Review: Stanford’s Gifted and Talented math program.

play quote1I know it’s Tuesday, and in the past we have done Toddler Tuesday, but I don’t have a toddler anymore. She’s more of a child now. That’s not to say we don’t play a lot – because we do. Play is the work of children. It shouldn’t be their break from work, it is their work. But it does mean that Toddler Tuesdays are no more. Instead, I will just post her lessons here too. A lot of them are the same as Nicholas did when he was her age.

Yes, she likes art best. But that doesn’t mean I’m not making sure she gets her full share of math and science. I certainly don’t want to be accused of pigeon holing her so young. So she gets exposed to a bunch of things. But art and play are important.

As I know, my son likes math. The harder the better – even though he whines about it. If it is too easy he simply refuses to do it because he’s already done it and already knows it. Therefore, we make sure his math is hard. Or I try to make sure his math is hard.

We use Stanford’s Gifted and Talented program for math. I generally like it. Except that it can get repetitive. He’s done – according to the program – 54 sections on addition with carrying. That gets a bit tedious. Although the program makes sure that there are only about 10 questions in a section, and mixes them up with different math concepts.

For instance, today he did a section of 10 questions on lines of symmetry, one section of plotting information on a graph, an addition with carrying, a word problems (set 13), more addition with carrying, and fractions.

I’m generally happy with the program. It’s got small introductory videos when they are working on a new concept. It never introduces too much at once  -everything is broken down into these little lessons.

The only thing I’m unhappy with it how it progresses. It doesn’t let him master something and move on. It simply moves him through the progression they have on the computer. If he screws up too many problems in a set – generally because he’s not paying attention – it makes him redo the set. I’m fine with that. What I’m not fine with is when there’s more addition with carrying. He’s done enough, let’s move on. Except that isn’t the way the program works.

They have a new Redbird course out that I’m thinking of trying out for the next semester. That course is supposed to be more adaptive to the child – which would be nice.

But what is really nice is that I don’t have to do the teaching. The computer does it. And he listens to the computer better than he listens to me.

My favorite math worksheet sites.

Math can be a lot of repetition. There’s not a lot of need for a math book in our house – both my husband and I are fairly decent at math (at least until we get to differential calculus) and can explain how to do it. I also find new and interesting ways (we add jellybeans, figure out area of the floor to clean) to show the same basic skills.

What we do need are math worksheets to practice with. Math worksheet books can be expensive, and often don’t cover exactly what I want. So after some looking around on the Internet, I found my 4 favorite websites with math worksheets. Here they are: This website lets you design your own worksheets. It’s great for the basic math practice. This website has some predesigned worksheets and a fabulous math addition table. Another create your own website. There are more alternatives here that on the Softschools websites. This website has basic addition sheets in various themes. I like their Fall addition sheets for right now.

There you go – this is how we make our own addition worksheets and don’t pay for a math book.

First fractions.

Fractions can be a hard concept to grasp. The idea of half or third is abstract. So to help the young ones learn, make fractions a practical experience.

We took a banana, strawberry, one-cup measuring cup, and pretzels out in the backyard.

We split the strawberry in half. I had Nicholas take the knife and cut the strawberry in half. Then we added two halves to get a whole. I then gave him the pretzels and asked him to break them in half. He managed just fine 🙂

We did the same thing with thirds but used the banana because it was bigger. Then we split the pretzels into thirds.

When we finished we ate the fruit and pretzels as a snack.

Then we learned what fractions look like while written. I gave Nicholas the hose and had him fill up the measuring cup I the 1/2 mark. He asked what it looked like and I said it was 1/2. Then he filled it up. I asked how much more he needed to make a full cup and he answered correctly. We repeated this with thirds. When he got stuck, we pulled out the pretzels and demonstrate again before trying the measuring cup again.

We had a blast outside and learned our fractions and how to use a measuring cup.

We do regular lessons too.


Even though most I our lessons are themed, we do regular lessons too. We do them in blocks of 20 minutes or less. They are repeated, sometimes multiple times a day.

Here’s one way we do math:

I pull out the counting blocks. They were little foam blocks I got at Target when they were in the $1 bin (20 for $1). I also pull out the Lightening McQueen math flash cards. Everything is better and done without any fussing when Lightening McQueen is used.

Then we do each flash card with the counting blocks. We pull out the appropriate number and either add or subtract to them.

It is active learning and another way to do math rather than just memorize the figures.


Kumon workbooks.

A proud certificate holder! He's finished two more of his workbooks.

We recently finished up 2 of our workbooks, both from Kumon. The first was, My Book of Simple Addition. The second was, My Book Of Rhyming Words (Kumon Workbooks).

