Many of us have a complicated relationship with math. If you had a bad experience with math as a child, you’re probably worried about passing that reluctance on to your kids.
Maybe you used a math program that didn’t suit your learning style. Your frustration doesn’t mean you are bad at math. You were just taught with an approach that didn’t match your way of learning. As a homeschool parent you have the opportunity to provide your child with an experience that works with their learning style and stokes their inner curiosity and delight.
If you’re choosing a math curriculum for your homeschool, it may help to decide which approach to teaching math will be best for your student: a spiral approach, a mastery approach, or a mixed approach. Once you’ve settled that question, if you still need more guidance as to which specific program to try, we give some more detailed information about some of the more popular homeschool math curriculums below.
Math-U-See is a hands-on program starting with basic arithmetic and progressing all the way through calculus. This program centers around a series of color-coded plastic manipulatives which students use to model math concepts as they are taught. The curriculum includes a DVD presentation of each lesson so you as a parent can watch alongside your student or they can view the DVD lessons independently.
Math-U-See would be a good fit for:
- Hands-on or kinesthetic learners
- Students who have struggled with another program and need a boost to their confidence
- Parents who feel anxious about teaching math
Saxon is a logical, step-by-step approach to math with new concepts introduced incrementally and then continuously reviewed throughout the year. This is a very thorough program that requires a significant amount of hands-on time from a parent instructor in the early years, but as the student matures, they can do more of the material on their own. By high school many students can function independently with the curriculum. Lessons are quite rigorous with plenty of drill on basic concepts and lots of review problems.
Saxon would be a good fit for:
- Verbal or logical learners
- Students who need continuous review to retain material
- Parents who feel comfortable explaining math concepts
If you’ve heard reports about how well students from other countries do in math compared to their American peers, this program may interest you. Since its creation by The Singapore Ministry of Education, many US schools and homeschoolers have chosen Singapore Math. This program covers grades 1 through 7 and emphasizes mental math and conceptual understanding of problems rather than rote memorization. Each concept is introduced in three stages: first with hands-on objects, then with pictures, and finally with written symbols.
Singapore would be a good fit for:
- Families who prefer a secular curriculum
- Learners who prefer a mix of hands-on and paper-and-pencil work
- Students who don’t need daily review to retain math concepts
Master Book’s elementary math program, Math Lessons for a Living Education, is a Charlotte Mason approach to math for grades kindergarten to 6. Each lesson follows twins Charlie and Charlotte using an ongoing story that provides real-life context for the math concepts being taught. Math instruction includes narration, copywork, and drawing along with recipes and other hands-on projects. This is a gentle approach to math that many students find engaging and enjoyable.
Math Lessons for a Living Education would be a good fit for:
- Families that follow a Charlotte Mason methodology
- Parents who want a straight forward, open-and-go curriculum
- Children who would benefit from easing into a math program
ShillerMath is a Montessori approach that combines manipulative intensive lessons with scripted instructions for the parent teacher. The program uses a spiral approach where a topic is introduced and then revisited later on at a higher level of difficulty. Unlike most math programs which prescribe a certain number of lessons to be completed per year, ShillerMath is very flexible. Parents assess when their students grasp a concept and are ready to move on. For most students one kit provides enough math material for several years of instruction.
ShillerMath would be a good fit for:
- Families who are drawn to the Montessori method
- Homeschoolers who value the freedom to work at their own pace
- Students who prefer hands-on learning to pencil-and-paper work.
Life of Fred
Life of Fred is a playful, self-teaching approach to math unlike any other curriculum. It follows the humorous adventures of a six-year-old math professor as he explores math concepts starting with basic arithmetic and building all the way to calculus over the course of the series. Each short chapter includes a piece of the story followed by a short set of practice problems (called ‘Your Turn to Play’). This program is very affordable and requires minimal time investment by the parent.
Life of Fred would be a good fit for:
- Families who follow an unschooling or eclectic approach
- Homeschoolers who want to make math fun and practical
- Students who learn well through stories and real-life scenarios
We hope these descriptions help you make a more informed choice when it comes to selecting a math program for your student. If you’d like more guidance, check out our Subject Specific Math Track for more great content.
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