Life at Warp Speed

life, faith, food, parenting, homeschooling and just about anything else that is on my mind

Singapore Math March 31, 2015

Filed under: Early Elementary,Gifted,Homeschooling,Upper Elementary — lifeatwarpspeed @ 1:57 pm
Tags: , , ,

Singapore Math.

How do I use Singapore Math? I get this question a lot. The first thing I will say is the K program (earlybird and essentials) that is marketed as SM is really not part of SM. It is one of many K programs. In Singapore, primary school instruction does not begin until 7. Kindergarten is a two year private program. Earlybird and Essentials are fine programs to use, but keep in mind it will not look like SM when you get to 1A/1B.
So, there are three versions of SM out there. US edition, CA standards, and Common Core. I use CA standards mostly because of the Home Instructor Guides (HIG). Also, I like the design of the CA standards and the additional topics covered. You can read more about the specific differences at singaporemath.com.
Many people choose the US edition because it is cheaper. The HIG for CA is really much better than the guide for the US edition and since the CC edition is still in process for the public school market, a lot of the supporting resources are not available. Also, CA edition incorporates more frequent cumulative skills review throughout the books in response of this specific critique of US edition. The CC edition is new and does not have a teaching guide that is meant for homeschoolers. From the reviews that I have seen of the CC edition, it appears that the sections that teach algebraic concepts that have been really useful in making a smooth and easy transition to pre-algebra and algebra have been removed. Also, the CC edition has redesigned the periodic cumulative reviews in the CA edition and limits the reviews to just the current unit. The practice pages have also been eliminated. These functioned as mini-reviews within a unit.
IMO, the HIG is indispensable for teaching SM. You can bulldoze your way through the books without it, but you would be missing a lot of the methodology and teaching tips which are invaluable in helping to your child gain a concrete understanding of the Singapore method. You will miss half of the program if you don’t use the HIG. The goal of Singapore Math is concrete to pictorial to abstract. It is very purposeful this way. Singapore teaches your child to think mathematically when many US programs teach how to do the math but students do not understand the why it is that way. The HIG walks you through how to teach a concept and how to assess whether or not your student grasps the concepts. Those check-ins are really helpful as feedback on what is happening.
The HIG also has the mental math exercises which are also important. A lot of parents get overwhelmed in 1A because they misunderstand that students must have these math facts memorized before moving on. Although the HIG says something to that effect, you really can move forward while practicing the math facts as you go along. The textbook and workbook (TB & WB) do not tell you to practice them or include extra practice, the HIG does because it is assumed in Singapore that you have been working on this all along.
What I did since M was 4 when doing 1A/1B was to have him practice by doing flashcards and jumping on giant numbers I wrote on pieces of paper on the floor. With the mental math exercises, I have been working through starting with the 1A exercises a year later instead when he was more ready to do so. Right now, we are just finishing 2B, so he is in the middle of the 1B mental math exercises which has been fine. We just work on the math facts as needed. You can do math fact practice completely separate from the mental math exercises. Some kids need very little practice because they pick it up over time. Other need some practice, and others need a lot. I just allowed my son to go ahead and use a numberline, abacus and base 10 set. Another resource that I use since I like the mental math strategies taught via Singapore is the Math Express Speed Maths Strategies series. This is a supplemental product that was developed. It explicitly teaches and offers practice for mental math. I will also say that I don’t emphasize the timed aspect since I value accuracy over speed. I found that speed naturally increases with practice.
Okay, so there are several books available. IMO, just doing the TB and WB is not enough. You will want to choose a supplemental book depending on your child. Here are some possible strategies:
For a struggling student, you will want to use TB, WB and Extra Practice US edition (EP). EP has more problems set at the same challenge level as the TB and WB.
For an average student, you will want to use TB, WB and may consider using some of the Intensive Practice US edition (IP). You will probably want to skip the challenge sections or pick and choose. IP starts at the same level of difficulty and increases in challenge. The challenge sections are pretty challenging and can be frustrating for most students. I would suggest using IP a semester behind the TB and WB. So use IP 1A while you are doing TB and WB 1B.
For a math adept student, you may want to just use TB, WB (some skip some of the WB problems if they feel their child understands and doesn’t need the practice. Others will use the IP book in place of WB), IP either concurrently if subbing for WB or a semester behind doing some or all but definitely including the challenge sections.
I completely opt of using their tests. That’s purely there for public school use. There are plenty of reviews and practices through the books that can easily be used as test of skills retention.
Now the jewel of SM is their word problems and the bar modeling technique which is immensely useful for laying the groundwork for being able to visualize a problem and for a solid basis that make algebra a step up rather than the huge conceptual jump that a lot of US curricula turns it into. For SM, bar modeling is not introduced in the TB/WB until level 3. CWP introduces it right away in level 1. The Challenging Word Problems books are really awesome. CWP is used a supplement by many families using other math curricula because the quality of the word problems is really beyond what you find elsewhere. US math curricula (and by extension US students) is notoriously weak in word problems. Keep in mind that if you are only using the TB/WB, bar modeling does not show up until 3A. Even then, there is a huge difference between the level of word problems in there versus CWP. IP has similar level of challenge, but there are only a few rather than a whole book stuffed with problems that make you need to think.
These problems are challenging. So, if you have an average math student, you may want to just focus on the first set of problems and selectively choose from the more challenging set. (or see the alternative below) I would schedule these at least 1 semester behind or even a year behind. So you would use level 1 when you do 1B or 2A. These problems are frequently require two or more steps to solve. They usually draw upon multiple skills building throughout the year. You may need to work these problems with your child and talk through them by asking leading questions. That is not unusual. It is a process to teach your child to think through these problems. Sometimes, I will do only 2 problems if they are particularly difficult.
For a more math adept student, you would want to use this maybe one or two sections behind in the the current semester or even concurrently. The difference between the word problem difficulty in the TB/WB and CWP is quite startling. They really require the student to think and apply what they have learned.
The key thing that CWP will do is show you whether or not your child has just learned to plug and chug which can appear to you that they have mastery. When you get to the challenge in IP and with CWP, you will know if your child understands his math and can apply it. It will be very obvious if there is a gap between rote calculation and conceptual understanding. That is when you go back to the HIG for that skill and re-teach a concept starting with the concrete.
An alternative to CWP for average or struggling math students (or students coming from a different math curricula) is a supplemental Singapore Math program called Process Math Skills in Problem Solving. You can just use this instead. In the normal SM sequence, word problems and bar modeling are not introduced until 3A. You can use the Process Math books which help incrementally teach a student how to think through a word problem and works on strategies and problem solving skills.
Another feature of SM is the emphasis on mental math. In Singapore, this is not explicitly taught in the TB/WB. They assume you are doing what every family does in Singapore and doing after schooling with drilling of math facts and mental math. They don’t do this in school because that’s the job for parents to do at home. So, the HIG does talk about what students should be learning and include mental math drills in the back. However, for many families, they could use more explicit and incremental instruction in mental math strategies. Math Express Speed Math Strategies fits this bill. It is a pretty good supplement for anyone that wants to sharpen these skills with any type of student. I personally don’t like to emphasize the timing and speed because of the age of my son and the level he is working at. I am far more concerned about his understanding and grasp of the strategies. It seems to naturally help increase speed and improve his skills over time.
At its core, Singapore Math is a conceptual math program that develops a students ability to do math while at the same develops a deep understanding of why math works. The method boils down to concrete => pictorial => abstract. It is tempting to jump right into doing the problems without taking the time to follow the activities in the HIG that assist you in introducing concepts (concrete) or to skip bar modeling for simpler problems (pictorial). I encourage you not to do that but to take the time especially in the early levels to build that solid foundation. As we begin level 4, I can look back now and see the purpose behind what we were doing to build a solid fundamental sense of math. I can also see how that will reap tremendous benefit for my son as we take on more challenging concepts.

