Unschooling and Math

Can math really be fun?

Will kids really learn math if you don't force them to learn it?

Here are some resources to answer those questions about how kids' learn math in a self-directed way as "unschoolers."

First hand experiences

Real families describe how they learn math in their everyday unschooling environments:

Summarizing the Unschooling Math Experience

Research professor of psychology, Peter Gray, summarizes different approaches to learning math and determines that Kids Learn Math Easily When They Control Their Own Learning.  Dr. Gray describes these types of math and how they are learned.

Playful math - Discovering and creating patterns and doing math for the sheer beauty and joy of it. It's how young children and math scholars alike approach math in a playful and joyful manner. This can be learned through self-discovery.

Instrumental Math - Math can be used as a tool in daily life to solve a problem. It is learned naturally in the course of living, handling money, cooking, reading recipes, playing cards, reading maps, recording batting averages, etc. It is learned in the context of community with a more advanced learner providing some mentoring in the self-discovery process. There is no curriculum involved.

Didactic Math - This is the traditional model of math instruction in schools.  A math expert teaches math to a student with the expectation that the student does not already possess knowledge. Often the assumption is that the the process will be difficult, that math is necessary rather than fun.  Formal curriculum is typically involved. Didactic math, in the sense that curriculum is used, can be found in unschooling settings but with some differences.  Students are allowed to access math curricula online or in workbooks on their own schedules and when they are desired. Parents are available as a resource person when the child needs them.

College Admissions Math - This is the math parents often worry about.  This math is studied for the purpose of college entrance exams regardless of its connection to a student's chosen area of study. The math needed to do well on ACT and SAT tests can be learned in a relatively short period of time through tutoring. And that this point, students are often motivated to learn the math for that purpose so it can be learned more quickly.

"The best evidence I know that math is not hard comes from the experiences of people involved in the unschooling movement and the Sudbury "nonschool" school movement. I have written about these movements in previous posts."  See Children Educate Themselves IV: Lessons from Sudbury Valley.  "The Sudbury Valley School has, for the past forty years, been the best-kept secret in American education."

Self-Directed Math Resources for Unschoolers

Here are some resources that students can use in their self-directed interest in learning more about math


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