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Taking the Frustration Out of Math Review by Susan Wojtkowski

Mary Hood, PhD
PO Box 2524
Cartersville, GA 30120

Taking the Frustration Out of Math is a 21-page booklet exploring the learning stages of children as well as which math activities are appropriate for each stage and why.

The author, a veteran homeschooler of five and a published author, holds advanced degrees in education. In addition, she is a workshop speaker and the editor of "The Relaxed Homeschooler" newsletter.

Ms. Hood begins by telling us about her own frustrations in math while growing up. Many of us will relate to her story. She reminds us that children go through all of the learning stages but not always on the same timetable. She herself did not fully grasp many mathematical concepts until she reached adulthood.

The booklet discusses Jean Piaget's cognitive development stages:

Birth to 2 years: Sensori-motor phase 2-7: Pre-operational phase 7-11: Concrete operational phase 12 and up: Formal operational phase

Throughout each of these stages, children are learning through their environment and according to their level of maturity. For example, in the Sensori-motor phase, children learn by touching, smelling, seeing, and hearing.

During each phase discussion, Ms. Hood thoroughly explains the phase, describes the characteristics of a child in that phase, and suggests math activities and real-life learning experiences for that phase. She also gives suggestions on selecting and using textbooks, workbooks, and manipulatives for each phase.

Ms. Hood reviews the three distinct learning styles (auditory, visual and kinesthetic) and relates them to math learning. Throughout the booklet, she reminds us that each child is different and that the parent is truly the expert on his/her own child. If a child is not grasping a concept, put it aside and work on it again at a later date. Frustrating the child will only serve to make a child hate math. Just because a child should be in a particular stage, does not mean that the individual child is ready for certain concepts. Eventually, he or she will be.

Finally, Ms. Hood provides a short resource list for obtaining math manipulatives and curriculum.

While interesting reading, the booklet did not provide enough specific information and advice about taking the frustrations out of math. I would have liked more resources and suggestions for curriculum that works with each learning style and cognitive phase.

Product review by Susan Wojtkowski, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, October 2006