When most people hear that you are unschooling, usually the first question is “how do you unschool math?” I have to admit that I don’t fully unschool math. My girls do enjoy following a math curriculum that is online. For them it is fun, they enjoy the basic math facts. They actually do enjoy doing worksheets.
But we do also play math games, cook, shop, etc. and use math every day in a variety of ways. That really is the key to “unschooling” math. Perhaps a better way to look at it is as natural math learning.
From a young age I have sung math songs with the girls, played games with numbers, played number recognition when shopping, cooked – and have shown them how math is used in the world. Like reading, which they have learned organically, they are learning math in the same way.
I have seen the memes and heard people say “Another day and I didn’t use algebra”. Oh honey. This isn’t true. We use algebra every day, but we don’t call it that. Finding the unknown? That is algebra. Want to make that recipe? Do you have enough milk? Can you fit all of those ingredients in the bowl? Algebra.
When we take away labels like “algebra” and lean into natural math, it is easy to unschool math to your comfort level.
HOW DO YOU UNSCHOOL MATH?
First of all, let go of the preconceived notions of having to do worksheets, a set curriculum and meeting common core standards. Forget about having to do rote memorization and learning facts, facts, facts. When you are learning math in a natural way then these things fall into place. Really understanding math conceptually makes the rest of it fall into its own logical place.
Understand that math is everywhere! It weaves through everyday life. Show your children this.
Try to keep the joy, beauty and meaning in math. It is also fun, so keep that in.
Use abstract thinking. This will help with math.
Remember that calculators are an excellent tool and extremely accessible.
ACTIVITIES FOR UNSCHOOLING MATH
If you want to stay away from any form of curriculum then here are some activities you can do to unschool math.
- Play board games, card games, even video games/gaming
- Puzzles and tangrams, and other fun manipulatives
- Cook together. This also involves doubling and halving, fractions, temperature, measurement, time, weight.
- Read books that use math (like Math Curse by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith)
- Save up for a wanted item
- Plan a meal (decide on the meal, work out what ingredients are needed, costs, shopping, then making)
- Travel (plan a trip, timetables, distance, planning the best route, cost of travel)
- Create art in nature
- Gardening (planning and building a garden – costs, time, measuring, drawing, plans, calculating how many plants to garden size)
- Building something or making crafts (measurement, placement, spacing/geometry)
- Learn an instrument (time signatures, patterns, counting)
This list really is short. There are so many ways that we can use math naturally and therefore unschool math. Remember that math is a skill, not a subject, although we have made it that way. We practice skills in order to improve. But it is always best in context. As we help our children see math in everyday activities, we are helping them to learn and grow in math.