Parents Learn Algebra

Blackboard by Winslow Homer, 1877
Blackboard by Winslow Homer, 1877

When my homeschooled-from-birth son reached the Algebra stage of Math, I was suddenly floundering. Not the kid, me, the parent who was supposed to be guiding his education. It had been years since I had taken Algebra in college and I certainly hadn’t done any work that required keeping my Algebra skills current. I tried crashing through a couple of Algebra books on the side while trying to work through his text with him, but I couldn’t find one that worked well for me. The Algebra books I could find were either too simple, covering a bunch of remedial material that I didn’t really need, too complex, or turned me off by being cute or condescending. I just muddled through and drove my Engineer husband crazy with questions (and pushed most of the Algebra tutoring off on him). It wasn’t ideal, and ever since I’ve wished for a better way, especially since my homeschooled from birth daughter is now getting into the Algebra.

Brian Robinson, a retired Canadian Math teacher, has come to our rescue with his Parents Learn Algebra  (Clickbank affiliate link). It’s a book designed especially for parents who are tutoring or teaching their children Algebra at home. This a great resource for homeschoolers, afterschoolers, or parents who need help with Algebra homework help.

You can preview the first chapter before buying. I’ve bought a lot of ebooks. I know that it can be a little worrisome to buy an ebook. What if it doesn’t download right? Will there be any customer service if things go wrong, especially with a small vendor? Mr. Robinson was very prompt in answering my email when I had a question and has not drowned me in spammail since, so I feel very comfortable recommending his ebook to you. It’s an under $20 present to yourself that will benefit your kids and help save your sanity when dealing with the Maths.

This is my first attempt at an affiliate post and I want to only promote products that I think are very high quality and of significant use to homeschoolers. This recommendation comes from direct personal experience in how intimidating teaching or tutoring Algebra can be, especially with rusty skills. I get a commission if you buy through the Clickbank link, Click Here or above. If you’d like to check out the Parents Learn Algebra site directly: Parents Learn Algebra, please tell him Rebel Homeschool sent you!

Why My Homeschoolers Memorize Math Facts

Whenever there’s a discussion about teaching elementary Math, whether it be between homeschoolers or public school folk, the debate between “rote memorization” and “understanding the concepts” comes up. I believe this is an ill-framed debate. Nobody I know of who holds a pro-memorization stance believes that one can successfully learn Maths simply by memorizing a lot of stuff. I’m also a little mystified as to the reasons why people balk at helping their children acquire basic Math fluency.

Nobody says: “There’s no need to memorize the alphabet. As long as you know the basic concept that there are letters, that’s all you’ll ever need!” Also, few people avoid teaching their kids the alphabet in order. Why? Because while that order is arbitrary, if you don’t learn the arbitrary order then you’ll never be able to find anything in an alphabetically filed system. So why the push-back against memorizing basic math facts? They’re not arbitrary; they’re not illogical. They are valuable tools that allow you to work through higher level Math problems with fluency and efficiency.

abacus, via wikimedia commons

For a lot of people, memorizing anything isn’t exactly fun. Memorization can be hard work. Not everyone is equally good at it. And yes, I realize that there are calculators on everything these days, even your phone. Calculators are not as helpful as they first appear to be. For example, it will be a much more arduous process to solve even simple Algebra problems if the student has to stop to use the calculator for every simple addition, multiplication or division. Every interruption in the flow to check what 6 by 7 equals is an opportunity for error to creep in to the process. Additionally, students will be lost if they don’t memorize the order of operations.

So maybe memorizing Math Facts isn’t always fun, but it is important to the student’s continuing education, in homeschool and beyond. There area wide range of tools to help learn basic math facts, from video games like Spacey Math to skip counting exercises (count by 2, 3, 4, 5, etc. We used to do this on walks, in the car, while shopping for groceries. . .) to elaborate Math manipulatives.

The main argument against memorizing Math facts in service to more fluency in higher Maths always seems to be “but my kid won’t need to know that!” I don’t know what your kids need. I don’t even know what my own kids might need in their future studies after homeschool, but I’m determined to send them out the door with enough basic preparation to allow them to go study Nuclear Physics if their hearts yearn for that. Sure, they might not need higher Maths later in life. They may eventually forget all their times tables and Geometry and be forced to use a calculator to figure out how much tile they need for the bathroom floor. I’m still going to launch them out into the world as stuffed with Math as I can possibly manage though, just in case they do decide to pursue a career that requires it. And with the hope that they won’t need a calculator to figure out how much to tip their server.

Math Facts Helpers
Spacey Math
Math Brain on Funbrain
Skip Counting Songs
Multiplication Worksheets