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How to Use the Math-U-See Manipulatives

Many people wonder how they should use the Math-U-See manipulatives to teach math. If you don't use them properly, they are not going to be very helpful.

Many people wonder how they should use the Math-U-See manipulatives to teach math. If you don’t use them properly, they are not going to be very helpful. They are such an integral part of the Math-U-See program that it might be useful to understand Steve Demme’s intention in creating them in the first place.

Steve believes that math is a topic that is learned to be applied in real life. This real-life application is usually demonstrated in curriculum in the form of word problems. In order to use math in real life, it’s important that students not only know formulas and procedures, but that they also know the concepts behind the procedures, and the formulas. In other words, to understand “how” to solve a problem, but also “why” we solve it that way, and even “when” the solution requires multiplication, division, even algebra.

Steve and Math-U-See use a number of little “tricks” that help students memorize math facts, such as acronyms, mnemonics, and visualizations. But if the student doesn’t have a healthy grasp of the whole concept of math, they are unable to be good problem solvers when faced with real life scenarios.

Related blog post: Make Memorizing Math Facts Fun With These 10 Activities

So WHY Use Manipulatives For Teaching Math?

First, in the decimal system, place value is an essential concept to master. No matter how small or large the number, we only have the digits 0-9 to represent it. We can use those digits in conjunction with place value to demonstrate every number that we can show, regardless of size. The physical characteristics defined for the Integer Blocks and associated with digits carry through the Algebra/Decimal Inserts and the Fraction Overlays.

Place value example

For instance, consider the number 134 (see the image above). That would be one hundred, three tens, and four units. We write the number 1 and, because it is in the hundreds place, it is telling us how many hundreds we have – one hundred, or 100. The same is true for the 3 in the tens column – three tens, or 30. And in the units column, we have four units, or 4. (Notice we don’t call it the “ones” column – one, or 1, is a number. We use the term “units” to clearly differentiate between the place and the number.)

Studies have shown that American students often don’t truly understand place value. An example was done comparing Asian students with American students. When presented with a set of manipulatives, the students were asked to demonstrated the number 42. Asian students selected four 10s (40) and two units (2). American students selected 42 units placed in a long line, demonstrating a lack of understanding of the power of place value.

Place value, using our base-10 system, is essential for truly understanding math concepts. So Steve created the Math-U-See Integer Blocks. Not only can they demonstrate place value of integers, but also place value of the unknown, or x. By adding the Algebra/Decimal Inserts, the concept of x is illustrated and polynomials can be represented in a concrete way. We use the same colors as the Integer Blocks, but add inserts that present a smooth surface. The colors remind students of the proper placement with regards to place value: units are still the smallest, then x, then x2 and so on. If a student has been taught base 10 with our manipulatives, students can build on what they’ve already mastered and algebra becomes much more understandable. The relationship between arithmetic and algebra becomes clear. While we might think they are two separate disciplines, they’re definitely not. Using the manipulatives demonstrates the connection.

The Algebra/Decmial Inserts are effective for teaching algebra for several reasons. They’re synchronized with the base 10 Integer Blocks: same colors, same shapes. Our Fraction Overlays start with the green unit block and block it up big, to five inches by five inches, so that when it’s cut into smaller sections, they’re still visible and understandable. The colors of the Fraction Overlays mirror the colors of the Integer Blocks: halves are orange; thirds, pink; fourths, yellow; and so on.

So, there a reason behind the sizes, colors, and shapes of all of the manipulatives that carries through each level.

An example of a technique learned early on that can be applied in later learning is using the blocks to create a rectangle when demonstrating multiplication. This concept can then be extended to geometry concepts such as base times height for the area of a rectangle, or 1/2 base times height for a triangle, or determining the perimeter of a shape. Visuals such as the multiplication rectangle make it easier to see where the formulas come from. Many students in other programs memorize the formulas with no understanding of what is actually happening in the problem. We use blocks to demonstrate the Pythagorean theorem or to factor trinomials or polynomials. By illustrating the concept, students understand the bigger picture of where the formula comes from and can retain and apply the information when appropriate, rather than just memorizing with no conceptual understanding.

But HOW Do You Use Manipulatives to Teach?

