For those of you who are familiar with Saxon Math, you know that each lesson involves lots of practice, both on new skills and review. This is both a wonderful thing — old skills are not forgotten as kids work on developing new ones– and a difficult thing –very time consuming.
Saxon Math lessons are structured in 3 parts: mental math, lesson practice and problem set. The mental math section teaches kids to do increasingly difficult math in their heads, without any written practice. This is one of my favorite parts of Saxon math, because I have seen so many adults who are unable to do even simple multiplication without writing something down. As I tell my kids, you won’t always have a calculator with you, and who wants to be cheated at the store because you can’t do some mental math! The lesson practice comes immediately after the new skills for the lesson are explained, and practices that skill in progressively more difficult problems. Then comes the problem set, usually about 30 problems of review. For my kids, that averaged to about an hour of math each lesson day. While not terrible, it did cause lots of grumbling.
In the past, I have tried several different methods of shortening math time while maintaining quality. Sometimes I would have the kids do only odds on the problem set. Other times, I would do two lessons on the same day, and allow them to do only one of the problem sets. Unfortunately, as I tried these strategies with Brett, I realized that the lack of practice was really robbing him of confidence. He would come back to problems a few lessons later with very little idea how to solve them. After struggling with him for math comprehension, I realized that, at least in our family, every single problem of math needed to be worked, even if it took a lot of time. While we only do math 3 days a week, I still was seeking some way to cut down the time spent on math and still have great comprehension.
This year, we found a new way for me to be content that they have done enough practice while cutting down on the time of the lesson. I take an extra ten or fifteen minutes after their lesson for them to do any of the problems they can mentally and orally without writing down either the problems or the answers. Max is usually able to save himself about 15 problems of written work this way, and Lucy 10-12 problems. This has been a great way to give them a boost toward finishing their math quickly. I write orally next to the problems I have heard the answers to, and mark them in the book, so that I know when I correct papers later that those problems were done already.
This has led to lots more smiles during math time! Do you allow your kids to do any of their math work orally? What strategies do you use to keep progressing in math skills while maintaining interest? Please leave me a comment below.