In our homeschool, math has never been a favorite subject. But it's an essential subject at all grade levels, and for the most part I took the view that if a particular textbook worked for one kid, we would make it work for all the others too. I rarely shied away from switching publishers or books in any other subject, if I thought it was time for a change for any reason. But in math, I didn't want to switch around. That was fine with the boys, but along came Kennady and something about our math books just wasn't working for her. And the idea of considering a change had become sort of an elephant in the room. I knew I had to think about it, but I didn't want to, and I almost wanted to pretend I didn't have to.
the elephant in the room?!?
Thankfully, as a member of the TOS Crew, I recently had the opportunity to choose a math curriculum from Math Mammoth for a review.
Math Mammoth offers math worktexts and workbooks for grades 1 through 8, and these are available as both downloads and printed books From the website: These books concentrate on conceptual understanding and are strong in mental math. The directions in the worktexts are written directly to the student, and are often self-teaching, thus requiring little preparation and involvement from the teacher. Author Maria Miller says: "My aim is to help parents and teachers teach math so our children and students can really understand what is going on. I've striven to explain the concepts so that both the teacher and the student can "get it" by reading the explanations in the books. In essence, the books often become self-teaching for student. The worktext form also requires very little preparation from the teacher."
There are four series of Math Mammoth books - a full curriculum series for Grades 1 through 6 (Light Blue); Topic Worktexts for Grades 1 through 6 (Blue); worksheets by grade, Grades 3-8 (Golden); and worksheets by topic, Grades 3-7 (Green).
There is also a set of "Make It Real" Learning Workbook. The "Make It Real" books look great - I took a look at the sample pages, and I really want to get a few of these at some point. These are the books that answer the age-old question of math students everywhere - "when will I ever use this stuff in the real world?"
We decided to use the Light Blue series which the website describes as follows:
- focuses on understanding of mathematical concepts
- uses clear explanations and lots of visual aids
- mastery oriented: concentrates fairly long on a topic, with fairly few topics per grade
- emphasizes mental math and developing number sense
- very little teacher preparation needed
We chose to use the 5th grade worktext for Kennady. Math is a difficult subject for her, and it's partly because she has really struggled to memorize math facts with instant recall. She is in 5th grade this year, and had finished the 4th grade textbook she'd been using at the beginning of this school year, so starting a new curriculum at the Grade 5 level was perfect timing. I can't say that she was excited about trying a new math book, but she's almost never happy about doing math. ;-) She finds it hard, so she avoids it and has a negative attitude about it. So I thought it might be too much to expect her to turn this around overnight and suddenly love math. I decided I would be satisfied with a reduction in complaints and whining, and improvement in her comprehension of the concepts. Here's how it's been going so far.
The opening lessons of this worktext teach some "mental math" helping the student figure out shortcuts and simpler or at least alternative ways to do some math "in their head" instead of writing everything down. Since memorization of her multiplication tables is a little spotty, this gave Kennady some much-needed confidence right from the start. She found that she could do the problems in her head, without writing much of anything down, and she learned a few tricks to make multiplying easier. Then we moved on to reviewing Order of Operations, and then worked on multiplying and dividing. I cannot begin to explain how good it felt to see her multiply two four-digit numbers together all by herself and without it taking for-stinkin-ever or being accompanied by weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. And yes, she got the right answer on the first try, and it only took a minute or so. I almost wept with relief. But that would be just a bit weird, even for me, so I just quietly savoured the moment. She now understands long division as far as I can tell, including an understanding of how to check her answer. We are now working on equations, and our collective stress level when it's time to do Math has gone WAY down!
She is not crying! Yay!
The entire Grade 5 (5-A and 5-B) worktexts will cover:
- multi-digit multiplication and long division
- simple equations
- problem solving
- place value with large numbers and the judicious use of calculator
- all operations with decimals
- statistics and graphing
- all fraction operations
- geometry: classifying and drawing triangles & quadrilaterals; calculating the area of rectangles, triangles, parallelograms, and compound figures; surface area and volume of rectangular prisms
- introduction to integers
- introduction to percent
What we liked best:
- easy-to-understand explanations and examples. Kennady could follow the step-by-step examples in the teaching sections and the clear no-frills diagrams helped her with simple visual cues but without being distracting.
- lots of suggestions for shortcuts in solving equations, and 'tricks' to use if they make it easier.
- I don't need to spend time doing teacher prep. Sometimes I don't need to do much other than be available to encourage and answer questions.
What we weren't crazy about:
- the answer key has pretty much just the answers, so matching up where I was in the answer key with the page and problem I was grading in the worktext presented a challenge to me sometimes. If I'd chosen to print the answer key, this might have been easier.
Bottom line is that we like Math Mammoth. A lot. What I probably will do in future is order the hard copy books, just because I am not a fan of printing all the stuff myself. Although even that has an advantage, I'm finding. By giving Kennady only one day's worth of printed worktext pages at a time, she is not having her usual anxiety over all the "scary" and "hard" things she will still have to learn, and how much of the book is still left to do before Christmas break or whatever. I haven't looked into having the texts printed by an office supply place, but it is on my list of things to investigate. For whatever reason, this has made a difference - in a good way - in Kennady's math experience and for that reason I am planning on continuing to use this product, and am glad that we were introduced to it through this review.
Want to bring the Math Mammoth into your schoolroom? Here's what you need to know:
Visit the Math Mammoth website and get all the product descriptions and prices. The Light Blue series, which we reviewed, is an entire grade level curriculum for about $34 (as a download). Blue series worktexts and Green topic worksheet sets range from $2 to $9 each; and Golden series worksheet sets range from $12 to $14. You can also sign up for math teaching emails, or for the Math Mammoth tour which may help you decide which option is best for you.
Visit the TOS Homeschool Crew Blog for more info and to read reviews from other Crew members.
Note: As part of the TOS Homeschool Crew, we were provided with a complimentary product in electronic format in exchange for our honest opinions.