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Sunday, February 8, 2009

Math Mammoth

Math instruction can be divided into 2 different approaches: spiral and mastery. Most math programs go for the spiral approach: introducing topics a teeny bit at a time, over and over again, a little more each time. The idea is that every topic will be taught and reviewed several times during the course of the child's education, so if he doesn't get it the first time, he'll surely get it the umpteenth time. One day you might do addition, the next telling time and the next volume measurement. There's a lot of review and a lot of exercises.

The other method is mastery. Topics are introduced in large chunks at an appropriate time in the child's intellectual development. Using this method, your child might spend a couple of weeks learning to tell time to the minute (including how many minutes till the next hour, how many minutes past the hour, quarter till, half-past, etc.), figuring passage of time, and reading a calendar, before moving on to the next topic. This is the approach that Maria Miller takes with her program Math Mammoth.

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I was asked to try out the Grade 2 full math curriculum from Math Mammoth's Light Blue Series. I chose this level after having 8-year-old David take the placement test. David's one weak subject is math (partly because he absolutely hates workbooks and textbooks) and this is an area I've been striving to get him caught up in this year. After he completed the placement test, I decided that the Grade 2 curriculum would present enough of a challenge to keep him engaged without overwhelming him.

The year's curriculum is divided into 2 worktexts: 2-A consists of 136 pages and 2-B consists of 143 pages. You can see the table of contents and some sample pages for each here and here. These are worktexts, not workbooks, and include full explanations of each concept---no additional textbook is needed. They are designed to be used by the student independently, or you can read the text parts together before he attacks the practice problems, or even help him with the problems. In other words, the degree of teacher involvement is up to you.

The texts can be purchased as a download, on cd or as a printed workbook with cd. We received the download version. This is a color text, not full-color with photographs, but color is used for many of the diagrams. Some of it is unnecessary, and you can print those pages in black and white, but there are other pages that are much more effective with color. Generally, I try to avoid printing worksheets in color if at all possible (the ink for my Cannon printer is just too expensive), but I've found myself relenting in many cases for this text.

The method of presentation gives your child a solid foundation and builds up gradually to mastery of the topic. There are plenty of practice problems for each topic and each type of problem is presented in several different ways to promote true understanding and mastery. I am really quite impressed with how thorough the program is. There have been a few occasions where the instructions given for a particular set of problems were unclear (both to David and to myself), and more than one possible solution was possible depending upon your interpretation. A glance at the answer sheet cleared it up.

When we first started the curriculum, there were some grumbles, but now David likes the challenge of trying to complete his math error-free before sister completes her phonics lesson. Nothing like a little bit of competition to get a boy moving! We also change the routine some days and do the day's lesson together or I have David do the problems orally. The curriculum does not contain drills, so you may want to supplement with your favorite drilling method.

There are two caveats I have for this program. First, 2nd grade does not cover Roman numerals at all. It's possible this is covered in one of the other years (I don't know), but if you want your 2nd grader to know Roman numerals, you'll need to add it in. There are actually plenty of free resources for this available online. Secondly, and this is probably more important, you will need to review what your child has already mastered periodically. You know the old adage: "If you don't use it, you'll lose it." While there is a review at the end of each section, it's important to have your chld continually use these new skills so they are not forgotten. I prefer to do this with real life examples rather than worksheets, and that works really well for us.

The 2nd Grade complete curriculum from Math Mammoth is available:
As a download for $27
On CD for $32
On CD with printed worktexts for $54
For a list of other grades in the Light Blue Series click here.

Also available from Math Mammoth are workbooks organized by grade or topic that target particular concepts that your child might need additional help in if they are just not getting it with your regular math curriculum. For a complete explanation of all the products available from Math Mammoth, check out the homepage.

And for more reviews of this and other Math Mammoth products, click the banner below:

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