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Math-U-See is a hands-on mastery-based math curriculum published by Demme Learning. I’ve used several levels in our homeschool with two of my kids so far. Each year that we used it, we used it for the entire year and completed the book.
Math-U-See is a mastery-based curriculum, where each level is mostly dedicated to covering just one or two topics thoroughly (ex. addition and subtraction for multiple-digit numbers, division for single and multiple-digit numbers) rather than the spiral approach of jumping around to different topics. Therefore, rather than naming each level for a grade, each elementary level, with the exception of Primer (kindergarten) is given a Greek letter (Alpha, Beta, Gamma, etc.).
With this different approach to teaching math, it’s important for students coming from a different curriculum to take a placement test to know where they should be.
The core elements of Math-U-See consist of:
- an instruction manual (contains answer key)
- a student workbook
- an integer block kit.
In addition to these core elements, you can also get:
- an instructional DVD
- a test book
- skip count song CD/mp3’s
The upper elementary levels also require additional hands-on elements.
For convenience, these various curriculum elements are sold as sets, depending on what you need.
- If you’ve never used Math-U-See before, you should purchase the universal set for your particular level.
- If your student is moving to the next level, you should purchase the level-up set.
- If a younger child is moving to a level that an older student has completed, you can order the individual elements that you need.
Each level of Math-U-See has about 30 lessons. The student receives instruction for each lesson either via the instructional DVD or a parent (with the help of the instructional book).
The student workbook contains seven worksheets per lesson (1A, 1B, 1C, etc.). Worksheets A, B, and C are for practice of the new concept taught in that lesson. Worksheets D, E, and F serve as systematic review of concept learned so far. Worksheet G is intended to be an enrichment or “fun” worksheet. You can also create additional worksheets online with the digital pack.
The worksheets sometimes have an example problem filled out, but it does NOT contain instruction on the new topic. So the student will require instruction on the new topic from the instructional DVD or parent.
Since color is important for some students, you should note that the worksheets are very plain and not colorful.
The test book contains a test for each lesson, along with unit tests and a final test. The answers to the tests and worksheets are in the instruction manual.
It’s up to the parent to decide:
- how to give the student instruction
- which worksheets the student will do
- whether or not to use the tests
- whether or not to grade
While the integer block kit is a hands-on method of teaching, some students may require something more or different. For example, we had great success with the Dice Activities for Multiplication activity book. The game Sum Swamp is also popular for early elementary.
Teacher prep will depend on your student’s learning preferences and how you decide to use the curriculum. If your student receives instruction from you rather than the DVD lessons, it’ll help to review the lesson in the instruction book ahead of time. But you should have to give instruction usually just once a week or so.
Again, this will depend on how you decide to use the curriculum (worksheets) and how well the student understands the new concept. I’ve had my students do two worksheets a day (one lesson practice worksheet and one systematic review worksheets), one worksheet a day (progressing through the workbook), and even just a couple of worksheets a week. For early elementary, I find that twenty minutes is usually enough time. But by fourth grade (long division!), you’ll want to schedule about 45 minutes.
To whom would I recommend Math-U-See?
- Students that do well with Interactive learning methods since Math-U-See is workbook-based with hands-on elements. A student that does well with Visual and Spoken Word learning methods will appreciate the instructional DVD.
- Students that prefer One-on-One learning if a parent will be providing the instruction. After introduction to the new concept each lesson, Independent learners will prefer to work on their own.
To whom would I NOT recommend Math-U-See?
- Students that strongly prefer learning via the Written Word because instruction is not included on the worksheets and the instruction manual is written for the teacher/parent.
- Students that do not enjoy Interactive/Physical learning methods since the integer blocks are an integral part of the curriculum.
- Students that do not do well with One-on-One learning if they also are not Visual/Spoken Word learners since that would mean receiving instruction from a parent and not the DVD.
My Best Tips for Using Math-U-See
My best tip – do not move on from a lesson/concept until the student has mastered it. Future learning will build upon the current lesson, so moving on before a student is ready to will only lead to frustration, loss of confidence, and maybe even despair – for both parent and child!
I’ve found it helpful to step away from the curriculum if my student is struggling with a concept and find another way to practice it using my child’s most preferred learning method.
The Last Thing You Need to Know about Math-U-See
While not the most exciting or fun-looking math curriculum out there, Math-U-See is solid, relatively easy to use, and does a good job of helping students to feel confident in their math skills (as long as the parent/teacher doesn’t rush the student through the curriculum!).