It’s totally acceptable to homeschool math without a curriculum. Inside find 12 great ways to make math a part of your everyday life with your kids.
What if I told you it is completely okay to homeschool math without a curriculum? Not only that it’s okay, but it might very well be the preferred way to handle math in your homeschool.
Would I be charged with educational heresy?
Flogged on every Facebook page and online forum?
Shunned at every homeschool social?
Perhaps, but I do believe there are more mathematical rebels in the homeschool community than we are led to believe, but who really wants to explain why little Johnny has never completed an entire grade-leveled math curriculum at the next park day?
Part of our silence is triggered by feelings of shame. We should do math every day, right? We feel as though we’re falling short of the diligent homeschool mom mark and failing in such a crucial area of our children’s education.
But is that even true?
Is math something we have to do every day, in a perfectly planned spiral, in order for our children to succeed? Tell me, what does “3rd-grade” math even include? Would a great standardized test score but a child who hates math be considered a success?
Let’s talk about some of these false assumptions and ways we can make math meaningful in our homeschools.
This is a sponsored post and I was paid for my time. I was not required to give a positive review and all opinions are my own. You can find my disclosure policy here.
Just Where On Earth Did Math Come From?
I think for most of us, this is the greatest of mysteries. As far as we knew, it just appeared on a page in a textbook as some mysterious language, and this, I believe, is one of the most significant deficits of math education. We’re taught to follow the steps, show your work, and get the correct answer. That’s it!
But there are so many questions to be asked, beyond answers to be memorized. Who came up with a theorem, and why does it work? Where did numbers even originate? Why do we use Arabic and not Roman numerals?
Don’t you think answers to these questions would make math more interesting in our homeschools?
So that’s what I encourage you to do. Put away the math curriculum, even for just a bit, and investigate math. Use math. Question math. Make math fun!
Not sure how to even begin, well here are 12 ways to homeschool math without a curriculum or workbook.
1. Talk About Math in Your Homeschool
Yes, this may sound obvious, but how often do we use math yet not point out to our children how we are using math.
It doesn’t have to be a “teachable moment,” but it can be helpful to think out loud as you’re doubling a recipe or figuring a tip at a restaurant.
We had a time when we needed to pull out our geometry skills, and we made sure to include our older children. Our neighborhood covenants will only allow us to take out trees up to a certain diameter. Well, how did we decide whether a particular tree was able to be removed? We measured the circumference and worked backward.
We use math so often but rarely think of pointing it out to our children. However, seeing that math has practical use is the first step to making it meaningful.
2. Measure, Weigh or Build Something
Measurement is a common way we use math in everyday life and is a perfect way to explore math without a curriculum. What kid doesn’ t love to play with a tape measure?
There are many ways to include these activities in your homeschool easily:
- Measure a room with a tape measure
- Make a child’s height and record how tall they are
- Let them use the scales in the produce department
- Talk about cubic yards and estimate how much mulch you’ll need for the flower bed
- Weigh your pets (weigh yourself, then weigh yourself holding the pet, then calculate the difference)
- Talk about building a model to scale
There are countless projects to use all the math skills you can think of, so pick one a go with it.
3. Find Fun Online Math Games
Another way to to make homeschooling math a little more fun is with online math games. My younger three children have been giving Splash Math a try this summer, and they’re enjoying the practice sessions.
In addition to the practice sessions, there are also math games for them to play. I particularly like the multiplication games because there comes a point when they just have to memorize the facts to make progress in math easier, and a game is so much more fun than flash card drills.
You can also download a Splash Math app that will allow you to access your account and complete practice session from your mobile device. The app will be fantastic when we’re waiting for an appointment or stuck in traffic, and we might as well use this time that would otherwise be wasted.
There is also a special Splash Math for Homeschoolers that adapts to your child’s strengths and weaknesses, which makes so much sense. Why continue working problems they’ve mastered when there is some other area that needs practice?
I also appreciate the parent dashboard where I can quickly see what skills they have mastered, where they currently are working, and how much time they’ve spent practicing. You also can set up practice schedules in the parent account, and they will send you email reminders, which I often need.
You can give Splash Math a try for free and see if it’s a good fit for your family. It’s nice having a math practice option that doesn’t require a lot of help from me. They can sit and practice while I’m nearby, but I can be working with another child. That is something most all homeschools moms need.
4. Pick Up Some Living Math Books
As homeschoolers, we have the luxury of reading living books for any subject, even math. What is a living book? Well, primarily, it isn’t a textbook. It’s a book written by someone who is knowledgeable and has an interest in the subject matter. They are not written by committee.
So here are a few examples of living math books:
- Sir Cumference and the First Round Table (this is a whole series)
- What’s Your Angle, Pythagoras?
- The Librarian Who Measured the Earth
- Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci
There are so many, and I could go on and on. Go to one of these titles and look through the other suggestions. You’re sure to find a treasure.
