The best science and math learning apps

I am a big fan of technology and I love to have it at my fingertips when  educational opportunities present thenselves, at home or while we are out running errands. This list isn’t comprehensive but I tried to cover a variety.



This list is by no means comprehensive. It’s just to give you an idea of what’s out there to enhance your learning and to be your pocket “teacher’s assistant.”

Do you have a favorite science or math app?

My newest school planning helpers

I just love going to my local used home school store. The woman that runs it is a walking home school catalog. Her knowledge of all the different curricula is staggering. And there is where I happen upon most of my home school loves.

My newest favorite resources are these giant, yet unassuming books. They may not sound like a big deal, but they are–at least they should be.

I am in love with all the Teacher’s Book of Lists books (available at Amazon and other online bookstores). They are worth their weight in gold. Yes you can probably find all the information on the Internet, if you took months, and even then you may not find it all. Why put yourself through that? It’s organized and at your fingertips right in this book. For example, some things included in the comprehensive science book are:

  • plant terminology and classification
  • dyeing procedures (from plant sources)
  • animal classification, reproductive and life cycles
  • major terms of the 10 human body systems
  • determining to mole of a compound
  • balancing chemical equations
  • isotopes of chemical equations
  • classification of energy
  • calculating the specific gravity of a mineral
  • codes for weather symbols
  • classification of stars by color and temperature
  • base two
  • checklists for graphing conventions
  • metric conversions
  • professional publications
  • science fair project information and checklists

And that’s just a few of other over 290 lists. In the literature book you can find 247 lists like vocabulary lists for all sorts of writing; lists by theme, genre and author; lists of award winners and books that have been made into movies. You can search by literary period, find a nice list comparing gods and goddesses and even lists of famous characters.

I think you get the point. You will be so glad you have these books on your lesson plan bookshelf. It is saving me so much time looking up things that I need to grab and move on. These book keep me from getting lost in the details, so I can focus on the principles I want to teach. These lists are great for illustrating principles, gleaning ideas for reading lists and essay questions and for just plain fact-gathering and they cover k-12, so there are no other books to buy (always a winner to me!).

If you prefer integrated studies, these are still valuable. You can use them as project starters, essay fodder and just general resource. Because they are broken down by subject you are able to hone in on just the info you need. You can also see who the subjects intertwine. And you can use them to make mini offices for your kids on any subject. If you aren’t convinced by now, you are a hopeless case. Or you  have another easy source for all this information available at the tum of a page. If you’d like to share a favorite resource, please leave a comment. I’m always curious to know what other moms are using in the homeschooling.

Make your own math manipulatives

It’s fun and easy to make your own math manipulatives. There’s no need to invest lots of money in these fun math helps. You can whip lots of these up in an afternoon, mostly with stuff you have around the house, and it’s fun to get the whole family involved. (These items can keep preschoolers busy too!) Decide what you really need, not just what your math program says you need. Then get busy and make your own alternatives to the pricey manipulatives. [Read more...]

Book Review: Beyond Numbers

I bought this book a year or so ago and wanted to give a review of it. Actually it will be more of a “why I like this book” kind of post. Beyond Numbers book

Beyond Numbers: A Practical Guide to Teaching Math Biblically by Katherine Loop is the most helpful introduction to teaching math with Biblical principles that I have come across. She packs a lot of food for thought into less than 100 pages, and as a busy mom I appreciate that I can read it in one night.Chapters include “Where Did Math Come From and Why Does it Work?,” Math is Not Neutral,” and “Teaching Math Biblically.” It is a concise synopsis of math’s origin, exactly how to discover principles and how to teach them to your children of all ages. She also offers  curriculum suggestions, supplement resources, and help to overcome challenges (which we all have with some child at some time).

