We’ve been privileged to review Math Mammoth, a program that aims to teach children math thoroughly and well without putting undue strain on homeschooling moms. The author, Maria Miller, is a homeschooling mathematician who has taught math at all educational levels. Her downloadable, printable programs have three components:
This is a mastery-based program that’s easy on moms. The Light Blue Books, which we looked at, constitute a complete mathematics curriculum with worktexts, answer keys, tests, reviews, and a worksheet maker.
3. Make it Real Learning Series (grades 3-12). These booklets each contain about 10 real-life, multistep problems with solutions. This is not a teaching series, but is used to apply what the student already knows to problems in real life, answering the common math question. “What use is this?” We received 4 of these to review. (Note that this series is not written by Maria Miller.)
All of our children participated in this review.
Complete Worktext Curriculum Series
Miss 7, who needed to rebuild confidence and refocus on basic addition, received the entire grade 1 curriculum (Light Blue Book Grade 1). It includes chapters on addition, subtraction, place value, clocks, and money. We began at the beginning, with simple addition, and the constant review, as well as the worktext’s suggestion to read each question aloud, finally cemented the meaning of ‘+’ in her head. Previously she’d gotten ‘+’ mixed up with ‘-‘, and ‘x’, because, as in reading, she doesn’t stop to look at things carefully. Because of the symbol mix-up, she was certain she couldn’t do subtraction, although whenever I asked her any word problems she solved them effortlessly. However, only one page into the subtraction chapter of the worktext, she was thrilled to realize that she could do it after all. We’ll keep on going through this text because it seems to suit her learning style very well.
Miss 9 received the complete grade 4 level curriculum (Light Blue Book Grade 4). Besides review, this curriculum includes multi-digit multiplication, long division, large numbers, problem solving, conversion between units, geometry, fractions, and decimals. Miss 9 is working through it steadily, and we cemented a few concepts that had not stuck from previous work. She was also introduced to a very powerful visual help in doing problems, using long rectangles to represent quantities. I haven’t seen this idea in many curricula, perhaps partly because it’s conceptually difficult. However, once a child understands it, she can move on to do a lot more complicated work relatively easily. When Miss 9 tried to work quickly and independently, she would misread the teaching portion of the worktext and do things wrong. This was discouraging for her, but a good lesson in reading carefully. She just needed me to point out a word or concept she was missing, and then she’d be able to go on.
I like these worktexts. Each topic is taught to mastery level, with the worksheet generator available to provide extra practice sheets if necessary. The concepts are presented systematically so that a child can easily follow them, and problems are fun but not dumbed down. Cumulative reviews provide repetition of concepts previously learned so that a child will not forget what was done a few weeks ago.
The pages print out well without wasting toner on dark pictures, and the answer key is easy to use. Actually, I just read the answers from the computer screen, saving on paper and clutter. The grade 1 worktext includes a Canadian version of the money chapter as well as the original US version. I love this! It makes life so much easier not to have to convert from a US text. The books also include internet resources and teaching suggestions, including games for grade 1. We did not use some of the supplementary materials because tests and extra worksheets are not really our family’s style at this level.
Make it Real Series
The older children worked on booklets from the Make It Real Series. These booklets do not teach math; they just apply it to the real world. Therefore a person has to be comfortable with the math involved before attempting the problems.
Miss 12 worked on Fractions, Percents, and Decimals 2, which is for grades 6-11. She found it surprisingly difficult, not because of the math itself but because she was intimidated by novel concepts such as ‘net income’, ‘down payments’, ‘cash return on investment,’ and more. It was a good learning experience to face new ideas and to need to understand them well enough to work with them immediately. The new concepts were reinforced in several similar problems.
Mr. 14 whizzed through most of Linear Functions 1 in an hour. Several of the questions are quite similar, and that did reduce the effort required. Linear Functions 2 would have been a better fit for him and he will be doing it later.
Miss 17 tried Exponential and Logarithmic Functions 1. This was beyond her since she did not yet understand the basic concepts well. Instead, she worked on Linear Functions 2. She found it challenging to understand what the questions were asking, so this is a helpful resource for her. In this booklet, as in the others, some of the problems were similar.
Even though our children did not all find the Make It Real Learning booklets simple, they had an easier time with them than I expected from the description on the website. This could be because they grew up with problem solving. I like the way real data is used in the problems and also how problem types are repeated.
The Math Mammoth Complete Curriculum Series (Light Blue Series) is well organized and makes it simple for a child to move from concept to concept. Explanations are so clear that Mom does not have to spend hours teaching the material. Being able to print the pages is an added bonus, especially for a family with several children.
I think this is a fairly rigorous program. If you are switching over from another program, don’t forget to take the placement tests to ensure that you choose the right level. (Maria, the author, is available to help parents choose what would work best for their children.) Once children are using Math Mammoth, however, most of them should have no difficulty keeping up because concepts are explained clearly and follow each other systematically.
The Make It Real Learning booklets involve examples of math applied to real life situations and can show a student that the math he’s studying is, indeed, useful. The booklets we used were interesting, and I think many children would benefit from them.
To see if these resources would work for you, go to the bottom of the parent’s page and sign up for the free 280 worksheet and sample pages, the teaching articles, and the newsletter. Much more information is available in the FAQ section. You can also try out a sample problem from each Make It Real Learning booklet on the website. To find out what other Homeschool Crew Reviewers thought please visit the Crew blog.
As a side note, Maria Miller also has an informative site called Home School Math. This is definitely worth checking out and bookmarking.
The Light Blue Series download is $29.70 US per grade level. Make it Real Learning booklets are $4.99 US each for a download. Please see the website for the different prices for CD and print versions as well as various package deals.
Disclosure Policy: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received the Light Blue Series for grades 1 and 4, as well as four booklets from the Make It Real Learning Series. I received these materials for free in order to be able to review them.
Dial-Up Friendly Policy: For the sake of my dial-up readers, this blog avoids visuals.