We have just taken our homeschooling math experience to a new level! I am not just referring to moving our 5th grader to the next book in a program after the completion of a level, but rather the whole mathematical experience! We have been reviewing Demme Learning’s Math-U-See Pre-Algebra Digital Packs program with Bookworm Beauty.
The timing could not have been better. She was in public school for her first two years, then a language immersion school for the next two years, and she was being taught from the same math curriculum in both schools. It was easy to make the decision to continue with the same program that she was already used to when we decided to homeschool. Over the two years of homeschooling I have invested little time in researching math curriculum; I only looked into the specific program that she had been utilizing. That held true until January of this year when I realized that the program she was using did not have a next level in the series, but instead made a shift into a completely different program with the secondary math options. I knew that it was going to be a good time to make a decision to continue with the same product or to begin looking elsewhere as it would be a logical breaking point if we wanted to make a change.
Timing always amazes me… I was notified about the opportunity to review Math-U-See during my research time. Bookworm Beauty took several of the placement tests offered and we determined that Pre-Algebra was the appropriate level for her to start at.
I continued to spend hours researching multiple math programs before the arrival of the Math-U-See Pre-Algebra Universal Set, a value of $169.00, which included everything we would need to be successful with the program: the Pre-Algebra: Instruction Manual with complete solutions, Instruction DVD, Student Workbook, Tests booklet, Integer Block Kit, Algebra/Decimal Inserts and 12 months of access to the new Pre-Algebra Digital Pack. Although I was hopeful that this program would work for us, I did not have any preconceived expectation that we would continue with it following our review. I did not want to make a long-term decision on a curriculum based solely on having the opportunity to receive the products for a review. We decided to withhold any decisions until we saw how well the program worked for us and specifically for Bookworm Beauty.
It was like Christmas morning when Bookworm Beauty received the giant box of materials. She opened up the box of manipulatives and immediately wanted to start her first lesson, just so she could use them! Unlike Christmas morning, her enthusiasm for this product and completing math lessons did not seem to wane at all during the review period. This is a definite plus!
One thing that was new to us was having a math program that included video instruction by another teacher. Steve Demme, the developer of Math-U-See, instructs the students via pre-recorded video lessons. Having taught math at virtually every level from elementary to college, he has a quite an ability to simplify mathematical concepts and make them easy to understand.
Another thing that was greatly appreciated was that although Bookworm Beauty was moving into secondary mathematics, there was actually less dependence upon me for seeing it through. I was always good at math and entered into secondary math at the same age so it would not have been difficult for me to teach. However, having multiple ages of students to teach at home, all independent work is a bonus! I typically allow her to attempt working independently to see how far she can get without assistance. My waiting for her to let me know that she needed help was long and only ended when I finally made decision to check in on her. It was a great feeling to realize that she could truly work independently with this program. She has successfully done so during the entire review period. My only involvement has been to check her work and to be fully engaged when she teaches me the concepts that she has learned (the final step a student has before moving forward to the next lesson is to teach the concept to their parent).
Although we had the instructional DVD and textbook, we also had the ability to access our lessons digitally. We found that this was a very handy feature as there are times that the television is either unavailable or the family room is just not the ideal location for working through a math lesson. It gave her the freedom to complete a math lesson wherever she chose as she was able to access it on multiple electronic devices. This was a convenience that I was not initially looking for, but found that it was highly appreciated and now a necessity to any math program we ever look into.
The math manipulatives became a highlight for Bookworm Beauty. She appreciated having the ability to see the newly introduced concepts, which better enabled her to fully grasp them. I like the fact that they are usable with each level of instruction Math-U-See offers. This is important as I am certain we will be moving Sweetness and The Boy over as soon as they complete their current books.
We are no longer withholding our decision. I am confident that Bookworm Beauty will continue with this program and since they offer instruction through Calculus, Math-U-See will be a household name for a long time to come.