The definitive answer is: it depends. The manipulatives are an illustration of a concept. The goal is understanding. Steve says, “Math-U-See really means Math-U-Understand.” To understand a concept, many kids have to see it. Some students can learn from talking abstractly about things, but many more benefit from actually seeing an example and having the opportunity to model concepts themselves. Research shows that the more different ways one is exposed to a concept, the more likely they are to understand and retain it. Math-U-See has always looked for concrete, real-life examples and illustrations of math concepts, from using a belt to explain circumferences to using ceiling tiles to demonstrate area. Using only our three different manipulative kits, math concepts can be demonstrated from Primer through Algebra 1.

To use the manipulatives to demonstrate a concept to a student, it’s important that you, the teacher, understands the concept and how the manipulatives illustrate it. Watch the lesson video first; they’re designed for the instructor and model how to use the manipulatives. Read the lesson in the Instruction Manual. Take the examples and, using the appropriate manipulatives, demonstrate the concept over and over until your student says, “Oh, I see!” or the equivalent. This will look very different with each student, or even with the same student learning different concepts. Some will quickly achieve that “aha!” moment, while other concepts may take more time.

The Build, Write, Say, Teach It Back approach is very effective with Math-U-See. Using the manipulatives to build a problem, students then write the math problem and say, or explain, what is happening in the problem. When students say, “Oh, now I get it,” it’s tempting to just take their word for it. That’s why we ask them to teach the concept back to us and demonstrate their mastery. That way, we can be sure that they’ve grasped the concept. Math is sequential and builds from concept to concept, so it’s critical that mastery and understanding is achieved before moving on.

As Steve Demme says:

Most people will solve a math problem by writing it down. Most people will see a math problem by having to read it. Prices are on the menus at Wendy’s. You have to read numbers. So writing is the predominant way that math is expressed and solved.

Math-U-See adds two additional components to writing the problem: Build It and Say It. The more different ways you interact with a concept, the more likely it is that you will not only understand, but also learn and retain the knowledge. We emphasize building with the manipulatives and explaining verbally what we’ve built, so that we’re using our eyes, ears, mouths, touch, at the same time that we write. Later, when we write a problem, we are visualizing the blocks and hearing in our heads how to do the problem. Finally, we add one more component: Teach It Back, to demonstrate mastery of the concept. Once mastery is demonstrated, your student is ready to move to the next concept.

The manipulatives are not a crutch. They are simply a concrete way to illustrate a concept. In Math-U-See, we illustrate abstract concepts in a concrete way that is new to most people, whether students or instructors. This leads to many “aha!” moments for parents, not only for students. As students master the material and internalize it, they will begin to wean themselves away from the blocks or other manipulatives. Because all children are unique, there is no single foolproof way to use the manipulatives. We recommend beginning with the plan we provide, but experiment until you find the best approach for each child. Be open to adapting to their learning preferences. Learn what their “aha!” moments look like. If you use the manipulatives how they’re intended to be used, you may be pleasantly surprised at how easy teaching and learning math can be.

Free Math Facts Music & Activities

Songs, music, and rhyme are all helpful tools to aid students with math facts. Download some math songs to sing while you’re outside! There are also activities for when the weather doesn’t lend itself to outside math.

To access your free math facts practice tools, please provide the following information.

Download free songs, activities, coloring pages, and more to help your students learn math facts!

Many people wonder how they should use the Math-U-See manipulatives to teach math. If you don't use them properly, they are not going to be very helpful.

Math-U-See Manipulatives App

Visit your preferred app store today and get the Math-U-See Manipulatives App for your tablet device. Because homeschooling doesn’t always happen at home.

You love Math-U-See. Your kids are thriving with it, and building problems with the manipulatives makes everything so clear and understandable! But…Joey has quiz team, Sarah has soccer, and Jenny has dance. Taking the blocks in the van is a nightmare! But skipping math isn’t an option; neither is cutting out activities. What’s a busy homeschool family to do?

The Math-U-See app could be the answer!

