My high school teacher in Switzerland once told me “You are excellent in all subjects and in math you cannot get any worse…” So as you can imagine, teaching math was an intimidating idea for me, as it is for many parents. However, are public school teachers more qualified to teach elementary and middle school math than the average parent? You might be surprised to learn that the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education tested every student teacher in Ontario in 2018, and despite being top university graduates, a full one-third were unable to pass the sixth-grade EQAO standardized test in mathematics for Ontario children. So take heart!
The great news is that there are a great variety of excellent math curricula that provide help and guidance at all grade levels. As a homeschool parent you have the added advantage of selecting a program that fits your child’s learning style and progressing at their own pace. For younger students you have the opportunity of laying a strong foundation in elementary math. The groundwork of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division is essential for forming abstract thinking skills in higher math. Students in schools are allowed to use calculators very early on, and often lack a true understanding of math fundamentals, leaving them helpless with more difficult or innovative problems. For older students, you also have the opportunity of incorporating real life math including calculating discounts, adding up bills, learning about taxes, investments, and budgeting.
Here is a selection of excellent math curricula to choose from:
Right Start Math (Grade 1-8) “RightStart™ Mathematics is a complete elementary and middle-school program that uses visualization of quantities, de-emphasizes counting, and provides strategies and games for learning the facts. The primary learning tool is the AL Abacus, a specially designed two-sided abacus that is both kinesthetic and visual.” Here you can find a placement test as well as sample lessons.
Math Mammoth (Grade 1-8)”Math Mammoth materials are very versatile and accommodate the needs of both parents and teachers. Whether you need a complete math curriculum, review materials, something for filling in gaps, or real-life math supplements.”This program consists of two student worktexts (A and B), a separate answer key for each, tests, mixed revisions, and in the download version, an additional worksheet maker (Internet access required) to make extra practice worksheets when needed. There are instructional videos for each of the concepts as well as a variety of additional online practice exercises for each chapter. You can view samples of the curriculum here and order the grade 7 set for US $39.50. If you would like to have a live online class to go along with this curriculum you can find one at The Potter’s School here (enter Pre-Algebra in the course catalogue).
- focuses on understanding of mathematical concepts
- uses clear explanations, lots of visual exercises and pattern exercises
- mastery oriented: concentrates at length on a topic, with very few topics per grade
- emphasizes mental maths and developing number sense
- very little teacher preparation needed
Math Mammoth also offers a free two-week math teaching course with topics such as: How to help a student who is behind in math; The value of mistakes in math learning; Principles of deeply effective math teaching etc. Here you can find a placement test and there a lots of samples and freebie available on their webpage.
Singapore Math This is a traditional math program taught in a direct, easy to understand manner. The right amount of repetition, uncluttered pages, and a concise teaching style have made this program very popular with homeschoolers. Singapores’s Primary Mathematics is more advanced than just about every other math program used in the U.S. Curriculum reviewer Cathy Duffy: “Primary Mathematics has taken the homeschool market by storm, and with good reason. This program teaches children to think mathematically rather than just having them memorize the mechanics of problem solving. Primary Mathematics lays a solid foundation for conceptual understanding using a three-step process, taking children from concrete, to pictorial, then abstract approaches to learning. Concepts are addressed from a number of directions that challenge students to think and understand.”
Beast Academy was created to “help kids ages 8‑13 build their problem-solving skills while learning elementary math. Students learn new topics from the graphic-novel-style Guides, and then master math topics by solving engaging problems and challenging puzzles. Beast Academy can be used either as a set of physical books, as an Online program (which also offers access to videos and chapter tests), or as a mix of both.” Here you can find a placement test. Beast Academy is the elementary math curriculum created by the Art of Problem Solving (see below).
Math-U-See (Grade 1-12) “Math-U-See is designed to teach students specific skills that build as the student progresses. This systematic and cumulative approach uses a definite, logical sequence of concept instruction. The Math-U-See system is structured with step-by-step procedures for introducing, reviewing, practicing, and mastering concepts. Each lesson teaches using multi-sensory tools such as videos, manipulatives, and other resources, designed to appeal to any type of learner. With these resources, we are able to adapt to a variety of homeschool styles.” Here you can find a placement test as well as a demonstration video. Samples can be viewed in their online store.