Let me explain why I like the Kumon workbooks. First – they are repetitive but not boringly so. Repetition is important. Just like learning a physical skill takes practice and repetition, learning language and math skills takes practice and repetition. These books help the process along and I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel and create worksheets for him.

Second, the “lessons” are all contained. They are a front and back of a page. There is nothing that is too long. Everything takes 5 minutes or less when done properly (without having to stop for a million distractions). That means it takes us about 20 minutes to finish both sides of a worksheet – which is about the amount of time I like to sit and do something at the table. The length is perfect for us.

Third, the books are all integrated with each other. The Kumon people have even been nice enough, on the back of the books, to place a tree to show the way the books interact with each other.

Lastly, the books are skill based. Sure, there are sometimes grades attached to the various books. But mostly they have age ranges (I take them as suggested) and are truly based on skills. An addition book doesn’t require him to read. The reading book doesn’t require him to do math. There is nothing that crosses the various boundaries. These are perfect books for him to learn math and basic skills in that might not get covered in our various other lessons.

We are moving forwards with the next set of Kumon books and I’m excited. He likes it when we get to the end and he gets the certificate. It’s amazing how he settles down and is willing to complete the last 3 lessons all at once so he can have the certificate.

Worksheets don’t grow dendrites.

There is a book Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites, edited by Tate, that has 20 instructional strategies that aren’t based around worksheets, but instead are based around learning. The main premise of the book is that worksheets don’t instruct.

I tend to agree with this approach. Worksheets do not do the instruction part. For learning addition, nothing can substitue for actually placing one thing with one other thing and making two things. We do M&M math or jelly bean math at our house – a lot. We take groups of M&Ms (or jelly beans) and practice basic addition, splitting groups in half, or splitting groups into 3 even groups. We also do subtraction and some really easy multiplication (2×2 = 4; 2 groups of 2 jelly beans each means how many jelly beans?). This is active learning and is how my son learns best.

But then we also do worksheets. I make up my own math worksheets based on what we have covered each day. He sits there and watches me write them out, sometimes he wants to write out the math problems himself (and I let him if he does). Then he solves them and writes the answer. These worksheets help tie the concepts together – the actual physical math and the symbol math using numbers. He learns and learns when doing worksheets that reinforce things we have already worked on learning. It is simply another form of practice.

Just like, when learning to count, he liked to do the dot-to-dot number drawings. He would count from 1 to 10 and connect the dots and make shapes. He thought this was great. It reinforced the idea of number sequencing.

Worksheets have their place – practice and reinforcement. They are not the best way to learn, but they do present the information in another form for some one who is an active learner. On the other hand, if your child is a visual learner, maybe worksheets do a better job teaching than our hands-on math.

Review: Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Let’s Learn Numbers and Counting

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Let's Learn Numbers and Counting might work for some toddler, like mine, but parents might not like it.

I use a lot of workbooks right now in teaching my son. Workbooks are a fun, relatively cheap, easy way to have activities to do – on paper- that he and I can sit down and do together. They are put together by someone else (saves time) and have activities that are already geared towards helping your child learn.

Not all workbooks are created equal – as I am learning. I love the Kumon series of workbooks because they are easy to use, complete lessons on each page, and have instructions to help parents guide their children.

The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Let’s Learn Numbers and Counting workbook was not like this at all. First, there are pages filled with story lines that are supposed to get the kid into doing the worksheet pages. My son doesn’t need a story. He just needs to see Mickey and friends on the page, so the story didn’t work. Secondly, the lessons are not on complete pages that you can tear out. The lessons start on the back of a page and go to the front of the next page – which makes it impossible to tear them out. I like books where I can tear the pages out so I don’t have to carry the book or have the book on the table. My son gets distracted and will want to read the whole book and pick and choose what he will do. I eliminate this problem by tearing out the worksheets we will do, and put them in a folder. Then he gets to choose the order of the worksheets in the folder.

Also, this book was too involved. The stickers and pieces for games were in the back. Nothing was punch out, you would have to cut all the pieces out by hand for each activity. Activities that should have been done with stickers (put the matching puzzle piece here), were done by cutting out pieces and gluing them down. It was too much work.

I really didn’t like it. It did have him count in each lesson and write the numbers in each lesson (with my help). But it didn’t have an easy of use that the Kumon books have. Maybe for an older kid, or a parent with more time, or a kid who can use scissors and do the cutting themselves, this book would have been great. But for our family, this book didn’t work.

Before I buy another Disney workbook, I will have to make sure it isn’t like this one. Although the Disney characters helped my son want to sit down and do the work, the work outside of the worksheet was too much to make this book easy to use.

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