L@WS

Note: To learn about SM, you may to watch this seminar on youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-QMZ_f9PUg  There are many videos available For those that who are interested in Singapore style math curricula but would like to investigate other math programs, I would suggest Math Mammoth or Math in Focus.

Note 2: There are many families who are uncomfortable with math instruction, I have not used this personally, but there are instructional videos available here to support the US edition: http://www.singaporemathlive.com/

Advertisements
 

Educational Tech Picks March 6, 2015

This is the October 2014 column that I wrote for my co-op’s newsletter. I realized that I should share these gems with all of you as well! So, I will be posting up my other past columns when I have some more time. I just love finding interesting and sometimes unusual educational resources online that can be leveraged for homeschooling. Keep in mind that these are not necessarily Christian resources and as always please preview and decide for yourself if a particular resource is appropriate for you and your family to use. These resources may be of interest to families that supplement on the weekends, after school, or summer vacation.

ABC Jesus Love Me: Free                                                                                             Grades: Toddler to Pre-K
If you have littles in the house that are chomping at the bit to do “school” just like their older siblings and have no time to pull something together, then abcjesusloveme.com (AJLM) is my solution for you! AJLM is a great free biblically based, play based curriculum designed to take you from ages 2 to 5. Each year has a 36 week plan covering literature, music, character, Scripture, pre-math, pre-reading, and age-appropriate concepts and skills. This is a well-laid out curriculum with an intentional progression leading you to being ready for formal schooling at school age.

