The Unschooler’s Mathematics Skills Checklist

We are working on finishing up my son's 7th year of homeschooling and in those seven years one key fact about education has been cemented into my mind, "A child will not learn something until they are ready." Not only do they need to be developmentally ready, but emotionally as well and they need to have a vested interest in the topic at hand. 

Over the years, as I felt like we were failing in math and I was struggling to find ways to help master the basics of arithmetic I ran across two things that reminded me of the fact above. 

The first, "The Teaching of Arithmetic I, II, III: The Story of an Experiment," Journal of the National Education Association by L. P. Benezet. Here you find the results of a case study from the early 1900's, in which Benezet provided no formal mathematics education to children until they were in the 6th grade, or roughly 11 years old. The results are amazing and a glaring reminder that children soak up information in the early years through experience.

The second, from The Right Side of Normal, talks about the how left-brained and right-brained children learn math differently. 

In the early years, the right-brained learner needs to explore global concepts that can be visualized, such as negative/positive numbers, variables, math patterns, equality, and so forth (mathematics) so he can build the understanding necessary to be ready to learn algebra later. At that time, right-brained learners use their foundation with math concepts to begin understanding the reason to learn math facts, such as addition/subtraction, multiplication/division, and so forth (arithmetic).
— The Right Side of Normal

Having two very right-brained children and one that I suspect is left-brained, I'm constantly reminding myself to focus on their strengths at the stage they are currently in. To let them take their creative passions and turn them into learning experiences.

Between the study and reminding myself that learning styles goes beyond auditory etc...I have let go my math expectations and began to see my children flourish. 

Our home library contains a variety of living math books, math project books, games and manipulatives. The only child that ask to work on math is Matt, who is now 12. He has access to the all of the above as well as A+TutorSoft, KhanAcademy and Time4Learning. I require at least 30 minutes a school day from him, but I still allow him to work on a topic of his choosing. He is quickly catching up in math now that it is on his own terms and he is ready, on all levels, to learn it.


For Small Hands

If you are worried that no formal math is scary path and the thought of unschooling scares you, consider this. Ema, my 4th grader has access to the same home library above as well as Time4Learning and KhanAcademy. I do not ask her to do any math, but she does often on her own. She recently took the SAT 10 so that we could report the scores to our district as "evidence of progress" to our school district and tested at a 5th stanine level and one grade level above. Matthew (remember he has poor working memory) tested just one grade level below where he is. Honestly, there was a time that I wondered if we would ever get past a 2nd grade math level with him, so seeing him test at the 5th grade level, couldn't make me happier.

On to the checklist. While I don't push certain math skills on the kids, I still like to monitor what they know and keep track of their progress. I can help fill in the gaps by adding new books to our library or introducing a topic through a fun video or math art project, to pique their interest. I keep the list in my long time notebook of records I keep for all the kids and update it about twice a year, marking off the new skills they have mastered.

That is why I made The Unschooler's Mathematics Skills Checklist. It is divided into the following sections

  • Primary: Grades 1 - 2: Ages 5 to 9 - contains math skills typically taught in kindergarten and the first grade.
  • Lower Grammar: Grades 3 - 5: Ages 7 to 12 - contains math skills typically taught in the second and third grades.
  • Upper Grammar:
    • Grades 6: Ages 10 to 13 - contains skills typically taught in the third and fourth grades.
    • Grade 7: Ages 11 to 14 - contains skills typically taught in the fifth and sixth grades.
    • Grade 8: Ages 12 to 15 - contains skills typically taught in the sixth and seventh grades.

The list is designed to provide average expectations per age level that can accommodate multiple learning types, foster a delayed mathematics environment and provide you with the comprehensive list of math skills that your child will need before beginning Algebra.

                                                                                                                                            Download the checklist

                                                                                                                                            Download the checklist