• Designed for any tablet
• Unlimited blocks, fraction overlays, and algebra/decimal inserts
• Colors and functions just like physical product
• Pencil tool to write out problems as you build
• Different backgrounds include Decimal Street®, graph, grid

Visit your preferred app store today and get the Math-U-See Manipulatives App for your tablet device. Because homeschooling doesn’t always happen at home.

Get the Math-U-See Manipulatives App for your tablet device. Because homeschooling doesn’t always happen at home.

Get the Math-U-See Manipulatives App for your tablet device. Because homeschooling doesn’t always happen at home.

Get the Math-U-See Manipulatives App for your tablet device. Because homeschooling doesn’t always happen at home.

Already Purchased?

Get tips on how to use the app, answers to frequently asked questions, or contact us for support.

Get support here.

12 Reasons Why You Will Hate Math-U-See

Math-U-See may not be your cup of tea. Here are 12 reasons why you will hate Math-U-See.

With almost 30 years of successfully teaching math the Math-U-See way, we’re pretty confident that there’s a little something for everyone in our program. But we’re willing to admit, we might not be for everyone. We’re all about empowering our customers, not about just making the sale, so here’s a helpful list of things to consider before taking the plunge or making the switch.

If you agree with one or more of the following statements, Math-U-See just might not be your cup of tea.

12 Reasons You Will Hate Math-U-See

1) You want to figure out how to teach math concepts on your own through trial and error.

We provide complete teacher support, with videos showing how to use the manipulatives, supported by a written explanation in the Instruction Manual for each lesson. Important vocabulary is introduced and suggestions for additional practice, such as activities or games, are often provided. Maybe this seems like cheating, or maybe you think there’s nothing you can learn about how best to teach math concepts. We don’t want to step on your toes!

2) You believe students should be placed by grade level, not skill level or understanding.

We don’t align with grade levels, and we don’t try to. We believe that math builds upon itself and that fully mastering a concept before moving on to the next one creates a firm foundation of understanding that will benefit students as they progress. For example, successful mastery of fractions is essential to succeeding in algebra and higher math. If a 15-year-old student needs to back up and review, they will probably be more receptive to and less stressed about working in Epsilon: Fractions than “Fifth Grade Math.”

3) You think kids should be required to do every single page of their workbook.

Our levels include three Lesson Practice pages, focusing on the new concept, and two or three Systematic Review pages, practicing both new and previously learned concepts. If your student shows mastery of the concept, there’s no need to complete all the worksheets. We encourage you to move at your student’s pace, taking as much or as little time as needed. We provide additional practice problems for many lessons with our online Worksheet Generator.

4) You don’t mind having no idea whether your student “gets” a concept.

With our “Build it, Write it, Say it, Teach it back” method, you’ll know when your student has mastered a concept. Move to the next lesson quickly, or spend as long as you need.

5) You think math should never be fun or silly.

Our founder Steve Demme draws on his own life experiences to provide helpful tips and tricks to memorize math facts or explain concepts. Most of them, like Mr. Demme himself, are funny or silly. That’s why they’re memorable; whether you love corny jokes or you hate them, you’ll remember – and quite possibly make the vacuum sucking noise (at least mentally) every time you’re doing your 9s facts.

6) It’s enough to know how to do math problems; there’s no need to understand why you do it that way.

This comes down to the question, why do we learn math? Mr. Demme’s answer is quite simple: “To do word problems.” Which is true, so far as real-life applications are concerned. You’ll probably never be asked to do a math worksheet in your adult life. But, need to double a recipe? Want to leave an appropriate tip? Need to find the most cost-effective way to ship a birthday present to Great-Aunt Gladys? You have to know what math concept applies (“why”) before you can apply it (“how”). No one is going to be standing there telling you whether to add, subtract, multiply, or divide. (If there is, that’s maybe a little weird, don’t you think?)

7) It’s crazy expensive, what with the blocks and everything you need!

It might be tempting to skip purchasing the Integer Block Kit, but keep these things in mind. One, you’ll use the same blocks from Primer all the way through Algebra 1, so, while there is an initial investment, it will support eight or nine years of learning – not additional students coming up through the program. Two, our manipulatives are an integral part of our curriculum, because they work and form the basis of the “see” portion of Math-U-See. Current educational research supports the way we integrate our manipulatives into learning. Three, our blocks (and Instruction Manuals) have great resale value!

