Reality, Math and the Homeschool

{From the Archives, but too good not to share on a day when I feel flattened by helping my daughter with quadratic equations}

Ever heard stories about kids in high school coming down with panic attacks and cold sweats before geometry? Or who crammed for weeks upon weeks to meet college math requirements for graduation? That was me.

Last month, a well meaning teller gave me a sweet little hand pat along with a pamphlet about women learning how to be in control of their finances. This was after I responded to her question about one of our accounts with, “Oh, I have no idea. My husband handles all of that. Should I call him?” Lovely.

 Dayton Art Institute

Dayton Art Institute

Being the self-analyzing person that I am, I have determined that this all stems from numbers not meaning much to me in general. In my education, as beautiful as it was, I honestly lacked a context of understanding real world problems. I also missed out on the beauty of mathematics in every day life, how it was nestled into things that I cherished like the rhythm and measure of classical music (or more likely for me in those days, Nirvana), the pretty spiral of a shell on the beach or the symmetry of a pinecone’s perfect decent from its tip, not to mention the proportions necessary for making perfect whip cream. 

 Pinecone by hulihoo

Pinecone by hulihoo

And right in the middle of my own weakness, I am questioning, as I always do, “Can I teach my children…with this gapping hole in my own knowledge?” Do I delegate, do I refer them to someone else? Maybe. Probably.

My plight with math has been a long one, and although I don’t see a natural end in sight, I am beginning to see the beauty of its nature and the logic of things all around me. I think, in many ways, being unsure is equipping me to teach this subject with greater gusto. I am more determined to prepare my children well for a world where numbers are inevitable, and to bring a sense of wonder to their math studies. I am more apt to teach this subject from a place of humility and am pricked by the sense that I need to have the same heart approaching all our other studies.


I’m on the prowl for life-giving resources and experiences that go beyond equations on paper and I am discovering  and learning because of my duty to teach. Along with my children, I am finding with new eyes the way math infiltrates life around us and my own educational ‘hump’ is becoming smaller in the process, and a little less daunting day after day.

What areas are daunting to you as a teacher of your children? How do you combat them and carry on?

Our favorite Math resources:

Teaching Textbooks

Family Math

Living Math

Chicago University Press Math Classes at The Potter's School