7 Jul 2009

MEP minute-by-minute

...There is no subject in which the teacher has a more delightful consciousness of drawing out from day to day new power in the child. Do not offer him a crutch: it is in his own power he must go. Give him short sums, in words rather than in figures, and excite him in the enthusiasm which produces concentrated attention and rapid work. Let his arithmetic lesson be to the child a daily exercise in clear thinking and rapid, careful execution, and his mental growth will be as obvious as the sprouting of seedlings in the spring.

Charlotte Mason Home Education p261

So this is for Phyllis. And this is her request:

I'd like to see a detailed description of how you do a (MEP maths)lesson. I loved what you have there already!

To be honest, Phyllis, I don't know how this post'll pan out, but let's give it a go, eh?

So, before we start, a review of where we're at, and what we're doing at the moment.

Okay. Today we're doing MEP Year 3 Lesson 18. If you look at the Scheme of Work, you'll see that during this week (Week 4) we're still revising Year 2 work. We're covering division with remainders and the four operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division). During this revision period Jemimah has really grasped the division process, so this additional practice will be good for her.

On the top of Lesson Plan 18 (you'll find that here if you want to follow along) you'll see that today we're Revising mental calculation and the four operations; the Core work is division with remainders, and Extension work covers problems in context, brackets and order of operations. This gives me an idea of which areas to focus on during today's work.

Today we started at 10 am. Generally we do maths at the end of our first block of work just before morning tea, or at the end of the morning. Doing maths at the end of a period of work discourages dawdling and procrastination - it is her own free time she is wasting!!

We work at the kitchen table. I used a kitchen timer to time the lesson for the purpose of this post. We just keep a vague eye on the clock normally.

10:00 We began with some skip counting and quick mental maths questions. Today we reviewed the 8x table. Generally this is included in the day's plan, but today's plan was different, so I just added this in as a quick fun introduction.

10:02 The first three activities are whole class activities. We work together on these and answer half each. We use the copymasters for this lesson. In a classroom a child would only be called on once or twice in a session, so it is reasonable to expect that she only be asked to do half of the questions. I note that Jemimah is having trouble with her 7x tables and ensure that she answers all of the questions relating to her area of weakness.

We cover the extension work at the end of question two together and then Jemimah elects to work at question 3 alone. You can see her above tracing out Robin Rabbit's walk. Notice that she is using a blue texta. We work all of our maths in coloured texta - makes it more fun, somehow. I use the time to unpack the dishwasher.

10:12 I pass Jemimah her Practice worksheet (pictured above)( it's page 18 here) and watch her commence question 1 alone. She shows a new and pleasing grasp of division and remainders, so I am able to leave her and make a cappuccino (did I tell you I love my coffee machine?) for me and a hot chocolate for Little Miss. She has these completed in 3 minutes - her exercises, not her drink...

10:15 We complete activity 5 together, but Jemimah is excited to have 'got it' and is keen to work all the examples herself. Together we complete the extension and she does well after I give her some examples.

10:18 Activity 6 is a mental maths problem. I replace the pence in the example for cents, and she writes the calculation in her exercise book, dated in the top right hand corner.

Activity 7 is a written example of the same type, so we continue on. Her calculation is rather odd, so we work it again together, and I show her an easier way to get the same answer. I again explain that the question uses £ and p, but we use $ and c instead.

10:22 Jemimah completes the table alone. She uses her toes when she runs out of fingers...a bit unorthodox and a little unladylike, but she needed to divide 99 by 5 and it seemed to work!!

10:25 I show her what to do with question 5 and she works it alone. This is her first introduction to letters representing numbers, but she has worked several questions with a blank box instead of the letters, so the new representation doesn't phase her.

We don't bother with the extension, since she has a grasp of the concept. We stop at exactly 10:30 - a coincidence, I'll admit, but maths generally takes us between 25-35 minutes in Year 3. In Years 1-2 we aimed to be finished in 20 max. If it takes any longer than this we just divide the lesson in two.

Sometimes I read of mums taking much longer than we do using MEP. I always wonder what the reason might be. Developing the habits that Miss Mason speaks of in the quotation above are certainly important. I find that Jemimah is more likely to dawdle if we do maths at the beginning of a block of work rather than at the end. I do not allow procrastination as a matter of course, and will act early to find a solution. Sometimes she finds the work too difficult and we work a few problems - or even the whole lesson- together. This helps.