8) I want a curriculum that will teach my kid for me, not one where I have to do the teaching.

A common misconception about Math-U-See’s videos is that they’ll teach the entire lesson to your student. They’re actually intended to demonstrate to the instructor how to use the manipulatives and present the concept. There’s certainly no harm in students watching the videos but they’re intended to be used in connection with the Instruction Manual.

9) It’s in a weird order, so we’ll be stuck using it forever.

Math-U-See is organized differently than other math curricula, at least for the first six or seven levels, but it’s quite straight-forward in the progression. We thoroughly cover single-digit addition and subtraction, followed by multi-digit addition and subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, and decimals and percents, with other concepts (like telling time or counting money, for instance) introduced where appropriate along the way. So it might be more complicated to jump in and out of other curricula in these levels, but we provide an interactive placement guide to help you determine exactly where to start. After these lower levels, our upper levels follow a pretty standard progression from pre-algebra through calculus.

10) Using manipulatives to demonstrate concepts all the way through Algebra 1 is childish and unnecessary.

Let’s get real for a minute. How many of us understood what we were actually doing when we were factoring polynomials? Watch Steve Demme demonstrate it with the blocks, and you will. And since the goal of Math-U-See is mastery, your student will use the manipulatives as much or little as needed; there’s no one right way to do it.

11) My kid isn’t a “kinesthetic learner” so the blocks are a waste of time.

With Math-U-See, concepts are introduced using the manipulatives, which enables students to “see” the concepts, first physically and then mentally as they progress to algorithms, formulas, and other symbolic representations. Research has shown that students who are able to represent problems correctly are better able to connect conceptual knowledge with procedural skill, which leads to improved performance in math.1 Which is a fancy way to say that manipulatives can lead to understanding for any kind of learning preference.

And finally:

12) You think that puns are the lowest form of humor.

Well, you’ve got us on this one. If you can’t stomach puns – if you really can’t get past them – you’re probably going to hate Math-U-See. But if you can ignore them, we think you’ll find that Math-U-See is an engaging, flexible, effective math curriculum that will equip your student to succeed in math and build curiosity to become a lifelong learner. You never know, you may even learn to love puns…or at least forgive us for them.

So what do you think? Ready to give us a shot? Schedule a free consultation today to find out how Math-U-See can work for you.

Get a free consultation from a Math-U-See expert.

Want five reasons why you might like Math-U-See? Read what brought Gretchen our way!

1 Rittle-Johnson, B., Siegler, R. S., & Alibali, M. W. (June 2001). Developing conceptual understanding and procedural skill in mathematics: an iterative process. Journal of Educational Psychology, 93(2), 346-362

3 Tips for Creating a Homeschool Transcript

Creating a homeschool transcript is easier than you might think; it just involves keeping track and planning ahead.

While the idea of creating a homeschool transcript might seem overwhelming or intimidating, it’s really just another way of tracking your student’s progress and sorting it into a format that is accessible and understandable by post-secondary opportunities.

Even if you live in a state that does not require you to report your homeschooling agenda to them, it’s in your child’s best interest for you to keep track of their accomplishments so they have fewer hurdles when it’s time for post-secondary education or career options. Most higher education requires a transcript for consideration for admission. The military and many other jobs also require a high school diploma or equivalent. Creating a homeschool transcript is easier than you might think; it just involves keeping track and planning ahead, things you’re probably already doing on your homeschool journey. Here are a few simple tips:

3 Tips for Creating a Homeschool Transcript

1) Plan Ahead

We just said this, but: Plan ahead! Most states require some sort of record-keeping, which can help, but if yours doesn’t, make sure you have a plan for what you need to record starting before your student enters “9th grade,” or before they begin taking classes that can count toward fulfilling state graduation requirements. That means…

2) Know Your State’s Requirements

You should know your state’s requirements for graduation. Each state is different. Often there are diploma services that you can use that are specific to your state that can provide you with the requirements. You can also search for “[My State] high school graduation requirements.” Even if you choose not to follow the state requirements exactly, it’s a great guide to what future employers and higher education institutions are looking for.

