Delaying Math

by | Math | 6 comments

Dear Bluedorns,

I have reached the point with my 9yos where I may be ready to try your recommendations regarding math. I must admit that I have been too “chicken” until now. I realized today, while teaching two-digit multiplication, that he can follow the steps without prompting, but he does not understand why those steps make sense. I have always insisted that my children understand the “why,” and not just the “how.” He also struggles with fractions, which makes me think that your recommendation to delay math may just make sense for him. My questions are these: 1) if we abandon our current math programs (Singapore with Horizons for review), what should we do for the rest of the year, since he has already covered so much math? 2) How/when should we reintroduce a math program? He is doing 4th-grade work right now.

Your idea about delaying formal math is especially intriguing to me at this point in my life, since I am pregnant with our fourth child. The thought of spending this pregnancy in a chair with good books and my children, instead of serving as taskmaster over the workbook, is most appealing.

Thank you for your time. – AmyH in Memphis, TN

Perhaps you could spend the rest of the year playing math type games such as dominoes, RummyCube, or cribbage. Play these in the evening when Dad is home and can help.

I suggest waiting till he is ten and starting with a book similar to Saxon 65. I’m not familiar with any of the other math curricula, so I don’t know where he would start with the others, but most math programs have placement tests which will help you decide. Sometimes it’s just a matter of trial and error — try one book, and if it doesn’t work try a different level. If you can borrow books or get them used then it won’t cost you too much.

Have fun and read the winter away — and let us know what books you’re reading! Laurie


  1. Tammy

    Some children definitely benefit from delay. However, some children just may benefit from a program like Math U See. It shows the students WHY as well as encouraging memorization of math facts, etc…. Since we switched from Saxon nine years ago (which most of my children did horrible in) to Math U See, my children have done very well in math.

  2. Melissa Husted

    We have used RightStart Math for my very kinesthetic 8 year old. It uses lots of games, and fosters a more discovery-based learning using an abacus to help children SEE how adding works. That might be a good thing for Amy to try. My oldest is a bit behind, but like you, I don’t really worry about that. I know he’ll be fine when it’s time for the higher level concepts.

  3. Mandy

    I would concur with Tammy. We tried three curriculums with our son before finding one that worked. Math-U-See is wonderful. He was in third or fourth grade when we swithed to MUS. We started with Alpha (first grade) but moved swiftly through most of this. (a lesson a day rather than a lesson a week. It wasn’t long before we were basically caught up.

    We never move on until understanding is complete. Math-U-See has lots of support and an online worksheet generator if you need to stay at a certain lesson longer than usual.

  4. Jules

    I actually was going to write and ask you the same thing. My 8 yr old daughter struggles so much with math. We sit there and do the same questions we’ve been doing for years and not only does she not understand, she doesn’t remember what we did the previous week! We end up in tears many times. I feel like I’m really making it worse.

    Then, I remembered that you said in the book to wait until they were 10 to do formal math. Now, to an Asian mom, that is just ‘NO WAY’… but now, I’m wondering if that is the answer to this problem! I don’t know if we can play games with math even. She just doesn’t ‘get it’. My husband has taken over the math becuz I am really at wits’ end.

    She does love to draw and paint and color. I wonder if there’s something that would help her love math without overwhelming her with black and white numbers that don’t make sense? I don’t know. Any other suggestions?

  5. Heather

    I’d also like to recommend RightStart ( My 10yo very kinesthetic son absolutely hated Saxon. Even though he’s mathematically gifted, he actually believed that he’s stupid and did terribly. We gave up and took some time off math completely.

    Then he did grade 6 Teaching Textbooks. It was great, he loved it and gladly did his math lessons everyday. But at the end, even though he did well, we realized that there were many things he didn’t completely understand. Like you said, he could go through the steps, but didn’t know the ‘why’. And so, he would forget how to do many things without constant practice.

    We’ve switched to RightStart, doing level E and it is FANTASTIC. He loves it AND he’s understanding how things work.

    My recommendation would be to take some time off math and relax, take the pressure off. If you would like to keep up some informal math, get the card games set from RightStart. Then when he’s ready, jump into the program at whatever level you figure to be appropriate — the people there can be very helpful in figuring that out.

  6. Kelly

    But, even if the other programs are lovely, why bother with busywork in math if it’s unnecessary before age 10? We have seven children and I am just beginning to see the wisdom of so much of what Laurie and Harvey have said. There is so very much to do and to read and to work and play at, why bother with the busywork of math before age 10 if they are capable of picking up in the same place at age 10 with no formal math study at all? Dare to believe it. It’s true. My 10 year old with NO math curriculum and another 10 year old with any given curriculum can pick up the same textbook and learn the same material. So much to do, so little time, why waste any of it on things that aren’t necessarily beneficial.


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