The most common myth that I am regularly addressing at conferences, on the phone, and in emails, is the concern that a student is behind. I often diffuse these concerns by asking what is it that determines what age a student must be when taking *Algebra 1 *or *Geometry *or beginning to study fractions? There is often a pause, then a light begins to dawn, and the look of consternation from wrongly surmising their child is behind, is replaced with a look of relief when they realize their child is right where they need to be.

I remind parents their student(s) are never behind. Your children are where they are. Will it make a difference in twenty years whether your student is studying fractions when they are 10 or when they are 12? All three of my college graduates were 20 when they entered college, and they did fine. In fact, I think they did better with a few more years of maturity than they would have done as an 18-year-old.

## Readiness > Grade Level

The primary indicator when moving from one concept to another is a child’s readiness and math background, not his age, or his grade level. In fact, most studies do not support putting children in school at 5 years old. Neither is it in the law, that children must leave home at 18 and enter college. This is not to say children can’t begin formal schooling at 5 or enter college at 17.

## Math is Sequential

The subject of math, especially, is sequential and you need a strong foundation that is built by mastering concepts in order. The process cannot be rushed or the gaps in understanding can bring frustration. These gaps in your students’ mathematical foundation can lead to difficulties in upper levels of math. Math-U-See does not have grade levels. We have noticed many older students were moved through successive math classes based on their age and not their achievement or understanding. So these students have gaps in understanding fundamental concepts and may need to go back and redo earlier levels or use a supplemental program, such as our Accelerated Individualized Mastery (AIM) program, before moving on. By not assigning grade levels we try to eliminate comparison and focus on building a strong foundation for each individual student.

A benefit of homeschooling is the great opportunity to focus on the individual needs of each child. There is no pressure from a principal, a superintendent, and a school board that has a need to follow and finish certain amounts of material every year. Instead, there is an opportunity to let children move at their own pace and not a one size fits all program. Please trust your instincts and teach your children according to what you know about their abilities and readiness.

## We Are Here to Help

If you have questions about teaching math, we are here to help!

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Lacey Henry says

Thank you Steve for this post! I needed to hear this!

Mary says

I’m a former Title I math teacher. This lines up with the program that we used for struggling learners.

Jeanne says

You are so right on this. My youngest son has struggled with learning math. I have been teaching him at his ability level instead of where his age and grade level says he should be. Sometimes we even take a couple of days to just review what he has learned to keep both of us from frustration.

Joel says

Thank you for the clarification on “readiness,” not age. I know that helps me understand the gaps in my foundation. And look forward to redoing math and closing those gaps. Yes even at 50! Now or never!

Jennifer says

Joel, As I’m teaching my son math, I am also having so many aha moments at 46 years old, and it’s so much fun!! In fact, if my son was to return to public school, I would probably still go on with math U-See just for my own learning. Thanks Mr. Demme!!

Ben says

I hear your heart in this, and agree that progression mustn’t rush ahead of mastery, but there is a real concern that you haven’t addressed here. As a home educating parents it can be hard to see the wood for all the trees, and get a realistic idea of how well our kids are progressing through their childhood education. Eventually our kids will emerge from the home education scene and have to demonstrate to employers or colleges that they have achieved a certain level of math mastery. I for one would appreciate having a better overview of the whole process.

Steffany Krisniski says

Thank you! This was exactly what I needed to read right now. I KNOW this intellectually, but I still have doubts in my heart. It is helpful to come across this info in print occasionally to remind me of its truth!

T says

This is all well and good, until you realize your child has an actual learning disability, and a 4-5 year differential from his peers seems like educational neglect to the casual observer. I never see this addressed in homeschooling circles.

Sarah says

I have read this before but need the reminder regularly. Sometimes I think we will be in Alpha forever but my child has benefited greatly from going slow, frequent breaks, practicing the material in different ways with other resources then returning to the material.

Sarah Maller says

This was so helpful! I often feel my daughter is “behind” but that is my fault for comparing her with her peers! Shame on me- we are loving the results from AIM!

