Monday, February 22, 2010

Review: Math Mammoth

157001Math is one of those subjects that finds many of us wondering if we really are up to teaching our kiddos. If you feel like hiding behind a workbook when it comes to math, Maria Miller had you in mind when she designed Math Mammoth.

Math Mammoth consists of 4 series:

  • The Light Blue Series is a complete math curriculum available for grades 1-5.
  • The Blue Series offers worktexts by topic rather than grade (covers the same topics as the Light Blue Series), perfect for some extra practice of remediation in a weak area.
  • The Golden Series (grades 3-8) offers worksheets (no instruction) by grade, good for extra practice.
  • The Green Series (grades 3-7) offers worksheets by topic (no instruction), good for targeted extra practice.

For review purposes I received the Light Blue Series 1A-B (1st grade) to try out with Mary. I also received Multiplication 1, Division 1, and Geometry 1 (all from the Blue Series) to try out with David. I received no other compensation. I had the opportunity to review Math Mammoth's Light Blue Series 2A-B last year, you can read that review here.

I received these as pdfs and am free to print as many copies as I need for my family’s use, and this is one area where e-books really shine. After your initial cost, if you choose to use the books with subsequent children your only investment is paper and ink. Of course, if you’re feeling really thrifty, you could just have them copy the problems off the computer screen.

All of these books are “worktexts.” What that means is that instead of having a hardback textbook and then a workbook, the instruction and practice problems are combined into a single text. Explanations of the concepts are followed by copious opportunities for practice. One thing I love about Maria’s texts is how she explains the same concept in more than one way. She also uses plenty of simple illustrations and encourages the student to “draw” the problem (including word problems) so that they understand it. The illustrations are not ink intensive and, though they are in color, can be effectively printed in black and white.

Math Mammoth does not bombard the student with multiple topics at the same time. In fact, the Light Blue Series 1st grade curriculum only covers a handful of topics: addition, subtraction, place value (tens and ones), time, counting coins, shapes and measurement. The emphasis is on mastery, developing a strong foundation, one topic at a time, and yet showing how topics are connected. Even in the beginning stages of addition, the background is being laid for subtraction by having the student supply the missing addend, for example, or splitting a number of balls into groups.

If your child “gets” something quickly, you may find that there is too much practice here. That’s ok, you have permission to skip some pages, or every other problem, or even try a chapter test and move on. But if your child doesn’t get it, there is plenty of practice and the download includes a link to worksheet generators, so you really have an endless supply of problems to draw from. This worktext includes other supportive materials, including chapter tests, an end-of-year test, answers to all the worktext problems, a unit on Canadian money, and a unit on European money. There are also various links given in the worktext to free internet resources and some suggestions for games to play to reinforce the concepts.

Mary is enjoying her worktext very much, in fact I’m amazed at how much 1st grade material my kindergartener already knows. But she loves workbooks, the real test is with my 9-year-old workbook hater, David.

David is very bright when it comes to understanding math concepts, but has a lot of difficulty with automaticity, so we are really working on drilling math facts this year. What I love about the Multiplication 1 book is not only how Maria explains multiplication in more than one way, but how part 2 is all about memorizing the multiplication tables (the book even includes flashcards). This is something that most math texts seem to gloss over, as if to say: here are the facts, memorize them. Timed drills do not work for everyone. Math Mammoth offers a systematic way of combining audio, visual and kinesthetic sensory activities to memorize the math facts in a way that just seems to connect all the dots. I really think it’s going to get over that block David has had with memorizing these facts.

The Division 1 worktext complements Multiplication 1 well by emphasizing the division/multiplication connection. When he’s had a little too much of division and multiplication, David takes a break with the Geometry. And he’s loving it. So far, Math Mammoth has given him plenty of hands-on opportunities exploring angles, and perpendicular and parallel lines, and he’s excited to learn all about area, volume and much more in this 134 page worktext. Explanations are clear and while David could read these on his own, I’ve elected to read them aloud with them, at least when a concept is new to him. The books from the Blue Series also contain plenty of links to free online resources, like games and even online lessons to help reinforce the material.

If you think Math Mammoth might be for you, I highly recommend signing up for Math Teaching Emails or Math Mammoth Tour. You’ll receive a download of 280 sample worksheets, and a series of emails, so you can try it out firsthand.

Placement tests are available. You can also contact Maria Miller for advice in placement.

Pricing on Math Mammoth varies according to product and format.

For more reviews of Math Mammoth by other homeschoolers, please visit:

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