Friday, December 1, 2017

Pick the Right At-Home Math Curriculum

I spent the last few days thinking about the comment I received from Anonymous asking about current+2 curriculum for a 2nd grade child.  The last two articles on this topic were experimental and not helpful, and I'll delete them some day.

Taking a step back, here is a better version of the question: "What is the best way for a 2nd grader to work through 4th grade math so that she (or he) obtains all of the grit related benefits from doing so, learns more math, subject to the following constraints":
  1. You've only got so much time to help and you're not a teacher
  2. You need a high MAP score and teacher recommendation for the GAT program
  3. You may or may not have to pass the COGAT this year
  4. This child is only 7.  And not necessarily good in math. 
  5. You can't afford a tutor or an after school math program.  Plus you hate driving.
  6. If your child does get into a GAT program, you want them to be the best.
  7. If you run into problems, you're going to send 19 emails a day to so this advice better be good.
  8. Math curriculum from US publishers stinks
I updated the article How To Create A Math Genius to be more clear about this situation. You might want to refer to the content starting at first grade.  In this article, I'm going explain why my curriculum choices are counter intuitive and logically valid. 

My top 2 choices for curriculum are Go Math from Houghton Mifflin and Eureka Math.  A few years ago, a teacher suggested I review Eureka Math for 4th grade and I had a pdf of the whole book but I can't find it.  It's totally spoon feeding math, not only in the book but in the problems.  Go Math has a more intuitive approach, which means more concepts and less actual math.  For a kid who's already been through the advanced math exercise, he can do the Go Math homework for current+1 on the bus while playing Minecraft and discussing Star Wars memes.  And get them all correct.

If I was more worried about the MAP, I'd go with Eureka.  If I was more worried about the COGAT I'd go with Go Math.  I would probably pick Go Math anyway.

The target of Eureka and Go Math, and the rest of US curriculum, are the 50% of below average kids in the US with parents who know nothing about math and don't care.  This is perfect for a 2nd grader attempting 4th grade work, because the 2nd grade is starting way, way below average and her parent has zero experience teaching 4th grade math to a 2nd grader.  Really great 4th math curriculum is designed for bright, talented, engaged 4th graders with a parent who knows something about 4th graders, or at least has had 9 months of experience with a 3rd grader. 

If your 2nd grade child works through 4th grade math, and you follow the rules, #1, #2, #4 and #5 are taken care of.  #8 makes this possible.  For #3, you need more material beyond advanced math.  The COGAT is looking for kids with generalized problem solving skills who will be strong academically in the future, not kids who are ahead now.  But if you want your advanced math to impact the COGAT score, start with 100 (average) and add 1 point for every leading question you ask, add 5 points every time your child makes a mistake and you just shrug your shoulders because you don't care, and subtract 1,000 points every time you tell your child how to do something.  This will be an indication of their final score on the COGAT.

#6 will happen on it's own.  Most GAT programs only go 1 year ahead on math so your child would see the exact same math for a second time.

I'll take care of #7 right now.  "My son/daughter has been working on one of these books for 3 weeks and gets them all wrong and has only done 2 pages."  This is exactly what I expect.  This is the path to gifted.  The secret is just to keep going even though it doesn't make sense.  This is so counter intuitive that only about 10% of parents are willing to try it, and only 1% of parents are willing to follow the guidelines of an encouraging learning environment at home under these conditions.  That's why only 1% of children make it into the top 1%.


  1. What's the best way to walk my child through Fractions (improper fraction, mixed numbers...etc.)? Should I have him watch Khan Academy video or just dive into basic practice questions? He does understand the fraction concepts but struggling with mixed numbers and improper fraction and fractions of set.

    1. I think comments are limited to about 1,000 words. Need to do a post.