I am often asked what Math curriculum I use. When I answer, I’m usually asked “Why?”
Here is my response:
I’ve mentioned in a few posts that I love Math U See. As a former Math teacher in public schools, I’ve seen and used many curriculum including Saxon. I was actually trained by the Saxon company to teach Saxon in school. I have many friends who love Saxon and I’ve seen it work extremely well for their children….so when I say that I prefer not use Saxon, it’s not because I believe it’s worthless or anything.
Please, please, please….if you have a math curriculum that works well for your children, KEEP USING IT. Changing Math curriculum over and over is NOT a good idea. That can create “holes” in their learning. Find something and stick to it…unless you just hate it….then switch.
Mastery vs. Spiral:
Math U See is a “Mastery Based” method. This means that a child doesn’t move on until they have mastered a skill. Since Math builds one skill on the previous skill, this is important. Another important aspect of Math U See that I love is that it’s also cumulative. This means that while it’s teaching only one new skill at a time…and continuing with THAT skill until it’s mastered, it also reviews past skills. Some “mastery based” programs leave this part out. Kids then soon forget what was previously taught.
Saxon is a “Spiral Based” method. So you Saxon people are saying, “Saxon has lots of cumulative review!” Yes, it does. The difference is that Saxon introduces a new concept, reviews previous concepts and then continues with another new concept…reviews….continues with another new concept….etc. This might seem like it should make sense. However, there is never a place that it stops to REQUIRE mastery of a new concept. Even when there is a “test” or assessment, a child could miss every problem that contains a certain skill, and still pass the test. Lets say that the child has learned several skills. On the test there are many questions about multiplication, reading charts, word problems that involve adding, subtracting, and multiplication, roman numerals, and place value notation. Many skills that have been taught/introduced up to that point. A child could miss all the questions about roman numerals or all the questions about place value notation and still pass the test. Has your child “mastered” all the skills necessary to go on? No. Is it obvious that he has a “gap” in the skills learned so far? No, because he made a good grade on the test.
That being said, most parents (if they are closing watching and checking) can see when something new is just not making sense to their child, or when they keep missing problems that are all the same TYPE of problems. They might stop and work one-on-one with their child on that new skill until they feel that they are “getting it” and then let them continue on with their lesson. By doing that, they are turning their Saxon (spiral approach) into more of a mastery approach. Does that make sense?
Before I get some of my best friends angry with me (they love Saxon), I will say that Saxon is proven to work. It’s not some new funky fad. It’s been around for a LONG time and has studies and data to back it up. If you use Saxon you will know that you will be covering all the math skills your child needs. Saxon is used in many public schools, especially in the Special Ed Dept. They have studies showing how effective it is with students with learning disabilities in the area of math. By the way, these studies always deal with students that have learning disabilities because if a program will show success in children that have a difficulty in that area, then it will work really well for those who are of average ability.
(you know I’m going to now say something about how Math U See does all that and more right? I’ll just let their website do the talking)
If you would like information about how Math U See works in public schools and what their data is showing, you can click here: <a href=”http://www.mathusee.com/about-us/intervention/” target=”_blank”>Math U See in Schools</a>
If you would like to know more about how Math U See works in homeschool: <a href=”http://www.mathusee.com/about-us/homeschool/” target=”_blank”>Math U See – Homeschool</a>
<h3>Don’t take my word for it:</h3>
<a href=”http://www.candlestarservices.com/articles/spiralmastery.pdf” target=”_blank”>Article reviewing Mastery vs. Spiral Math Curriculum</a> compares Saxon, Math U See, Singapore, Teaching Textbooks, etc..
<a href=”http://www.thedailyriff.com/articles/math-tutors-to-the-rescue-725.php” target=”_blank”>Article explaining the dangers of Spiral math programs</a>
Okay, I will get off my math high-horse now. Honestly, I haven’t said all this before just because I don’t want to offend anyone that might love Saxon (or some other math program). The point is that it’s not important to me what you use. I hope that homeschool parents take time to understand their choices, try out a few things, and then pick something that works for them. As much as I love Math U See, I purchased Saxon 5/4 last year to try with my son. He was just getting tired of the same curriculum and wanted a change. Plus, I know that when he reaches the Challenge level of CC, they teach from Saxon (although you can still use any math curriculum at home). I thought that if I was going to switch him over to Saxon, now would be the time. I put aside my personal opinion of Saxon and we gave it a go. What I noticed was that although it introduced many things that we hadn’t covered yet in Math U See, it was also NOT introducing some key things that we had already learned (see this is how “gaps” are created when switching programs). At first my son liked it just because it was new. I was impressed with the amount of drill they had. After a week or so, we both hated it. (And I promise, I never told him my personal feelings about Saxon…I didn’t want to sway him). We pressed on for another few months, then I gave up. I ordered the next Math U See book and we went back. Now he loves math again.
Well, for those who always ask why I love Math U See…I hope that this has helped. If you hate Math U See, that’s okay too. Use what works for your child and what keeps you from going insane! 🙂