I love Math-U-See
Did I use other curricula? Briefly. As a secondary math teacher, I had been trained to consider the spiral curriculum to be a good idea. As a homeschool parent, I came to realize there was no institutional requirement to keep pressing on when my children didn’t quite master a math concept. We could slow down and spend time on things my children found difficult, then move along faster when things were easier. The vast majority of institutional curricula was designed around the spiral curriculum model; Math-U-See was a mastery curriculum.
Math-U-See teaches one topic at a time.
If the student doesn’t understand the first explicit explanation, a second way of understanding the topic is offered. If that doesn’t work, there is often a third. Extra practice is available. In a spiral curriculum the student moves on to the next topic on schedule, because eventually the topics all reoccur on rotation, only with a bit more complexity each time. Spiral curriculum works very well in institutional settings, in that it is the most efficient way to optimize aggregate standardized test scores in a population of students. A mastery curriculum like Math-U-See often works better in a one-on-one setting such as homeschooling or tutoring.
Ample Practice and Review
The key to Math-U-See’s success isn’t simply mastery learning, however. Math-U-See also provides ample practice of previously mastered material. This is important, because mastery learning without review of old material often results in students forgetting what they’ve learned. A typical unit within Math-U-See consists of instruction, a few pages of exercises for the new material, and several more which combine practice of the new material and topics mastered in months and years past.
The mastery learning model, ample practice and regular review are very helpful, but the genius of Math-U-See lies in the
Instruction Package and Awesome Manipulatives!
Seriously, Math-U-See blocks are pure genius. They combine the best qualities of ordinary integer block sets and Cuisenaire rods to create a math manipulative set that is at least twice as useful. Like Cuisenaire rods, each numeral gets a graduated length rod of the proper relative length and specifically assigned color. Like place value blocks, there are units blocks, tens rods, and hundreds plates sufficient to build a one thousand cube. Unlike the other products, each of the plastic manipulatives is formed in such a way that the student can easily count their value visually and manually, confirming (or proving) their relative size.
DVD-Rom Instructions for Each Lesson
feature Mr. Demme, the creator of Math-U-See, explaining how to teach the material to your student. (Yes, Mr. Demme recognizes that both parent-instructors and students have different modes of learning!) The teacher’s manual explains how to teach each unit, as well as providing exercises, helpful appendices and answers to exercises and tests. The Instruction DVD also explains how to use the rods and other helpful techniques to teach your student.
Many parent-teachers watch the videos with their children. This strategy works well with more mature independent learners. In general, the availability of two different modes of instruction for the parent teacher and several ways of explaining the material to the student – not to mention excellent manipulatives, all serve to make Math-U-See a real winner.
Math-U-See Has a Sequence – NOT Grade Levels!
Any parent whose child has ever struggled knows the angst students experience when their textbook is clearly marked for their previous grade. Math-U-See addresses this by publishing textbooks labeled as
- Primer for Introductory Math
- Alpha for Single-digit Addition and Subtraction
- Beta for Multiple-digit Addition and Subtraction
- Gamma for Multiplication
- Epsilon for Division
- Delta for Fractions
- Algebra I
- Algebra II
- Pre-Calculus &
I find this very useful when I am teaching students who are not on grade level or tutoring students with gaps in their early learning. They quickly forget that they’re “behind,” because nothing about my attitude or their learning materials suggests this. They’re free to simply learn at their own pace.
Anyone who’s been to this site before knows that “connected learning” is my shtick. I teach subjects together, I use multi-sensory approaches and I pay careful attention to what a student knows, relating new information to prior knowledge. How does Math-U-See fit in to my style?
Very well. It is already multi-sensory, and because it is a mastery-learning program the student’s new lessons are always built on a firm foundation of previously acquired skills. Last but not least, because Mr. Demme uses realistic word problems in his arithmetic and geometry lessons and social studies and science problems in his higher math courses, Math-U-See ties into other subjects very, very well. The Math-U-See presents the right tie ins at roughly the right point in a student’s development.
Reviews, Reviews, Reviews!
I am currently using Math-U-See Alpha with a struggling learner. It’s great for both of us. He’s learning like never before, and I’m getting a change to start nearer the beginning. I started using Math-U-See with my own children at Gamma. I will review this particular level next. A few months ago a reviewed Math-U-See Calculus. I encourage you to have a look at that review. I will be reviewing all the Math-U-See Levels I’ve personally used. This means I’ll be leaving out Primer and Beta for now. Sorry folks, I’ve never used them!
Each Math-U-See Curriculum set is complete in scope. If you use Math-U-See as designed, you shouldn't need any supplements. It is actually designed for homeschool use, so no adaptation is required. It works well in a cooperative setting. Each student can buy a student pack, and the teacher can have an instruction pack which she uses to grade material and present lessons each week. Math-U-See is unusually accomodating to multiple learning styles. It has many tie-ins to practical life, science and sociology - but it is not a curriculum that actually combines two subjects. It is designed for the student and teacher to work on together, and while independent learners can use Math-U-See, particularly in the upper grades, this is not Math-U-See's principle strength. I consider it to be a good value because of it's intrinsic value, moderate price and high resale value. Most users keep their Math U See Instruction Pack to use with younger siblings. Exceptionally frugal parents do not allow their children to mark on workbooks or test booklets, preferring to use those again as well. They are sold separately and readily available second hand, so frugal parents have many options.
In the comment section you will get your opportunity to review Math-U-See. Please share your experiences, both good and bad. Let the readers know which curriculum you used and how you fared.
Ask questions! Make comments! I love hearing from you. I check comments every 8 hours, so you can be assured of a prompt response.
All the best,