Curriculum 101: Arithmetic

Curriculum101One of the biggest struggles homeschooling families battle is which curriculum is best for their children. We become overwhelmed by the amount of curriculum available, struggle to find the right fit for each of our children, proceed to doubt each choice made for at least the first several weeks, and continue to search for new ways of teaching well after we’ve already begun our year.

To this end, we thought we’d spend the month of September launching discussions on all things curriculum.


Arithmetic. While reading may be a parent’s nightmare, arithmetic usually sends kids running.

My kids constantly ask why they have to complete twenty addition problems, why they need to do word problems, and why they need to memorize their multiplication tables. Do they really need to know how long a tree’s shadow is from twenty feet away when a train is sweeping past at 50 miles an hour?

If your littles are having a hard time understanding why arithmetic is important or how arithmetic corresponds to daily life, it might be time to take a step back from those workbooks and go back to basics. It might be time to take a course in Practical Mathematics.

Let’s explore a few basics when teaching arithmetic, and how we can help our children make the connection between those problems on the page and everyday living:

  1. Arithmetic Teaches Life Skills
  2. Arithmetic Should Prepare for Real World Math
  3. Arithmetic Should Teach Mental Computation (calculators are not always going to be available)
  4. It is Important to Know Basic Facts
  5. Using Calculators Isn’t Forbidden
  6. There Are Different Methods to Reasoning Numerically

How do we help our children take these basics and apply them to everyday living? We include our children in real life application. We teach them to budget their money, setting aside funds for savings and tithe. We explain how we budget our household funds. They assist us while grocery shopping. They add totals for us while shopping. We bake together; sew together; paint together; and more.

What about higher maths? I cannot tell you how often I use geometric formulas in projects around the house! Engineers use trig on a daily basis. And algebra, too, has it’s purposes.

“But, Mom! I don’t want to be a mathematician or an engineer. Why do I need to take algebra?!” (A question often asked in our home.) My response is usually something along these lines, “Well, honey. You’re going to want to make money writing those books, right? How will you know how much you made, so you aren’t cheated out of your earnings? How will you know how to pay taxes on what you earned? You’ll also need to establish a budget and set aside funds for various purposes. Arithmetic is practical. You’ll need it. Trust me.”

Arithmetic doesn’t have to be a chore. Believe it or not, it can actually be quite fun! But, until we help our children make the connection between the problems on the page and the application of everyday life, arithmetic will just be another task to cross of their list.

May we use our learning time to meet our children where they are and help them gain a better understanding of the world around them. May arithmetic be yet another way to increase our children in wisdom.

🔔Now, it’s your turn!! Share your tips for developing a love of arithmetic. What’s worked for you and what hasn’t?

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24 thoughts on “Curriculum 101: Arithmetic

  1. This has been one of my goals for this year…to somehow make math a little less stressful (especially for my oldest) and more enjoyable. She is good with math, but gets easily frustrated with it, and the curriculum we used last year just took too long to get through. Too many problems each day…and I can’t always be standing over her shoulder to tell her which ones to skip. Soooo, this year we’re mixing things up a bit, using a combination of Math Lessons for a Living Education (which I found free online), Splash Math app on the iPad, Life of Fred, and the occasional lesson from Math Mammoth. Phew! But so far the variety has been working well for her. Have you always stuck with the same math curriculum from year to year?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, we’ve used aBeka since our kids were little. I like the format, the layout, and the repetition. I will say, however, that we sometimes change HOW we use it. I don’t always make them complete all problems in the books, nor do we follow the routine set out for us. I take their materials and make it fit our children’s needs.

      It certainly sounds like you’ve found what works best for your family. That’s wonderful!


  2. Overcoming Math Anxiety by Sheila Tobias is important to read before you teach Math. I believe many curricula make it more complicated than it needs to be. We tried a Saxon book and it made it so complicated for us. Hayes School Publishing books were great but have gone out of print. This woman, who runs a school recommended them to me. Her students are all way above grade-level without making them suffer. It is just good texts. Anyone interested in bringing Hayes back in print? They were simple and not overwhelming. I could give the kids one page at a time, no fancy pictures, no confusing explanations. But most importantly, building a good relationship with numbers starts in the highchair, counting peas, adding carrots, fun finger games, dividing cocktail straws. This foundation will make math much more understandable and easy. Here are a few of my suggestions.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow have just read a couple of blogs where parents home school and am amazed how many parents choose to home school now which is a sad indication of our school systems. I have also been impressed with the content far more than a school would offer methinks. I am a grandparent who is helping home school my grandson..I do the “fluffy bits” Cooking, life skills, art and writing fiction so I find these blogs interesting 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. We found the challenge so difficult that we built a website dedicated to solving this very issue. We just did a brand new release of the website to made it mobile friendly. The blog has a post that explains how we got to this very point. Hope it helps. If you have questions feel free to contact us. Blessings and Cheers

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “until we help our children make the connection between the problems on the page and the application of everyday life…” That’s the biggest complaint I’ve heard about the Saxon math books, which I have found to be true as we’ve used them over the last few years. Every time I find a website that explains the uses for the higher math, my daughter says, “So? I’M NOT going to ever do THAT job, so why do I need to learn this? I’ll just forget it all when I get out of school!”

    I found this quote by John Saxon in the front of the Saxon Algebra 2 (3rd Edition) book and thought it was very funny (and a little sad): “There is no requirement that you like mathematics. I am not especially fond of mathematics–and I wrote the book–but I do love the ability to pass through doors that knowledge of mathematics has unlocked for me.”

    Liked by 2 people

  6. we have used Abeka, Saxon(blech) and Teaching Textbooks. Weare now experimwnting with a new math for high school called Triad Math. Its very calculator dependent and it took me a lot of questions and prayer to try this out. It has raised my eldest ACT math score by 4 points so far. That kinda sold me on it. If I feel is not not a complete math education, I have time for my youngest to supplement-Which I think may be Life of Fred. So far, I am happy with the program.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I used Saxon math with my own children, and hired a tutor for the high school level stuff. (One son took AP Calculus just for fun!) With our grandchildren we are using Math-U-See, and I wouldn’t change a thing! I works for each learning style, and allows each one to learn at their own pace whether they are ahead, on level, or still working to understand the basics. We love it! We also use math games, and real life application. Math is not my specialty, but it can be taught effectively and still be fun!

    Liked by 1 person

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