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Figuring out Math Curriculum


Trying to figure out which math curriculum is the best fit for your family? Let us help you solve the problem and assist you in finding a solution for your family! There are primarily two methods of teaching math: the spiral-based approach and mastery-based approach. After reading this post, you will have math curriculum all figured out!


Spiral-based Approach. The first approach is called spiral-based; new concepts are broken down into small increments, and something new is introduced daily. These concepts are consistently repeated and reviewed in daily assignments until they become second nature for the student. Horizons, Saxon, and Teaching Textbooks are some of the more popular curriculums which teach in this manner.

In our experience, spiral-based curriculums can often provide a stronger understanding of math concepts. The consistent review of concepts sets them apart from other programs. If you take a look at spiral-based lessons, you will see new concepts introduced and mixed with a review of older concepts. We have found this approach frequently is able to include a wider variety of learning styles with their program styles.


Mastery Approach. The second approach you will encounter is a mastery-based approach; these programs teach and practice one concept at a time until it is mastered and then move onto a different concept in the next chapter. There is very little review of previously covered concepts. Math-U-See, Singapore Math, and Math Mammoth are some of the popular mastery-based programs.

If you think your child would retain concepts after they are initially taught and need little review, these programs may be a great fit. For children who need to focus on one topic at a time and not feel overwhelmed by encountering several different concepts on a page, this is a great option. If you look at a mastery-based lesson, you will see one concept introduced and practiced intensely for many lessons. Occasionally, you might encounter a review of previously taught concepts.


Considerations. Once you have decided what approach is the best fit for your family, there are a few more things to consider before making a final decision!

  • Type of program instruction. Are you looking for a more traditional paper and pencil type of program, a manipulative (hands-on) heavy approach, DVD instruction, a computer, or an online-based program? Consider how your child learns best; read this post on learning styles to help. Also, consider the support you will feel most comfortable with as a teacher. Would you prefer a program where each lesson is scripted or one that provides more of a general outline for you to follow?

  • Placement tests. It is very important to use each company’s placement test to determine which level to purchase. Do not be concerned if your child doesn’t place in the public school grade level you assumed they would be in. Some programs are considered more challenging than others. It is best to choose the program that fits your child--it will help to avoid frustrations down the road (for both of you) and allow your child to build their math skills with confidence!

  • Visual Layout. A consideration that is often overlooked is how a program is visually laid out. Once you start investigating math curriculum, you will see some programs are bright and colorful, whereas some are neutral or black and white. Some programs are organized in a spacious manner with larger print over several pages (or screens), while others are smaller print and confined to one page (or screen). For example, it may be easier to break a lesson into smaller chunks to complete with a more spacious layout, whereas a child might feel overwhelmed if they see everything they need to complete only one page. Brighter colors and pictures might add interest to a lesson for one student while it might be very distracting for another. Believe it or not, it can significantly impact a student! Take time to learn your child’s preferences.


Hopefully, you now feel like you can find the solution to your math (curriculum) problem! Focusing on which type of math approach would be the best fit for your students, plus considering a few other details, will equal the answer that will lay the foundation for a successful homeschooling year!



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