I really appreciate the way the AJLM lays out each week beginning with the supplies that you need to have on hand. Then you are given a good overview of learning objectives for the week. This is followed by a list of all the different activities and links to all the printable resources. If you scroll all the way to the bottom you will find a schedule grid with everything scheduled over 4 days.

I must say that you should not to feel compelled to use everything which might be challenging for those who are compulsive box checkers. Depending on your situation, this might feel overwhelming to you. Feel free to pick and choose what is most important to you or even slow this down and work over a whole year rather than 36 weeks schedule.

Magic School Bus Science Lesson Plans: Free                                                                                       Grades: K-3

Homeschoolbelle has made her Magic School Bus DVD series lesson plans for the primary grades. She has pulled together a schedule that takes you through each episode with suggested books to read, a project or experiment that you can do, related Brain Pop videos, and writing assignments  from about the topic. This is such a fun way to do make science interesting and accessible for younger children.

http://homeschoolbelle.blogspot.com/2013/08/free-science-plans-using-magic-school.html

VocabularySpellingCity: Free. ($29.99 for premium access for full features. ).

Spelling City is available as an app for Apple, Droid, and Kindle users. It is also available online as well. This is a pretty fun way to practice and test spelling words though various games and activities. The premium membership does give you many more features that expand this to be a good vocabulary resource as well. The annual family premium access is for up to five students.

There are literally thousands of user created spelling lists in their database. Their spelling list search function is rather underwhelming though and not that effective to narrowing down what you are looking for. The trick though is that you either have to know the user’s account name or the list name. I have been able to find lists for most common homeschool spelling curricula (SWR, on Spelling City with a little key word searching of the Spelling City forums (forum, spelling city, ). Sometimes, when my hands are busy with making lunch or dinner, I will run the practice test and have my son write out his spelling on paper the SWR way…cursive with all the markings. It does free up some time as I can have him work on spelling and vocabulary while we are en route somewhere on our iPad. We really enjoy using it.

I was able to organize a way for our co-op to take advantage of the special pricing by having parents share access to a teacher account. If you can get enough people together and organize it, it is a great deal at about $2 per student for 12 months.

http://www.spellingcity.com/

The Online Engineering Academy: ($400-$550)                                                                       Grade: High School
I just love this concept that meets a real felt need for high school students that are interested in engineering. This is something that is very challenging to provide to students without going with a college level course which usually requires calculus as a prerequisite. This is a great resource for families seeking to provide their high school students a good bridge and solid foundation for future collegiate level study in engineering.

The Excellence in Engineering Education Initiative Foundation in partnership with Auburn University has made this elective credit, four-year engineering curriculum available as an online course. These courses are taught by an engineer that is also a high school teacher and has teaching assistants who are graduate engineering students who worked through this curriculum as high school students.

The pacing and design of these on-demand courses reflects math skills that follow a traditional college preparatory progression of math that culminates with Calculus in their senior year. So, students, on a progression ending with pre-Calculus, should consider starting this series a year behind so that they are able to work successfully through the course.

http://www.theonlineengineeringacademy.com/ 

L@WS

 

80 Phonics Readers – free again in case you missed it! July 23, 2014

Filed under: Book Apps,Early Elementary,Homeschooling Apps,Kids — lifeatwarpspeed @ 10:16 am
Tags: , , ,

There is a huge iBook giveaway from Francis Morgan & Josephine Lai of their 80 early phonics readers. This giveaway will not last long so start downloading as soon as you see this post since each iBook has to be purchased individually. You need to download the iBook reader app in order to read them on your Apple device.

Books 1-52 here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/swrl/id731669223?mt=11

Books 53-80 here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/francis-morgan/id626953438?mt=11

L@WS

 

 

Teach Me Kindergarten – free for 4th of July! July 3, 2014

App Store – TeachMe: Kindergarten.

TeachMe: Toddler for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad on the iTunes App Store.

TeachMe: 1st Grade for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad on the iTunes App Store.

TeachMe: 2nd Grade for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad on the iTunes App Store.

TeachMe: 3rd Grade for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad on the iTunes App Store.

The Teach Me series of app for the iPad and iPhone for toddler, kindergarten, first grade, and second grade are well worth the regular  each for these incredibly well designed learning apps. Today, Teach Me Kindergarten is FREE for the first time ever ! All other Teach Me apps are on sale! Each of these apps are well designed for use with multiple children in a family or a classroom situation for up to 30 children since separate player profiles can be created. Four are included with the initial app purchase. The app is designed to test your child’s skill level across a variety of subjects and will increase difficulty depending on their mastery level. You can easily see where they are in the program on the summary page. There are control features that can be set to customize the app for your use to focus of specific subjects or specific questions within a subject. This is very helpful if you have an asynchronous learner.

