October 6, 2011

Our Favorite Math Curriculum and Resources

Family MathI always appreciate hearing other homeschooler’s recommendations and reviews for curriculum and resources that have worked well for their children.  The reviews are always varied however, because each family and each child are different, so every curriculum will have some people who love it and others who completely disliked it.  Before I purchase a curriculum I research it thoroughly, paying specific attention to the kind of learning styles the curriculum caters to.  (This website has very useful reviews)  We are blessed that there are so many curriculum choices now days, but at the same time all the options can be overwhelming.  The one thing that has helped me the most in choosing what will work for each child is praying for inspiration from the Lord.  The times I have chosen something that didn’t work very well for my children are the times that I wasn’t as diligent in seeking the Lord’s help in making my decision.  There are also many free resources online, so sometimes purchasing a curriculum isn’t even necessary.  That’s why other homeschoolers provide such a great help in making me aware of what options are out there.

So here are some math resources and curriculum that we have enjoyed using (or have been impressed with), and I would love to hear comments of what has worked well for you!  I know there are many, many resources out there.  If you do share something, please explain why you like it so much. 


Teaching Textbooks

This is our second year using Teaching Textbooks.  The best features of Teaching Textbooks are that the children can do the program on their own, and the curriculum works very well for visual/spatial and auditory learners.  Also, every lesson has review problems from previous lessons (similar to Saxon Math), which is something that I think is essential in a math curriculum.

My biggest challenge with teaching math is the fact that I have multiple children on different levels, each needing one-on-one help with their lessons.  My older children are becoming more independent with a lot of their school work, but their learning styles are such that handing them a textbook and having them read the lesson and do the problems on their own doesn’t work very well.  When we tried other curriculums, it was taking 2+ hours of my day just for math.  (I know math is a basic and fundamental skill, so some people may argue that spending that much time on math is worth it.  But for us, it wasn’t working.)  It has saved my day to be able to have two children work independently on math, (one on a desktop and one on a laptop) while I am working with the other two on language arts.  I occasionally need to answer a question they have about one of their math problems, but for the most part they are able to work on their own because the lessons are presented in a way that makes sense to them.

So what is Teaching Textbooks?  Their website says, “A Teaching Textbook . . . on CD-ROM, is both a teacher and a textbook combined into one. And the CD-ROM teaching isn’t just abstract lectures either. There are also down-to-earth, audiovisual step-by-step explanations for every single one of the almost 3,500 problems in the book. Using a Teaching Textbook is like having a friendly tutor available at the push of a button.”  So my kids watch/listen to the lesson, work the self-scoring problems, and check their score when they finish the lesson.  (I require a certain score on their lesson before they can move on to the next one.)  There is a separate gradebook on the CD-ROM for parents, and if they need to re-do a lesson, I can erase their score and they can do the lesson again.  We have only used levels 4, 5, 6, and 7.  The higher levels are not self-scoring, the CD-ROM just has the lessons to watch and then the solutions and explanations for every problem in the book.  

Teaching Textbooks has worked well for us, the kids are learning their concepts, though I do additional math facts practice on the side, with some real-life family math activities sprinkled in.  The only thing the kids complain about with Teaching Textbooks is the instructor's voice, which they don't really like (not a big deal).  The only thing I complain about is the price, they are expensive, somewhere around $120-$150 per level.  But as long as you are careful with the CD-ROMs, you can use them again for your other children. (You can also have two children using the same level at the same time if needed).  The CD-ROMs are $15 each for replacements, if you do lose or break one.

They have sample lessons online at their website, as well as placement tests.  Make sure you have your kids take the placement tests, because Math 4 is not necessarily for 4th graders.  For instance, my 3rd grader was placed in Math 4, and my 5th grader was placed in Math 6, and I would say that they both have normal math ability.



I did find a math curriculum online that is completely free, (though it requires printing pages for the children which does introduce some cost).  I was really impressed with this program and if I only had one or two children I would use it in a heartbeat (it is one of the curriculums we tried before using Teaching Textbooks).  It is called MEP (Mathematics Enhancement Programme) from the Centre for Innovation in Mathematics Teaching.  It is used in public schools in Great Britain, but many homeschoolers have used it and love it.  The program focuses strongly on conceptual understanding of the math concepts, not just memorizing equations to get the “right” answer.  There are many logic puzzles, mental math, and real life story problems (where kids have to sift through the information given to know what is important and what is not, then figure out how to solve it).  The program is advanced compared to US curriculums, so most children will place a year younger than their current grade level.  

I found several blogs with posts explaining how they use MEP and they are very helpful.  There is also a yahoo group that you can join, with many experienced MEP users who love to answer any questions you might have.  I would recommend reading through the blog posts and then looking at the MEP Lesson Plans to get a feel for the program and whether it will work for your child and your family.  The plans are very detailed, telling the teacher exactly what to say in the classroom setting.  They will obviously need a little tweaking for homeschool, but that isn’t too hard.  The program is very teacher intensive, but looks extremely effective in giving children a solid foundation in math.

I found two blog posts in particular that were very helpful in getting a good idea about how MEP could be used in homeschooling families.  One post was by a mother of four children at Fisher Academy and the other was from a mother of one child at  Oh Peaceful Day.


