Thursday, September 19, 2013

Simplifying Math Mammoth

I am really trying to stick to my resolution to not change math programs again. We have had a rather tumultuous homeschool math experience, which is especially unfortunate given that math is my least favorite subject! Don't tell my kids, but I have just about zero math confidence. (Kids, want to know why I ask your older sibs to help when you don't understand a problem? It's not that I want big Sis to get tutoring practice, it's because I haven't got a clue).

Anyway.

 We started out homeschooling with Rightstart, which I really loved in the beginning, but we hit a wall during Level E. There just wasn't enough teacher help and I could not figure out what the heck Grace was supposed to be doing half the time. We switched to Saxon, which bombed after a couple of months. I think Saxon is a very good, very thorough program, and I sincerely wish my children would like it. But honestly, I cannot take anyone shedding actual tears over math. So we experimented with using just Life of Fred, which at first was extremely popular. LOF still works well for Grace and I will eventually let her try using just LOF for pre-algebra. However, for Chirstopher, LOF just does not provide enough explanation or practice. So this year we have added in Math Mammoth.

Things I love about Math Mammoth:

  •  It's cheap. A whole year of math, including reviews, tests, online links, and answer keys for $34? That is a huge bargain for a complete homeschool math program!
  •  It's no frills. There are no games, no manipulatives, no hands-on activities...this is probably sounding like a downside, but with four kids on different levels,  I don't want math with frills.

Things I don't love about Math Mammoth:

  • The kids don't love it. They don't (generally) cry about it, but let's just say that cheers of joy do not erupt when I announce math time!
  • It can be kind of rote and dry. Those things that make it beautifully no frills? They also make it kind of...dull.
  •  One of my kids has trouble with the strategies they teach. He cannot grasp the explanations and the "tricks" tend to confuse more than help him. This could be a result of coming over from another program, though. Were it not for the sticker shock, I would have already gotten this child Teaching Textbooks. I may end up doing so anyway.  We shall see.
While I debate the whole Teaching Textbooks thing, I have found some ways to simplify Math Mammoth.

  • Every school day I give each child 2-3 pages of math. I do not expect them to do every problem on those pages. Before they start, I take a pencil and randomly circle a few problems from each section.  They do only the circled ones, as long as they understand the concept. I circle about half of the problems on any given sheet.
  • I check their work. If there are careless mistakes we discuss them and they try again. If there is  glaring misunderstanding, then a tutoring session with Dad is in order to work through those "problematic problems". If they need extra practice, they work through a few of the problems that weren't previously assigned.
  • When we get to a review section, I have them do every problem.  They work for 20-30 minutes and pick up where they left off the next day. It sometimes takes them 2-3 days to get through the review. If they do well, we move on to the next chapter. If there are issues we review the relevant sections again before moving on. 
  • To make math time a bit more fun, I let them play an online game from the links included with each Math Mammoth chapter. They love this part of it and it lets them get in some extra practice independently. Each time they reach a new chapter, I copy the list of links from my MM pdf and bookmark or email them the list so they can easily pick one to play.
One of the unexpected benefits of this way of doing math is that we are dealing with a lot less paper! Previously, I was saving every math sheet, just in case I needed it for our end-of-year portfolio. With this method, I recycle all the "half-done" sheets and only save the review sheets for their portfolio.

Till Next Time!

4 comments:

  1. Perfect timing, since I just posted about math as well! I've got one child, Cassia, that LOVES Saxon (go figure), and one (Cyrus) that will do it, but somewhat grudgingly. So back to LOF (we're backing up a bit) and Math Mammoth as a combo, along with Khan Academy videos, for Cyrus. When we get to pre-algebra, I have Jousting Armadillos AND Zacarro's Real World Algebra on hand as well, to bulk up LOF a bit.

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  2. I keep hearing about Jousting Amardillos- I am going to check both of those out-thanks!

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  3. We started with RighStart for kindergarten too. My son didn't like all the frills though, so for first grade I purchased Math Mammoth. He actually really likes it. I think he likes being handed something, knowing that he can complete it, and hand it to me done. I've had my eyes on Life of Fred for a couple of years now too, just haven't order them. I'm looking at BookShark for this year and am not sure if I should piece it together and use Math Mammoth or order it with a math program. Do you have comments on what they offer for math?

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  4. Bookshark seems to include Saxon, Singapore, or Horizons, then Teaching Textbooks for grades 3 and up. I used Saxon only briefly and the kids found it to be too much and too boring so we switched. I have not used Singapore past K level and have never used Horizons so can't comment much on those. I have one using TT5 right now and for him it is a good fit, but I don't believe TT starts before 3rd grade. I have a couple of posts about TT and Saxon if you plug them into the search box in the left column. I would say if he likes Math Mammoth, stick with it. All 4 of mine use a different program based on what works for them-so we have one each in Teaching Textbooks, Life of Fred, Math Mammoth, and Righstart.

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