Thursday, 28 February 2013

4-Digit Multiplication -- the proof is in the Montessori pudding!

Rocky is just now 8, and though she should be in the 2nd grade (year 3) if she went to school, she's in the 3rd grade (Year 4) Shillermath book.

Rocky, the (not always) model student!

Some of you may be thinking: "Oh, that's all right for you!  She obviously has the genes/the talent/the instruction/(insert explanation here", but let me tell you, this is the most free-wheeling, doll-playing, coloring-book-addicted child I've ever seen.

Yet, somehow, she picks things up.

(I've just deleted the phrase "just by listening", because I'm not sure she even does it by listening -- when we do our read-alouds, she can rarely muster up a decent narration beyond "There was this guy ... and he rode his chariot to this other guy ... and he shot him in the head or something" -- Rocky's version of 2 Kings 9 where Jehu shoots Joram in the back with an arrow. Kudos to her -- there WERE two guys, and there WAS a chariot, and someone did some shooting.)

Maybe she picks things up because she's a thinker behind all that cloud-cuckoo-land exterior.  I mean, usually, she's the kind of child who does things like choosing the alias "Yellow Rocket Ship Plane" when the other kids chose Phoenix, Killer, and Timmy.

Last year, though, she surprised me by saying, "Your grandma must have been pretty young when she had Grandma."  And I said, "Why do you say that?" She replied, "Because Great-Grandma has just had her 90th birthday, and Grandma is going to be 70, so she must have been 20 when she had her."

At that time, her maths books were still only doing addition up to 5. Yet, we were working with the decimal materials like 1000s cubes, 100s "flats", etc, so I'm guessing she just had a really good visual picture of what it means to subtract one number from another regardless the place-number it is.

Anyway, two days ago I introduced simple multiplication to her a la Lesson 3 of Shillermath's Book 3.  We had out the 1000s cubes and the 100s "flats" and the 10s "bars" and unit cubes. We practised multiplying 3 of the 1000s cubes and got 3000. We practised 4 of the 10s bars twice, and got 8 10s bars, or 80.

Then today, she did this:

4-digit multiplication with exchange

I'm flabbergasted. I'm astounded.  And it's not Rocky so much I'm amazed by (though maybe I should be), it's just this Montessori-based maths curriculum that teaches everything SOOOO carefully, SOOOO visually/aurally/kinesthetically, and SOOOO well!

So if anyone asks me what's the best purchase I've ever made in all my 8+-years of home educating, Shillermath would be at the top of my list. (Ambleside Online is also brilliant, but I haven't had to purchase it!)

I wish Mr Shiller had continued his math adventure beyond primary school (there are rumors that middle- and high-school version are on the cards), but that discussion will lead me into a review of Life of Fred, so I will just sign off instead.

In the meantime, you might want to look at my review from a few years ago when the curriculum was still new to us.  It gives a bit more detail, and compares it to other hands-on math options.

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