Unlike many learning apps out there, this app will avoid repeating skills that they already mastered and uses a coin reward system for correct answers. The coins can be banked and redeemed in the store to sticker rewards. The app does a great job of motivating the student to continue to play since that is the only way to earn coins and also teaches the value of deferred gratification by holding off spending you coins immediately as there are rewards of different values available in the store. You can even create your own reward system within the app.

The Toddler app covers basic pre-K concepts of numbers (up to 20), upper and lower case letters, shapes, colors and letter sounds. The Kindergarten app covers Dolch Sight words (pre-K and K), basic addition (up to 10), basic subtraction (10 and down), beginning letter sound recognition in words. The First Grade level covers: Dolch Sight words (1st grade), addition (up to 20), subtraction (20 and down), and spelling.

You should note that the first grade level requires the learner to write their answers. This is a fine motor skill that some advanced learners may have some difficulty with since there is a certain level of accuracy required for the app to recognize the letter or number being written. However, the app will allow the user to ask for the correct answer to be shown so that it can be traced. That being said, M has been using the Teach Me: First Grade app since he has turned 3 with some initial struggles as he was unused to staying within the guide lines of the handwriting “paper.” However, he has really liked learning with this app since he enjoys writing, and it offers him enough challenge while keeping him interested and engaged longer than a workbook can. I was very pleased when the First Grade level was offered since he no longer being challenged by the Kindergarten app.

Highly recommended for toddlers through second grade. Well worth the paid app price. We have been using these apps for years as part of our homeschooling. This is a great resource for gifted accelerated learners as well.

L@WS

Updated: Teach Me 3rd grade is not recommended currently as a good (must) buy as they continue to use the same UI and reward system which gets a bit tired and young for a 3rd grader. Also, the scope of the skills covered does not match well with general standards for 3rd grade. I would judge it more like halfway between 2nd and 3rd grade. However, if you are using the app for a younger gifted accelerated learner, then it is still a useful app. There are other apps that are more “mature” for the average 3rd grader.

 

80 Phonics readers – Free for a very limited time! June 29, 2014

Filed under: Apps,Book Apps,Early Elementary,Homeschooling,Kids — lifeatwarpspeed @ 8:51 am
Tags: , , ,

There is a huge iBook giveaway from Francis Morgan & Josephine Lai of their 80 early phonics readers. This giveaway will not last long so start downloading as soon as you see this post since each iBook has to be purchased individually.

Books 1-52 here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/swrl/id731669223?mt=11

Bookes 53-80 here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/francis-morgan/id626953438?mt=11

L@WS

 

 

DragonBox Math Apps – currently on sale! May 30, 2014

Filed under: Apps,Early Elementary,Gifted,Kids,Middle School,Upper Elementary — lifeatwarpspeed @ 12:25 am

DragonBox Algebra 5+ on the App Store on iTunes. ($2.99, normally $5.99)

DragonBox Algebra 12+ on the App Store on iTunes. ($4.99, normally $9.99)

DragonBox Elements on the App Store on iTunes. ($2.99, normally $5.99)

Does the words algebra or geometry make your child freeze? Or do you have a math adept child that is hungry for more? This is a great set of apps to introduce your child to fundamental concepts of algebra and geometry in a fun way. Take the mystery and the fear right out of tackling higher math.

Sometimes, stepping away from the textbook, pencil and paper and just playing this together with your child could make a world of difference in removing math anxiety for older kids. For younger kids that enjoy math, this is just plain fun to get away from arithmetic drills and change things up a bit. This is even a good for parents that are feeling a bit rusty with algebra and geometry to get the brain thinking this way after many years. If you have a gifted child, this is a really great way to offer more depth and challenge.

Dragon Box has placed all three of their top-rated award-winning (many times over) apps on sale right now. I have no idea how long this will last, so jump on this fast!

You can learn more about what the algebra apps cover here: http://www.dragonboxapp.com/ . Geometry fundamentals are tackled with really engaging fun puzzles that help kids learn and discover the logical reasoning behind all those dreaded proofs from geometry.

L@WS

 

 

Walking with Dinosaurs: Inside their World – free for a limited time. May 25, 2014

 

Walking with Dinosaurs: Inside their World on the App Store on iTunes.

This award-winning app has been completely revamped the BBC Worldwide and BBC Earth with the original developer to bring you this amazing interactive dinosaur encyclopedia. The encyclopedia is professionally narrated by Stephen Fry, British comedian and actor. There are 280 3-D renderings of dinosaurs to explore and hours of narrated content. This app is normally $4.99 and is being offered for free download for a limited time.

Hurry and grab this before it disappears! It is perfect for anyone dinosaur enthusiast of any age.

L@WS

 

 
%d bloggers like this: