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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Learn Math Fast, a review

216This is David.  He’s my firstborn.

He’s smart.  He’s spunky.

He’s good at figuring things out in his head.

But he hates math.
In fact, elementary arithmetic convinced him that he was stupid.  He just couldn’t memorize those math facts and I despaired of him being able to catch up before high school.

After all the searching and researching and trying of different math programs---we’ve used Right Start, Making Math Meaningful, Math Mammoth, Keys to, Math on the Level, JUMP…and I’m sure that I’m forgetting some (yeah, that’s a lot of math programs in his short life)---I’ve learned a couple of things.

One is that I shouldn’t expect one math book to suffice for the year (I’m going to write on this at length at some point), math books can and should be supplemented.

The other is that you should never hold your child back if they get it conceptually.  If he understands the concepts behind the operations, give him some fact charts and move on.  Continue to practice the facts daily using a method that works for your child, but don’t turn math into a boring, mind melting, endless parade of math facts. 

Because guess what:  arithmetic isn’t all there is.

What’ll happen is he’ll finally get those math facts and decide that math is repetitious and pointless.
And he’ll have a mound of material to plow through before gets to “grade level.”
And every “full” math curriculum will require him to go back about 2 grades to catch all the concepts he’s missed, only to spend precious time over-reviewing stuff he already knows…or wasting precious dollars on pages he’ll never use.

But I found the solution.  Learn Math Fast is the spine for his 7th grade math program this year.  Let me tell you about why this program is uniquely suited to my child’s situation.

Disclosure:  I received this product free of charge from the author in order to facilitate my review.  I received no monetary compensation and the views expressed here are my own.  I agreed to try it out and review it, I choose to continue using it by my own choice.  Yes, I am indeed biased, I don’t think it’s possible to be human and not be biased.

What is Learn Math Fast?

The complete program is a series of 5 books and a set of geometry manipulatives.

Book 1 basically covers grade 1-3 arithmetic:  the four operations, place value, plus volume, length, and distance (imperial measurements).
Book 2 covers fractions, decimals, percents, and integers.
Book 3 covers pre-algebra:  solving for x, ratios, exponents, graphs, linear equations, slope of a line, and more.
Book 4 covers geometry and metric measurements.
Book 5 covers algebra.

In addition to instruction, each book contains worksheets, chapter tests, a final test, and answers (in the back).  Book 1 also has a laminated answer card for timed drills. 

Permission is granted by the author to photocopy worksheets or you can print copies from the Learn Math Fast website (a password will be provided with purchase).  You can access the worksheets from a previous edition on the home page.

For a complete listing of Learn Math Fast’s topics, check out this page.  To get an accurate feel for how the approach and the worksheets, you can print a 22-page sample on fractions here.

Learn Math Fast uses a mastery approach, each chapter is dedicated to a particular topic and each lesson in a chapter builds on the knowledge acquired in the previous lesson.  The worksheet for each lesson pertains to that particular lesson.  Only after that particular topic is mastered do you move onto the next topic.

The only review of previous topics will come in the chapter test and in the end of book test.  As such, it is possible to skip complete lessons or even a chapter if you know that your child has mastered that material, or if you find that they don’t know a particular topic as well as they ought after the test, you can go back and review just that particular topic.  Since there isn’t a lot of repeating of material, it’s very easy to choose which topics to cover.

So far, we have used the 2nd half of book 1 and most of book 2 (we’ll be finishing it shortly).  This review will focus on those two books.

Learn Math Fast is different from any other math program I have ever tried (remember all those programs I mentioned earlier?).  While many math programs aimed at the elementary grades are heavily problems based, LMF begins each lesson with text addressed to the student in a relaxed, conversational style, explaining the concepts quite clearly and giving plenty of examples.

My son has always (always!) complained that he wishes math books would just talk to him, rather than giving him endless problem sets.  If you have a child who learns well by reading, this program is worth a look for that reason alone.  I’ve found that worktext-based programs (like Math Mammoth, for instance) were too brief in their explanation and seemed to crowd the page with problems.

If you child doesn’t learn well by reading, it’s very easy to read the chapter and then teach it, using the examples given with real-world manipulatives (we also used this approach with success).

Another other big difference in LMF:  it uses our base ten system to optimal advantage in its use of money as its main example for just about everything!  This is truly brilliant.

I have always used coins a lot for things like counting and adding, and, of course, adding up money, by LMF takes it further than that.  Coins are used to explain fractions, percents, decimals, and how they all relate to one another.  And there is emphasis placed on seeing the connection between those three topics.  They are covered one right after the other, so the student can’t help but put them together, unlike many programs that might cover some fractions one year and then not cover decimals until the next year.

Coins are so useful and concrete.  But coins are not the only examples used:  decks of cards, sandwiches cut up to bits, and other things you definitely have lying around your house are also used.  It would be very easy to make this into a hands-on math lab.

LMF 006

LMF will teach you math tricks with a purpose.  What I like about this is that not only does the author teach you the trick, she explains to you why it works and they are genuinely useful tricks.  For instance, how to quickly mentally calculate 20%, 30%, or 40% of a number.

But probably the biggest different in LMF is the tightness of focus.  There’s no extra fluff, here.  There are topics that you typically find in an elementary text that you will not find here.  For us, this was a plus, but I can see where it would be a minus if you a looking for a complete, all-inclusive math curriculum.

There’s a heavy emphasis on mental math and making connections.  One of the things I love---on one of the worksheets, you're given a grid with fraction, decimal, and percent equivalents to figure out (you might be given the fraction and you need to find the equivalent decimal and percent, and so on).

