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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Mastering addition facts is a critical part of becoming a confident math student. Songs, music, and rhyme are all helpful tools to aid students in memorizing and reciting their math facts. Maybe you remember Three Is A Magic Number, My Hero, Zero, and other Schoolhouse Rock hits fondly, and can still sing them word for word.
With the goal of memorization in mind, we’ve taken the Addition Facts songs from our Skip Count & Addition Facts CD & Songbook and made them available right here. So you’ll find the songs, sheet music, and coloring pages for seven different types of addition facts that could be tricky for students but provide an essential foundation for the next levels of math. The songs provide a memorable approach to the addition strategies taught in Alpha by including catchy phrases and silly sounds like “9 would like to be 10” and “slurp.” Keep in mind that information that is stored in the brain through singing a song is retrieved the same way it was entered; therefore your student may likely sing it in its entirety to arrive at the information he wants to find. Once the songs are learned, we recommend practicing and saying the math facts without the music to ensure that your has committed them to memory.
So we didn’t stop there, at just memorization. If you’re familiar with the Math-U-See approach , we don’t like to stop at just the “what?” of math facts – we pride ourselves on digging into the “why?” behind the “how?” To help your students get to the “why?,” our Curriculum Development team has come up with fun and engaging activities you can try together with your student. These hands-on activities use Math-U-See Integer Blocks or household items to reinforce conceptual understanding and mastery of single-digit addition facts.
Enjoy these fun ways to help build a strong math foundation for your lifelong learner!
To access your free addition facts practice tools, please provide your name and email address.
This spring, we developed a summer skills maintenance program for a school customer. We took the key objectives from the Primer, Alpha, Beta, and Gamma levels and created a program that would focus on maintaining the skills the students had learned through fun activities, the Math-U-See Manipulatives, and a student workbook.
We have had similar requests from homeschool parents and we wanted to give you the opportunity to try the school version this summer. We’d also like you to tell us if this is something you would like us to produce for homeschoolers, even if now isn’t the right time for you.
We call it the Math-U-See Skills Maintenance Program, and we’d like you to try it and tell us what you think before we proceed with developing it as a homeschool product. It’s important to know that we haven’t made any modifications for homeschoolers yet. That’s why we need your feedback.
• This is a review program. We’ve selected key concepts for review that will best ensure your student is prepared for the next level of Math-U-See. Therefore, please select the level that your student has just completed, not the next level.
• Remember, this was developed for schools, so the language is geared toward a classroom setting. However, the content and activities can easily be adapted for your homeschool.
• For $38, you’ll receive the Teacher’s Guide, Student Workbook, Activities, and Digital License for your selected level (currently only Primer, Alpha, Beta, or Gamma). You can also purchase an extra Skills Maintenance Student Workbook for $15 if you have more than one student working in a level. We’ll be sending a follow-up survey after a few weeks just to see what you think. It’s not required, but your feedback and experiences would really be helpful to make this product the best it can be.
If you’re interested in learning more, please say so on the following survey. Even if you’re not interested for this summer or these levels, we value your input on what you would like to see in a summer math program – please complete the survey anyway. And if you think a summer math program isn’t necessary (and you’re still reading!), we’d like to know that, too.
Are you mad? Read on for a make-up freebie!
We’re really sorry for pulling your leg, but hear us out: there’s a very good educational reason why we don’t have a “zero block” in our Integer Block Kit. As Steve Demme says, “How can you represent nothing with something?”
But the concept of zero is a critical one to understand at all levels of math; even though it literally means nothing, it does a lot and has a huge impact on all of the mathematical processes that it touches. It’s essential that the concept is thoroughly understood. The main difference between zero and the other numbers is that zero does not have a tangible visual form. This may make teaching the concept of zero more challenging than teaching counting and other early number concepts. As a result, it’s best to introduce it after a child begins to understand the value of numbers.
Reinforce the Concept of Zero with These Activities
Struggling to find a meaningful and creative way to teach the number zero? The zero experts in our Curriculum Development department have put together some activities that you can use to reinforce the concept with your math student.
1. Here are a few activities that you can use with students working in Primer through Beta to teach and reinforce the concept of zero.
2. Try these activities with students who are working in Gamma through Zeta.
3. Use these activities if your student is working through Pre-Algebra or Algebra 1 to teach and reinforce the concept of zero at a more advanced level.
