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Mathematical Explorations of Little House in the Big Woods Review by Julie Kieras

Home Made Math

For fans of the Little House series, Mathematical Explorations of Little House in the Big Woods (beginner) by Home Made Math is an exciting way to tie in math learning to literature and family read-alouds. This curriculum is a set of downloadable .pdf and .mp3 files containing five full math lesson plans and four extra lesson ideas to coordinate with the Little House in the Big Woods book. Included in this curriculum is the main lesson book document, two versions of assessment documents, and a printable for one of the lesson plans, plus a .mp3 of the author summarizing the concepts of each lesson plan. To complete the lesson plans, you’ll need basic household supplies like cups, bowls, pencils, and paper. One activity requires a large-scale drawing or printout, and another activity requires balance scales and food ingredients. Of course, you’ll want to have a copy of the Little House in the Big Woods book as well.

The Mathematical Explorations lesson plans include open-ended, hands on experiences with real-life math problems, allowing young students to explore math concepts like spatial relationships, measurements, area, capacity, and mass. In the extra lesson ideas, you could delve into shapes, seasons and calendar concepts, and fractions. Each lesson includes an outline of the lesson, preparation guidelines, exploratory prompts, and color photographs and diagrams of concepts.

The suggested age range for this curriculum packet is ages 5-8, however, there are advanced suggestions for older kids (ages 8-12) if teachers need higher level activities. Because of the hands-on, exploratory nature of these lesson plans, this would be a great fit for a Montessori or Charlotte Mason-inspired homeschool.

This curriculum bases skills and assessments off the Australian Curriculum and includes a detailed spreadsheet of Content Descriptors for grades 1-6. There is also a timetable for reading the Little House book and completing the lessons, a language guide defining math terms used in the lessons, and a shopping list for supplies. The entire set of downloads costs $22 Australian dollars, which currently exchanges for nearly $17 American dollars.

Our family had already read the entire Little House in the Big Woods book last school year, although the lesson timetable shows how to dovetail reading with completing the math lessons. We found it easy enough to re-read the portions that fit the math lessons to refresh our memories. These lessons really could fit anywhere in a homeschool year, as long as you’re using the Little House book in some way. Coordinate with your literacy component, or use it as a creative break from other math curriculums, while still working on math concepts.

I think connecting math with a well-loved story like the Laura Ingalls books is a wonderful way to show children how math is used in daily life, not just on a worksheet. My boys are five and seven, and they enjoyed the lessons we completed with this curriculum. We completed the two lessons dealing with the concept of area. “How many babies on the bed?” introduces the concept of area by having children arrange a “baby” (doll or stuffed animal) on a bed (we used a rug). My boys had to estimate, test their estimations, find patterns, use skip counting techniques, and discuss vocabulary like “area,” “length,” and “width.”

The lesson immediately following, “How many squares in a quilt?” advances these same concepts, by having students measure area, compare areas of multiple quilts, and problem solve to create quilts with different dimensions but same area. For this lesson, a real quilt, picture of a quilt, or graph paper/grid quilt could work. We cut colorful scrapbooking paper squares and used them to create and move our quilt pieces around as we worked through the concepts. This lesson plan has several links to helpful resources as well.

I really liked how this curriculum connected to our reading, and how it showed my children the ways math concepts are used in real-life problem solving. I enjoyed how I could use these lessons for multiple age levels, so we could learn as a family. Although the concepts and activities were a bit of a stretch for my five-year-old, he loved the hands-on aspects of measuring and moving manipulatives. My seven-year-old quickly grasped the concepts and was thoroughly engaged in the process the entire time and even continued to create and recreate quilt designs and dimensions after we’d finished all the components of these lessons.

The one aspect to this curriculum I’d suggest changing is the document layout. Currently, it is laid out in landscape, which stretches the text across a wider page. I found this made reading a little strenuous on the eyes, and finding my place while giving instructions and managing activities a bit more challenging. Reformatting to portrait mode, and perhaps adding bulleted lists for the teaching prompts would assist in ease of reading.

The Mathematical Explorations of Little House in the Big Woods is truly a creative way to help kids learn math through real-world scenarios. I’d love to use the other Home Made Math literacy-based math curriculums in the future with my children. I think any family who loves to read, and uses a Charlotte Mason or Montessori-inspired approach would enjoy this curriculum.

-Product review by Julie Kieras, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January, 2018