Resources mentioned in this episode:

Kate’s Homeschool Math 

Build Math Minds free trainings

Facebook live video of this discussion

Welcome fellow Recovering Traditionalists to Episode 55.  Today we are looking at Teaching Math at Home.

Christina – Today’s podcast is actually from a Facebook Live I did recently with Kate Snow from Kate’s Homeschool Math.  We wanted to do a video that helps parents and teachers think about what Teaching Math at Home right now looks like.  

Christina – We talk about it from the perspective of teachers trying to scramble and give good resources to parents and from the perspective of the parent at home trying to help ensure learning continues.

Christina – In this video we talk about:

                     -Giving Grace and Permission Slips to each other

                     -Doing math in your daily life with your kids (measuring, estimating, playing games)

                     -Using “what if?” types of questions

                     -Don’t try to be the expert, take the opportunity to learn how your child is thinking instead of trying                           to teach them how to solve problems

                    -Math doesn’t need to be 50 problems: Quality over Quantity

Christina – If you want to check out the resources both Kate and I have for teaching math at home head over to and I’ll link up her site and my site  

Christina – Okay, here’s my discussion with Kate.

Christina – Okay, it looks like we are officially live. 

Kate – All right!

Christina – All right, so thank you guys for hopping on here with us. I am Christina Tondevold, The Recovering Traditionalist. And I brought on a guest today, Kate Snow, from Kate’s Homeschool Math.

Kate – Hello everybody.

Christina – And I’ve linked up both of our websites in the description. We’ll put a fuller description here after the live video. Once we see what all we talk about. But our main point of jumping on today was coming on to talk about teaching math at home during this time. Kate and I are both educators, we both have kids at home and we feel the pain from both sides of this. We understand what educators are going through of trying to hurry up and figure out how to help and bring resources to our homes to help us continue the learning. But we also feel the struggle. I have four kids at home, ranging from 6th grade down to 1st grade, and Kate you have a 7th grader and–

Kate – A 4th grader.

Christins – A 4th grader.

Kate – Yes.

Christina – So all of this of just trying to balance everything and we wanted to come on from both of the perspectives of being educators, but also being parents, and the struggles of what’s happening right now. So our first thing that we want to encourage everybody out there, both teachers and parents, is not to stress too much about this. So Kate, what do you want to tell the educators and now home educators, the parents, about why we shouldn’t be stressing too much about this. It feels very overwhelming and very stressful.

Kate – It does.

Christina – So why shouldn’t we be stressed?

Kate – The main reason is that we’re all in this together. And I think that’s the thing. I think none of us want our kids to fall behind, none of us want our kids to not succeed in math, but we’re all in this together, we’re all in the same boat. And so, we really do not need to be afraid right now that like we’re doing something wrong and everybody else is doing it right. And that, you know.

Christina – Yeah, no kidding.

Kate – Like our kids are just gonna be in so much trouble! So as a parent, I’m trying to calm down a little bit about that because right now what the most important is my family’s mental health. Like for me, that’s just made a lot of decisions very easy this week. Where I just think, you know, what will make us happy and help us to get along with each other and to do this again tomorrow and the day after that, and the day after that, for as long as we need to do this. And, you know, math can be something that helps with that. Like for me, having some structure to my kids’ days this week from the work that my kids’ school has provided has been very helpful. But when it crosses the line to being stressful, is when as a parent I’m saying right now. “Nope, that’s not what I need right now.” 

Christina – Right. That’s right, and I think it’s the messages that have come from schools have been so different across the entire United States, it’s because educators are just so unsure. Like all of a sudden, you’ve heard stories of they were in class normal on Thursday and then Thursday night they get the email that says “No school.” And it’s like.

Kate – Yeah.

Christina – Teachers are so upset, because they didn’t get to see their kids anymore.

Kate – It’s just anger.

Christina – I mean, our students are our kids too, take a lot of love and responsibility for those kids and it’s heart-breaking to not be able to have them, and so teachers are scrambling to try to give parents resources and help along the way, but it’s very stressful for the teachers too. All of the sudden I’m being thrown into this and the teachers have to figure out online learning and the best way to bring things that we’ve never been trained in before and it’s very stressful for the teachers. So a lot of times, it’s just kinda like, here’s some stuff until we figure stuff out right now.