This is a story about how a proud non-math user, who would have sworn she had no use for algebra, had an eye-opening encounter with upper-level math in the real world through knitting and lived to brag about it.
When I was homeschooling my twins and we were learning about skip counting (covered in Primer through Gamma), I mentioned to the kids that, as a knitter, I use skip counting all the time on every project. As an experienced and fairly advanced knitter, it’s not unheard of for me to have 400+ stitches on my needles if I’m using a very fine-gauge yarn. I don’t want to count 400+ stitches by ones. But it’s critical to start with the proper number of stitches, so I skip count my cast-on stitches, usually by twos, and then skip count again (and sometimes again!) before I start so I’m starting with the proper number. There’s nothing more discouraging than realizing six rows in that you have 398 stitches when the pattern calls for 400.
Then, during another lesson in Delta, I thought about how more advanced patterns don’t say, “Knit 4, increase 1 stitch.” Most of my patterns will simply say, “Increase X stitches evenly across the row.” Boom! Division in action! I have to take the total number of stitches currently on my needles and divide by the number of stitches to increase; this tells me how frequently I need to add a stitch to end up with the new total at the end of the row.
So that got me thinking about all the ways that I adjust and adapt patterns for all the different projects I knit on a regular basis, and I wondered: could this be…MATH? I talked to our Curriculum Development folks (who, you will be happy to know, ARE devoted “math people”) and they assured me that, yes, it certainly is math, and not only that, I am actually using geometry, or even ALGEBRA, on a regular basis and don’t even know it.
Besides the arithmetic I’ve already identified, here are some other ways I (apparently!) use higher math functions:
Ratios in Knitting
Like most knitters and fiber enthusiasts, I don’t always purchase the yarn called for in the pattern as written. Perhaps it’s a fiber I don’t like, or more likely, I have something in my stash of lovely yarns that I think would be perfect for the project. Yarn comes in various weights, and if you want to have a project fit the way it is designed, you need to make sure that your knitting matches the gauge recommended in the pattern. Alternately, if you’re brave and a little daring, you can adapt the pattern to suit the gauge of your preferred yarn. This requires an understanding of ratios. If you are knitting the front of a sweater and the pattern calls for 90 stitches to make a piece 18” wide, you can determine that you have a ratio of 5 stitches to 1 inch. If your selected yarn gives you a gauge of 7 stitches per inch, you’ll need to cast on 126 stitches to end up with a piece the same width– or, if you get 4 stitches per inch, you’ll only need 72 stitches. This means that I’m using ratios and proportions to make sure my gorgeous baby alpaca/cashmere blend results in a sweater that fits.
Congruence in Knitting
I’m an avid sock knitter. I love the colors and the fun yarns and tailor-fitting the sock to my feet and the portability of a small project and everything about knitting socks, so I’ve made a lot of them. My process is, I’ll keep a loose eye on the pattern for the first sock, measure and try on a lot, and make sure that the first sock is pretty much exactly how I want it. Having fairly normal feet, in that they’re nearly identical in size and shape, for the second sock I ignore the measuring and trying on and just knit it. I used to think that I just wanted the second sock to match the first. But now that I’m a “math person,” I know that I want it to be congruent – to be identical in every way to the first one!
Slope (for the win) in Knitting
I’m currently knitting a V-neck cardigan, using a pattern intended for experienced knitters. The instructions are given fairly clearly (to those well-versed in knitting pattern language, that is) for the right front side. The left front? The complete instructions are: “Knit as right front, reversing pattern and shaping.” Well. That would be a bit of a kick in the head…if I didn’t know that this was a reflection (a type of transformation)! And to make the V-neck, I (apparently) was finding the slope of a line. This allowed me to determine how frequently I needed to decrease and in which direction to achieve the slanted edge of the V. After performing these bits of math magic, I ended up with the following.
Dilation in Knitting
Let’s say we make ourselves a sweater and it’s so adorable that we want to make one for the WHOLE FAMILY! Obviously we need to make the pattern larger or smaller. To do that, we perform another transformation – dilation. (Note: it’s possible for this to get out of hand.)
When I could finally put down the pencil, as it were, having finished school, I thought I was finished with math forever. When I picked up my knitting needles, though, I found that math mattered more than ever.
Today, an American treasure turns 100. Beverly Cleary, author and creator of beloved characters like Ramona and Beezus Quimby, Henry Huggins, and Ralph S. Mouse, has provided us with stories that are timeless classics.