Another series of books we’ve enjoyed is Bedtime Math by Laura Overdeck. This is written to be a quick word problem as a bedtime story. My youngest daughter loves these books, and I love that the focus is on problem-solving.
Don’t worry, there are even living math books for older kids. Danica McKeller (of Wonder Years fame) is also a math whiz who has written books on high-level math topics such as Kiss My Math: Show Pre-Algebra Who’s Boss. There is no reason you can’t find an interesting math book, even for a high schooler.
5. Cook Up Some Homeschool Math
Cooking is often given as an everyday activity that is perfect when you’re trying to homeschool math, but why? The most significant mathematical benefit of baking comes in the areas of fractions, which you can then show the relationship between fractions, decimals, and percents.
My great aunt was a high school math teacher, the kind that taught calculus and trigonometry. She once said that most people don’t grasp the correlation between fractions, decimals, and percents, and that is the reason so many have trouble with math. I found that fascinating. The connection seems obvious to me, but I see how some of my children have more difficulty than others with the concept.
Cooking gives you the perfect opportunity to use equivalent measurements and show your children how we use these concepts every day. Doubling a recipe, that’s 200%. Dividing a recipe in half, that will be 50% (0.5 or 1/2). Want to go even deeper? Find a recipe that uses the metric system or ingredients that are given by weight.
6. Go Shopping (Preferably a Sale)
You can quickly learn percents, estimation, rounding, and multiplication just by shopping a good sale rack. This is a skill I want my children to possess, and it’s so much easier than the way taught in school.
Those $29.95 jeans are 30% off? Well, we were taught to figure the 30% discount and then subtract from the total. That’s too many steps to keep mentally straight, but rather than pulling out your phone to make the calculation, let’s make it easier.
We round that price to $30, and we get 30% off which really means we’re paying 70%, and .70 times 30 is 21. Our approximate cost of the jeans is $21. Estimate the tax for another math and life lesson.
Get a list of all the elementary math topics your children need to master with this helpful cheat sheet.
7. Start a Business (Or at Least Write a Business Plan)
Starting a business, or a least working through the process required to start a business is a great way to learn some necessary math skills. Not to mention the economic and life skills that will be needed.
Gross, net, profit, margin, and more are all terms your children will learn when considering whether their business idea is potentially profitable.
If this all seems foreign to you as well, I recommend the MicroBusiness for Teens books by Carol Topp. These are informative and through provoking books to help your child think of all the different aspects of creating a business that makes money.
8. Hang Up a BIG Calendar
I’ve talked before about how much I love my big, huge, kitchen calendar, and it is something I’m not sure how I lived without before. Not only does it keep me somewhat on track, but it also gives my younger children the perfect opportunity to practice counting.
How many days or weeks until their birthday? Figure it out with the calendar. Days, weeks, months, and numbers, it’s all there for them all to see.
9. It Can Be All Fun and Games
So many board and card games involve basic math, even those not explicitly marketed as learning games. Actually, I prefer the regular games that happen to use math, over the heavy-handed “let’s learn math with a game,” types.
One of my favorites for basic addition skills is Sushi Go. There’s strategy, risk, and easy addition and subtraction, with some simple multiplication thrown in. It’s a game we all love to play, which makes it a huge success.
The most basic of games for early learners is Uno. A long-time favorite, it will have your youngest children learning numbers, colors, and having fun.
10. Strew Some Puzzle Books
The perfect items for some math strewing are puzzle books. In the kitchen, in the car, or your purse, a math puzzle book is sure to be picked up by someone and played.
Puzzles help not only with math skills but with reasoning and critical thinking. Here are some for different ages to start your search off:
- Fun Riddles and Trick Question for Kids and Family
- 300+ Mathematical Puzzle Patterns
- The Original Area Mazes
- A First Sudoku Book
11. Homeschool Math with Videos
When we think of using documentaries in our homeschools, we first think of nature and history, but it’s possible to find documentaries for math. One of my favorite documentaries of all time is The Story of 1. Both fascinating and entertaining, this is a one I can watch again and again.
For your younger kids, there is always Donald in Mathmagic Land, which is sure to keep even the littlest engaged.
12. Put a Twist on Math with Art
Combining art and math is an idea I love, and I’m already thinking of new projects. We don’t often connect the two subjects, but they are inseparably linked. Point of view, creating depth, and balance in art all requires a mathematic sensibility. Then there are more obvious forms of math art such as origami, mandalas, and string art.
Art Class Curator has a fabulous post that shows different projects that integrate art and math with amazing results. This would be such a fun way to complete a math unit study.
Homeschool Math is Anything but Boring
With so many ideas and resources available to us, there is no reason math in our homeschools should be relegated to boring textbooks and workbook pages. There are games, movies, and art, so get creative and discover all the amazing things we can do with math.
It’s okay to be a mathematical rebel and make math interesting.
Other Articles About Homeschooling Math You May Want to Check Out:
You can also download my Elementary Math Topics Cheat Sheet, which will give you a handy list of all the math concepts your child needs to master for higher-level math.