“Part of Courage is Simple Consistency.”–Peggy Noonan
Do you ever feel like something in your homeschooling isn’t working for you or your kids? Do you ever feel concerned that your students aren’t going to be where they need to be come the end of the school year?
We all do! And often our instinct in those times is to change something. To do something different and hope that the change will fix things.
Consistency in Math
But believe it or not consistency, especially consistency in math, can actually be the secret sauce in building great learners. So much of a great education isn’t about the one-off magical moment or the epic field trip. Rather, it’s the sustained and continued regular things that we do every day as teachers, students, and families that build up over time.
So let’s get to why consistency in math matters by looking at:
Merriam-Webster says when something is consistent, it is “marked by harmony, regularity, or steady continuity: free from variation or contradiction.”
Let’s hone in on that phrase: “steady continuity.” Do you see that when you look at your math textbook? If it’s a Saxon math book, you likely do! The order of the day is the same, every day, and the slow progression of the Spiral Method means that even the addition of new concepts is almost imperceptible. The natural consistency in math of a spiral textbook means that students steadily continue on in their studies without gaps or disruption.
The many benefits of consistency in math are the same as in many other subjects. When a student experiences consistency in their curriculum and in their school day, they know what to expect. Many kids do have a thrill-seeking side and would like things to be fun, fun, fun and go, go, go, all the time. However, we have all seen the stress that can come when people of any age are hit with things they don’t expect.
Managing a child’s expectations through consistency in math is one way we can provide consistency as well as comfort. Exciting field trips, beloved new books, and the education family vacation actually become more fun when they are tempered by the comfort of routine.
Consistency in math also provides students the time they need to make improvements. By working in similar styles and on similar problems every day means they are spending time in the concepts and correcting mistakes. Over time, they can see improvements as they learn what they’ve done wrong and have another opportunity to do it correctly.
One of the major benefits to consistency in math is that you don’t shift gears too quickly. The student comes to know what to expect at the beginning, middle, and end of the school year. For instance, with Saxon, they will expect even more review and revisiting of what now see to be easy concepts, with a build toward new concepts and more complexity in the middle to end of the book.
Certainly, there are very legitimate reasons to choose a different curriculum and make a change when things simply are not working. Please hear me when I say that! But changing, say, every year or so can not only leave a child without that sense of rhythm, it can also lead to gaps in learning.
Consistency on a daily and weekly basis has it’s benefits too. You can see examples of that in the early years of Saxon with the morning meeting, and later with the Warm Up and pre-lesson practice. This order and routine offers a consistency that means, over the course of the year, they’ll have practice in, for example, the calendar or handling money or doing word problems 120+ times! Consistency compounds over time and by doing small things every day you can see how it adds up.
Does consistency ever look “boring?” Absolutely! So know that going in: consistency is, by definition, not thrilling. But it’s important and worth the struggle it may sometimes take to get through. As John Saxon himself wrote, “If you do every problem in every set, you will be amazed at how easy it will all become.” At the end of the struggle is math mastery and ease.
Saxon is one of the most consistent curriculums you’ll find. Even book-to-book there is great consistency in how lessons are ordered. You’ll see the rhythm of the lessons begins with warming the students up, practicing known concepts, introducing new material, and then reviewing multiple concepts in the mixed practice.
This provides an accurate way to measure progress. Knowing the number of problems completed and how long it took to complete them allows you to know if the student is grasping new concepts or starting to struggle.
And with measurement comes accountability. There are fewer questions about where the problems are because there are very few variables in how the lessons are presented. So holding kids accountable for the work, and being able to reward harder efforts becomes easier when there is consistency in math. Why? Because everyone knows what to expect!
Math will always be one of the subjects that gets resistance from kids. It is rarely flashy and it just takes time to learn, calculate, show work, and correct problems. But there are ways to motivate children to show up for consistency in math.
First, show enthusiasm yourself. ESPECIALLY if you struggled with math, try to be enthusiastic. Kids pick up on your cues, so this is one I encourage you to work at. It’s one of the reasons I make videos–to be a stand-in for an area you may not feel as equipped for! Hopefully it helps you lose the negative vibes you remember from your own math experiences, if they weren’t positive.
Secondly, don’t rush them. Make time for all the parts that need to come together for consistency in math. If you need to rearrange the daily or weekly schedule a bit, or even break up the math lesson throughout the day, that’s fine! But consistency inherently requires a bit of time, so accepting that helps.
Finally, don’t skimp on the rewards and the praise. We all appreciate it when someone recognizes our efforts. Kids are no different! Acknowledge their hard work, their perseverance, and their commitment to consistency. Help them to see how far they’ve come. And don’t forget the ice cream!
Also, encourage them to go out for my clubs! The 30-5 Club was made to help develop consistency. You’d be amazed to see how being featured in our weekly videos will encourage kids to be consistent and do the hard work of all 30 problems! Try it–I think you’ll like it.
Also–and this is exciting–we will be kicking off a Club Drive in early September that will include some of our coolest rewards yet! Stay tuned for that, and keep at it! A little bit of consistency in math now will leave you amazed at what your kids can accomplish come the end of the school year!
Do you have any tips for developing consistency in math? Anything that’s motivated your child to keep at it day after day? Let me know in the comments–there’s always someone else who could learn from your experience!
Talk to you soon,
Nicole the Math Lady