Although many of her books are set in a time when mothers didn’t work outside the home and computers were things found in science fiction, the human nature that Cleary is able to describe so eloquently is unchanging and forever relatable. We asked some Demme Learning employees to share their favorite Beverly Cleary book or character.
Jean S., Managing Editor: My favorite Beverly Cleary book was Ellen Tebbits. It was so gratifying to see that I wasn’t the only socially-awkward misfit whose mother made her wear old-fashioned clothing! Beverly Cleary is a master at understanding children and helping them laugh and grow through the stories she tells – definitely one of my all-time favorite authors!
Carolyn M., Marketing Coordinator: I remember sitting in the corner of our library with my class, and watching filmstrips of Ramona Quimby, the little girl who tried, but couldn’t avoid getting into scrapes. I’ll never forget the moment she accidentally crushed the egg on her head at lunch. Who hasn’t had a day in third grade kind of like that?
Melissa L., Administrative Assistant: Ramona Quimby, Age 8 and Beezus and Ramona were my JAM as a kid! One of my favorite parts was when she thought her parents were getting a divorce because they argued about how pancakes were supposed to be cooked! I also loved when Ramona was so mad she desperately wanted to swear, but didn’t know any swear words so she said, “guts” over and over…
Heather U., Accounting Generalist: The Mouse and the Motorcycle is a classic. I’m so glad my kids still have books that keep their interest more than apps or video games.
Gretchen R., Consultative Sales Rep: We love Beverly Cleary – she has been a part of our family for years!! One of my favorite lines from Ramona Quimby, Age 8 is: “With all four members of the family leaving at different times in different directions, mornings were flurried in the Quimby household.” I often think that things are “flurried” – in all sorts of ways!!
Joseph D., Online Marketing Specialist: Two of my favorite books growing up were Ralph S. Mouse and The Mouse and the Motorcycle; I love how Cleary writes these books in a way that they’re believably fantastical. I recently started reading Ramona the Pest to my three-year-old daughter, and after two pages she announced, “No pictures!” She’s not quite ready yet, but I’m sure she’ll be a fan.
Aimee S., Marketing Manager: All of the Ramona books resonated with me, as a little sister who mercilessly, and often unintentionally, tortured her big sister. I can also relate to thinking I’m smarter than I really am and being humbled in some pretty humiliating ways. As Cleary says, “It’s not that [Ramona] is naughty, it’s that things just didn’t work out the way she thought they should.” Ramona made me laugh at her experiences and helped me develop the ability to laugh at my own.
Cleary is unique in her broad, timeless appeal. Her stories are perfect for reading aloud and appreciated by readers and listeners of all ages. Visit your library to share these funny, touching, engaging stories with the next generation of readers.
Math-U-See approaches teaching and learning math just a little bit differently from other math curricula. We’re organized into levels, not grades, so students can proceed at their own pace as they master concepts. We believe in individualized instruction. And at the heart of our math curriculum – our manipulatives. More than just a supplement, Math-U-See Manipulatives are an integral part of our curriculum.
But because we’re different from others, we know it can be a little confusing to know what you need, whether you’re looking at our program for the first time (welcome aboard!) or are progressing steadily through levels with multiple students. We wanted to make it as simple as possible to make sure you have everything you need for your level.
That’s why we’re introducing our new Math-U-See Curriculum Sets. Wherever you are in your math instruction, we have a Set that will meet your needs. And the best news is, Math-U-See Curriculum Sets are priced at an attractive discount compared to the individual components, plus they include an exciting new value-added Element for free!
Math-U-See Universal Sets include everything you need for a level – the Instruction Manual with complete solutions, Instruction DVD, Student Workbook, Tests Booklet, all manipulatives required for the level, and login information for our new Digital Pack for the level.
If you have some or all of the required manipulatives, then you’ll want to consider a Math-U-See Level Up Set. With the Instruction Manual with complete solutions, Instruction DVD, Student Workbook, Tests Booklet, your choice to include any manipulatives you might be missing, and login information for our new Digital Pack for the level, you won’t end up with more – or less – than you need.
Of course, if you’re a long-time Math-U-See customer (thanks – you’re the reason we do what we do!), and just need the consumable Student Pack with the Student Workbook and Tests booklet for your second or third student who’s moving through a level, that’s available too, as are all the separate components you’re used to seeing from us.
