Q & A – Math Without Textbooks?


Currently my elementary aged daughter is working through Rod and Staff Math. She is on grade level but we are taking an entire year to cover each textbook. She will do the textbook work but gets overwhelmed if I attempt more than 2-3 formal lessons per week. So the non-textbook days she works on sewing, knitting, and cooking. I think this is giving her a well rounded math background and not killing her desire to do math. However my friends are telling me that I am handicapping my daughter by moving so slowly with such a basic math text. They say I need to pick up the pace and cover at least one and half to two books per year! They imply that my dd must be a bit slow to need so much time. I don’t think so; I thought going at the child’s pace was a good thing. Am I wrecking her future? Would you count practical skills for math education? I’m so upset. Please share your thoughts.



Sounds like your daughter is very blessed to have you as her mother! You know your child better than anyone, including your opinionated friends, so prayerfully following your gut in regards to teaching your daughter math is the best advice I can give. What has worked for the children of your friends is not necessarily going to work for your daughter, or for my daughters.

Not being one to do anything “just because”, I look at the “whys” of teaching math, and I keep those goals in mind when deciding what and how I will teach. My desire is to raise virtuous young women who will be successful, helpful, and blessed, and my choice of educational goals is based on this desire. On deciding what math skills I believe are needed, I went to Proverbs 31, where the infamous Bathsheba describes an idyllic wife, who just so happens to be quite math savvy.

 Proverbs 31:10 – 29

Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, So that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil, All the days of her life. She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. She is like the merchants’ ships; She bringeth her food from afar. She riseth also while it is yet night, And giveth meat to her household, And a portion to her maidens. She considereth a field, and buyeth it: With the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. She girdeth her loins with strength, And strengtheneth her arms. She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: Her candle goeth not out by night. She layeth her hands to the spindle, And her hands hold the distaff. She stretched out her hand to the poor; Yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of the snow for her household: For all her household are clothed with scarlet. She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; Her clothing is silk and purple. Her husband is known in the gates, When he sitteth among the elders of the land. She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; And delivereth girdles unto the merchant. Strength and honour are her clothing; And she shall rejoice in time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; And in her tongue is the law of kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her household, And eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; Her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, But thou excellest them all. 

Now let’s take a look at the practical skills in which this gal is learned:

• She is good with money and won’t easily be taken advantage of
• She has good fiscal sense
• She spins, weaves, and sews
• She shops and knows a good product and value when she sees it
• She cooks
• She manages employees
• She runs businesses, and understands profit margin
• She buys and sells, and is fair and just in her dealings
• She sows and she reaps, making a profit to expand her family’s wealth
• She financially helps those in need, tithing to the poor.

This woman is not ignorant. She has the math skills to maintain numerous businesses and employees, run her household, manage her family’s finances, and do right by her husband and children. Not only is she virtuous, but she is a math genius!

Based on the above list of practical skills, what math skills would a modern Proverbs 31 woman need?

• Customary and metric measurements of liquids and solids
• Add, subtract, multiply and divide whole numbers, fractions, and decimals
• Geometry to include figures, construction, angles, symmetry
• Budgeting including positive and negative numbers
• Comparison shopping
• Price per unit
• Traveling costs (MPG)
• Inventorying
• Sales and sales tax
• Ratios
• Figuring percentages
• Payroll/Bookkeeping
• Time and time management
• Charts and graphs
• Problem analysis and solving
• Basic economic principles

How did the virtuous woman learn all these math skills? I’d venture to guess it wasn’t by sitting at a desk with textbooks, plodding through problem after problem of seemingly irrelevant information. More likely it was while working at her own pace alongside her mother, striving to someday be among those called blessed, watching and emulating the practical skills that don’t stifle the desire to do math but make it just another part of life. And that, my friend, is a wonderful thing.


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3 thoughts on “Q & A – Math Without Textbooks?”

  1. I really enjoyed reading this post. My kids don’t struggle with math, but I don’t enjoy teaching it from a textbook. I do like guidelines though. I wish there was a book on suggested math activities that included math vocabulary to describe what they were learning. Thanks for the question and answer here. It’s a lot to think about!

  2. Hey,

    I am a teacher in a public school. It is my firm belief that children mature and develop at a different pace. There are many math concepts that the brain has to be developmentally ready for and to try to push a child who is not ready will just frustate him/her. If I can be of further assistance, please let me know. I have learned a lot of different strategies over the years.

    Have a great Thanksgiving!!!

    May God Bless you and your daughter!!!!!!

  3. Great post! We’re focusing on real-life math (which extends into heavy-duty science, so it’s definitely not lightweight stuff!), and taking our time with it, too. Going at a child’s real pace is so important. There are some kids who will zoom through textbooks or programs, but there’s *nothing* wrong with taking a more leisurely pace at all! (I wonder if some households get caught up in the “zooming” prideful bits of home education, and put too much stock in home-educated kids “doing things faster, first, etc” rather than focusing on the KIDS and their whole development?)

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