For Brynne's first and second grade year homeschooling (Eli was still in public school) and for the beginning of their third grade year homeschooling together, we used Math Enhancement Programme (MEP) as our math curriculum.
Math Enhancement Programme is a FREE online printable math curriculum that uses the Hungarian model of teaching mathematics. Most of it is mental math ... and high level mental math. In fact, it was astonishing to me the math solutions the kids could do in their heads.
Hungary is highly ranked in the world in their math performance, even at the primary ages. The model for mathematics is based more on student interactive and whole class teaching. Although the teacher presents the materials and problems, the students work on the solutions as a whole class and discuss the methods for coming up with the solutions. Much of the work is done mentally. It tends to focus on investigating the whys of mathematics instead of just rote memorization of facts.
With the different math products we have had the opportunity to review, and my "public school ingrained mind", I felt that the kids "needed" to know their multiplication facts for 3rd grade. Why? Because that's what "they" do in 3rd grade. We stopped using MEP and moved onto some other more traditional programs.
While the kids are doing great at their multiplication facts, a part of me has felt something missing and felt a call back to MEP. I miss their astonishing abilities to mentally solve a problem as I now sit and listen to them skip count every single multiplication problem. It has occurred to me that they don't know WHY they are multiplying. They are just doing it because they have been told to.
So, we are going back. We are not abandoning our traditional work with multiplication. But, we are going to now also include a practice page from MEP each day. If it's a long and complicated assignment, which sometimes they are, we will likely take more than one day to complete it. But, I just feel a need to push my children into more higher level thinking when it comes to mathematics.
I encouragement you to check out Math Enhancement Programme if you are looking for something MORE for your children in the area of mathematics.
This post was prompted by a sweet picture book by Deborah Heiligman called The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos. It's about a young Hungarian mathematician and his journeys through life. Intrigued? Maybe you could start by reading that book.