The math watershed occurs in our family when the kids finish the Singapore Primary Math program. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd editions of the math watershed occurred around age 10 for my three elder kids respectively. That was too young for a traditional academic high school program, especially after the friendly, unintimidating, low-repetition approach of the Singapore Primary consumable workbooks. We made a lot of stabs at finding the right next step and I really didn’t feel like I found the right approach with any of them. There was a lot of fallow time, a lot of treading water, or starting out one direction and then back-tracking. Eventually they all sidled into Canadian high school math courses just fine, but there was 3-4 years of aimlessness before they developed the maturity to tackle them.
When Fiona finished Singapore Primary Math at age 8, I felt it was even more important to find a suitable next step, since she was even younger than her siblings, and very keen on continuing her formal math work. So neither of us was really willing to wait through 5 or 6 years of aimlessness.
So far we’ve been thrilled with Challenge Math by Ed Zaccarro. At the top of the cover it says “Math is often taught as all scales and no music. This book contains the music!” It’s a very apt description. It’s intended to provide enrichment for children in Grades 4 through 9. Fiona fits smack in the middle of that range in terms of her math level (~Grade 7-ish) and the book is perfect for her. It has a friendly layout with occasional yet undistracting cartoon characters offering insights and fun quips. It isn’t overly dense. The problem sets are appropriately varied and sometimes humorous. (eg. A snail-year correlates with a light-year, being the distance a snail can travel in a year.) There are “Einstein problems” for extra challenge, which Fiona seems to be managing just fine. And the concepts and problem-solving approaches are explicitly taught with clarity. Yet it has a more textbook-ish mature format than the Singapore Primary workbooks, and it requires more in the way of creative synthesis of skills and ideas.
I have a feeling that this book (and perhaps one or two of the others from Zaccarro’s series) will provide the perfect segué into one of the Singapore secondary programs for Fiona. We’ll likely give New Syllabus Math a go, one of the newer secondary programs, which has consumable workbooks and a less dense presentation than NEM or NMC. I expect Fiona will spend a year or so expanding her ability to apply K-7 math skills to deeper and more complex problem-solving through Zaccarro’s books and then she’ll jump into high school materials very well-prepared.