Thinking Kids’ Math

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It seems that "Singaporean" methods are creeping into all sorts of math products. Finally, these rather basic and commonsense methods employed by most homeschoolers all along have a name and they're popping up in both core programs and supplemental materials. These sets of write-on / wipe-off activity cards are a perfect example. They are formulated to build math fluency the ability to think about, know, apply and reason with math concepts. Some of the core tenets behind the activities found here are:

-Use of manipulatives (concrete), then illustrations (pictorial) for quantities before using numbers (abstract).

-Put understanding ahead of rote memorization and computation. This will result in children able to apply math concepts to a broader range of contexts ("outside the box") rather than just getting problems right in a math book.

-Concentrate on fewer topics in greater depth, rather than cover many topics at a surface level. Since many concepts are transferable to other areas of math, this produces greater gains

-Instead of constant review of previously-learned topics, spiral each at a higher level as the student progresses.

-Check understanding at each step before moving on to insure the child grasps foundational skills before learning the next building block concept.

-Begin teaching pre-algebra concepts as early as kindergarten.

Each of the sets of 84 two-sided cards comes packaged in a cardboard, file-type box with tabbed dividers for Number and Operations, Algebra, Geometry, Measurement, and Data Analysis and Probability. The glossy, 8½" x 11" cards have strong visual appeal. They contain bright, kid-friendly illustrations along with progressively sequenced skill practice for each topic. Materials needed to use the card are shown at bottom. The back side of each card contains teacher information for the activity. These are divided into three parts: a Focus statement that summarizes the objective; a Model and Practice section with instructions for directing the activity, including scripted discussion/questions; and Assess and Extend with follow-up practice and enrichment questions to both "set" the skill and test for mastery. See our website for images.

A 24-page teacher guide is also included. It contains a skills index that relates sets of cards to concepts within a strand; a student checklist of skills acquired by strand; Math Journal cover and page templates; and other helpful reproducibles (five and ten frames, place value mat, number lines, etc.).

These are wonderful, engaging skill-builders. If you're using a more traditional approach to math, you might consider working through these "on the side" with your child to infuse a little of the Singapore approach into your program. I would also recommend them as vehicles for readiness. These are fun enough to masquerade as summer "play," covering a card or two a day. They would be easy for an older sibling to teach from, since directions are so clear and well-presented. Not only will it keep previously learned skills from going stale over the vacation months, but it will prepare your child for the next year's math instruction.

My sample set is for the PK-1 level. I have listed materials needed beneath that level. Many of these are standard math manipulatives you may already own; some can be substituted for with similar items (like using Scrabble tiles for letter tiles).

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