KH says

Love this! I am homeschooling 4 children and I completely agree! Math U See has been such a great fit for our family. Your lessons are very engaging and you do such a great job explaining concepts in a way the children can easily understand. I highly recommend Math U See!

Casey Barnes says

Thank you for this! I believe every word, but it helps to hear it from someone else too!

DH says

Thank you so much for this! I have fallen into this trap with my daughter as I originally felt this way, but had he evaluated for a hybrid in which they mentioned holding her back if we decided to enroll!! She excelled at everything else so needless to say my husband and I decided to go a different direction. However, this has had me questioning since that experience and putting undo pressure on the situation. Thanks again, DH

Suzanne says

Good day

Please could ypu direct me to some type of list or article or information that will indicate which order the concepts need to be taught?

Regards, Suzanne.

Canaan Collins says

Sounds like a novel concept but promoting this kind of mindset may very well give your student the impression there is no need to work hard and apply themselves… “Where you are is where you are,” is mindset that lets lazy thinkers off the hook.

Classroom Teacher says

No, meeting at student at their level doesn’t mean don’t challenge them, it means don’t RUSH them to move on until they have shown mastery. Academic laziness is a learned skill that can be unlearned with the right support/guidance from a parent or teacher. In my decade+ of classroom experience, what I have seen most often is students that are deemed lazy are actually really smart and ready to move on so they see the work as a waste of their time OR they are avoiding failure because they have been struggling long enough without the support they need that their attitude becomes one of “why bother”.

As a left the classroom to become a home schooling parent, I have found the same habits to hold true of the families I have contact with.

Children in general are innately curious. They WANT to learn. They are born that way in order to learn about and be members of their various social groupings in this world we live in, but schools, teachers and even parents (however well meaning) can grind that curiosity out in the name of rushing children to do more, faster, for the sake of test scores and so called college readiness or just the drive to want them to be the best.

By not meeting students where they are, we do them a disservice. By not helping them understand the why behind the how, we limit their problem solving development. Just look at all the backlash from so-called new math. It wasn’t new. It’s just that no one ever taught us old heads the why, so when our kids asked us we didn’t know what to tell them.

I think Math-u-See seeks to change that. I look forward to seeing if it will work with my kids.

Lisa says

I have followed this advice for the past several years in our homeschooling and let my two older kids take as long as they needed to master each level. But now the problem is that my 9th grader is only doing Pre-Algebra and I found out through our homeschool umbrella group that Pre-Algebra isn’t considered high school level and it will not count for math credit on her transcripts. I’d hate to see her not graduate on time due to being “behind in math.” Any advice?

Classroom Teacher says

See what math your state requires and make sure your child gets those classes during their HS career. You can find the graduation requirements for your state on their department of education website. Many require alg1 and alg2 at least, with maybe geometry and maybe one more, since most require 3 to 4 years of math.

Anna Gibson says

I’m a homeschool mama and FL evaluator. My own kids use Math U See and I’ve enjoyed supporting their math growth at their own pace. One kid zoomed ahead & finished Algebra & Geometry as a middle schooler. Another took 2 years to complete Algebra in high school, and that was ok! I encourage my clients to give their kids time & support to master math concepts, and am glad that Math U See supports this approach. We parents do have the responsibility to hold our kids accountable for doing the work & growing. But it’s a gift to provide time & support to help them “get it” before moving on!

Nikki says

Thank you, Steve! My daughter is our eldest but we have returned to basic math facts because she has struggled with these. After having kind of left it for a bit and working on other things we have returned and she is mastering things instead of struggling. On the other hand her brother is two years younger and is almost on the same level as my daughter in math. He though struggles with speech and grammar so we take that slow for him. After spending so much time fretting this, and our homeschool evaluator saying exactly as you have, I have finally started embracing it. My mind frame was affecting their confidence. Mom feeling like she was failing because they were behind wasn’t building their confidence in their ability to master things. Thank you for repeating this because many of us need to hear it. Even if we know it some days we need reminded of it.