Are you trying to figure out which homeschool math curriculum to use this year? Let me tell you why we use 3 different math curriculums among our 5 kids!
There are so many math curriculum options to choose from. How do you choose the right one?
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When we started homeschooling, I had a couple of my children that weren’t as strong in math as I would have liked them to be. They had struggled keeping up with the pace of the public school classes, and didn’t like to be labeled with the kids that weren’t good at math, so they hadn’t spoken up and asked questions in class when they didn’t completely understand. Helping them complete math homework at home wasn’t extremely successful because every time the phrase “that’s not how my teacher does it” was used, so my help was merely adding to the confusion.
Determining the Grade Level
Because in homeschooling, we only have one kid per grade, it was easy for each kid to move at their own pace. They didn’t have to feel like they were smarter or less smart than their peers. When we did placement tests to choose curriculum levels, I was surprised to see that some of my children tested GRADES behind where they had been in public school! We had to have a long sit-down talk about the importance of going back and reviewing to make sure that they thoroughly understood the math concepts before we moved on. This didn’t mean they were stupid, it merely meant that now we knew where to start from, and we could work on math at a pace that worked for them.
I also noticed that not all of my children learn math the same way. Some of my children comprehend math much better than I do, and work independently. One of my children has a hard time retaining information from lesson to lesson. Another one of my children had a mental block against learning math because they had struggled to learn in the past. I had the ability to choose a math curriculum that worked to each of my children’s strengths and weaknesses to help them best succeed at math!
Spiral or Mastery Math Curriculums
“Spiral” and “Mastery” are terms that I became familiar with as I researched different math curriculums. Each curriculum seems to be based upon one of these approaches, or a blend of each. A spiral approach means that you have concepts that will slowly and logically build upon each other, while maintaining a consistent review of the previous concepts that have been learned. A mastery approach will teach a principle and slowly add upon that principle until you have mastered all the functions of that skill. In this post, I want to cover the 3 different math curriculums that we are using: Singapore Math, Saxon Math, and The Good and the Beautiful Math.
When I did all my research, I knew that Singapore Math was going to be the perfect fit for us! Each Singapore Math Level has a textbook, a workbook, and I chose the Home Instruction Manual which includes the answer key to all the problems in the textbook and workbook. When we purchased our curriculum, the Dimensions Math was not completely available, so we chose the Primary Mathematics. Singapore Math covers Elementary through Middle School Levels.
Pros: It teaches a mastery approach by simply introducing the concept first with pictures, and then building into using numbers, and lastly, using story problems. I loved that story problems were included all throughout to show how the math concepts pertain to real life. My child who excels at Math does really well working independently with Singapore Math and likes how many of the exercises are only one page.
Cons: The biggest downside for me was not having something I could just read to explain the concepts to my child. I found that when I was teaching math, I intuitively knew how the formulas and operations worked, but I had a hard time explaining it. The Home Instructor Guide was one that I pretty much had to study on my own before I could figure out how to verbalize the concept to the child.
Saxon Math is a spiral based approach, so each lesson teaches a new concept and then has review problems at the end to help retain previously taught skills. This curriculum comes with a textbook, solutions manual, and a tests and worksheets book.
Pros: The instructions are written very simply so that older grade level children can learn independently. When my child needs help with a concept, I am able to very quickly read through the material and easily understand the concept myself. In the review portion of each chapter, it references the chapter where that skill was taught, so you can know exactly where to go to figure out how to solve the problem.
Cons: The review portion of each chapter can become somewhat cumbersome or redundant at times, We break that up by simply completing only the even or odd numbered problems each day to reduce the amount of math problems to solve. Another con is that it is not very visually stimulating. It is all black and white with no pictures.
The Good and The Beautiful Math
The Good and The Beautiful Math is a perfect blend of a spiral and mastery based curriculum. Each level has a textbook and a manipulative box. The manipulative box contains pieces such as dice, pawns, and boards for the games that are incorporated into the curriculum, brain games, number cards, rulers, wooden shapes, etc. I did a full review with pictures over here.
Pros: The Good and The Beautiful Math focuses heavily in the early grades on teaching a number sense. This means that children can relate counting one as one object, and two means two objects. This is a crucial step that if not grasped can become a very frustrating stumbling block. Through the gentle math approach, my child who had struggled with this one day just had everything click and all of a sudden they were “speaking math”!
The curriculum is colorful and engaging with a variety of stories, games, worksheets, and simple “daily dose” review problems to start off each lesson. This curriculum is so simple to use that I can just open the textbook, read what it says, and the lesson is taught. I am never left floundering for words to teach the concept because it is so well-written.
Cons: One of the only con that I found is how doubtful I was that my kids would learn using this curriculum. The lessons seemed so easy and it quickly became the favorite subject, rather than the dreaded subject. If you look at the first lesson compared to the last lesson in each level, you will see just how far your child will come in one tear-free school year!
The other con is that this curriculum only goes up through the first half of Grade 3 at this point. If not for this, I would be using The Good and The Beautiful Math for all of my children.
Online Math Curriculum
If you are still nervous about teaching your child, there are many different online math options. One that I know is very popular is Teaching Textbooks. I haven’t used this in my homeschool, so I can’t give you many details except that many people I know use this program. You can do a free trial to see if this would be a good fit for your homeschool. I personally wanted to have a book that I could refer back to if my child had a question so that I wouldn’t have to sit and watch the entire lecture.
Another thing is that we have 1 laptop for the kids to use. Between 5 kids this year homeschooling, that would be a lot of juggling the screen time, and I didn’t want to mess with that. I also just really love books! During those times where I just have not been able to teach a math concept clearly to my children, I have referred to friends that excel at math, or we have used Khan Academy or Math Antics on YouTube to help us out!
How to Choose
The hard part is that you may have to just figure out what works best for you and your child through trial and error. Most websites will have placement tests that are written similar to the format of their textbook. You can have your child take the placement test and see how they engage with the presentation of the material.
Talk with other homeschool moms and see what they use and ask what they do and don’t like about their math curriculum. Check out reviews on cathyduffyreviews.com. She gives very thorough reviews of curriculum and what learning styles would do best with each curriculum. I also love to search Math curriculum comparison videos or flip through videos on YouTube to see what each curriculum looks like inside the cover.