3) Use Descriptive Course Names

Use descriptive course names when appropriate. If the curriculum or course name doesn’t clearly state what requirement is being fulfilled, feel free to change it to be more specific for the transcript. For instance, rather than using the more generic “Science,” you would want to state “Biology” or “Chemistry” or the appropriate focus if applicable. Using descriptive, familiar language will make the transcript more understandable for those reviewing it.

Homeschool Transcript Sample

There are loads of great resources and advice to be found on the internet. One source that has aggregated a lot of great information is the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).

HSLDA has provided homeschool transcript samples, preparation resources, and much more more.

The most important thing to remember is that this is a component of your student’s secondary education that they will need in their post-high school life. By documenting their achievements, you’re sparing them (and yourself!) from trying to recreate their academic record from memory. By keeping an ongoing log, you’re simplifying the process. It doesn’t need to be difficult or overwhelming; after all, you’ve already done the hard work of homeschooling!

Learn about homeschooling in this blog series.

Seeking Research Participants

Would you like to participate in a research project on on homeschooling gifted children?

At Demme Learning, we support lifelong learning. Occasionally we get requests from colleges or graduate schools for assistance with research studies. So when we received a request from a doctoral candidate from Liberty University, we were happy to help!

Bridgette Whitlow-Spurlock, Liberty University School of Education Doctoral Candidate, is conducting a research project titled “A Grounded Theory Study of the Educational Processes Implemented by Parents Homeschooling Gifted or Twice-Exceptional Children.”

Her desire is to explain the choices made by homeschooling parents of these children regarding curriculum, instructional methods, and daily structure. Bridgette is a homeschooling mom of ten years. She is a director of a local homeschool community. Additionally, she serves as a volunteer with the Indiana Association of Home Educators Government Affairs Team as a writer.

If you are interested in learning more or participating in her research, please contact Bridgette at bwhitlowspurlock-at-liberty-dot-edu.

She will contact you directly with information about requirements and, if you and your student qualify, information about what participation in the project would involve. It’s purely voluntary, of course, and you can withdraw at any time.

Disclaimer: This is an independent research project that is not sponsored by Demme Learning. We’re simply happy to help a fellow lifelong learner!

What Makes Demme Learning Unique?

At Demme Learning, we trust parents to make wise and loving decisions about their kids’ educations.

At Demme Learning, we trust parents to make wise and loving decisions about their kids’ educations. We don’t only trust homeschool parents, or public school parents, or any other specific kind of parents. Engaged parents are crucial to children’s success at becoming life-long learners, regardless of their selected method of instruction.

Our primary goal in developing educational products is to provide essential resources to evaluate their child’s understanding that adapt to how their child learns, with clear instructions and simple yet effective methods.

Here are some of the ways we talk the talk AND walk the walk to trust and support parents with our key curricula, Math-U-See and Spelling You See.

4 Ways That Demme Learning is Unique

1) Clear, Explicit Instructions

We provide directions for instructor and students for each lesson in a variety of ways so there’s no guessing at what to do each day. You’ll know where to start and when you’re finished. Lessons are broken into small, active chunks so kids don’t get bored or restless. And we provide clear guidelines so you know when your student is ready to move on.

2) Curriculum That Meets Your Child Where They’re At

We don’t assume that a certain age means a certain ability or skill level. In fact, you won’t find grade levels at all in our curriculum. We provide clear, simple placement guides to ensure your student starts at the right place to address any gaps.

3) Lessons That Don’t Assume “One Size Fits All”

Students can move as quickly or slowly as necessary in our curricula. For instance, if your student quickly masters a math concept, there’s no need to complete all of the workbook pages. Move on to the next concept; we provide plenty of systematic review, don’t worry.

4) The Ultimate in Customer Service

An experienced support team ready to provide the ultimate in customer service. Everyone says that they have outstanding customer service, but ours is truly exceptional. Many of them have used our curriculum themselves with their own students. You will never feel rushed when you call; we’re happy to talk through any issue, whether specific to the curriculum or even if you’re just having a bad day and need an adult to talk to. Our goal is to provide “The Ultimate in Customer Service.” If we don’t meet that level for you, please let us know what we could do differently.