BPA requires you to internalize the principles and ideas in order to teach them to your children and she does a good job of helping you do that.If you have a hard time with math yourself or if you struggle to get your children when math lessons come around, this book will bring the subject alive for you. As she states in the chapter “Adopting a New Heart Toward Math, “…I would encourage you to do more than just add Bible verses to your curriculum. Let God change your heart toward math….As you begin to see and use math Biblically yourself,you will be able to teach math Biblically to your children so that they too, can behold God in math.”

For more info on this book visit Christian Perspectives. They offer many mathematical resources.

First day excitement–or the lack thereof (and cool math revelations!!)

We started back to school today. We go year-round and will finish up next July. My Princess S was terribly excited about the whole thing. Today we covered Bible, literature, math and English. We discussed scriptures and reasoned why we should study these subjects. Then we created cover pages for each subject. After a while of this Princess S (who is 5.5) was bored and wanted to do math. It reminded me of K with Princess G and she was bored too so I didn’t get upset because I now understand that learning is not always about being entertained.

In math today we were discussing that mathematics is God’s language. While we have been discussing that for a while now, I saw it in a new way. When we read Job 26:7 it clicked for me. Math is the language of God because everything is held together by math, and God spoke all things into being, so math is His language. WOW! He holds the Earth in space by math (His Word). That is amazing. Princess G thought it was “cool.” This is going to be a great year!

Oh, and I have to say that I’m already glad I decided to challenge Princess S because she is such a fast learner and catches onto things so quickly. We both would have been frustrated without more structure and substance to her lessons. 

first day of school

Princess G (8) and Princess S (5)

Make your own math manipulatives

It’s fun and easy to make your own math manipulatives. There’s no need to invest lots of money in these fun math helps. You can whip lots of these up in an afternoon, mostly with stuff you have around the house, and it’s fun to get the whole family involved. (These items can keep preschoolers busy too!) Decide what you really need, not just what your math program says you need. Then get busy and make your own alternatives to the pricey manipulatives.

  • Money for counting. Make change at your bank. For $5, which is about the same cost as the plastic coins from the teacher store, your kids can get the feel of making real change. Or let them count their piggy bank.
    lacing cards. You can recycle cereal boxes or large plastic lids. Cut into the shape you want and punch holes all around the edges. Use an old shoelace and let them go to town.
  • buttons, macaroni, beans, bottlecaps, candy pieces or anything small can be used for counting, sorting, predicting and quantitative measurements. Mini muffin tins are great with these. You can also use these for simple math operations, like adding and subtracting.
  • Make your own place value sheet on a paper divided into place values with a marker (in “landscape” position). They can lay the beans or candy pieces in the proper place value.
  • Color rigatoni or other large pasta with a little alcohol and food color. Lay them out to dry and then use some twine or yarn to string them together. (A little tape around the end like a shoelace will make stringing easier.) You can teach patterns and fine motor skills.
  • I found a small food scale at the dollar store. This is great for predicting and comparing amounts.
    Use your measuring cups and spoons to measure all sots of things.
  • I also got a ruler at Wal-Mart for 50 cents. And a fabric tape measure for a dollar. Kids love to compare and predict measurements. T-charts are simple for recording their results.
  • Make your own flash cards. There are free programs online or you can get out your markers and index cards and have a great time creating your own. You can make silly word problems too.
  • Another fun idea is to get two large tubs. Fill one with uncooked rice and use different size containers to see how many it takes to move the rice from one tub to another. Little kids really like to scoop the rice. You can keep preschoolers busy for a long time with some fun tools like a big spoon and a cup or some sand box tools.

Does your family have any fun, homemade manipluatives? Let me in on it!

Standards of Evaluation for Arithmetic Books

We use Ray’s Arithmetic at our house and I love it. We started with it (except for a little trial of Saxon a year ago), so dd doesn’t know anything else. I found a review of Ray’s that summed it up a lot better than I could. Even if you don’t use Ray’s there are still helpful things to know below.