Kate – It’s a huge learning curve for everybody. For the kids, for the parents, for the teachers. I know, my kids’ school just kinda started Microsoft Teams on Monday and all of a sudden there were all of these different apps and ways of submitting work and Monday and Tuesday I just felt crazed, trying to figure out what I was supposed to be doing, how I could organize this for my kids, how I could get everything submitted back to the teachers. And I so appreciate the effort they’re putting in it, but I felt really overwhelmed by everything that was coming out at me. And I homeschooled for 5 years, so this is kinda normal for my family, or it was normal, but it sure isn’t right now. And I think what I would most like teachers to know as they think about what to assign is just to keep in mind that homeschooling is not the same thing as school at home. And by that I mean, you know, as a teacher you are coming up with like, say in your math block, like a 45 to 60-minute wonderful lesson that takes kids through some number sense routine, some problem solving, some practice. But you have a full hour with 25 children, say, to do that with. You know, parents at home aren’t going to have that kind of time to give each of their kids. Like you have 4 kids, right?

Christina – Yeah.

Kate – If you do that times 6 subjects a day, you have 24 subjects to teach.

Christina – Right.

Kate – And you also need to make lunch, you need to break up a fight and you need to, you know–

Christina – Feed them.

Kate – Feed them, maybe some laundry. Maybe you have some work to do, maybe, that would be nice to get done. And so to keep things as simple as possible, like the parents will bless you for it. Like I appreciate the structure for that, like some structure and some purpose for my kids’ days is so helpful right now. But don’t feel like you have to overdo it. Don’t feel like you have to provide what you would like to do in the classroom, because a parent just cannot implement that.

Christina – And as teachers, we are famously over-planners. Like we plan so much in a day, because you never want any of that downtime.

Kate – No!

Christina – Yeah, so I know teachers aren’t trying to send everything, because we all get it, it does take longer to get through a lesson when you have 20 to 30 kids in the classroom versus having 1 child. But we do have a lot of families that, I mean our situations are just unique, because we are able to be home with our kids. My husband is working outside of the house, so is yours, but both of us get to be home with our kids. We have a lot of families who do not have that option and are struggling even just to figure out what are they going to do with the kids during the day.

Kate – Right.

Christina – And the only time that they have to sit down and work with the kids is at night. And that may not be the highest priority right now. Like we said, I mean their learning is an important piece, but mental health for the adults in the family and the kids is something that is even more important during this time of crisis. You know, it feels like the time of crisis. It really does feel like there are days when I just want to roll up in bed and watch some Netflix.

Kate – Absolutely.

Chistina – And that’s it.

Kate – Very stressful right now for everyone. And our kids pick up on that stress too, of course. And so they’re experiencing that as well. And so some days we might just need to watch a movie together and not do school and that might be the very best decision parent can make that day. Like some normalcy, some coziness.

Christina – Exactly.

Kate – So I would encourage teachers who are thinking about this to make deadlines very flexible, you know, if they’re collecting work. And many schools I know aren’t going to have deadlines, they really just suggested activities. But if you’re collecting anything, collect it in a batch, maybe once a week. Provide as much flexibility for parents to be able to spread it out over.

Christina – And I would think that parents too, if there is things that are like hard deadlines and be in communication with the teachers and let them know about the situation. I mean, everybody’s situation is different and they’re trying to send out stuff that works the best for the mass majority of people, but if there is a situation, just be in contact and give grace to everyone. Like I want educators and administrators, sometimes it’s not the teachers deciding what is being sent, it’s the administration is saying, we have to do these things, and the teachers don’t have a really say in it and they’re just trying to figure out what to do to help you. So give everybody grace, you know. As a parent, if you are having trouble, go to the educators and reach out, but always with the mind frame of they’re doing the best they can, they don’t know my situation and so, you know, go with that in mind. And vice versa, with the teachers taking with parents, give parents grace because we don’t know their situation.

Kate – Absolutely. We have to assume best intentions in everybody right now.

Christina – All the way around.

Kate – Yes, for sure.

Christina – Okay. That what one of our main points was just don’t stress too much, do the best you can in this situation, whether you’re the teacher, the parent, whichever side of this that you are on. And then the other one that we both really agree on is making math real life and also fun.

Kate – Absolutely.

Christina – And finding the learning in things that aren’t necessarily school type of activities. Right? So, Kate what are some of your favorite things that you love to do with your kids when you’re home?

Kate – I think measuring is one of them, measuring and estimating are one of the best things to do around the house because they’re so fun, so hands on. You can do them at multiple levels. So a 1st grader and a 5th grader can both look at a big pile of cotton balls and estimate how many are there in that pile. And their strategies are going to be different. As teachers we know you could nudge the 1st grader towards making this pile of 10 and thinking about the place value. With fifth graders we might be using more sophisticated strategies. But so, measurement I think is always fun. Cooking of course is something that everybody loves to do, I think sometimes it’s a little overblown as real life math activity. Certainly just the hands-on experience that’s fractions and time and measurement and in the recipe that everybody loves.