Family Math

I am so glad I found this book!  I have been amazed several times by how much my children enjoy the simple games and activities that we have found in this book.  One time we sat down together to do an activity that I thought would take maybe 20 minutes, and they had so much fun they wanted to keep going.  An hour and a half later, I had to pull them away because we needed to leave for our co-op class.  I love it when we find something that engages their interest in learning.  The book is organized by topic, so it does not have to be worked through sequentially.  Some of the chapters are: word problems and logical reasoning, measurement, numbers and operations, probability and statistics, time and money, geometry and spatial thinking.  Each activity in the book is rated by grade level; primary, elementary, and middle school.  Many of the activities span all the grade levels and are fun for me too.  I have learned things from this book about the WHY behind the math, things I somehow missed when I was in school.  At the end of the book is a section on organizing a Family Math class, that would be a great resource for anyone wanting to use this book for a co-op.  There are also several others books by these authors that I have not personally used, but if they are anything like my Family Math book, then I’m sure they are wonderful too.



Here is another fantastic math website that I just discovered in the last couple weeks.  I have only skimmed the surface of the content on this blog, and all I can say is, WOW!  The resources, articles, games, and activities on this site will definitely enrich our study of math.  I love it when talented and passionate people share their ideas and excite me to teach my children!

The author of this blog, Denise, says, “Math is a game, playing with ideas. This blog is about learning, teaching, and playing around with K-12 mathematics. Have fun!”



This site is packed full of ‘Living Math’ ideas.  There are many articles and activity ideas on the site, as well as an extensive list of math readers (as she calls them), which are picture or chapter books that bring math to life in a way that appeals to kids and helps them understand math concepts.  Additionally, the lady who runs the site has put together a whole math history curriculum using the math readers and activities based around famous mathematicians like Thales, Archimedes, etc. and their discoveries.  The sample lessons were inspiring.  I would love for my children to understand how mathematical principles had to be discovered just like everything else; through observation, theorizing, and experimenting.  I don’t think my children understand that math textbooks, where everything is laid out for the student to learn, did not always exist.  I am intrigued by the math history ideas presented on this site and I want to incorporate them into our homeschool.  I have checked out several of the math readers she has recommended, and in every case my children have enjoyed them.  Two of their favorites were Go Figure! and The Great Number Rumble.


Note:  I’m thinking about making Friday our day to do some Family Math, and the kids will skip their regular math curriculum for the day.  Or maybe we could have a few Family Math Days throughout the year where we will spend an entire day on math history, games, and hands-on activities.  It definitely helps my children to understand the WHY behind what they are learning; so hands-on, real-life math experiences go a long way.  If I don’t schedule it in, fun things like Family Math don’t seem to happen as often as I would like :)



Learning math facts is easy for some of my children who have a gift for memorizing, but it is often painful for the other kids.  Math-It has been a very effective resource for learning their math facts in a way that is as painless as possible.  When used for about 10 minutes every day, the math facts can be mastered in a surprisingly short time.  The Math-It set I bought has the game cards and pieces, a CD-Rom with a Teacher’s Manual and instructions to play each game included in the package (Addit, Dubblit, and Timzit), along with an audio instruction CD.  Samples of the Teacher’s Manual (which I really haven’t used much) and the game instructions are available here, though Math-It is available for sale from a few different websites at a cheaper price.


Please share your favorite math resources or curriculums, and let us know why you like them!



 Marcina and her husband, Aaron, have five children with another due in November. This is her third year of homeschooling and she is grateful for the opportunity to teach her children at home. It continues to be both a challenge and a delight! In her spare moments she enjoys family history, gardening, reading, singing, listening to beautiful music, and learning new things.

7 comments - Add a comment below -:

Dana ♥ said...

Thanks for all the resources you've shared! Math is one of those subjects my children struggle with because they got so bogged down in learning the math facts.

I will be returning to this list for sure! Thanks.

Liz said...

We love Family Math, Math-It, and Teaching Textbooks! I've heard of MEP, but haven't had a chance to use it yet. Thanks for the reminder! And the others, well, I'm just excited for more material to explore. I really appreciate your suggestions! Thank you!

Suzuki Mom said...

We used MEP math for a couple of years, and it is great. However, my son started struggling, and I couldn't see how to help him.

We have just moved to RightStart Math, and are loving it. Very hands on, and focusing on an understanding of how math works and strategies instead of rote memorization

Kristy said...

We just discovered Timez Attack at our house. My boys love it!! All five of my children will sit and watch while the others play--even my 2 year old. I love that you can try it for free and go all the way from 2-12 multiplication facts on the free version. I recently purchased the entire game and it has been well worth it. In just 2 weeks my boys have learned from 4-8 facts!
There is division also available (for free) and Christmas 2011 addition and subtraction will be added.
I found my children playing "Timez Attack" with the tv remote (keyboard) and the boys telling the problems and answers to the little ones. Hilarious!

Christensens said...

I just discovered The Life of Fred, though I have not yet purchased it. One friend said her kids can't get enough. Has anyone else used these books? They are totally different than any other math curriculum I have seen. It reads like a book instead of pages of drills.

Mandy said...

I started using Life of Fred with my daughter this year and she loves it. It has an entirely different approach to math and how it introduces things. We've just started with "Dogs" and it seems pretty simple, but based on the size of the books it seems that things get more detailed and complex as they go.
We are also starting to do Fun Math Friday where we will play games that help to solidify math facts and such.

DAY said...

This is our second year of using the Math-U-See curriculum and so far it has been wonderful! It is a multisensory math program (build it, say it, write it.) So it works well with different learning styles. I have a 10 yr. old dd and a 6 yr. old son who now love math whereas before, it was a chore.