In James Rose’s A Guide to American Christian Education, James Kilkenny lists things to consider when buying math resources (P. 249-250).
1. Statement of principles and rules. Ray’s Practical Arithmetic says
Every principle is clearly explained by an analysis or solution of a simple example from which a rule is devised. The application of the rule to the solution of problems of gradually increasing difficulty completes the presentation of the subject.
The exercises have been constructed with a view to affording the mental discipline necessary to strengthen the reasoning power and to giving the pupil a mastery over the problems that are sure to present themselves in the common walks of life.
Ray’s method is to explain a principle, analyze the principles, derive a rule and assign exercises to which the principles and rules may be applied (p. 249).

2. Overall organization
The logical organization of an arithmetic course is:
I. Skills of counting
A. Oral
B. Written (notation and numeration)
C. Operations
II. Categories of Application
A. Counting individual objects or individual groups
B.Counting equal parts
C. Counting units of measure
3. Are scripture references inherent to arithmetic?
Is the Scriptural foundation and use of the subject identified, or are the Scriptural references tacked onto each chapter as a pious exercise that bears little or no relationship to the nature of the subject? The teacher should do his own study of the Scriptural origin and purpose of the subject so that he will be able to intelligently apply this standard (p. 250).

What if you have already invested in another math curriculum? Mr. Kilkenny states:
“…the teacher who understands the organization of arithmetic can pick and choose useful exercises and statements of principle from books that fail to measure up to standards one and two.”

Things I personally love about Ray’s:

  • Lots of story problems in real settings gets them used to thinkning of math in a practical way from the beginning.
  • Customizable for each child. Their are guidelines in the teacher’s manual, but you are free to go as slowly or as quickly as you like because it is not broken down by grade.
  • It is gentle. In the beginning children focus on oral math and manipulatives. The focus in early math is not to get them writing numbers, but to get them to understand the concepts.
  • Manipulatives are great in the early stages.
  • The grammar is excellent. The ecthings are beautiful. It’s a fun book to read–well, as much as a math book is fun to read.
  • It’s really afforadable. For less than $100 I have a curriculum for all kids K-8. They also offer higher math for high school. I can use buttons and other household items as manipulatives (for another post).
  • It has a track record. This curriculum has proven itself for generations. Because the principles of math do not change, I do not need the most current trend in math. Ray’s is a simple, no bells and whistles kind of program.
  • You can also get Ray’s in CD form. For $67 you can get your entire curriculum for all grades, including higher math.

Or you can get the book version from Mott Media. They also offer workbooks that follow their books for extra drills.

While FACE officially recommends another math program, they have endorsed Ray’s in the past and offer Ray’s from their site. I also recommend FACE’s Mathematics Curriculum Guide. It’s full of helpful information, suggested scope and sequence and help for discovering and applying Biblical principles.

place value

I am planning my lessons for next week. This takes quite a bit of time, even for my young ones. But it is a total labor of love. So my arithmetic lesson this week is a wonderful example of why I love the Principle Approach so much. Princess G needs to work on her numeric place value to 1,000,000. She’s doing okay but we need to continue to reinforce it. I was studying the principles that apply to this concept and I just had to giggle when I think about how good God is. As arithmetic is orderly and predictable, so is God. That’s good to know. But there’s more!

When studying place value you see that each number has a unique value in relation to all the other numbers. WOW! It’s a picture of the body of Christ:

Eph 4:15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all
things, which is the head, even Christ:
Eph 4:16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by
that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the
measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself
in love.

God speaks to us all the time in His creation. If I wasn’t searching out Biblical Principles I would never have considered this. We all have value according to God. He considered us of great worth, sending His Son to die for our sins. This value is constant and consistent.
When we talk about place value this week we will discuss this scripture and place value will take on a whole new meaning for her. This is what PA is about: finding the principles that the subjects come out of. Who knew you could find place value in the Bible? God did!
I hope you will consider your Place Value and discover what treasures God has given you for the body of Christ.

Rose’s Guide: elementary arithmetic

This is strictly my own interpretation of how to go through this section (which begins on p.231). It was authored by James Kilkenney.
Rabbit trail here: James Kilkenney’s wife is named Barbara. My parents are James and Barbara. James Rose’s wife’s name is…you guessed it. Barbara. Three James and Barbaras. Kind of odd, no?

