The Best Homeschool Math Dos and Don'ts: 7 Tips for Success

curriculum hands on math teach well tips Oct 23, 2023


Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Genesis 1:31a God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.

John 1:1-3 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 


Does teaching math in your homeschool worry you?

Is your child stuck on a concept, but you don't know how to help?

Is math a power struggle in your home?

We can relate! We have learned SO MUCH over the years as teachers and homeschool parents on this subject.  Our kids are older now and if we were to go back and start over, we would DEFINITELY change how we approached math in our homeschool. 

7 Key Dos and Don'ts for Teaching Homeschool Math

First and foremost, as I share what we would do differently if we had to start over, I am going to put myself out there for this article.  The enemy can easily get into our minds and make us feel like complete failures as homeschool moms, even though we have not failed at everything. Math was a subject that made me feel like a failure with my oldest child, because he ended up having some big gaps and struggled with higher math all through high school. Looking back, there are areas that I see where I should have stepped in and solidified some key foundational concepts for him, and so I am sharing with you in hopes that you will not make the same mistakes that I did!

The bottom line is, however, that my son has many other strengths and gifts, and gaps can always be filled. He is not defined as a person by his math abilities, and I am not defined as a person by my teaching abilities. ;)  I have gaps from my public education experience, and I bet you do, too.  Anything I need to know as an adult I can just teach myself with a YouTube video or by watching a quick TikTok, and so can my son. Taking a class or hiring a tutor can also fill in gaps later if need be. So no worries, momma -- our kids will be ok! We are continuously teaching them to be independent learners, and we are always doing our best with what we have at the time. Hindsight is always 20/20. Forgive yourself for your shortcomings. 

That said, let's talk mathematics. In math, there are some key concepts we as teachers need to think about and key ways to teach for understanding. In looking back through my experience teaching first grade public school, as well as the experience of teaching my own children in homeschool, some glaring do's and don'ts have surfaced in my mind that we are sharing below.

Homeschool Math Tip 1: Do Teach That God Made Math

Do talk about how God made math! Don't let math be an isolated scary subject.  Yes! God made math!  The Bible tells us that God made EVERYTHING.  John 1:3 -  "Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." EVERYTHING was made strategically and IT WAS GOOD.  The universe has order.  Man has been trying to figure it out for thousands of years by observing, hypothesizing, developing theories, creating formulas, and writing proofs. And there is so much more of God's creation we have not even discovered yet!  Learning math is a GIFT we have been given by God that helps us figure out the world around us. When we are thankful for math it changes our thinking doesn't it? ;)

Homeschool Math Tip 2: Do Talk About Your Why

Do always tell your child WHY this topic is important. Don't just open a book page and expect them to want to learn these concepts.  I have a kid who questions EVERYTHING. If he sees no reason to learn something, he will push back intensely.  BUT, when we would talk about why something was important before learning it, it would give it a purpose and become much more motivating to him! Tell your kids how this particular math concept can be useful in life and applied to real-life situations.

Homeschool Math Tip 3: Do Teach Concrete to Abstract

Do always start with the concrete and move to abstract. Don't give a child practice problems when they have not been taught concretely with counters, manipulatives, and hands-on materials. We have talked to homeschool moms who wonder why their children are stuck on certain math concepts...for example, a child was confused about coins and did not understand that one dime equaled ten cents. The parent had only given the child a page to do in a workbook, and so the child was not getting any actual concrete learning at all.  A better way to teach this concept is to have the child count out ten pennies on the table, give them to mom, and in turn mom gives him one dime and explains that you can trade in ten pennies for one dime and it is worth the same amount.  The child can do it again and again over that same day or over time, and will eventually learn that dimes are less cumbersome than pennies.  THEN, what happens next when he has ten dimes?  He can trade them in for one dollar! Carrying around one dollar is way less cumbersome than keeping track of ten dimes.  Teaching in a concrete way can be applied to any concept.  Get yourself some good math manipulatives to help you teach key foundational concepts.  Once your child is able to understand the concept, move on to paper pencil problems. The younger your child, the more concretely you need to teach to be on par with their brain development. Check out our favorite math manipulatives here.

Homeschool Math Tip 4: Do Teach for Mastery

Do always teach for understanding and mastery.  Don't just give your child practice problems to do, mark problems incorrect, and then move on.  As homeschool coaches, we see many parents grade their children's workbooks by marking the answers wrong, but never actually sitting with the child to go over the problem again to fix their mistakes or confusions. This makes no sense if our purpose is for children to learn the concepts we are teaching them.  The point is always LEARNING, not just finishing the page. You are the teacher, so you will need to make choices about what happens next if your child is not understanding their math lesson and/or getting many of the practice problems incorrect...maybe your child needs to sit with you and do a few more problems to solidify this concept, or maybe the lesson needs to be retaught the next day, or maybe these skills need to be sprinkled in the next couple of days throughout the lessons while you monitor to see if this concept is being solidified. Find a video online that explains it in a different way (such as Khan Academy or iXL). Don't just keep moving on in the curriculum and ignore it. Make sure your child is actually learning the skills so they can build on them as the concepts get more complex.

