Saturday, December 27, 2008

Math Mammoth

When I first considered home education the only thought that created great fear in my heart was the realization that I would have to teach math. I have never been, nor will I ever be a mathematician. I have consistently related to mathematics during my lifetime like oil to water. Fourteen plus years ago, I knew I needed a really great curriculum to help explain to me how to teach my children mathematic principles and lead them to higher level computation and critical thinking.

Luckily, Saxon Math came into our lives during my first year of teaching 4th grade and even though many find it too labor intensive I have always counted it among our blessings. Our testimony currently resides in my eldest daughter, the engineering student who during her first year of college has tutored Calculus students and completed her entire math track for her engineering coursework. Believe me when I tell you she didn’t inherit that from me!

But wait! I did write, 4th grade, didn’t I? What have I used for math for grades 1-3? That is a good question because as great as some curricula are for older kids with rigorous training, etc., I have found them too much for little ones. I honestly don’t want my 7 year old spending an hour a day on her math schoolwork. It is just too much.

Welcome Math Mammoth to my homeschool repertoire! It is my newest discovery for math curriculum for the little guys. Math Mammoth is a traditional basic math curriculum geared mainly to grades 1-5 delivered to homeschoolers in a very non-traditional format.

Math Mammoth is available for purchase through the Math Mammoth website by downloading a PDF zip file of the entire text, purchasing a CD of the text or the more traditional format of a black and white bound hard copy of the text. Customers willing to purchase the e-book format option of a PDF download for their curriculum are rewarded through price and flexibility. Single topic downloads are priced around $3.00 per topic while entire curriculum downloads are merely $27.00.

Math Mammoth is written by Taina Maria Miller. She describes herself as “a math teacher turned housewife, homeschooler and website and book author.” She holds a master’s degree in mathematics with teacher educational studies and minors in physics and statistics and has teaching experience ranging from University to vocational school to classroom and private tutoring settings.

Miller has divided Math Mammoth into topical study allowing teachers to choose to purchase an entire topic at a time for their child (The Blue Series) or a complete curriculum for the school year (The Light Blue Series). Workbooks with worksheet exercises, but no textbook explanations, are available as well for grades 3-8 and Algebra 1. These worktexts are called the Golden Series. Winterpromise, a company specializing in unit study curriculum, is currently the only place customers can purchase black and white bound hard copies of Math Mammoth’s Light Blue Series for $52.00.

I selected Math Mammoth’s Light Blue Series Level 1A and 1B for my review. I was already familiar with Math Mammoth from a rave review I read last summer on the Winterpromise website. Math Mammoth promised to be a sensible basic math curriculum that took the time to properly explain and master topics before moving the young child onward in their mathematic studies. Because I struggled my entire life with math, I found this philosophy to be comforting and good common sense. Miller states in the foreward of Level 1A, “the curriculum aims to concentrate on a few major topics at a time, and study them in depth. This is totally opposite to the continually spiraling step-by-step curricula…”

Topics covered by Math Mammoth for first grade students include addition, subtraction, addition and subtraction facts, place value to 100, clock reading for the hour and half hour, measuring length in inches and centimeters, shapes and coins. The curriculum contains eight chapters with anywhere from 4-15 lessons per chapter each lesson containing one or two work pages. A wonderful tool called the “worksheet generator” is also included in the package. Because my computer is always connected to the internet I was able to access the worksheet generator web page through the live link written into the e-book. Magic!

The worksheet generator should be used if your child still appears to be struggling with a specific topic after completing the lessons. Say, for example, you are studying “The Clock” and your son, “Einstein” just can’t manage to grasp the concept with the lessons provided in the curriculum. Simply click on worksheet generator, choose the topic “clock” on the webpage, follow that up by clicking on the subtopic “Tell the time to the whole hour”, then choose between worksheets for “Draw the time on the clock face (whole hours)” “Tell the time to the half hour”, or “Draw the time on the clock face (half hours)”.

Once selected, clicking on your favorite subtopic will automatically produce a pop-up window with a worksheet ready for printing along with a secondary link for “answer key” which when clicked opens another pop-up window with the answer key page to match the newly generated worksheet. For the cost of a $27.00 curriculum you also receive a wealth of related resources to help make you the teacher of a gifted math student instead of a frustrated math student.

The complete curriculum includes tests for all 8 chapters plus an end of the year test which Miller warns is very long and should be broken up over several days. The tests are provided in Word, Adobe, and PDF formats or as a live link to a webpage. I found the web page format to be more colorful, appealing and easy to access.

My first grade math student has completed three of the lessons for chapter 1 since late November. We do not have a math lesson every day and usually only complete one or two brightly colored work pages in one sitting. Each printed page has between 12-15 problems most with colored pictures of items to count or add. The pages take Sierra between 10-15 mins. to complete, and review with me. I have not witnessed any frustration on her part with the curriculum, but after 15-20 mins. of concentrated math study she is usually ready to play a game or move on to another learning experience. I am not sure exactly what the recommended pace of the curriculum is, but I am very happy with our results thus far.

When I asked Sierra for a recommendation regarding Math Mammoth she was enthusiastic in saying, “It’s nice, because it can help me learn about math”. Pressed further for greater insight she replied, “I like the plusing and equaling. I think there are just enough problems on a page. I like the pictures, especially the dice”.

I didn’t think I would like having to print off my own math book for school, but now that I am in the midst of it, I do like it. I guess it is a bit of the “green eggs and ham” philosophy---don’t knock it until you try it. Yes, printing a hard copy of my e-book consumes ink. Yes, I need to be organized and find a three ring binder to collect the sheets in for my daughter. Yes, I sometimes forget to print out sheets ahead of time, or the printer is acting up, etc. and we skip math that day, but……Math Mammoth is easy to use, extremely teacher friendly, colorful and cute. It pleases the student and the teacher and from a math phobic writer like me that’s really high praise.

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