Tuesday, June 21

Teaching Math to Visual Learners

When it comes to learning styles, my boys couldn't be more different!  We span from one who eschews structured teaching, but picks up things quickly (even things we didn't want him to), to the traditional classroom-style learner, to the one who really just prefers to float through life, a la uber-type-B.  It is this baby of the family who has challenged mom most through the homeschooling years....

What is a Visual Learner?

Most people have a combination of learning styles, but tend more toward one than the others.  Students who are predominantly visual learners will learn by seeing new information (think charts, graphics, and pictures).  Auditory learners prefer hearing information (think presentations and audiobooks), and kinesthetic learners need that hands-on element (think 'learning by doing').

Visual learners tend to be drawn toward photos and illustrations, movies, and graphic novels.  This last was one of our biggest clues to our son's learning style.  He was disinterested in reading until he discovered his first graphic novel.  Today, he reads thick chapter books and his textbooks, but still prefers the graphic collections best.

If your child prefers to draw pictures with his word problems...he might be a visual learner.  Color-coding positives and negatives on a number line (and when adding negative numbers) can help visual children, too.  Many of our students also NEED to know how these concepts are being used in a real world application.  It's also worth noting that
 visual learners do NOT do so well with rote memorization and math drills.

Making Math Visual

Most people initially think to just draw a picture for word problems, and that's a start, but visual learners really need more than that.  They need pictures to help illustrate new concepts and walk them through the application.  They need less abstract and more concrete.  

Math manipulatives are a fantastic, concrete tool for visual learners...just as for kinesthetic ones.  They're not just for littles, either.  Hands-on learning can help break down algebraic concepts for older learners, too!  Some that you'll want to add for your upper grades toolbox include:

Simply Good & Beautiful Math 6

Until last year, when we made the switch to Simply Good & Beautiful Math, we had always used Saxon Math - and it is a fantastic course all on its own.  It definitely prepared my boys for higher learning, using a spiral method of mastery that included DIVE videos, and providing a great foundation for math skills.  It's an older program, but it works well.  

But we needed something different.  Something more visual.  Saxon is a black and white program - all the way around - and it just wasn't working as well for our youngest.  As we bridge into advanced concepts and look toward algebra, it has become very important to make sure he masters the foundational skills in a way that works for him.

The Math 6 course includes two course books, the answer key, and access to course videos.  The student has the option of reading a mini-lesson or watching the course videos, but I find he does best by doing both.  We start each lesson by watching the video, completing a couple of problems alongside the video, and then we complete the mental math together.  Last year, for the first time ever, math class was something he looked forward to!  I thought it was because we got to work together on the mental math mysteries, but he said he enjoyed the video lessons.

The video lessons really bring the material to life in a real-world application way...exactly what he needs to answer that "why should I care?" question I'm always fielding.  But that's not to say that it's not a comprehensive, well-rounded book.  There are also pre-algebraic lessons, graphing exercises, multiplication tables, geometric formulas, and all the things that a good math course needs.

The course book features simple daily lessons, with a format including enjoyable activities and games. Basic statistics, geometry, graphing, measurement, probabilities, and so much more are all taught, along with continuing calculations. This book serves as both the teacher’s guide and the student book, and it guides parents and students through each engaging lesson.  The course also includes logic puzzles, math strategies, and has world cultures and geography incorporated into the lessons.  Poetry and literature bits are also scattered throughout the book, breaking up longer lessons with a bit of change.

While there is no Mental Math Mysteries book as part of this set, that piece is still incorporated into the course.  It's just included in each of the daily lessons within the book.  This is to foster more independence for the student, though I must admit that I liked the older format as it ensured at least five minutes of face-to-face check in time during math.  My son was also a bit disappointed to not have a story at the end of this course to look forward to, but these are our only downsides.  Overall, we're both very pleased at this course and look forward to continuing on with TGTB Math.  As long as they stay on schedule for course releases, we will be able to stay with them through at least level eight.

The course is so visually appealing, colorful, and engaging through multiple games and teaching methods, and it was exactly what our son was needing.  Even the answer key is beautiful!  For a kid who already strongly dislikes math, changing the format to something that at least seems like fun has already made a big difference.  He enjoyed Math 5 so much last year that his biggest concern about starting school this year was whether he would have to go back to Saxon or not...

Watch a Video Lesson  Try Sample Lessons Here!

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