New Math Template and Why I Track Progress

I loved math facts and being timed in elementary school. It was always a race against myself, and I could not wait to see how much I improved each week. I loved them so much, that my fifth grade teacher was so kind as to supply me with a regular and generous (by generous I mean hundreds) supply of math facts well into my teenage years! I had been looking for a worksheet like those math facts, but wasn’t satisfied with what I was finding, so I created a simple worksheet via excel: Addition Math Facts ‘A’. This worksheet can also be found under the “Templates” tab.

The reason I felt the need to create this is because Jay is at the end of the 1st grade and is struggling with single digit addition.  Very simple addition requires him to count on his fingers. I’m not sure if this is normal or not, but I do want him to become very comfortable and familiar with basic addition. So here’s how I am using the worksheet:

  1. Time him once a week. I let him go as long as he needs to and I turn the timer off once he is done.
  2. Count all the correct answers (privately, so he doesn’t see what he got wrong);
  3. Record the date, his time, number of problems correct, the percentage of correct and completed problems, and the next date of the timed worksheet.

Some unschoolers may have a problem with worksheets, and I can understand. It seems that it goes contrary to the method, and I think I agree. I also understand that homeschooling in any method you choose should be flexible and suitable to your family, personal preferences, and educational choices. One thing I do enjoy about a worksheet, is that I am quickly able to identify thinking patterns on the sheet of paper. It helps me identify the underlying problem very quickly so I can better help him.

Why am I tracking? A few reasons:

  1. For myself. I enjoy seeing where someone has started, where they are and where they are heading. Tracking allows me to stay on top of things, personally, and helps me quickly identify learning patterns, problem areas, thinking processes and progress. It teaches me more about my son’s learning style, habits, and behaviors in different situations. For example, when he was three years old, I was trying to teach him how to identify each letter in the alphabet, and I was tracking his progress (ridiculous, I know! That’s a whole other post about what not to do). I quickly learned that when a new or hardly shown letter was added into the mix of letters he knew very well, he would shut down and start saying any letter, even when it came to letters he knew. I could see immediately that it was a major, instant source of frustration to learn something new. When that happened, I would always fall back on the letters he knew very well to build his confidence to keep working with the new letter. I also learned how he correlated letters according to their shape and characteristics. For example, he would call a “w” “m” or sometimes an “upside down ‘m'”, mistake c for e, ‘d’ would be called a “backwards ‘b'” and so on.  It was very helpful to track and see how he reacted to learning something new (highly unfavorably), and how he viewed and thought about the letters he was learning.
  2. For him. Every week I plan on showing him how he has improved. I am hoping this will be a motivator for him and show him that time, practice and concentrated effort pay off!
  3. School records in case I ever get audited. But mostly for me. It’s just how I function!

Anyway, these are the things I am doing now. I don’t know that they are things I will keep with me on this journey, or if I will drop them as we go along. I’m unsure right now, and that’s the beauty of it; we can switch up our plans and ideas at any time to something that may work better!