July 21, 2020 – Math Struggles for Visual Learners

Many children are natural math learners. My eldest was counting things when he was very young. In kindergarten, math was his favorite subject, and he could’t understand why everyone didn’t love math. He loves organization and patterns. It’s part of his personality. He has kept that love of math throughout his life, and I was certain he would go into some math profession. He decided in high school that he wanted to become a lawyer. He’s actually getting his undergraduate degree in Economics, so he really hasn’t changed much.

Then along came my 2nd child. If I asked him to answer “What is 3 + 2?”, he wanted to know WHAT we were counting. He needed a picture to put those things together. He doesn’t do abstract. He needs to touch, feel, or see his work. To hand him a worksheet of math facts is pure torture. I had to find a different way. And we did.

Once we got to multiplication of large numbers (3rd/4th grade), I knew traditional curriculum would not work. I spoke with our local gifted teacher, and she suggested box multiplication and hangman division.

There are samples of both on YouTube. Once that worked, I knew we were going to need a very different approach to math education, especially as we reached more abstract concepts. We add color to each diagonal row to make it even more visual.

Visual learners need color and music and movement to master math concepts. We came to love Life of Fred. He uses a crazy story to create a visual representation of abstract math concepts. It begins at Apples in elementary school and progresses all the way through difficult high school math.

We also have used several different online programs to help. We have a “whatever it takes” approach to homeschooling. In traditional school, if your child doesn’t master a concept, it really doesn’t matter because the class must move on. In a homeschool environment, we can change tactics and present the material several different ways until our student “gets it”.

One of my favorites has been Learning Upgrade. You can take a free placement test, then use the first 8 lessons for free. If it works for your child, it’s a minimal cost to continue the program. You will need pen and paper to work things out before entering them into the computer.

Here’s a great webpage to peruse.


For workbooks, check out Thinking Tree visual workbooks.

YayMath.org is an online virtual class that we really enjoy. Its organized traditionally, but is presented very visually and in a fun way.

Non-traditional math curriculum abounds! Don’t fight with your child. If they seem lazy or uncooperative, it’s more likely that they feel “dumb” because their brain doesn’t work with your current curriculum.

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