them. And soon, we were giving her special
problems. For example:
“Each day, John collects five dozen eggs,
and eats four eggs. His chickens eat two
dollars’ worth of grain every day. If John
is able to sell all of his surplus eggs at
three dollars per dozen, what is his profit in one month (assume thirty days)?”
Naturally, our chickens were not the
only tutors we employed to teach Kathleen
arithmetic. They were our favorites, and
certainly the most effective, but occasion-
ally we gave them a rest and allowed other
tutors to try their hand—or their hoof, as
the case may be. The milk goats, in particu-
lar, made regular appearances and served
with distinction. But these animals taught
more than just strict arithmetic. They also
developed a facility in using quantities of
measurement. Consider how chicken and
egg problems inevitably result in a famil-
iarity with the term dozen. Well, our milk
goats did the same for pints, quarts, and gal-
lons. It wasn’t long before we were creating
problems dealing with gallons of milk pro-
duced, quarts of feed, grain costs, hay costs,
selling prices, number of escapees per day,
So how does this translate to a home-
school situation where there are no chick-
ens or eggs (not to mention milk goats)?
Well, the crucial step was noticing Kathleen’s interest in collecting eggs. Pay close
attention to what sparks your child’s interest. Use that interest. Recruit it as a tutor.
Collecting eggs happened to be an activity that is custom-made for teaching arithmetic. But there are many others. In fact,
almost any activity involves numbers in
some way. Be creative. And especially,
stick to it! It’s tempting to read about our
“barnyard tutors” and think that everything
progresses in a nice linear fashion with no
setbacks: eggs, addition, subtraction, multiplication, goats, division, cows, fractions,
hop-skip-jump, and calculus. Not even
close. It always takes work, and there are always setbacks. But we’ve found that teaching arithmetic is certainly doable with the
right motivation—and in our case, it was as
close as our own backyard.
Brian and Melanie Fulton both earned doctoral degrees in mathematics at Virginia
Tech. They formerly taught math at the university level, and now run a hobby farm while
accuracy-checking collegiate mathematics
texts. They homeschool their four children,
frequently employing the aid of chicken,
dairy goat, cat, and dog tutors. Their logic
grid puzzle series, Grids For Kids, teaches
children to solve logic grid puzzles, and is
available at www.themathprofs.com, as is
their newest math problem book, Barnyard
Are you looking for an affordable,
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Where questions are answered?
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“Thank you so much for your hard work. [My daughter] is enjoying the class more than any of us expected. It is a good
So many possibilities, we
structure in her life right now. And it is someone besides her mom telling her what to do! Thanks again.”
-Homeschooling Mother in Pennsylvania
We started asking how
the yield changed day-
to-day. Did it increase or
decrease? By how much?
realized. And it wasn’t