Friday, November 11, 2011

Review: Math Mammoth

Once upon a time, nearly two years ago, I reviewed a math program I dearly loved.  My conclusion at the time was that Math Mammoth was going to become the spine of my elementary math curriculum.

Reality turned out quite different.  That year, we reviewed SO many math programs, and kept having to set Math Mammoth aside, and eventually we just stopped picking it back up.  And what happened is that my elementary-aged math students did start to master math facts... but most are missing some other basics.  And I started this school year completely stressed about what to do with math.

So finding out I'd be reviewing Math Mammoth again this year was a gift from God.

I wanted to do the complete curriculum (the Light Blue series) with everyone but Connor.  In testing both William and Thomas, we determined that <sigh> they both are missing a lot and really needed to start back a couple grades.  I had an extensive dump session on poor Maria (author of the Math Mammoth books), and she confirmed that I seemed to be making the right decision.  Not only that, but she sent the complete 3rd grade program for Thomas and the complete 4th grade program for William.  And she tossed in a MIRL book for Connor, but I'll get to that later.  I cried.  (My kids might have too, but for different reasons.)

The Light Blue series is what we ended up using, and I simply love this.  It is a full math curriculum for grades 1-6, including the student worktext as pdf files (which means no more lost math books!  I print out just what we need each day!) plus answer keys (which I really haven't needed yet), tests, reviews, and a worksheet maker.  Oh, and for my friends outside the US -- the money chapter is available in other currencies... in fact, I think I may have my boys use the Euros one just for fun (that is the kind of thing they would think is fun!)

The idea with the program is that the student is completing 1-2 pages a day (closer to one for first grade, closer to two for 6th) to work through the book in a school year. 

Because both William and Thomas are working with materials that are "easy" for them in an effort to fill some math holes, we tended to do 2-4 pages per day, or basically a single section.  At this pace, both of these boys should get into the next level before this year is out... however, I do think we are going to hit a point where we have to slow down to a normal pace.  You know, those holes I mentioned...

Richard, doing the 2nd grade program, is working at more of a page a day pace, with the occasional session including two pages.  Trina, my kindergartner, is sort of doing the 1st grade level. She is doing a page or two per week and we are doing a lot more playing with the other resources provided.

Let me tell you a few things I love about Math Mammoth, both for my child working at grade level, my child working ahead of grade level, and my children working below grade level:
  • The pages contain a bit of explanation, but aren't cluttered.
  • The color coding helps me to know which parts I *should* be working through with the kids, and which they are intended to work through on their own.  But I can work with them if I want to, or make them work on their own if I need to.
  • Each chapter includes introductory material for the teacher, including a brief description of what is to be covered, a mini table of contents, and links to additional resources on the internet.
  • I love that I don't have to use the extras when my kids are getting it.
  • I love that the extras are available to the kids who need it.
  • So far, for all my kids, there has been just enough problems to make the work understood.
  • I love the scope and sequence.  It doesn't try to cram every math concept into every year.  But it does introduce a concept (like multiplication) one year, then actually work on it the following year, and master it in the next.  Brilliant.
  • The price -- $34 for a full-year set -- is very reasonable, especially since you can purchase it once and use it for all your kids.
My kids' opinions?  They are really appreciating (well, mostly!) that we are working through math systematically.  They definitely appreciate that they don't have to do dozens and dozens of problems in the process.  They feel they do enough to 'get it' and aren't stuck doing busy-work much beyond that.  William said, "This is the best math program I've used."

What I really, truly love is that William and Thomas are back to feeling at least competent about math.  They had lost that feeling.  

Okay, so now let's chat about Connor and the Make It Real Learning book we used.  He absolutely loves the concept here... each book ($4.99) contains 10 sets of problems.  The Exponential & Logarithmic Functions title that we received includes problems relating to credit card balance transfers, cost of living, compound interest, etc.  All of the problems are real-life ones.  Do you transfer your credit card balance to one of those 0% interest for 15 months offers, or do you stick with the card you have?  Which car promotion is better -- the one giving you 0% financing or the one giving you cash back?

Connor loves that aspect of these books.  It is real stuff.

However... we aren't quite to exponential and logarithmic functions in his Algebra II course... and, ummm, I don't remember this stuff.  These books really work GREAT if they are used to reinforce the "when am I ever going to need this?" aspects of concepts already studied.  These books do not work so great when neither the student nor his mother has any idea how the problem is to be solved.

Jumping to a different MIRL title -- Quadratic Functions -- was a much better fit.  I print off the couple pages, hand it to Connor on Monday, and tell him to work on it throughout the week and come see me if he needs to discuss it.  Fabulous.  The Exponential Functions will be here when we need it... later this year.  <sigh>  (I think I can, I think I can...)

The MIRL series has titles that range from arithmetic (grades 3-6) to Calculus, with most of the titles being appropriate for various points in algebra.  Having something practical to go with high school math is huge.  I absolutely love this series.  We will end up owning -- and using -- them all.

I said it at the end of my last review, but I am following through this time.  My four younger kids are going to start where they are and work through the 6th grade Math Mammoth books.  And we will supplement math with MIRL as well.

Math Mammoth does have other series available, and you can read what other crew members had to say about some of those here:


Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive some of the Math Mammoth and MIRL titles mentioned above in exchange for my review.  All opinions are my own.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.


Rodna Allman said...

That MIRL book sounds great. I think "I" need to do that one!

Ashley said...

Thanks for your post. I am using Singapore for my 2nd & 6th grader & have been pretty happy with it - however I have concerns about it covering enough - as my 6th grader prepares the leap to new math. I've looked at different programs & I'm not sure it covered enough of some topics. Are you still using MM? If so - how are your children doing with this now? I have all of the materials for my daughter (begins 3rd grade this summer) to complete Singapore through 5B, but I'm concerned that it may leave some things out that most other curriculums cover. Math Mammoth is one that I keep looking at trying to decide if it is right for us.