Teaching Textboooks (Grade 3-12) This is an online math curriculum that uses mulitmedia step-by step tutorials. It teaches all concepts thoroughly, provides thorough explanations for each problem, provides grading for each lesson as well as assessments for each chapter. This curriculum does not require any parental instruction. As a math program, it is a bit more simple than other math curricula and students will likely be able to start at a grade level higher (you can use the placement tool to determine the best starting point). Teaching Textbooks provides a free trial period so that you can assess whether it fits with your expectation and your student’s learning style. You can enrol for your free trial here and order a 12-month enrolment for US $67.08.
CTC Math (Grade K -12) Curriculum reviewer Cathy Duffy: CTC Math is an online, subscription-based math program for kindergarten through high school created and taught by Australian math teacher Patrick Murray. It is intended to serve as your core math program, although it could also be used to supplement other math courses. For each course, lessons are divided into a number of “streams” or broad areas of math then further divided into topics within each stream. Then each topic will have a number of lessons. CTC Math is an excellent option for math: It is easy to navigate, and it is efficient in both the tutorials and the presentation of problems to solve. The fact that students can review and practice as needed is a real plus. Students can watch tutorials or jump in and try to complete the problems without watching the tutorial if they think they already know the concept.CTC Math offers a number of very affordable plans: monthly, six-month, or twelve-month. They also offer membership for a single student or a family plan for two or more students and discounts for homeschoolers. They also offer a free trial.
Art of Problem Solving AoPS Curriculum (Grade 7-12 – Competition Math) If you have a high-achieving math student, who is interested in math competitions or a future career with an emphasis on mathematics, then this curriculum is an excellent choice. AoPS “is specifically designed for high-performing math students in grades 5-12. We present a much broader and deeper exploration of challenging mathematics than a typical math curriculum and show students how to apply their knowledge and problem-solving skills to difficult problems. We help students learn the critical problem-solving skills necessary for success at mathematics competitions (such as MATHCOUNTS and the AMC), top universities, and competitive careers.”
Something a bit different
Right Start Math Games – With this Math Card Games Kit children have fun while learning or reinforcing math skills. Kit includes everything needed to play math games: Math Card Games book by Joan A. Cotter, Ph.D., six special decks of cards, two laminated fraction charts and an AL Abacus Standard. Includes chapters on numeration, addition, subtraction, clocks, money, multiplication, division, and fractions. Supplements any math curriculum.The Math Card Games book has 300 card games providing practice in learning concepts and the facts. Chapters on: Number Sense, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, money, clocks, and fractions. The games become progressively harder within each chapter. Use with any math program. Also excellent for remedial work. Why games are important, tips on playing the games, description of the six special decks of cards, and some practical considerations are discussed in the Introduction.
Life of Fred – This is a great favourite of many homeschoolers! “Never again hear the question which many math students have: “When are we ever gonna use this stuff?” or “Math is boring!” No other textbooks are like these. Each text is written in the style of a novel with a humorous story line. Each section tells part of the life of Fred Gauss and how, in the course of his life, he encounters the need for the math and then learns the methods. Tons of solved examples. Each hardcover textbook contains ALL of the material – more than most instructors cover in traditional classroom settings. Includes tons of proofs. Written by Dr. Stanley Schmidt with the intent to make math come alive with lots of humour, clear explanations, and silly illustrations that stick in the mind. The student will learn to think mathematically. Completion of this series prepares student for third year college math.
Free Math Resources
Khan Academy Possibly the web’s biggest and free site for math videos. What started out as Sal making a few algebra videos for his cousins has grown to over 2,100 videos and 100 self-paced exercises and assessments covering everything from arithmetic to physics, finance, and history.
cK-12 CK-12 is a large, free site for learning and practicing math and science. It contains text-based lessons, FlexBooks® (digital textbooks in PDF, ePub and mobi formats), videos, and quizzes for multitudes of math and science topics from K to grade 12.
MathTV.com Over 6,000 free, online video lessons for basic math, algebra, trigonometry, and calculus. Videos also available in Spanish. Also includes online textbooks.