letter written by CM herself and not the ensuing blog post).

    I’m not going to discuss RightStart as a math program as it stands on its own.  Obviously, it is a comprehensive program that attains its intended results as stated by Dr. Joan Cotter, who holds a doctorate in mathematics as well as being a Montessori teacher and founder of a Montessori school.  As someone intimately acquainted with Charlotte Mason’s living teaching of mathematics and a continuing student of her philosophy of education, I would not consider RightStart to be a “Charlotte Mason math curriculum” but a different methodology altogether.  I believe the reason that SCM and other recognized names in the CM-world recommend RightStart is because it is an “open and go” method of instruction with some crossovers in key terms of what people think of when they think of CM math such as “hands-on,” “manipulatives,” and “self discovery.”  Charlotte Mason’s living teaching of mathematics is much deeper than this though and a more comprehensive view of Charlotte Mason’s living teaching of math can be found in the handbook and dvd.

    Based on Charlotte’s philosophy of education outlined in her 20 Principles; a multitude of samples I pulled up online; along with statements on the RightStart website; I see multiple reasons why Charlotte Mason would not have used RightStart.  Caveat emptor, I have neither physically held the curriculum nor done a thorough page-by-page review nor have I taught my own students using RightStart.  I do believe RightStart may achieve the desired results Dr. Cotter has set forth but I believe Charlotte Mason desired much more for children.

    For the sake of brevity, I’m going to quickly address RightStart’s use of manipulatives and games based on CM’s most well known 1st and 5th Principles:

    1.  Children are born persons.

    5.  Therefore, we are limited to three educational instruments –the atmosphere of environment, the discipline of habit, and the presentation of living ideas.  The P.N.E.U. Motto is:  “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life.”

    Atmosphere:  Charlotte believed a contrived environment and specially designed apparatus were detrimental to children and instead made use of commonplace objects. She considered the use of staves and cubes to embarrass the child’s mind with too much teaching.  Unstudied games may have been a part of a child’s natural environment before the age of six but games were not part of Charlotte’s formal arithmetic lessons.  Charlotte Mason arithmetic lessons were interesting, ideas conveyed, and a child’s imagination was excited without the use of games or specially designed apparatus.

    Discipline: Arithmetic was recognized by Charlotte as a means of training intellectual and moral habits.  She had a definite line of simple and direct teaching of arithmetic to support this recognition that does not resemble RightStart.

    Life:  It was the “beauty and truth” of mathematics –that awakening of a sense of awe in God’s fixed laws of the universe—that afforded its study a rightful place in Charlotte’s curriculum.  It was her living teaching of mathematics that awakened a sense of wonder and also achieved the desired habit training mentioned above.  From the very first lesson in Numbers with the exploration of one, to learning the symbol 1 as standing for one of something, to the idea of an order of things to the idea of letters standing for any number in algebra, Charlotte’s methods are hallmarked by the unfolding of ideas in a child’s mind.

    We give them a ‘play way’ and play is altogether necessary and desirable but is not the avenue which leads to mind.  We give them a fitting environment, which is again altogether desirable and, again, is not the way to mind.  We teach them beautiful motion and we do well, for the body too must have its education; but we are not safe if we take these by-paths as approaches to mind.  It is still true that that which is born of the spirit, is spirit.  The way to mind is a quite direct way.  Mind must come into contact with mind through the medium of ideas. … It is necessary for us who teach to realize that things material have little effect upon mind, because there are still among us schools in which the work is altogether material and technical, whether the teaching is given by means of bars of wood or more scientific apparatus” (Vol. 6, pp. 38, 39).

    As always, I am happy to keep this important conversation going and am always open to learning more myself.

    Warmly,

    Richele

     

    queenireneof3
    Participant

    Hi Richele,

    Thank you for taking the time to reply (at a coffee shop!!) to my questions. I will be rereading your posts and thinking through them. Teaching math has been such a confusing thing for me…I will be ordering your book and DVD. I am curious if it is too late to switch my son to CM’s math principles? He is at the 3rd grade level of Singapore. He is not loving math but gets through it. He absolutely loves doing questions orally, especially when I make up little problems based on life around us. Hopefully after I get the handbook, I can learn whether or not this is in line with CM’s principles. Does your handbook have ideas for how to transition older kiddos? I am so appreciative of your time!!

    Sara

    greenebalts
    Participant

    Richele,

    Your replies thus far are very helpful. I just finished an extensive (16 month) study of Charlotte’s 20 Principles so your response regarding principles 1 and 5 resonated with me.

    I look forward to your next “installment” 😉 I totally understand the busyness of life and I very much appreciate your time and energy.

    Thank You Kindly,
    Melissa

    Richele
    Participant

    Hello Melissa and Sara,

    I’m going to begin addressing your questions together as they have some overlap. The encouraging thing is that Charlotte Mason says of her methods, “Children of any age, however taught hitherto, take up this sort of work with avidity.”  Pretty cool.

    Thank you, so much, Melissa, for your understanding.  I wish it had been life’s business keeping me away.  It was the rather unromantic fact that I hurt my back weeding the yard and have been able to sit, walk, stand for very short periods of time only.  I’m on the mend though after almost two weeks of chiropractor visits.  I’m amazed that you have done such an in-depth study of Charlotte’s principles, Melissa, and, Sara, I’m so glad to know your name!

    First, Melissa, I know you have the dvd’s but do you have the handbook as well?  Though I don’t have a chapter on placement per se, it will help you with that and will serve to guide you with using Strayer-Upton’s First Book, which is where I would place your son after you go through Charlotte’s steps in teaching multiplication.  (Since you already have Ray’s and Strayer-Upton, Melissa, feel free to use the example oral problems from wherever you like and you could try switching up the language to include things that might particularly interest your child if you are able).

    I think I’ve discussed multiplication in some length on the forum as well and will look for that post.  Charlotte’s methods are idea based so using them will give your children an idea of what “times” indicates and give them tools to understanding the rationale behind multiplication.  Division is going to begin in the concrete as each multiplication table is learned.  It is detailed in the dvd and handbook but, again, it is ideas that are communicated –the idea of continuous subtraction, or sharing; and the idea of fractional parts, also known as measuring.

     

    Sara, since your son loves little oral problems, he should especially enjoy Charlotte’s methods.  When I placed my oldest son, I went back further than I thought I needed to but we flew through using concrete objects (manipulatives) just to ensure that he truly had mathematical understanding and was not just mechanically solving the problems.  Sometimes he balked at the use of manipulatives at his age but I always promised they would go straight away and not be seen again.  Money, on the other hand, was a manipulative he was particularly fond of working with.

     

    …to be continued.

    Richele

    queenireneof3
    Participant

    Thank you, Richele. You have given me lots to think about. I am excited to apply Charlotte’s teaching to my son’s math studies. I still need to read up on them in your book, however. I am curious to consider especially your thoughts about Right Start. I am not very familiar with Montessori methods so I will have to keep up my reading…sometimes there is just so much info to ingest! Whew! I pray I make wise decisions with the resources I have.

    Sara

    Richele
    Participant

    Oh, Sara, I’m sure you will as you continue to pray and cooperate with the Holy Spirit.  In an effort to have you deal with less information, not more, I am linking Charlotte Mason’s own words as she describes and compares her philosophy of education to that of Maria Montessori’s in Three Educational Idylls.

    Warmly,

    Richele

    Erika
    Participant

    Hi Richele. I was wondering if you could explain when and how to progress a child from oral lessons to written math lessons. Thank you very much.

    Erika

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