Choosing Math Curriculum for Special Learners
We school year around, and January is when we end up moving on to the next level of materials for many of our subjects. Finding appropriate materials for math especially has been difficult for my crew, because I am dealing with children who each have their own quirks when it comes to their abilities and attention spans.
A “special learner” is a child who strays from the norm, either by ability or disability. In my home, I have one child who is exceptionally advanced in mathematics, and one child who requires special attention and a very hands-on approach to learning.
Choosing curriculum in this instance is no easy feat. Many parents like to keep all their children in the same program, but doing that isn’t really an option in our home since both boys have such specific needs.
Materials for Advanced or Accelerated Students
With Bug, our biggest struggle has been finding materials that at at an appropriate challenge point for him. He spent the first couple years homeschooling eating up math programs as fast as I could get them for him. In the end, I realized that using a full program wasn’t going to work until I did reach that magical “challenge point” where he would slow his pace down.
We decided to accelerate him through elementary math, using many different materials. This meant I would have him focus on one topic at a time (such as addition, multiplication, division or fractions) until it was mastered. For a child like this, a “spiral” curriculum that repeats lessons on concepts can be a nightmare- they do much better with “mastery” programs which teach a topic and move on.
The other option for advanced learners is to go “wide and deep” instead of just rushing ahead. This means digging into the why of math rather than just the how and doing more complicated and complex problems with your child to really stretch their understanding. Puzzles and logic problems are a wonderful way to accomplish this.
Kids who want to dig deeper into their math studies may enjoy preparing for math competitions, exploring Khan Academy and Alcumus, and using a program like Beast Academy which is designed for advanced students who enjoy extra challenge.
Materials for Hands on Learners
Mr. Man struggles a little bit more with mathematics concepts, and as a active child with a shorter attention span, he does much better with math programs that allow him to learn the material in a slower, hands on way.
Some children really benefit from “seeing” the math with manipulatives and guided exploration, so a strong curriculum with lots of practice does them worlds of good.
We’ve had wonderful success with Math U See (which is also a mastery program, so don’t choose this one if you have a child who needs frequent exposure to previously taught ideas) and Right Start Math (which is a spiral program, lots of review!) with him. Both of these programs have the added benefit of having a script or video lesson to help you as a parent teach the concepts.
Materials for Students who Need to Work Independently
This year, we’re going back to our traditional parent-led curriculum (at least that is the intention for now!) but in 2014, we had to move the kids to computer based programs to ease my load during my pregnancy.
There are many reasons to need to step back from parent-led curriculum- if you are not comfortable teaching, or if math class turns your child into a holy terror (hey, it happens!) it may be best to send them off to learn with a virtual teacher. This doesn’t totally get you off the hook- you’ll still need to be sure to check the work and reteach any concepts that didn’t stick, but it is a wonderful option if you need to ease your load.
Dreambox Math is an awesome choice for special learners in grades K-3. Teaching Textbooks is a good full program for older students and breaks down problems step by step, and CTC Math and IXL are both awesome supplements to curriculum.
More Math Resources
See our recommendations for math manipulatives every homeschooler needs.
Read our reviews on many different math programs and find one to fit your family.
See if your library has Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics to help you be a more effective math teacher.
Read more about Math, Science and Logic Curriculum Choices over at the Virtual Curriculum Fair!
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Choosing Math Curriculum for Special Learners by Heather @ Only Passionate Curiosity
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