Our homeschool has been going really really well the last two weeks with my revamp of the kids’ work plan. (Well, we’ll pretend that Astroboy didn’t cry big fat tears about not wanting to go to school the other day.) One of the new items on their work plan is working with the free Chinese math workbooks put out by the National Academy of Educational Research.
I really like these books because from the quick flip throughs up to 6th grade, they seem a bit Montessori-esque. Or maybe if I say Singapore Math-esque, that sounds better (even though Singapore Math also took it from Montessori). For example, in Book 1, they introduce place values with very Montessori like materials (thousand cube, hundred squares, ten bars, and unit beads). They’re just not in Montessori colors and it’s on paper.
For sure the operations imitate a bit Montessori math ideas. Even the fractions do too. At the same time, it mimics traditional math curriculum in the way it starts with 1 digit +/-/x/ and then 2 digit, 3 digit, etc. (e.g. 1+1, then 12+35, then 342+345, etc). In fact, the progression seems very much like CA standards before they moved to Common Core. (Please note, I’m no expert. I’ve only glanced very quickly at these standards whenever I feel anxious.)
The books are for 1st-6th grade. There’s a textbook version and a practice book version. To make it easy for those who don’t read Chinese, here are the links to each year’s textbook.
- 1st Grade Fall, Spring
- 2nd Grade Fall, Spring
- 3rd Grade Fall, Spring
- 4th Grade Fall, Spring
- 5th Grade Fall, Spring
- 6th Grade Fall, Spring
I painstakingly printed these out and turned them into PDFs for the kids to practice. I started Thumper on 2nd grade Spring semester and Astroboy on 1st grade Fall semester. She should be doing 3rd grade, but I’m luring her into this work by starting with an easier level.
In any case, my goal with these books isn’t really math because we’re already doing Montessori math. For Thumper, we’re using the books to catch all the other types of maths that we’re not doing at home. For example, word problems, calendaring, and measurements. I’m also using it as just another way for her to review on paper what she, hopefully, has learned with the materials.
For both Astroboy and Thumper, I’m using these books so they can practice zhuyin. Everything is in zhuyin for the lower grade level books. Astroboy gets to practice reading without knowing he’s practicing. I love using these books to practice because the sentences are repetitious and ideally he will learn new characters that way too.
How we’re using it
As with all workbooks and work sheets, the children are asked to write as many pages as they like and stop whenever they want. For Thumper, it’s only a once a week work she chooses to do. For Astroboy, we do it whenever he wants to or I suggest it when he says he’s bored. This is to ensure they don’t get the work sheeet phenomenon of rushing through to finish ASAP or working for working’s sake. Especially for math, it is easy to fill in the blanks without understanding. All you have to do is copy the examples to know how to derive the answer, without understanding why it is so.
If the kids do just 1 page and then call it quits, I will judge their mood that day and sometimes request that they work on it for a minimum of 5 minutes for Astroboy or 10 for Thumper, instead. I find a time constraint rather than page constraint appears to the children that they have some choice in the matter. I don’t keep a timer in front of them. It allows them to go over their limit without realizing, which is a good thing.
Of course this would only work if 1) they are still willing to work on it and 2) they’re not just twiddling their thumbs during those 5 minutes. In those cases, a time limit doesn’t work and it’s time to call it quits for the day.
Thumper, now that she can read, works through these herself and asks me when she has questions. I sit next to Astroboy, half listen to him read, and help him as needed. These are textbooks so there is a bit of instruction going on.
For both kids, the math has been just review so far. For Astroboy especially, I’m finding that he needs a lot of practice in zhuyin tones. These worksheets keeps the sentences he’s reading short so he doesn’t get frustrated, and yet the total practice time is fairly long.
One thing in Montessori math that’s very much emphasized is that 20 is 2 10’s. On paper it’s not a 2, it’s 2 10s. This is a very important concept because when kids start working with big numbers they can get confused, treating the numbers as stand alone digits rather than considering their place value. This workbook covers it.