At Home with The Classical Method – How to Teach Your Child Math

“The classical model for math emphasizes memorizing facts for speed and accuracy, and discussing numeracy, operations, and laws for understanding.” (p.131, The Core

I can remember reciting addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division tables with my class from simple wall charts in my elementary school growing up. My teachers shared little tricks for memorization and understanding, but repetition was the main method.  In classical education, developing a strong grammar basis, such as this, holds true.  Continuing the At Home with the Classical Method series based on The Core, today we’ll talk about teaching math.  

In math, the foundational grammar (vocabulary) is arithmetic.  When a student knows arithmetic, they are able to approach higher level math with concentration on the new concepts, because the basic operations are so well-known. Familiarity with math occurs through memorization of facts, working of problems, and immersion in the language.  Regardless of the math curriculum you choose, here are some consistent study habits found in The Core (p.134) that can help your math studies:

1) Work on math lessons as a daily habit.

2) Drill and practice for speed and accuracy.

3) Move slowly through foundational ideas by over-practicing concepts.

4) Demonstrate neatness when writing a problem.

5) Learn inverse operations for additional practice and to check answers.

6) Learn to create and explain problems to demonstrate competency with a concept.

7) Do not permit calculators until trigonometry.

8) Copy every problem and each step in order to self-check the work and identify where help may be needed. 

If your child is currently easily understanding math, this list may seem to overcomplicate math studies.  But, the problems will get harder.  These study habits help to ensure a solid understanding of basic math and the development of right habits to confront harder level math when it comes.   

I should say, these are not all things my family is in the habit of doing regularly.  Math is not a subject I excel in, so teaching math certainly hasn’t been either.  Thankfully, I can learn by reading good education books (like The Core!) and I can use a curriculum (we chose Saxon) that will show me how to teach each concept to my littles.  

One of our favorite Saxon review games is called “My Card, Your Card.” Using a stack of flashcards, you drill your child.  If he gets the answer correct, it’s his card.  If he gets the answer wrong, it’s your card.  It could be because my child is super competitive, but he loves this game.  He’ll beat me, he’ll beat his mom mom.  He just loves it!  It’s a quick, easy, and fun way to drill for speed and accuracy (habit 2).  Here are some ways we’re installing new habits now to improve math teaching in our home. 

How are you teaching math in your home? Math wizards, please raise your hands & share your tools! We’d love to learn from you.


  1. says

    I found that my kids’ math skills greatly improved after one year of CC under their belts with having all those times tables and skip counting mastered. It’s such a simple thing, but it really made a difference for them.

    • says

      yes, i think it’s huge! i suspect some of my younger ones are going to enter math more easily because of their head start with the CC memory work.

    • says

      I do not, Michelle! We did Abeka for a year before switching to Saxon. I’m hoping (fingers crossed) we’ll stick with Saxon for the whole route. But, anyway, I’ll pose it as a question on my blog FB page to see if i get any answers. If you “like” Classical Conversations at Home on FB, you can follow along with the conversation or I can post back here in the comments for you. : )

  2. says

    Great post! We use Ray’s Arithmetic and so far I think it is great for teaching just what you have described. What I need to change for this coming year is making it a daily habit. Thanks for the encouragement!


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