But the real reason we’re still using it…because he took a look at the pre-algebra book and decided he really wanted to do math.  How’s that for a testimonial from a math hater?

LMF is not an exhaustive (or exhausting), all-inclusive math curriculum.  If this is the only formal math your child ever does before high school, he will definitely get the basics, but there are things that are not here, or are covered later on.

Some examples of things not in the 1st two books: 
  • writing numbers (spelling the names)
  • reading bar graphs
  • finding core patterns and continuing them or identifying attributes
  • mathematical mean (average) is covered, but not median or mode
  • ratios (this is in the pre-algebra book)
This is not an exhaustive list.  Little bits that, frankly, are easy to cover informally or not at all (I’ve yet to have a kid who couldn’t figure out a simple bar graph on his own given some discovery time), but something to consider if you do standardized testing.  Ratios, for instance, frequently come up before pre-algebra in other math programs (there’s always variety from one program to another, though).

Overall, we like Learn Math Fast around here. 

But only for my oldest child.  I did try some of the earlier lesson with my 2nd grader, and it was a poor fit for him.  He is a very hands-on kid, but he also needs colorful graphics to keep his attention (using coins over and over again totally annoyed him).

I do recommend Learn Math Fast in two particular situations:
  • for the older child (late elementary to middle school) who had a rough time getting his feet under him in early elementary math and needs a no-nonsense way to catch up---he will not waste his time here.
  • for use as a spine for a more comprehensive math program---if you’re doing math through literature, real life adventures, or are cobbling something together from multiple resources, LMF could be a very effective spine for your studies.
If your child needs to review a concept often to make it stick, Learn Math Fast will not work on its own.  You’ll need to add your own supplemental worksheets, reinforce with informal activities, or add another math program. 

LMF is ideal for the child who doesn’t need to do it to death to get it.

My son will continue to use it this year (I’ll keep you updated).

How much is it?

Each Learn Math Fast book sells separately for $49.

Now through 8/31/2012, get the first 4 books of the Learn Math Fast System on sale for $147, or get the complete 5 book set for $190.


  1. Nice review. I just ordered this program for my daughter. I can't wait to start using it. It doesn't seem intimidating like other math programs. I called the company and the customer service rep. was very helpful and knowledgeable, willing to answer all my questions.

  2. Loved your review. It confirmed what I picked up from the website. My 6th grader is doing Vols. 2 & 3 this year. I wish I would have ordered Vol. 1 so at least I know what I'm missing!

    This is our first week doing Vol 1. She's almost halfway through. I asked her how she likes it. "I love it. The best part is I know my answers are right." I asked her how she could be so sure. She replied that everything is so clearly explained, she knows she has the concept.

  3. That's great, I hope your daughter continues to have that great feeling of competence---I've found that having confidence in their abilities makes a big difference when they are tackling subjects they find challenging.

  4. And to the previous poster, yes, I've been working with the program's creator directly, and she's been very interested in providing user support and open to suggestions for improving the program.

  5. Children who is smart in math is gifted. They are capable of answering math problem without hesitant to ask. As parents we should be supportive of our child's talent and endeavor they had.

    Jojo @ Math worksheets online

  6. Hi there! I'm looking into purchasing this for my kids and wanted to know what your final review was on this. I see you are no longer using it, but did it end up being a great tool throughout the year or was it another math program you were hoping would finish up soon to find a better fit?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Becky,
      Learn Math Fast was a great tool for that particular child at the time. By using it, we were able to shore up his math foundation so that he could move onto pre-algebra with a textbook in 8th grade. In 9th grade, when he was tackling Algebra, he thanked me for working so hard to give him a good foundation and I think LMF played an important part in that. :)
      That said, we didn't use LMF for Pre-algebra or Algebra---as I pointed out in my review, I feel that LMF isn't as comprehensive as other programs and I was not convinced that it would be enough on its own. BUT it is very, very good at what it does (establishing a firm foundation) and works well for remediation or as a spine to a more comprehensive math program. I found that when my son got to high school math, I needed him to have a more comprehensive, independent math program that didn't require cobbling other things together so that I could focus more energy on my 3 younger kids.

      I still hold onto my copy of LMF and pull it out from time to time when one of my other children is having difficulty. I'm also planning to pull it out for my youngest (age 8), who can't get enough of math, because I think she'll like some of the ideas in there and she likes it when I shake up her math routine from time to time. I find it to be a valuable to tool to have on my shelf, but it does have its limitations.

      I hope this helps. Thanks for asking. :)


  7. Hi Susan, Thank you for this review! I'd love to know what program your son used for 8th and 9th grade. We are currently using Math Mammoth, and I agree that there are a lot of problems on the page. My sons (just finishing 5th and 6th grade) cannot comprehend new concepts/ do the work unless I walk them through pretty much all of it. I love that it covers so much, but it is time consuming for me, and often frustrating for them. I'd love to hear what is or is not currently working for you and your son. Thanks, Heather

    1. Hi Heather,
      Gosh, that was so many years ago. I'm having trouble remembering what he did for 8th grade math. For 9th grade, he ended up doing Saxon Algebra 1 with the help of the Virtual Homeschool Group's self-paced class. He seemed to do well in the class but claimed he didn't learn anything. For Geometry (10th grade), we used Math U See, which he liked. I would have preferred something with more proofs, but it was a good fit at the time. For Algebra II (11th) he used Teaching Textbooks and he will be using TT also for Pre-Calculus this coming year. He likes TT---he says it's annoying, but the set up helps him to really learn the material and he says that he finally understands Algebra I after taking Algebra II. ;) Sooooo, you might take a look at Teaching Textbooks as a possibility (they do have plenty of samples on their site).


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