Saturday, May 29, 2010

Math Research Results

During the 2009-2010 school year my eight year old hit a road block in math. Each week the weaknesses of the Saxon program seemed more glaring. The biggest challenge for me was the lack of information for the parent. Saxon offers no alternatives for teaching a given concept. By May we were both discouraged and frustrated.

My goal for this summer was to find a math program that offered the parent multiple suggestions for teaching the same concept. I was also hoping for an unlimited list of ideas for hands on activities. Knowing that that was a rather tall order, plan "B" was to buy the next level of Saxon along with several idea books.

Here is a summary of what I found - - -
idea book - -good luck! Marylin Burns wrote some fun books in the 80's. I was able to find one at a used bookstore. ONE. The one that I found was cute, had great ideas, and is written to students. I bought it, but it wasn't quite what I was hoping to find. Also, I will need more than one idea book to get through the entire school year.

Math programs at the NC homeschool conference were amazingly weak. Here is a quick run down of booths I stopped by:

Teaching Textbooks - all done on the computer, when a wrong answer is given the child is then given the option of skipping the question, parent is not involved at all, no hands on activities

RightStart Math - EXPENSIVE! Requires manipulatives unique to that program, uses an unorthodox approach to math facts (no memorizing)

Math-U-See- weak on calendar, measuring, and telling time; many families use this program, it is fine, but not what I was looking for

I already knew that I was looking for more, not less, so I avoided programs that I knew to be similar to Saxon.

Math on the level - I had not heard of this program before; I was impressed by what I saw. It is initially more expensive than all other programs, but cheaper in the long run. It includes every math concept from kindergarten through Algebra. There are no consumable workbooks, so you can reuse the entire program for multiple children. Each concept had multiple teaching suggestions. There was an entire book devoted to hands on activities. There is a yahoo group that parents use to ask questions, and I am told that the group is quite helpful. I didn't make the purchase this weekend, but I am seriously considering switching to this program next year.

I did buy several books from the Critical Thinking Company. I love their math products. My girls do too. This year they have a new series called 'balance benders'; I highly recommend it.

I also bought a used copy of Saxon 5/4. Why? Fair question. It was cheap. I wanted to have a back up plan. I am pretty sure that I am going to use Math on the level, but the upfront cost does have me dragging my feet.


KarenDV said...

Please give Singapore Math a look (US edition), along with its instructor guides. For my money it's the best program out there for elementary students -- and it's inexpensive. It encourages multiple approaches to problems but also teaches traditional algorithms, and there's a focus on learning tricks for mental math.

Silvia said...

That's interesting. I also use the free MEP, have you looked into it? it's free, you only spend the ink to print it and many use it successfully.
I also got a copy of one of Marilyn Burns books, and use different books, but we are in Kindergarten :-)
I understand you need to have something that explains all concepts in different ways and that works for you.
I'm listening lately to a lot of people who plateau with Saxon at one point.
As the other comment says, I've heard many good things about Singapore.
I'm also trying to find out ahead of time what are the good programs for math (although everything depends a lot on the child and that's a unique factor to each family)

Silvia said...

Ah, I forgot to tell you also about math mammoth, they have booklets that target different concepts.