Math Lessons for a Living Education

Motivated by a desire for Christian parents to educate their children without interference from so-called experts, Angela O'Dell developed Math Lessons for a Living Education to help them teach elementary math to grades K-6. This is a teacher-guided, hands-on curriculum that will require parents to prepare, execute, and grade lessons with minimal teacher support. Loosely based on the Charlotte Mason instructional method, emphasis is placed on observation and repetition through dictation and copywork rather than a multiplicity of exercises and problem sets.

In terms of ease of use this is kind of a mixed bag. There isn't a lot of teacher material, meaning that you don't have to make a huge effort to understand all the moving parts and collate several books. At the same time, you will have to make more effort to present the material and will have to complete all the problems yourself for grades K-2 since there are no answers. This is fine for younger grades—math doesn't teach itself to younger students. However, there also isn't a lot of help for teaching grades 4-6, which can be a challenge for parents who aren't great at math themselves.

How Do These Work?

Math Lessons for a Living Education consists of seven consumable student worktexts and two teacher guides, one for Levels K-6 and an additional one for Level 6. The Teaching Companion for Levels K-6 is a slim volume broken into four parts: one explaining the author's philosophy and approach to teaching, another explaining how to teach this course in particular, a section on teaching tips for review lessons and how to implement manipulatives, and a final section for miscellaneous resources; it also includes readiness tests for Levels 1-6 for students coming from another program. The Math Level 6 Teacher Guide contains a daily lesson schedule, answers to all exercises on reduced student worktext pages, and consumable quizzes and exams for students.

The full-color student worktexts contain 36 lessons apiece (nine lessons per quarter), each divided into five daily exercises for a total of 180 days of work. Students begin by reading the lesson or having it read to them on Monday, complete exercises Monday-Friday, and complete a review or hands-on activity on Friday. Each book follows an independent storyline featuring siblings Charlie and Charlotte who have various math-related adventures. Exercises are 1-4 pages each and include anywhere from 5 to +/-20 problems which students complete directly in the book. For most of the daily lessons there is little additional text, just problems to solve.

There are no answer keys for Levels K-2; answers to all exercises for Levels 3-6 appear in the back of each worktext on reduced student pages with answers in red. This is a teacher-directed course, though older students could no doubt work on their own, only requiring assistance when they run into difficulty. There are no specific lesson-by-lesson teacher notes, so parents will need to review each lesson and exercise before teaching the child. Hands-on activities are often recipes for food dishes and require adult supervision.

O'Dell takes a very gentle pace, moving fairly slowly through the typical elementary math topics (the four basic functions, time and measurement, fractions, etc.). Exercises are typically somewhat limited in scope, without a lot of repetition. The worktexts are colorful and fun, and the stories are engaging for younger students, though older students may quickly lose interest in the ongoing adventures of Charlie and Charlotte.

As stated in the Teaching Companion, O'Dell emphasizes a biblical worldview. There aren't Bible verses on every page, and there aren't always hit-you-over-the-head morals in the lesson stories, but the teacher support materials all concentrate on encouraging home school parents (specifically mothers) to rely on God for guidance and support to keep going, tend to the spiritual needs of their children, and use teaching math to disciple kids toward following Christ. As for instructional support that exclusively applies to teaching mathematics, there isn't a lot.

The Charlotte Mason approach was clearly inspirational in the forming of Math Lessons for a Living Education. O'Dell repeatedly emphasizes the importance of observation in learning math, and there are even math narration and copywork activities scattered throughout the program. You will not need a lot of manipulatives, but you will need to remove the charts from the back of each worktext and laminate them for use throughout that particular grade level. Beyond that, you will need ingredients for the recipes, dice for math games, and basic craft supplies.

Our Honest Opinion:

Of the writing of many math curricula there is no end, and much reviewing of them is a weariness to the bones. O'Dell's obvious dedication to training students to have a Christian worldview is admirable, but math is math. That doesn't mean we think there aren't wrong and even ungodly approaches to teaching it (viz. many of the public school debates currently raging), but emphasizing the need to use every subject as a tool for discipleship instead of focusing on teaching the subject itself is probably one of those wrong ways.

Math Lessons for a Living Education moves fairly slowly and isn't as challenging as many comparable courses. Nevertheless, your students will get where they need to be (more or less) by the end of the grade 6 worktext. Intended as a lead-in to Master Books's middle school math course, Principles of Mathematics, it may be a stretch to expect students to be ready for that course after finishing this one without a supplement of some kind. For the hands-on approach with no ideological aspects, we strongly recommend you look into Singapore Dimensions Math, the newest iteration of the classic curriculum for elementary students. For a more narrative approach we suggest Stan Schmidt's Life of Fred series.

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Math Lessons for a Living Education - Teaching Companion
by Angela O'Dell
from Master Books
for Kindergarten-6th grade
in Math Lessons for a Living Education (Location: MAT-MB1)
$19.99
Math Lessons for a Living Education Level 1
by Angela O'Dell
from Master Books
for 1st grade
in Math Lessons for a Living Education (Location: MAT-MB1)
$44.99
Math Lessons for a Living Education Level 2
by Angela O'Dell
from Master Books
for 2nd grade
in Math Lessons for a Living Education (Location: MAT-MB1)
$44.99
Math Lessons for a Living Education Level 3
by Angela O'Dell
from Master Books
for 3rd grade
in Math Lessons for a Living Education (Location: MAT-MB1)
$44.99
Math Lessons for a Living Education Level 4
by Angela O'Dell
from Master Books
for 4th grade
in Math Lessons for a Living Education (Location: MAT-MB1)
$44.99
Math Lessons for a Living Education Level 5
by Angela O'Dell, Kyrsten Carlson
from Master Books
for 5th grade
in Math Lessons for a Living Education (Location: MAT-MB1)
$44.99
Math Lessons for a Living Education Level 6
by Angela O'Dell, Kyrsten Carlson
from Master Books
for 6th grade
in Math Lessons for a Living Education (Location: MAT-MB1)
$44.99
Math Lessons for a Living Education Level 6 - Teacher Guide
by Angela O'Dell, Kyrsten Carlson
from Master Books
for 6th grade
in Math Lessons for a Living Education (Location: MAT-MB1)
$39.99
Math Lessons for a Living Education Level K
by Angela O'Dell
from Master Books
for Kindergarten
in Math Lessons for a Living Education (Location: MAT-MB1)
$44.99