When it comes to homeschooling math, there are two basic approaches you can take. There is the spiral approach and the mastery approach. When we first began our homeschool journey, the spiral approach was appealing to me. At the time, I was unaware of Grasshopper’s dyslexia and how that can also cause difficulty with numbers. So I blindly jumped into a spiral approach curriculum.
A spiral approach is one where you learn a little about a math concept, then learn another concept. After some time, you circle or spiral back around to previous concepts taught. The idea is to learn a little and come back to review the concept then add more to it as you progress.
A mastery approach on the other hand will keep teaching one math concept or skill until it is mastered. Once one math concept is mastered, you move on to the next concept.
Our Problems with a Spiral Approach
Grasshopper was learning every math concept thrown at him. However, he was struggling to remember his math facts. We reviewed his adding and subtraction facts every day with flash cards, learning wraps, and worksheets. Nothing we were trying was helping him remember the math facts.
In time, I noticed that he started counting out the answer to each problem. Even simple ones like adding 2. While this might be ok in preschool or kindergarten, it’s not ok in second grade. I couldn’t allow him to continue progressing through math lessons without mastering his basic addition and subtraction facts. I knew I would be setting him up for a lot of frustration down the road if we didn’t find a solution.
Learning Mastery With Math-U-See
Since learning reading and spelling for dyslexic students requires a mastery approach, it’s really no surprise that a spiral approach wasn’t working well for us. When a friend of mine who is also homeschooling a dyslexic child told me of her success with math-u-see I was excited to give it a try.
Math-U-See uses a block manipulative set that made mastering math facts easy for Grasshopper. I was nervous to start over with math, but at the same time I wanted to make sure Grasshopper really mastered his math facts and learned how to use the manipulative blocks.
I appreciate how each level has a name (Alpha, Beta….) rather than a grade level number. This made it easy to go back to the beginning without making Grasshopper feel like he was going back to kindergarten or first grade. I simply explained to him that we were going to do some review so he could learn how to do math with the blocks. We were able to go back to without making him feel stupid.
Because Grasshopper already knew how to add and subtract and just needed to master his math facts we flew through the Alpha level in just a couple months. I was truly amazed at how quickly Grasshopper memorized his math facts with the this system. We moved onto the Beta level a few weeks ago, and again I am amazed at how well he is remembering all he’s learned.
Block Manipulative Set
Math-U-See has a fantastic block manipulative set that is a must have with their math curriculum. There are blocks to represent every number 1-10 and the number 100. The blocks make this program perfect for visual and/or hands-on learners.
I was nervous that Grasshopper would become dependent on the blocks to complete his worksheets. However, I am happy to report that this did not become a problem. Because of the mastery approach you can take each lesson at your own pace. It turned out that Grasshopper would need the blocks for a few problems and then he could complete the other worksheets for the lesson without using any blocks at all.
A Typical Week
With Math-U-See you’ll get a DVD, Integer Block Kit, Instructor’s manual, Student Workbook, and Test Booklet. You’ll also have the option of the digital pack which includes extra resources and the ability to watch the lessons from the DVD on your computer or tablet.
We start our week off by watching the short DVD lesson. I love how the DVD offers a teacher for us! I usually watch the lesson with Grasshopper so I know how to help him through the worksheets. The student workbook contains worksheets to correspond with each lesson. Because of the mastery approach, you will only do as many of the worksheets as your child needs.
There are seven worksheets and a test for each lesson. I’ve found we only need to do 3 or 4 worksheets before Grasshopper has mastered the lesson. So for us, we’ll watch the DVD on Monday and do a worksheet. Then, we do a worksheet on the lesson each day until he’s mastered it. Usually, by Friday we’re ready for the lesson test. If we’re not quite ready for the test, we simply do another worksheet!
You’ll also find free parent resources online where you can print more worksheets or do online drills. These can be helpful if you feel that your child needs additional practice.
My Overall Impression
This is the third math program we’ve used. I can honestly say that this is the first program we’ve used where I feel confident that Grasshopper is not only learning the concepts, but also mastering his math facts. He’s no longer counting to find the answer which was my goal with switching to this program. I know in the long run setting this firm foundation in his math facts will be a huge advantage for him.
When discussing homeschool curriculum with people, I always tell them that if they have a limited budget they should always invest in a high quality math and reading program. My reasoning is that these are the two courses that continue to build as the child progresses. If you don’t set a firm foundation in these two subjects, your child will struggle as the material gets more difficult. Math-U-See is one of those curriculum options that is worth the investment!
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