Math is not my strong suit, and I have to admit that we have made several switches of curriculum over the years, which has definitely cost my kids time.  This is especially true for my oldest.  With her, we started with Math-U-See, but when she started complaining about it, we switched to Horizons.  Because Math-U-See at that time anyway did things in such a different order from other programs, she had to go back about a year when she started Horizons.  I guess all I can say in that regard is that this is an area where it is really good if you can find something that works well for your child or children early on and stick with it through arithmetic.  Of course, if something is a dismal failure or causes floods of tears every day, it’s time to switch no matter what.

When it comes to arithmetic, I have a couple favorites at this point.  For those who like the spiral approach where a new topic is introduced a little at a time along with constant review of older topics, Horizons is great.  The only problem I have with it is that I think their expectations for kindergarten and first grade are awfully high–unreasonably so for most of my kiddos.  Another spiral program that I hear good things about is CLE, but I haven’t actually seen it.

My new-found favorite is a mastery-based program where the focus is on one topic at a time.  Regarding the question of spiral versus mastery, if you google it, you’re sure to find lots of strong opinions.  I’ll leave that to someone else.  My new favorite, though, is Math Mammoth.  We started using it about this time last year.  I originally got it for my then 5-year-old, but I ended up switching my 8- and 11-year-old children to it as well because I was so impressed (in spite of what I just finished saying at the beginning this post, LOL).

I was looking for something with more of an Asian math technique, but Singapore Math (apparently the gold standard in that regard) was just too foreign for me to get it.  I have come to think that, as important as it is for a curriculum material to be a good match for the student, it also has to be a good match for the mom or dad who is doing the teaching.  Math Mammoth looks like “normal” math, but the author, Maria Miller, places a great deal of emphasis on mental math.  She also explains everything right there in the text.  If I could ask for one thing, it would be for a slightly more elegant layout.  From the standpoint of good solid mathematical learning though, I am very impressed.

She offers all of 1st through 6th grade math (her light blue series) on one disc or download.  Of course, I have to pay to print them out, but her price makes that still quite a good deal compared to some other programs.  Of note, she also has quite a few Youtube videos about the teaching and learning of math.

I’m using it with my 3 youngest children now.  With the oldest of those three, he just needed some review before heading into algebra.  He had already gotten through 5th grade Horizons and then had gone through Life of Fred Fractions, Decimals and Percentages, and the 2 prealgebra books, but I noticed some gaps that I wanted to make sure were rock solid before he started algebra.  Per Maria’s suggestion, I give him the test first, and if he gets less than a 90%, he does the chapter.  If not, he skips it and goes on to the next test..  I couldn’t do that with a spiral program that covers lots of different concepts in one lesson, but I can with Math Mammoth.

I also like the fact that the expectations are right on for my kids with plenty of practice but not too much.  There are extra worksheets if a child needs extra practice, and unlike a certain math publisher I know of, there’s no need to feel guilty if you decide your child has the idea and is ready to move on even if there are some pages left in the lesson.  Math Mammoth is just a google away, and she also has sales through homeschoolbuyersco-op.org that make a good deal even better.  I really wish we had found this years ago.

I’ll try to post about Life of Fred in the near future.  It deserves a post of its own.

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