Homeschoolers will find a variety of products on the market that can be used to teach math. Sometimes, however, these aren’t the right fit for a particular child.
Especially with mathematics, but other topics too (science, for instance), students need to see or be able to visualize concepts before the idea really sinks in.
Fortunately, there are ways to do this for mathematical concepts.
The first is to purchase a curriculum product that includes a visual, or interactive (hands-on) component. Lower level Saxon mathematics products, for example, come with a set of “manipulatives” (plastic pieces) that children use to better understand abstract math concepts. The Math U See company also uses plastic and vinyl manipulative blocks and other pieces in its curriculum sequence, again, to promote better understanding of the ideas rather than learning through rote memorization or blindly applying formulas.
A second way is to use common household objects. This takes a little bit more ingenuity on the part of the parent, but is a free and easy way to demonstrate math. For example, a small set of 1″ wooden blocks is perfect for showing everything from adding and subtracting to multiplication and division, and even exponents. A set of toy cars or action figures (or pennies, beans, or anything else) can be used to talk about ordinal numbers, grouping, divison with remainders, and more. Paper cut-outs can also be created to demonstrate fractions, percentages, angles and ideas that can be harder to grasp by reading about them in a book alone.
A final way is to use stories to tell math. Many years ago, one of my own children had trouble understanding the difference between area and perimeter. I came up with a simple story involving two dogs, one that ran around a fence, and the other that dug up the entire yard. The child learned the idea quickly, and still remembers the story, too!
There is no reason to persist in using a teaching approach that isn’t reaching a student the way you’d like. This only creates frustration, decelerates learning, and can even end in a student hating that subject. Trying a visual approach to math could be just the ticket for some kinds of students, and can be lots of fun for the teacher, too!