Homeschool Math Tip 5: Do Teach Foundational Skills

Do make sure that key foundational math facts and concepts have been mastered and memorized.  Don't let your child breeze past these essential skills.  Teach them to be solidly fluent and flexible so they can build their math knowledge easily in the future. Over my teaching career I have had opportunities to work with older students in math. Usually these experiences were in 5th or 6th grade with struggling students.  Picture this...a student is expected do to a long division problem like 4356 / 8. The student sets up the problem and the first thing he is expected to do is figure out how many times 8 will go in to 43. However, he doesn't know his 8's facts, so he has to write them all out down the side of the paper...8, 16, 24, 32, 40, 48. Ok stop. Now he has to go back and count how many times that is...ok 5. Write the 5. 5 times 8 is 40. 43 minus 40 is...wait now he has to count on his fingers to subtract. Ok! It's 3! Now he can bring down the 5 and this whole process continues and IT IS BRUTAL. Kids cannot move on to more difficult concepts like reducing fractions, long multiplication, and long division if they don't have math facts down pat.  This seems to be a big controversy in the homeschool world whether memorization is important or not, but one simply cannot understand and compute multi-step problems in a timely way when even the basics are not mastered. Set your child up for success and help them learn their facts inside and out. We are listing out below a general checklist of key concepts that should be learned at different grade levels, but you can also Google your state for specific standards by age.  Check out Florida's here. You can also visit the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics here for resources.

Need-to-Know Foundational Math Concepts by Age

Early Childhood

  • one-to-one correspondence
  • idea of more and less, many and few
  • one more, one less
  • counting and grouping
  • idea of whole and part


Elementary Years

  • recognizing patterns
  • number sense and recognizing how many (10 fingers, 10-frames, dice)
  • whole and part (and what's missing - future algebra skills)
  • skip counting
  • number lines
  • hands on experiences with money, place value, volume and capacity
  • solidly knowing addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts CRTICIAL
  • conceptualizing relationships between adding and subtracting, multiplying and dividing, and "fact familie"s ex: 14-9=5, 5+9=14, 14-5=9, 9+5=14


Middle School Years

  • missing number is the same thing as x
  • working with coordinates and lines on a four quadrant plane
  • tons of experience moving back and forth with equivalences of decimals, fractions, percentages, ratios ex: .5 = 1/2 = 50%
  • measuring and experimenting with angles, shapes, solids
  • analyzing/comparing data and finding relationships
  • real-world math problems


Homeschool Math Tip 6:  Do Monitor for Understanding

Do monitor your child's learning if you are using other outside math resources to help you. Don't assume they are learning from the homeschool math program. This is where my big fail was in math instruction in my homeschool.  I thought my child was learning what he was supposed to be learning, but because he was in hybrid homeschool, I assumed the teacher at school was helping him and did not closely monitor his understanding.  Turns out she was marking problems wrong, but was not really going over them with him.  So he was just continuing to miss things and move on, and I was not paying attention. Later we ended up using online and self-guided curriculum for math, and it turns out he was cheating or just learning how to pass the tests without really understanding the concepts. My child was a master at figuring out the workarounds. ;) Watch out for this and be sure to check your child's understanding, even if you are not the main math teacher!

Homeschool Math Tip 7: Do Use Real Life Scenarios with Math

Do use language and real life scenarios with math. Don't only do "math" during "school." Kids can get really anxious and worked up about math problems because they look long and scary.  However, real life math IS word problems.  How big of a rug should I buy if my couch is 96" long?  At what angle should I cut my baseboard so that it matches up with the other one on the perpendicular wall?  How do I figure out how much interest I will end up paying on this car loan at this dealer versus the car dealer on the other side of town?  Life is full of math, and so when we talk about it using math language regularly in every day life it is much less scary.


We’re Here to Help

So those are the 7 math tips that we recommend you do for a successful homeschool math program. If this finds you in the beginning stages of your homeschool and you’re really trying to get clear on curriculum, your planning, or you already homeschool but things are not going as planned, we're here to help.

What resonates most with you and how can we help you apply it to your homeschool days? We encourage you to prayerfully consider the following support systems: The Homeschool Well Community, The Homeschool Well Coaching 

We pray this blesses you!

Be encouraged,



👓Other articles you may find interesting!

Know Your Why: Choosing What to Teach In Your Homeschool

Choosing Homeschool Science Curriculum

Teaching Reading in Your Homeschool: You CAN Do It!


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