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.


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.

Making pizza.

Mini pizzas can be quite the lesson for a preschooler: math, cooking, and biology all mixed into one lesson. In addition, it is a fun lesson and he hardly realized how much he learned. Mini pizzas, as I approached them, because a project lesson – a holistic lesson that didn’t focus on a specific subject but instead brought all the subjects together in one lesson. It also let him practice various motor skills that he is going to need to develop to be a better writer.

All our ingredients for mini pizzas: cheese, sauce, pepperoni, and bagels/hamburger buns.

All good lessons start with good preparation. In this case, it was me splitting the bagels in half (or buns, since we ran out of bagels) with a knife. I don’t like to let him use a knife, so I do the knife work beforehand. I also put the spices into the tomato sauce so it would be ready to do. I got out the cheese and pepperoni, and a spoon to put the sauce onto the “crusts.”

Nicholas did all the work.

The math part of the lesson: Dividing the pepperoni equally (or unequally) and counting them as he put them onto the crusts. He also had to count out enough slices of cheese to make for the pizzas.

The cooking part: Making the pizzas counts as cooking. He can – accurately – tell you that his mini pizzas are made with a crust, then sauce, then pepperoni, then cheese. As a person who has married a man who doesn’t really cook, and who knows many young men who cannot cook, I realize that teaching him how to cook is important. In fact, it is vital. What happens when he is older and I don’t want to cook every day for him? He is learning now how food is made, and that is important.

The finished product: Math, cooking, and biology lessons all in one. Thank goodness he's still too young to recognize all that he's really learning from making mini pizzas.

The next question might be, “How in the world do mini pizzas count as biology?” Well it is simple.

Biology lesson: We eat plants and meat (pepperoni and tomatoes) so we are omnivores. We are not herbevores (not in this house) and we are not carnivores (although we do love some meat). So we talked about the difference between plants and meats. Then we talked about the food chain and we played the food chain game. I got to pretend I was a plant, and he got to come pretend to eat me (he picked being a cow), then I got to pretend to eat him as a hamburger since I was a person. I thought that would end the game, but my very creative son decided he was going to be a T-Rex and eat me – since a T-Rex will eat a person. I declared an end to the food chain and he told me I was wrong, “Mommy, a T-Rex dies and is eaten by God so it can go to heaven.” I decided not to correct him and took the sentiment as correct.

In addition, we named off the food groups we had. We have a picture on our refrigerator of the four main food groups: meat, bread, dairy, and fruits/veggies. I really wanted to add chocolate, but my husband reminded me the picture was for our son, not me. So at every meal he has to have all four food groups and name what he is eating out of each one. So he named them correctly: Tomato (fruits/veggies), crust (bread), cheese (diary), and pepperoni (meat).

That is how our task of mini pizzas ended up taking 1.5 hours to make and cook and eat! It was a fun lunch and we both really enjoyed it. He learned so much and still doesn’t realize how much he is learning.

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