9 1/2 Tips to Homeschool Math

Have you made the decision to take your child’s learning into your own hands? Are you ready for the math part of it?

It’s not hard and it shouldn’t be intimidating. Actually, with the tips below, your homeschool math sessions can be an exciting and fulfilling time for you both!

1. Teach the same thing to all your children at the same time.

Math is the same every year. It gets a little deeper in a little fuller, but it’s the same stuff. You can teach your five-year-old how to multiply 3(2 + 1) and your 15-year-old how to handle 3x(2z + 1) at the same time, using the same skills.

2. Discourage negativity.

Acknowledge their frustration, anger or hate of math, if they have it. Discuss with your child where this frustration comes from. If you’ve always homeschooled, he or she might’ve picked it up from a friend. If you or your spouse have a math-based career, you might have inadvertently created intimidation.

If the kids had previously been in a school outside the home, talk to them about their past teachers. If there was a mean instructor in the past, help them understand that that person is no longer with them. And that it’s okay to be angry with that teacher – even now.

Validate your child’s anger and fears. Then encourage him to move on.

Say, “You dislike math, I get that. And I see where it’s coming from.” Then, instead of using negative remarks toward math, encourage them to direct their frustration at the event or person in the past.

Instead of saying, “I hate math. I’m just not good at it.” They will now say, “I am really frustrated and scared that I won’t live up to daddy’s standard in math. I’m going to overcome that. This is my math!”

3. Let the kids coach you through the problems.

After you’ve explained a method, do one example by yourself for them. Do at least two more examples and allow your children to talk you through it.

If they make an incorrect decision, write it down anyway. Pause to let them observe it. Ask them probing questions so that they can see their own error.

Refrain from just telling them.

4. Treat correct answers like incorrect answers.

All answers should be met with silence to allow your child to contemplate if it is correct or not. If they tell you the correct answer and their face says they are confident in it, acknowledge this with praise.

If there is any doubt on their face, regardless of how correct their answer is, ask them the same probing questions you would ask if the answer was incorrect.

This builds their confidence in their own answers. It also prevents them from guessing – throwing an answer out there and watching your face to see your response.

5. Use good writing/presentation etiquette.

Before every homeschool math session, gather a large stack of paper. Don’t plan on conserving – now’s not the time.

Leave a wide margin for notes or comments. Don’t write on the back or try to squeeze lots of things on one page. It’s helpful to see things all laid out. If things are squeezed together or on the backs of pages this won’t be possible.

When you write, divide different problems up with squiggly lines. Even scratch work should be well organized.

6. Use colors.

Invest in a nice set of colored pens, pencils or highlighters. Use colors to illustrate the thinking process. Show your own work extensively this way.


Also use colors to differentiate numbers or variables that might get confused.


The image above has two threes, both that end up being positive. With the use of color, the students will be able to see the difference in them.

7. Use Sharpies©, stickie notes, milk glasses and Ziploc bags.

Use any props that you can get your hands on. You don’t have to think of them before you start, either. Improvise if the mood hits you!

If you need to show the set containing the empty set, grab two cups from the kitchen. Are your kids having problems remembering the “everything is over 1″ rule for changing whole numbers to fractions? Have them write a “1” on the bottom of all their shoes.

Everything is a math prop. Manipulatives aren’t just those brightly colored things in the homeschool math store. If it exists, use it!

8. Validate everything your child says.

If they answer incorrectly, respond with, “That’s curious, how did you arrive at that answer?” When you see how they got the answer, say, “Oh, I see now. That’s a good way to think of it. It’s actually not correct ‹smile/hug› but I like the way you think.”

Validated incorrect responses do two things:

9. Be comfortable when you make mistakes.

This happens to professional math teachers all the time. If you want to be perfect, stop. Loosen up. You’re going to make mistakes and that’s okay. It’s actually a benefit to your child to see this.

The difference between you and your child in the homeschool math session should be that you are confident in your mistakes.

The kids will make mistakes – many of them. If they don’t have your example of messing up to relate to, they will become frustrated. Demonstrate what you do when you find an error, and show how calm you are.

9 1/2. Count in fractions (and other crazy stuff).

Use crazy math everywhere in your home. Make a point to see the world as a math problem. Celebrate birthdays in increments of pi. Make up a tall tale of how you met your spouse because of a math problem.

Don’t “count to five” to make your children mind, count to 5/8 in multiples of 1/8.

Be wild-excited about seeing math all around you. Your kids will roll their eyes and laugh at you, but the feeling is contagious. After a while, they’ll be thinking it too!


Homeschooling math isn’t everyone’s idea of fun. You might feel a bit intimidated. But using the tips above will make each homeschool math session rewarding… and maybe even pleasurable!

2 Responses to 9 1/2 Tips to Homeschool Math

  1. Bon, thanks so much for linking to me. I really enjoyed your ideas in this post! The part about counting to five in increments of 5/8s made me laugh. And #4 is also great — there’s always some reasoning behind an answer, even if it’s wrong, and investigating how a kid came up with a wrong answer can provide a lot of insight. I look forward to reading more!

    • It’s a pleasure to link to you, Rebecca – you and I seem to be in the same camp.

      I bought a book called Family Math yesterday. I hope it will inspire more tips like the counting to 5/8.

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