Find the Gaps in Math

by Kathy Kuhl

Last week I explained how to fill in the gaps in your child’s math learning by adding customized daily review of those gap areas.

But how do I know what to put on the cards, asks one parent. That depends on what’s missing from your math curriculum.

From where I sit, I can’t tell you, any more than I can tell you what’s now missing from your desk or shoulder bag.

Finding the Gaps

To discover what’s missing, you need a good list of math knowledge and skills. It’s your homeschool, so you can pick the list or lists, or pick and choose from them. Remember whatever source you use is a tool for you.

  1. Look at the scope and sequence of a couple solid math curricula for the year below your child’s current level. (Many publishers have this online.) Don’t just use the scope and sequence for the curriculum you are using. This should be a quick read: you’re only looking for things you don’t think your child can already do.
  1. Consider using a standardized test like the Brigance Comprehensive Inventory of Basic Skills (CIBS II, or Brigance Green, for short), available from Curriculum Associates.Members of HSLDA can rent the test on the HSLDA special needs pages.
  1. You might decide to look at state or national public school standards. They are not binding on homeschools, but they make have a good idea or two. (If you are curious, the British standards are here.) Reading Virginia’s Standards of Learning and Hawaii’s standards gave me ideas. For example, after reading the VA SOL requirement that students be able to make rough conversions from English to metric, we began working on that.
    estimate inchI also asked my son and students in our homeschool math class to show me one inch with their fingers. Then I walked around the room with a ruler and let them see how close they were. Then I’d ask them to put their hands one foot apart, then back to one inch. Another day I might ask them to put their hand one meter off the floor, then a yard, then a meter again. Practice helps. This could become another activity card.

Common Core has caused many problems. I’ve seen some horribly written Common Core test questions. I do not advocate basing your homeschool on Common Core!

But math teaching expert Marilyn Zecher reminds me that the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics developed the Common Core standards for math. The objectives (not all curriculum nor all tests) include some good ideas. So that’s another place to look for facts or skills you might choose to add.

Remember, it’s your homeschool. You decide what to include.

For instance, according to Common Core, here are three goals. Would you include any of them?

a. Kindergartners should be able to compare two numbers as written numerals and be able to say which is greater, which is lesser, or if they are equal. So I could create card that says:

Mom (or other home educator) writes down 3 pairs of numerals, all ten or less. Child looks at each pair, names each numeral and for each pair, says which is greater, which is less, or if they are equal.

So to practice that card today, you might write

6   2
5   8
7   7

b. First graders should be able to count to 120, starting at any number less than 120. So if you aren’t sure your child can do that, you could try it, and if he or she needs practice at it, put it on a card.

Being able to pick up counting midstream is important. If you don’t think so, watch someone giving your change from a dollar bill for an 96 cent item: “Ninety-seven, ninety-eight, ninety-nine, a dollar.”

c. And here’s a sixth grade concept on ratio and proportion. I think this one is a good idea because the concept and examples are simple:

Understand the concept of a ratio and use ratio language to describe a ratio relationship between two quantities. For example, “The ratio of wings to beaks in the bird house at the zoo was 2:1, because for every 2 wings there was 1 beak.” “For every vote candidate A received, candidate C received nearly three votes.”

Does that remind you of the counting/clapping game? Sing this then teach the proportions?

“One frog, 2 eyes, four legs, in the river, kerplunk,

Two frogs, four eyes, eight legs, in the river, in the river, kerplunk, kerplunk.

Three frogs, six eyes, twelve legs, …..”


Your ratio review card might say:
Chant the “Frogs in the River” clapping game. Then review the ratios of:

Frogs to eyes,

Frogs to legs,

Legs to frogs…

Then review 3 other proportions you see around the house, e.g.:

The ratio of sleeves to coats (2:1)

Ratio of fingers to hands (5:1)


See last week’s post for more on making and using Math Review cards.

So you have many choices where to find lists of math skills and knowledge. Which do you use? Please answer in the comments below.

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