We know you have a lot of choices and put a great deal of careful thought into how you spend your curriculum dollars. Thank you for considering us. Our commitment to you is to provide a top quality product with the best support possible. We think you’ll be pleased.

Free Math Facts Music & Activities

Songs, music, and rhyme are all helpful tools to aid students with math facts. Download some math songs to sing while you’re outside! There are also activities for when the weather doesn’t lend itself to outside math.

To access your free math facts practice tools, please provide the following information.

Download free songs, activities, coloring pages, and more to help your students learn math facts!

What Makes Spelling You See Unique?

Are you ready to try something unique? Learn about what sets Spelling You See apart.

If you’ve ever taught a struggling speller (or been one yourself!), you’re well aware of the feelings of frustration and failure these students face.

They dread writing assignments because they know their papers will come back covered in red marks. They feel misunderstood when others trip on the errors in their writing and miss the message of the piece. It can be just as frustrating to teach these students, especially if you’re a good speller yourself.

We try everything we can think of: drilling phonics rules, creating word banks, having students rewrite misspelled words or consult the dictionary – yet certain students just can’t seem to spell.

According to research, spellers advance through a common progression of developmental stages as they develop spelling mastery.

Some of these stages last several years, although they’re independent from age or reading level, and students may move through more quickly or slowly than other kids, but they can’t be skipped.

Spelling You See follows these developmental stages.

A strong visual memory is essential to become a competent English speller; for young kids, this can be really difficult. Even if reading ability is excellent, spelling skills can seem to lag far behind.

Spelling You See: A Unique Spelling Program Based on Brain Research

Are you ready to try something unique?

We’re pretty confident it won’t look like any other spelling program you’ve tried. Knowing how students learn to spell and using a program based on research and developmentally-appropriate practices can help you guide students to becoming competent, confident spellers.

Spelling You See is a program that has been designed using the latest neurological research to guide students appropriately through the developmental stages of spelling. Here are some of the highlights of that research:

Stress is bad for learning. The hippocampus, the part of the brain we need to move info from short-term to long-term storage, is extremely sensitive to cortisol – aka, “the stress hormone.” If we’re anxious or frustrated, we physically can’t learn easily. Does “anxious” or “frustrated” describe your speller? Spelling You See is designed to minimize stress.

Spelling lists are boring. Regardless of reading level, Spelling You See uses short, interesting passages; carefully-researched, engaging illustrations; and top-quality colored pencils (or stickers, in Listen and Write).

Shorter is better. Neurological researchers have found that the human brain can actively engage with a subject for a maximum of 10 minutes. Each Spelling You See activity is designed to fit within this time frame in order to provide an optimal learning experience for students.

Context matters. Remember when we said spelling lists are boring? It’s easier to learn and remember material when it’s accompanied by meaning. We don’t use nonsense words, either – just real words in rhymes or nonfiction passages.

Same old, same old. That’s not a bad thing; learning becomes permanent when information is repeated regularly over time. We apply the same set of core activities (listening, reading, copywork, chunking, and dictation) to each week’s words or lessons.

Engages multiple senses. Yes, we just said “same old, same old,” but using a variety of senses in fun, colorful activities to interact with the lessons keeps things interesting. Remember those core activities we listed in the last bullet? Students using Spelling You See hear words and passages read aloud (auditory), mark letter patterns and word parts in different colors (visual), and write words in copywork and dictation exercises (kinesthetic). They’ll also read the passage aloud each day. Using all these senses enhances the student’s ability to master the correct spellings of words.

Intrigued? We’re not going to be falsely modest – it’s a great program and we’d love to see what you think. Let us talk to you about your unique situation and learn for yourself what Spelling You See can do for you.

Sign up for a free consultation today.

Get a free consultation from a Spelling You See expert.

Top 4 Reasons Why Math-U-See Is Unique

Here are four things that, added together with the integer blocks, make Math-U-See.