Christina – Yeah, there’s so much that can be hit. Just through estimating and measuring no matter what levels are. And I think there is the point, I don’t mean to interrupt, but I just wanna highlight that piece there that Kate talked about, because it’s so important for parents who have multiple children that are at all different grade levels, the more that we can do to give them activities that kind of span the grade levels, the easier it is for us parents to actually do those things with our kids. It’s hard to sit down and do a lesson with every single one of my children and help them all at that time. But it’s really nice when I can play a game or measure something, or do a baking activity and ask certain questions of each of my children because they’re at different levels and such different levels.

Kate – Right.

Christina – I know that in teaching when you’re in a classroom full of kids you always have different levels of kids, but in the home it’s hard because they are such different levels.

Kate – Right. 1st to 6th grade in your house, it’s a big span.

Christina – Yes!

Kate – Yes, and homeschoolers typically don’t plan a different curriculum for their different children of different ages for every subject for that reason. A lot of subjects, like social studies or history get combined. Right now if we can combine math in some ways as well that’s really helpful for parents. And I love how you talked about games, because I think games are just it’s such a great fun way to do some math. It makes all those numbers meaningful. You know, like I could never sit down and ask my kids to like add up a column of two-digit numbers, just randomly, but like if it’s Yahtzee, like I am in, you know. So it takes a lot of the stress out of it and like sort of the power plays that can happen when parents are doing math with their kids.

Christina – Power plays, what?

Kate – Oh no, only in my house, I know! But I think it’s the other thing, I think parents are often surprised by, we think, oh we’re doing school now, it’ll be like I’m the teacher, but no, I’m still the parent, and all our normal parent-child stuff is still there. The good and the bad.

Christina – Absolutely. I’ve seen that a few times.

Kate – Yes.

Christina – It’s very hard to switch the hat. And I will say, I feel like it’s probably a little easier for us because we do have that education background. And I feel for the parents who are like, I didn’t go to school for this! It’s not what I signed up for.

Kate – Mm-hmm, I do not feel equipped for that.

Christina – Yeah, just do the normal stuff, measuring, estimating, play games, those are my favorite things as well. Just find the math in the things that… A lot of times we talk about, this is something that I talk about. We think that it’s obvious, like we will see the mathematics within something, but a lot of other people don’t see that. And so it’s just trying to pull that out, when you notice yourself seeing something. Like just the other day we were putting dinosaur chicken nuggets into the oven, that’s what we were having for lunch. But I arranged them in like an array, like columns and rows, and then I asked the kids, how many do you see? And how many do you know? 

Christina – And each of my kids saw it differently based upon the, you know, the 6th grader was like, that’s 5 by 5, it’s 25, right? Do it instantly. And he could see that array. And other were like counting or seeing these groups. So it’s just any time that you can see counting activities are great, and encouraging your kids to see groupings instead of counting one by one by one. Counting is definitely a great skill and it’s a foundational skill. But our upper grades kids as they progress up, we want them to start seeing groups of stuff and that helps with estimating, that is just such a powerful thing that any time that you can see the mathematics, just ask the kids what they are noticing and talk about those situations.

Kate – Right. And I think that “what if” questions are also a great way for parents to build on math. You know, what if we were making twice as many cookies? What if I gave you an extra hour of Minecraft time, when would it be over then? You know, those kinds of hypotheticals can also help stretch the math a little bit.

Christina – Exactly, good point. It does not have to be like a real situation that’s happening right now, if you can pretend about that situation, it does extend the math into being able to see it in lots of different ways.

Kate – Yeah, very true.

Christina – So, okay. One of the other things that I really wanted to talk about because it’s been floating around there, this comment meme, I never know how to say that word. But it’s all this stuff about, all these kids been learning common core math and now the parents are just gonna teach the kid to carry the one. One of the struggles I feel like is that we sit down with the kids and the way that we maybe learned math is different than the way they’re learning it. That causes some of the struggle.

Kate – Mm-hmm, for sure.

Chrisina – So my biggest advice, and this is what I did when I was in school, because that’s why I call myself The Recovering Traditionalist. I was a very traditional learner, give me the rules and procedures to follow I could carry the one, I could borrow like nobody’s business, but I wasn’t a good thinker. I didn’t have the strategies and I didn’t see connections through stuff. And that’s really what math has been trying to build in these last few years, is getting kids to become thinkers and it’s hard, when you sit down with a kid and the only way that I knew how to do it, before I started learning all this other stuff, was just the traditional way. And you hear somebody else and you like, that doesn’t make any sense. 

