If experience is someone else’s teacher, allow mine to help you be the best for your children as you homeschool. I have always firmly believed that each child is different and there is no “one size fits all” approach to homeschooling. That has led me to do a variety of things for my children over the twenty-one years that I homeschooled. There are very few decisions I would revisit about our years together. There is, however, one decision that I would love to have a do-over for – and that is using Math-U-See for ALL my children, all the way through their academics.
You see, I became a homeschool mom literally overnight – provoked by the local school’s edict that there was “no need for the rote memorization process” for my daughter to learn her multiplication tables. I have always been a hesitant mathematician, and I, like so many other homeschool parents, wanted more for my children. I did not want to limit their life choices because they were as hesitant about math as I have been. We have used a LOT of materials over the years. Each of them has had merit, but Math-U-See has surpassed them all. Why do I think so?
1. First and foremost, it adapts to any learning style. My six kids have brought every combination of learning styles to the table. I know I am a visual learner – “no, you cannot read the ‘it says here’ from across the room – I have to read it with my OWN eyes.” No matter what their style, the program has been able to help them “see” math.
2. The lessons are short, concise, and to the point. We have mistakenly equated lesson length with rigor in the U.S. for years. Fifty problems do not make a better math student than twenty-five; what they CAN make is a frustrated math student. I love the fact that Math-U-See lessons meet my kids at their individual developmental ages. A younger student SHOULD spend LESS time doing math; they have shorter attention spans.
3. It makes for real world understanding because every lesson contains word problems. The materials make the lessons very practical. After all, Steve Demme says that in the adult world, when we use math, it IS a word problem.
4. The understanding that math is sequential and cumulative cannot be discounted. The crazy thing is that NO ONE ever said that to me until Math-U-See. If I had understood that every concept is built on the concept that precedes it, I would have known my own hesitancy with math was rooted in the fact that my foundation was not solid. When did I REALLY learn my facts – all my facts, addition/subtraction, multiplication/division? When I became a homeschool mom!
5. It is a practical approach to math, at its best. If you teach why a problem is solved, then, even if you forget the formula, you can still solve the problem.
So those are my five points. Now allow me to indulge in a Paul Harvey moment for a minute. A little more than a year and a half ago, we came “back” to Math-U-See. It had been a number of years since we had used the program. My almost-15-year-old son was really struggling with math, despite participating in a co-op situation where he had help. I dragged him kicking and screaming back into Delta. He had seen the math concepts, but he had not internalized them with that critical component of why. So we spent an intense 6 months going through materials again, using the Math-U-See methodology of “build, write, say” before he entered a public high school classroom for Algebra 1. That critical component of BUILDING the concepts with the manipulatives made all the difference in the world. He made it through Algebra 1 very respectably. This year, he has decided to tackle BOTH Geometry and Algebra 2, and, so far, a month into his studies, reports that they are his favorite classes. In ALL my years of parenting, that was something I NEVER expected one of my children to say. So is Math-U-See different, and is it worth it? Yes, every blessed moment of it!
Image above © Copyright 2014 I Choose Joy.