You’re at a homeschool conference and you overhear a conversation between two parents. One is unfamiliar with Math-U-See. In describing us, it’s likely the other would say, “You know, the one with the blocks!” And we’re fine with that. Our manipulatives are at the heart of who we are. But they’re only the most visible, memorable part of our math program. Here are four more things that, added together with the integer blocks, make us unique:

1) We’re Skills-Based, Not Grade-Based

Our focus is on concept mastery; math is cumulative, and each concept builds on the one that precedes it. This is why we use the unusual Greek letter names instead of grade levels in our lower levels. Each focuses on one primary topic, starting with addition and subtraction, then multiplication and division, and finally fractions and decimals. Our upper level math, starting with Pre-Algebra, follows a similar path to other high school math programs.

2) We Provide Thorough Instructor Support

You get an instruction manual and videos for your selected level. We ensure you have a thorough understanding of how to model and teach each concept. And if you have any questions, our top-notch Customer Service team is standing by!

3) Our Student Materials Are Clean and Uncluttered

They focus on practicing and reviewing concepts, while our tests allow students to show and apply what they have learned. If your student demonstrates mastery of a particular concept, there’s no need to complete every Student Workbook page. There’s no busywork, only useful practice and review.

4) We Focus on Conceptual Understanding

Students learn not only how to do math, but why. We build on the bigger framework underlying all math topics so students can build on previous understanding. We encourage memorizing formulas and facts, not as an end in itself, but so that students don’t experience cognitive overload and can zero in on learning new concepts and skills.

But we can’t be done without talking about the blocks. (Plus our other Manipulatives, the Fraction Overlays and Algebra/Decimal Inserts). Considered together, our Manipulatives are something special, if we do say so ourselves. In some recent research on manipulatives use, you will see that ours check all the boxes:

• They’re used from pre-K into high school. Everybody uses manipulatives for counting…but factoring polynomials? How cool is that?

• The manipulatives allow students to “see” concepts, first physically, then mentally as concepts get more abstract.

• Our manipulatives are only math manipulatives. They’re not teddy bears or coins or fluffy ducks. They don’t represent other objects and they have no extra features that can be distracting for learners.

• The instructional materials clearly demonstrate how the manipulatives represent the concept presented. Students then use the manipulatives to “teach it back”, demonstrating their understanding of that concept.

All things considered, we’re pretty proud of our award-winning math curriculum. We have helped countless students – and parents! – see the beauty and fun that can be found in math. There’s nothing better than those “Aha!” moments when a student who thinks they’re bad at math really gets a math concepts. The light bulb comes on, shining brilliantly and filling them with the confidence to conquer the next challenge.

Free Math Facts Music & Activities

Songs, music, and rhyme are all helpful tools to aid students with math facts. Download some math songs to sing while you’re outside! There are also activities for when the weather doesn’t lend itself to outside math.

To access your free math facts practice tools, please provide the following information.

Download free songs, activities, coloring pages, and more to help your students learn math facts!

3 Reasons Why Spelling Tests Don’t (Always) Work

What’s wrong with this traditional, time-honored method? Short answer: it may not work.

Does this sound like your spelling instruction, either from your own experience or with your kids?

Monday: Receive list of about twenty words; take pre-test.

Tuesday-Thursday: Interact with words on list through various activities (writing them ten times, sentences, word searches).

Friday: Take final test. And then, maybe even if you got 100% on the test…

Following Monday: Need to use one of the words in a sentence. Spell it wrong.

So what’s wrong with this traditional, time-honored method? Short answer: it may not work. At least, if the goal is to internalize proper spelling into long-term memory so kids can write clearly and effectively, it may not.

And isn’t that the goal of learning to spell? As an adult, I can count on zero fingers the number of spelling tests I’ve had to take.

3 Reasons Why Spelling Tests May Not Work

They Emphasize Short Term Memory

Quick, tell me what was on your grocery list from March 23, 2007. You can’t? Well, of course not, even though you could possibly have recited it the next day, or even a week or two after if you’re really good. But item list memory goes into short-term memory. That means once you don’t need it any more, it’s gone, erased to make room for more list items. That’s why your student aces their spelling test but can’t recall the proper spelling when they want to use the word in their writing. Which leads us to the next reason…

They Take Words Out of Context

When words are linked to meaningful context, the brain is more likely to transfer them to long-term memory. Contextually interesting passages at an appropriate reading level gives students something meaningful to connect the words to—creating linkage—which allows words to make it into long-term visual memory. (How many times have you written a word a few ways until it “looks” right? That’s long-term visual memory.)

