STEM Homeschool: Math Assignments Are Better When they Solve Real-World Problems

STEM Math Activities Replace Hypotheticals with Relevant Problem-Solving

Granted every kid needs a serious homeschool math curriculum that will carry him from elementary school through high school graduation…one that is serial in nature, circling back around every now and then to review math concepts that have already been learned…a homeschool math curriculum that will adequately prepare the teen for college entrance exams like the SAT and ACT…one that will develop critical thinking skills so the freshman math class in college is a breeze and not a major headache.  But STEM math fans know that hypothetical math problems are NOT the best way to equip a kid for life.

You’ve got to make math relevant to real-life needs

If your homeschool kid knows how to correctly work all the problems in the textbook, but draws a complete blank when you ask him to calculate the grocery bill, figure mileage for family vacation, or measure his calorie burn, then you’ve only done part of the job of teaching problem-solving skills!  You’ve got to give him real-world challenges to make math meaningful.


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STEAM Math Lessons Don’t Deal with Imaginary Problems

STEM or STEAM education in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, art, & math always involves real-life problem-solving, that is, the homeschool lessons deal with real issues that affect real people in real communities like observing, measuring, and documenting:

  • wildlife populations in your backyard
  • water pollution your county
  • air quality your house

When I was homeschooling, we took a break from the textbook every Friday for real-life math problems or math games.  If you’re searching for a real-life math scenario that’s relevant to your kid, think in terms of time, money, navigation, building, and baking.  You’re sure to come up with practical math applications in and around your home and daily activities.

What Math Principles Should a Homeschool Kid Know?

The homeschool kid identifies a real-life problem, performs the calculations, then suggests a good solution to improve the situation.  In order to do real-life math, though, he needs to know and understand certain generally-accepted math standards like:

  • math facts (addition, subtraction, multiplication, & division)
  • fractions, decimals, & percentages
  • ratios & proportions
  • estimating & predicting
  • graphing, tables, & equations
  • scale
  • probability

Mathematics complements the other STEAM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, art) with tools for collecting, measuring, analyzing, and predicting data points beyond what we see through simple observation.

Whenever you can take the content from your homeschool math textbook and apply it to real world problems, you are showing your kid that math is not an isolated academic subject, but one with significant meaning and practical purposes.  Tadashi Tokieda’s youtube channel, NUMBERPHILE, may be just the thing you need to excite your kids about real-life math!

4 Interactive Math Websites

  • Alabama Public Television’s Proportion Land is a neat online “amusement park” for building critical thinking skills.  As your kids hop on and enjoy eight rides, they’ll explore and apply proportional reasoning skills to solve a variety of science-based, real world problems. (6th-8th grade)
  • Math by Design is a cool site where your kid can see what it’s like to be a junior architect using geometry and measurement principles in designing a Town Park or an Environmental Center (6th-8th grade)
  • Scale City teaches your kid about proportion with simulations from eight Kentucky landmarks (6th-8th grade)
  • Master Tools is a portal for eight simulation and modeling activities in biomedical, space, environment, and more. (9th-12th grade)

Make math relevant,

Diane Lockman
Diane Lockman
Articles: 37

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