I must say that I really enjoyed this section more that I thought I would. It’s really amazing how exciting a subject can be when you get to the principles, the reason behind it all. I love how easy it is to see God in math (which I elaborated on in a earlier post). So here we go.

  1. The basic principles of math are illustrated on p. 232. This will give you definitions and help you understand what he talks about later. This is must-reading for anyone afraid to teach math to their kids, even at an elementary level. Of course you can do this! And read the section on the language of math (p. 233). This is helpful for planning your lessons.
  2. As always, we begin with the beginning. Page 234 defines for us the Biblical Source and Origin of Mathematics. To understand how to teach it, we must understand its roots and its Creator.
    Next there is the Biblical End and Purpose of Arithmetic (p. 236) and the Rudiments (p. 237). I really loved his subtopic “The Principle of the Plan for Solving Problems (p. 239d-241).” This was very helpful.
  3. Next I would recommend reading his part on the Seven Principles and Mathematics (p. 247) to get you in the PA frame of mind for lesson planning.
  4. Now it’s time to start planning your lessons. The Course Goals (p. 242) will give you a direction. The stories he highlights here are also helpful. His chart on p. 244 gives you an at-a-glance view of K-4 mathematics, which is helpful if you are planning to teach multiple grades. It’s good to see what everyone will be learning at the same time. And keep in mind that these are guidelines.
  5. Don’t freak out if your child isn’t at the same pace. Maybe he just needs more teaching. He’ll catch up. Or maybe your child is ahead. Don’t hold reign them in because a chart said they should be at a certain level. Let them excel.
  6. Now that you have your goals you can read his section on organizing your course (p. 245). If you are wondering about using textbooks, read his section on “Resources” (p. 249).
  7. As you are planning your lessons, make time to read “Arithmetic and the History of Liberty.” It will add depth to your lessons.
  8. The bibliography (p. 250) has a great list of books for you to peruse at your leisure. His bio on p. 251 is also quite interesting. I really like to see how other families get into PA.

Personally I use Ray’s Arithmetic. The lessons are constructed in a simple sequential order so there are no grade restraints. We are free to go at our own pace. If you like worksheets you can find them that coordinate with Ray’s for the different lower grades here. And you can get higher math–even algebra, calculus and trig for the high schoolers-here. (And it doesn’t hurt that an entire K-12 curriculum on CD-ROM with teacher’s keys–a 20-volume set– is $59 !) But of course use what you are comfortable with.

When you read Mr. Kilkenney’s writings I hope you’ll consider planning lessons and teaching math yourself, and not simply going through a textbook. Especially in the lower grades it is so satisfying to instill these biblical principles that will last a lifetime. For more along this same train of thought read Lisa’a great post here.

Biblical principles of mathematics

Mathematics is one of my favorite subjects to discover using the Biblical Principle Approach to education. It reveals God’s character and nature in such an understandable way. God uses the language of math to give us insight into who He is. Math is infinite. It is orderly. It is predictable. It is universal and unchangeable. It is so easy for me to see God’s image in math.

One more thing I want to highlight. On p.239-240 of James Rose’s book, A Guide to American Christian Education, the author discusses the “Principle for Solving Problems.” In Isaiah 33:22, God reveals Himself as judge, lawgiver and king. (This triune principle is repeated many times–in the Trinity, in our civil government, in our homes.) This applies to mathematics as planning, application and checking. These steps apply to any problem at any time. When Princess G understands this she can solve any problem because she understands the principle behind it.

This is but one example of the difference between PA and other Christian forms of education. We don’t just stick a Scripture on it and call it “Christian education.” PA seeks out the foundational principle behind the subject and glorifies God in everything. It is not a method, it is a philosophy of government, and hence, of education. For more information read here. And check out Lisa’s thoughts on this subject.