Younger (8) proudly finished Singapore’s Challenging Word Problems 4 this week and promptly declared the next day “math free” to celebrate the accomplishment. For those unfamiliar with this portion of the Singapore Math series, it consists of a single book per level with, as the name suggests, progressively more challenging word problems that emphasize the arithmetic and geometry principles introduced in the main texts (we use Primary Math, U.S. Edition). My challenge can be to find a way to solve them without using Algebra, and sometimes I can’t find another way, much to his delight.

Upon completion of the book, I found I didn’t have the next textbooks and workbooks. Switching gears, I pulled out Challenge Math for the Elementary and Middle School Student, by Edward Zaccaro. My older and I enjoyed a few of the lessons in two of Zaccaro’s collections of lessons for gifted elementary math students, but I admit that, then, I saw them as a diversion not serious curriculum. My older, also quite talented in math, has always hungered for the next step, often without regard of his mastery of the current step. Fascinated with his mathematical prowess, I was more than happy to allow him to fly into Algebra (Elementary Algebra, by Harold Jacobs) immediately after the exhausting Singapore’s Primary Mathematics series.

And he excelled at algebra. Finally shaking off the arithmetic doldrums and getting on to “real math” renewed his interest in the subject, interest that started at 4 and fell asleep long division in first grade. For him, the quick move to algebra was renewing. But there were pitfalls. At 10, his written organizational skills were weak. His desire to do all the work in his head didn’t work for systems of equations. Additionally, he has dysgraphia (a writing disability — for my older it means forming the letters takes all his concentration, leaving little brain left for the content he’s writing) making the increased written work of algebra difficult. He determinedly pressed on, renewing his love of math and doing quite well.

I still wonder if we jumped too quickly to Algebra. From a technical end he was ready, although I’ll admit that only during Algebra did he finally learn his multiplication tables and mastered long division (thanks to synthetic division). As we reach the midpoint of Geometry (Harold Jacobs, 3rd ed) with Algebra II (Thinkwell’s College Algebra) behind us, I wonder where we’re headed. I’ve offered a year of some trig and explorations of other topics, but he seems set on precalculus.

So back to my younger guy. He excels in math but doesn’t love it. He is enjoying our detour into Zaccaro’s Challenge Math, at least for now, but the snuggle-with-mom factor may be a factor. That’s fine with me. For now, we’ll vamp and snuggle.

Hi Sarah,

This is my first time here. You have a great blog and seems like you have everything under control with math:). I wanted to suggest that if your younger one likes a bit of detour, may be he will appreciate Life of Fred series…which is playful, story form, fun but still deals with math concepts? Also, thinkwell’s pre-algebra…or teaching company’s videos on joyful math…to mix up with the regular math…

Good luck

-Subadra

Thanks, Subdara, for the idea. My older tried Life of Fred Algebra II, but it just wasn’t enough content for that level of math. Revisiting Fred with the earlier books could work for my younger. We have a few Thinkwell math titles, but we tend to forget to watch. He had no interest a year ago — it’s worth another try.