Christina – And so my biggest thing with that is, when I was teaching, when I started learning that there is different ways to think about it besides the traditional way, was I tell people, I would play dumb, so that even when I was, the kids didn’t know it. So I was just always asking like, what? Kid would explain how they’re thinking about it, and I would say, why did you do this? Even if I knew exactly what they were doing, I would just say, “Tell me why you would do that?” Like something as simple as 9 + 7, I just learned and memorized those facts, but nowadays kids are doing things like, 9 + 7 is kinda like 10 + 6, and that can give you 16. And instead of just going like, what? Like, tell me more about that. Like I see this as an opportunity to learn from my own kids about how they think about mathematics. 

Christina – Instead of me just saying, no, no, this is the way it needs to be done. It’s just to sit back and listen to the kids thinking, and see where they are starting from and see if you can kinda understand what they’re doing. But even if you don’t, just asking them questions.

Kate – Absolutely.

Christina – Instead of no, no, do the other way.

Kate – It’s so many parents have so much anxiety about math that I think as soon as they start to see something that doesn’t feel familiar, it’s like old anxieties or feelings of insecurity about math start to arise. And so I just encourage parents to be kind of co-explorer of math, like you don’t have to be the expert, you can just be exploring this with your child, making sense of it with your child, if it doesn’t make sense to you right now. And I think it’s great for teachers as they send things home to encourage that kind of attitude, you know. To say you don’t have to be the expert, you don’t have to teach them the certain way. Just here’s three problems to talk about together. As opposed to the page of 30 long division problems or something.

Christina – Yeah. I like your term co-explorer better than my term of playing dumb.

Kate – Everybody knows what playing dumb means though, so I think it’s pretty good too.

Christina – Yeah, I really like that. And that is one of the big points too of what we’re trying to change in the classroom is the difference of giving kids 50 problems and instead doing 3 and exploring them deeply. Like we feel like if we aren’t doing 50 problems that my kid isn’t doing math. Like they’re not getting enough practice. And sometimes the practice is, it’s not just about practice, it’s about the quality of the practice that the kids are getting. So I think you made a really good point there that it can just be 3 problems that you sit down and have a conversation about, instead of 50 problems that the kids have to work on by themselves and they don’t talk about the math.

Kate – Exactly. And if teachers can provide just a little scaffolding for that, or like a parent talk, routine kind of like, let’s make an estimate about what it will be about, let’s make up a word problem that would go with this calculation, you know, couple of things that are open-ended that don’t feel much like, I don’t know the right answer, that helps take some of the pressure off. It helps parents to disengage that anxiety. Just take it down a notch. 

Kate – I like to call this a permission slip. I like to put permission slips in my books to parents, like, that’s okay if you divert from what I did, or if your conversation goes the different way or if you implement this a different way. The more teachers can give parents permission slips to do things in the way that’s making sense for their kid and making sense for the family right now, that’s really helpful.

Christina – And I think that’s an awesome spot to end on, is let’s give permission slips to the parents, to the teachers, always be filled with grace, knowing that everyone in this situation is out there with their best intentions trying to help everybody. And we don’t want it to be seen as one more thing that piles on top, we’re just helping each other but give permission slips if it’s not working right.

Kate – Absolutely. We’re all in this together, we’re all going to make it through.

Christina – Awesome. Thank you so much, Kate. And don’t forget to check out Kate’s website, I’ve linked it in the description. Up at the top you’ve got the banner up there. Is that correct? That it’s all about homeschool, doing math at home.

Kate – Yes, I have an article there with resources for things that parents can download if they don’t have any options right now, or if they don’t get a packet from school, that they can have some downloadable resources as well as some great websites that they can use if they have no time to be doing that. As well as some of my favorite articles to help parents get started teaching math.

Christina – Awesome. So really quickly, I just now remembered to look at comments. I see really quickly some people are putting some comments in there, some ideas, so if you’re watching this video later, go back, look through the comments. If you guys have questions, pop them in the comments and we’ll be monitoring some of those and trying to give you some advice and any other information. Again, go check out Kate’s Homeschool Math, my website’s and we are here to help in any of these situations, everybody’s coming at it from different perspectives and different situations, so let’s give each other permission slips.

Kate – Sounds good. Thank you so much, Christina.

Christina – Thank you.

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As you start off the school year, I want you to keep in mind what is really important as we're trying to teach mathematics to our students.