It is important for me to remember that I have only one student and that I have the freedom to work at her pace. I do not have to worry that some students in a class are falling behind and that others are getting bored because of too much repetition. I have only her to worry about. She can gallop through a lesson like today's, which was easy for her, and slow down if she needs extra help. Sometimes she need only work half the examples; at other times I might make up a few extra. Sometimes we work together; at other times - and every Friday - she works independently. She never has to wait for the other kids to catch up. She never daydreams her time away.

Jemimah is working "above grade level" because we move on when she's ready, not when the whole class is. She's not at school; she doesn't have to do maths like she is.

MEP is perfect for us, right now, because it is perfect for her - and she's thriving on it!!


  1. Thank you for showing us how a lesson in MEP works for you. We've just started MEP - so it's nice to see how others are using it. :)

    I have 2 boys doing MEP together. Already I have found that one works considerably faster than the other. So I've got to juggle a little. And I have miss 4, miss 2 and miss 11 weeks with us as well in the room when we do maths.

  2. It is nice that we can tailor lessons to our kids' abilities, isn't it? You certainly have your challenges set out for you, Mrs Adept, but also a great deal of pleasure, no doubt!

    It is nice to hear from you.

  3. Thank you Jeanne for sharing. It's awesome to see how you use MEP. Love the toe act...lol xxx

  4. Thank you for this post and your MEP 101 post. We are starting MEP in a month and your posts are very helpful. Many blessings.

  5. What an ingenious use of toes, and what a beautiful photo!


  6. Thank you! That's exactly what I was wanting to see. That gives me a much better idea of how this works. When J does a lesson independently, how does she do it?

    ("Texta" - I love it! I haven't heard that since I visited your lovely country so long ago.)

  7. Hi Jeanne, Thank you for sharing how you use MEP programme. It's very encouraging to start the programme with my sons too. I've been looking at the MEP but I couldn't get the password. Somehow I can't even get into the MEP yahoo groups website. Any suggestion how I should do?

    Many thanks and God blessed,

  8. Hi Candy, Have you actually joined the yahoo group? I can send you the password if you send me your email, but the group is well worth belonging too. It is much better to have more than my experience to fall back on!!

  9. Thank you so much Jeanne. My email is aeykwan@yahoo.com. I would like to join the MEP group too but at this moment I can't even access to groups.yahoo.com. We are now live in Vietnam. Many of other websites I can't access too. Really appreciate your offering. What you shared in your blog also opened my eyes how to be a good mother. I'm so encouraged. Keep on your good works. May God blessed you abundantly.

  10. I have to say, you've opened my eyes. I've never let my son use markers because I want him to be able to erase - but it would be more fun for him.

    We've dipped our toes in MEP and he really liked the interactive 3rd year workbook pages. Thanks for your encouragement.

    Too bad we aren't closer - I'd love to get a look at your stained glass. ;-)

  11. Hi Purplebear,

    We don't erase - it's a CM thing. We just do it better next time!!

    I may just post some pics of our windows some time. They, along with the ceilings, are what make our home so special. i love them - particularly the purple fushias in our bedroom.

  12. I love this, Jeanne!

    Although I've pretty much given up on switching my eldest over to MEP, since she's already in Year-6, I've very much enjoyed using it with my younger ones. But, oh! to have one student. I'm doing maths for the first 90-minutes of my morn!! :D

  13. Jeanne, can you tell me more about "not erasing" and doing better next time? Does your daughter not fix problems that were done wrong? I'm terrible at math, and have just started looking into MEP for my 3 daughters.


  14. Wonderful. I have just read MEP 101, MEP reflectyions and now this blog post. I have taken lots of notes and now have a better idea about what it will require of me. I have three children all at different stages....Im guessing we wil all need to do maths at different times.

  15. Ohhhhhhh, this is so great. This, along with your previous MEP post, is really helping to settle my nerves and give me a good grasp on just how to carry this out. I am particularly pleased with the notion of working on the problems together and/or each doing half, in that I'm sure it promotes more harmony, less stress, and a chance for them to see it works out in front of them, not to mention honing in on my own knowledge and skills. Wonderful.


I'd love you to leave me a message. Tell me what you like - and what you don't. Just remember that this is what we do in our family - it doesn't have to be what you do in yours...