Michael’s Unschooling Path for Math

Michael, 28. Bachelor’s degree in Journalism, minor in Archaeology/Anthropology.  Lived in Central America, working for the Peace Corps. Now works for Boy Scouts of America, setting up Explorer programs in the DFW area.

Michael went to school through 1st grade. Timed math tests were his nemesis. He just couldn’t quit watching the clock! So in spite of being in the gifted/talented program, and actually knowing most of his “math facts” by heart, he couldn’t pass those simple math tests.  When he came home to learn, we never did another timed test like that.

Michael was what I would call “A Maker.” One of his favorite Christmas presents one year was a multi-pack of Scotch tape rolls! Give the boy some scissors, markers, and tape… and he was golden. He had no concentrated effort on mathematics as he was growing up. Or did he? He played outside, built forts and ramps, played hockey and later volleyball and judo. Inside, he played computer games like Jumpstart 3rd Grade (all the grades, actually) as well as board games, legos, card games, Uno – and all those cardboard/tape creations! Backing up to the Jumpstart computer games though… the kids learned early on that they could move up levels quickly if they turned off the sound (which was the instructional aspect of it!) and they simply moved through. So yes, there was a little use of math in there, but probably not as much as the game really was promising.

Once Michael was a teen, I started to feel a little nervous that there wasn’t much math happening. I anticipated that he’d take community college classes but I thought he’d need to prep a little for that. (SPOILER: He didn’t need to.)  Occasionally I’d ask him to do a few pages of the KeyTo Math workbooks so he’d know a little about the math he’d see on the placement tests. He did a few pages and then wandered off from it. A month or so later, I’d have a wave of panic, shoving the workbooks under him – he’d comply for a little while and then I’d realize how ridiculous it all was.

He was still involved in what would be considered consumer math. He raised money to travel to Japan as an exchange student. He participated in all the fundraisers his Scout troop set up. Making change was no biggie for him. He understood percentages from tipping and from sale prices. He understood larger math principles from ranch life… sorting, estimating, making logical conclusions. He worked in a pecan orchard and then as a cashier at Target and later at Barnes and Noble. He took lifeguard training and worked at a Scout camp for a summer.

A few months prior to taking the college placement tests, Michael played with a program online called Number2.com. It was cool how they set it up – but I don’t really think Michael thought it was as cool as I did!  I didn’t really watch to see how much he did of it, but I wanted him to know it was available. (I’m not even sure if it’s actually the same as it was back then… again, though…. not necessary).

Community college placement time… he had done the practice tests, looked up what he thought he didn’t know, and scored well enough that he could move straight into College Algebra with no remedial work. He didn’t though. Instead, he took other classes – just enough to transfer as a sophomore to Texas State University. By going in as a “transfer student,” he avoided having to take the SAT/ACT.  But when he got ready to take Algebra there, they wanted him to do an assessment test. He didn’t pass it. (He didn’t study again for it, like he had for the community college placement test.) But no worries, he took the Pre-Algebra class, sailed through with flying colors, then took Algebra the next semester and made an A.

I can honestly tell you that all my panicking was completely unnecessary. The KeyTo workbooks weren’t hard, but they weren’t big factors in how he well he did at college. As Michael said, “They give you the info, then you take the test. It’s kind of simple like that.” College math classes were no exception.

Michael graduated Magna Cum Laude. He also had a really full active college life before leaving for Nicaragua with the Peace Corps. His focus there was teaching English to the high school teachers.

His math leanings are back to what they always were… real world, consumer math. Buying cars, buying a home, figuring out best insurance rates, budgeting for life…. he’s good at it, because Real Life is what has been his focus all along.

You May Want to Read:
What DOES Unschooling Math Look Like?
Why DO We Resist Unschooling Math?

Coming Soon:
Katie’s Unschooling Path for Math
Alyssa’s Unschooling Path for Math

About Sue Patterson

Wife. Mom. Daughter. Nana. Mentor. Coach. Writer. Editor. Speaker. Activist. Find me also at: Instagram: @UnschoolingMom2Mom Twitter: @Sue5 Pinterest: /umom2mom Facebook: /UnschoolingMom2Mom AND /SuePattersonCoaching
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2 Responses to Michael’s Unschooling Path for Math

  1. T. Nolan says:

    How do I get started. My 13yr daughter is going into the 8th grade. Is there a way to test out a subject over the summer to see if this might be the way to go.
    If there’s any other ideas or program it would greatly appreciated. School is out a the end of May here in Montana.
    Sincerely Tanisha

    • Sue Patterson says:

      Hi Tanisha,
      With unschooling, we don’t divide everything up into subjects. I know that may sound strange at first – but it’s how we operate in our lives. Everything is all mixed together! I can look up what the laws are in Montana with you and we can see how to make sure you’re doing what they require… and connect you with some local Montana unschoolers too, hopefully! If you want to make an appointment to hop on the phone together, that’s probably the best next step. AND! My half-hour calls are discounted this summer – just for those like you who are trying to figure this all out!

      Here’s the link, https://suepatterson.as.me/Considering-Unschooling

      Take care – hopefully we’ll be talking soon!

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