English Has No Hard and Fast Spelling Rules

When we learn a “rule,” it’s almost always followed with a list of the exceptions to that rule. Traditionally, spelling lists are grouped around one spelling “rule” – a certain combination of letters that make a certain sound. Because English is a conglomeration of different languages – Germanic, Romance, Slavic, as well as words appropriated from virtually every spoken language in the world. This is why phonics is not our only friend when we get beyond consonant-short vowel-consonant (cvc) early reading words. There are many, many words that don’t follow spelling rules that need to be automatically available from our brains when we write.

Have You Heard About Spelling You See?

Spelling You See is a different (not difficult!) spelling curriculum that provides the tools to help students develop confidence in spelling through an effective, engaging, low-stress learning experience that looks very different from most other spelling programs.

Contact us below and get a free, no-obligation consultation from our experts.

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6 Signs Your Math Curriculum Isn’t Working

Selecting a math curriculum is a huge decision for homeschoolers.

Selecting a math curriculum is a huge decision for homeschoolers. After all, math is one of the “Three R’s,” full of essential skills your student needs to master, now and for their entire life. Talk about pressure! So you do your research, and you weigh all the options (Wow…So. Many. Options…) and, with probably a little trepidation, you make your choice.

And now you’re second-guessing.

Whether you’re new to homeschooling or have previously used the same curriculum with multiple students with great success, it’s not uncommon to reach a point where you question your choice of math program. Flexibility is one of the many benefits of homeschooling, so if it’s not working, it could be time for a change.

How can you know if it’s really not working? Here are six clear signs:

1. It’s Too Hard

This curriculum is making your student hate math. Your student is struggling every day to maintain the small gains you’ve made. Maybe it’s moving too fast and your student can’t keep up, or maybe they’re spending an inordinate proportion of their school hours doing math. Maybe your student relies mostly on procedures and rote memorization to work out problems and you’re concerned that they may not be developing the deeper conceptual understanding necessary to progress. You’ve tried everything but standing on your head – you’re willing to give that a shot if you thought it would help – and you’re both feeling discouraged.

2. It’s Too Easy

This might seem like a good thing compared to being too hard, but being bored is another great way to encourage your student to hate math. We want our students to love learning, not be frustrated or bored by it. Have you consistently seen that your student zips through problems (especially word problems) and doesn’t have to take the time to think about breaking them down into smaller parts, approaching them from different angles, or try using different methods to solve them? Students who find their math program too easy might not be developing the problem-solving and critical thinking skills they will need as they progress to more challenging material.

3. It Doesn’t Equip Parents with Tools for Teaching

The curriculum presents concepts in one way and one way only – and that way doesn’t make sense to your student. And it’s different from the way you learned it, and the curriculum doesn’t explain it in a way you can confidently present to your student. You contact customer support at the publisher for advice. They repeat the same method you’ve already tried, and don’t have other suggestions on how to overcome this obstacle. Now what?

4. There’s Too Much Material

Again, this might seem like a good thing. But it’s easy to be overwhelmed, as an instructor or a student, if there’s too much to take in. We, as parents, want to get our money’s worth, so we may feel like we should use all of the materials provided – even if they don’t add value or even confuse things. It’s also important to have access to practice materials, but there’s no benefit to busywork if your student has mastered the concept.

5. There’s Too Much Teacher Prep Time

While we expect to put in some effort to teach our children, most of us want a curriculum where a lot of the leg work has been done for us. If we have to spend a lot of time creating or modifying lessons, making materials for activities, or practicing the concepts ourselves, it can drain us and take time and energy away from more enjoyable activities. Which leads us to…

6. Nobody Is Having Any Fun!

Math lessons might not be a laugh a minute, but they should provide a balance of challenge and enjoyment. If you or your student dread math every day, trust your gut: something isn’t right.

If you find yourself nodding in agreement to one or more of these points, it could be time to make a move. Our experts can give advice on how Math-U-See might solve your math problem. (Get it? “Solve your math problem?” We crack us up!) And if we’re not right for you, we’ll tell you that, too. Let us help with a no-strings-attached consultation.

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