The Algebra/Decimal Insert Kit is used with the Integer Block Kit to teach advanced decimal and algebra concepts in Zeta, Pre-Algebra, and Algebra 1. This Kit includes a booklet that shows at a glance how the Inserts can be used to teach a wide variety of decimal and algebra concepts; 20 red hundredths blocks; 4 red snap-in squares; 4 green snap-in squares; 15 blue snap-in strips; and 15 gray snap-in strips.
Introducing our improved Fraction Overlay Kit, with more unit pieces to make building mixed-number problems easier, and a dry-erase marker to work problems right on the overlays – both the colored and clear pieces will wipe clean. The fold-shut case itself easily stands on a bookshelf but is easy to manipulate and compact enough to be portable, and the tabbed flaps ensure everything stays put – no fishing pieces out of the schoolbag or off the floor. And each pocket is labeled so everything can easily be sorted and returned to the proper place for the next lesson. The new Fraction Overlay Kit is included with the Epsilon Universal Set or can be purchased separately as an Element.
Meet the Math-U-See Manipulatives Integer Block Kit – Goldilocks’ favorite manipulatives block set, because it’s “just right”! Our Curriculum Development team has carefully reviewed every single lesson and activity in each level that requires the use of Integer Blocks and determined the precise number that is just right for all levels of Math-U-See. This is the only Block Kit you’ll ever need, no matter what levels of Math-U-See your students are in. It’s included in Universal Sets that require Integer Blocks, and available as a separate Element. A durable carrying case has a convenient tray for simple clean-up and storage.
We’ve got more exciting news to share – something that you’ve been asking about for years! We are pleased to introduce the Demme Digital Packs for all of our Math-U-See levels. Accessible through any internet browser, you will have streaming video versions of our Instructional DVD, a PDF of the Instruction Manual, access to an online version of our Digital Manipulatives, and convenient links to a number of our free online resources. Twelve months of access is included free with the purchase of any Math-U-See Curriculum Set, or purchase access to any level separately for a reasonable subscription fee.
Maybe you’ve noticed a little something extra going on with the advertising from all of our Demme Learning products – Math-U-See, Spelling You See, even KinderTown. It’s that 25 year crest you see above. Our whole Demme Learning family is very excited because 2015 marks our 25th year of Building Lifelong Learners!
The company that is named Demme Learning hasn’t been around for 25 years; this is true. However, “Demme learning” has been around pretty much since there was a Steve Demme, since it’s built around his love of learning and finding unique ways to reach individual students and empower parents. It’s really been a lot longer than twenty-five years, although we won’t make Mr. Demme share his age here in this public forum. Because we officially have to start somewhere, we chose to start counting from 1990, when Steve Demme (who you may know as “my kid’s math teacher”) introduced a set of manipulatives and a method of teaching math for homeschoolers that allows students to move at their own pace to develop mastery before moving to the next concept; Math-U-See was born.
It’s the philosophy that has built Demme Learning that we’re celebrating. That means the beliefs about learning and educating that Steve Demme turned first into a math curriculum and then a learning company, and that are being carried out each day by his sons who have been instilled with that same love of and passion for learning. Demme Learning is about providing parents with tools to help their children learn in the ways that their kids learn best. We believe that students need to master topics and concepts sequentially because learning builds from concept to concept. Learning doesn’t just happen in one way for every individual. We believe that parents are capable of teaching their children and need to be encouraged and reminded and built up so they can do so. They know their kids best and should be considered an expert resource on their own child.
In summary, we trust parents. It’s this philosophy that is officially 25 years old in 2015, and that is embodied and represented in each member of the Demme Learning family, whether they carry the Demme name, are a committed Demme Learning employee, or are a member of our extended Demme family of dedicated customers.
It may have first taken the form of a unique math curriculum, but it was (and is) a lot bigger than that; it’s expanded to include an innovative spelling curriculum and a thoughtful tool for digitally engaged parents to select quality educational apps.
In short, we’re not a “math company.” We’re not even a “curriculum company.” We’re a “supporting engaged parents, building lifelong learners, and getting excited about learning” company. We have been for the last twenty-five years, and, God willing, we will be for the next twenty-five.
We thank you for being with us on this exciting journey and hope you can celebrate along with us this year, online or in person!