Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Math for Christmas?

Okay, I've only got a few minutes before my day really begins, but I want to write something positive about homeschooling so my dear friends aren't worried about me.  I don't want anyone envisioning me in a fetal position on my closet floor with bits and pieces of a well-meaning teacher's guide scattered about.  Or a math book.  Oy.

That leads me to a great thing about homeschooling...

If something's not working, we can change it!

We've been using Math-U-See with Emma & Jeffrey for the past few years.  Since it was working quite well, I don't know why I decided to switch to Teaching Textbooks this year.  I think it's because I wanted them to work more independently, and TT can be done without practically any parental involvement--in theory.  The student watches a clip from a CD-Rom and then does the practice set in the workbook.  An answer key allows the student to check his work, and another CD-Rom shows how to work each problem if the student can't find where he messed up.  Teaching Textbooks is well done, thorough, and I'd recommend it to anyone--well, anyone who benefits from a spiral approach to learning.  Unfortunately, that's not us.

So, guess what?

We're going to back to Math-U-See, which uses a mastery learning approach.  A lovely friend of mine has loaned to me the MUS Pre-Algebra DVD and Instruction Manual for the year.  (Thanks, Lily!)  I only had to purchase the workbook, and it's already on its way.  You'd think this math curriculum was a Christmas present, judging by Emma & Jeffrey's reaction.  Emma was willing to chip in for the workbook herself!  (I didn't let her.)  And as I tucked Jeffrey in bed the other night, he said, "I guess if I went to public school they wouldn't be able to change curriculum just for me.  I'd have to suffer through it, even if it wasn't really working for me."



  1. I've long been a proponent of spiral learning, but I had not heard the term "mastery learning." I think we had mastery learning built in to what we did. With fewer grades to teach, it was easier for Mom to monitor the mastery level regardless of the curriculum. We were trained into the idea that lesson even of a spiral approach had to be mastered before the next was begun.

    So happy for you! It's a major accomplishment to have your kids excited for a new math text. I wish I lived closer. I'd love to see the Math-U-See curriculum.

    Merry Christmas!

  2. Cool! I've never used Math-U-See, but have a good friend here in Seattle that loves it.

    We love Teaching Textbook here. We do use it differently than it's meant to be used, though. I teach it, even though I have it all and could use the DVD-Roms. I just think it works better to have a live teacher for math.

  3. I smiled at this for three reasons:

    (1) Getting new homeschool curriculum is like Christmas X 10.

    (2) Teaching Textbooks was my lifeline.

    (3) Jeffrey's comment is so astute.

    And that's so interesting about different learning styles. I guess I'm a hardcore spiraler: mastery is in the continued learning for me. Maybe that's why I hate my new math curriculum so much....

  4. A little more about the format of MUS....

    There are about 30 units in each MUS year of curriculum, and they each have six worksheets plus a unit quiz. There are also some quarterly exams and a final.

    Anyway, those six worksheets are labeled A through F. Pages A, B, and C have *only* the new concept which Mr. Demme has taught on the DVD. (There are 30 segments in the DVD--one for each unit.) Pages D, E, and F have the new concept plus review of things previously taught.

    Teaching Textbooks has a few problems of the new thing and several different types of review problems--for each and every lesson. Because my kids didn't get enough practice with the new concept each day (for them, anyway) they'd forget how to do the newer things from day to day.

    Mastery learning still has some review--which is necessary--and so you might say it's still somewhat spiral. It's just a very WIDE spiral, I guess.

    Sue, I purposefully wanted Emma and Jeffrey to be more independent in math, since it's a pretty objectively graded subject (unlike composition, for example). I know a live teacher is best, but I can't teach all subjects to everyone. With Lydia coming up in the ranks, I knew I'd need to spend more time with her (especially since she's still learning to read), so if E & J didn't need me quite so much, that'd be great. It backfired though. There was so much they needed help with during the problem set that it took time away from Lydia's schooling. She's a full week behind the others now.

    Bailey, what *are* you using for math these days?

  5. I do understand wanting the kids to be more independent, for sure. It's been really good to have Baylee using the BJUP online distance program this year for that very reason. It's been a great experience for her. (Even there, though, I ended up having to be her teacher for math. LOL)

  6. It sounds like she really enjoys it, too.

  7. Very happy to be able to loan you the MUS and that Jeffrey & Emma are so excited about it! I help Becca with her math, but Isaac, Kara & Anna work independently unless I see that they are missing a concept (by their grades). On Monday, they watch the DVD, then do Lesson 15 A and D, Tuesday is 15 B & E and so on. If they make less than an 82%, I re-teach the lesson to them.
    Hope you all are enjoying your break!

  8. Thanks for the additional information on the MUS structure, Jenny. I've been thinking about this and the learning styles and I think I've decided that both mastery and review are essential. It sounds like MUS just has the right amount of mastery (of new concept) for Emma and Jeffrey. If there were an ideal program, maybe it would have adjustable amounts of problems for mastery and more set problems for review? Ok. There will never be a perfect system. It's so great to be able to pick the best one for your situation!

    By the way, have you ever looked at khanacademy.org? It has lots of individual videos explaining various math and science concepts. There are problem to solve for the math. It has a "mastery" program where you have to get 10 in a row right in order to be "proficient." Then if you haven't done a set in a while, it recommends reviewing it. Might be fun for some extra credit.

    Have a wonderful New Year!

  9. I have looked at Khan Academy. We've watched a few of their videos here and there, but I didn't know he had problems on there too.

    Switching to Math-U-See has blown a breath of fresh air into our homeschooling--which is a necessity come January. Because math is going so well now, it seems to make everything else easier. I think it's because E & J don't have the other math curriculum hanging over their heads. = )