The Math-U-See program is an easy-to-use, effective maths program for homeschoolers, home educators and un-schooling families alike. It incorporates research-proven methodology, hands-on manipulatives and student-paced learning to teach maths in a way that every student can benefit from, no matter what age, grade level or learning style.
How to use Math-U-See successfully
These tips were written by a real homeschool mum using the Math-U-See program for her kids - so you get recommendations straight from the horse’s mouth!
Hopefully it will save you some frustration, tears and money as you use the Math-U-See program for the best results with your kids.
1. What's the best way to store the blocks?
There's plenty of options you have when storing your Math-U-See blocks. You can use the wooden block sets that are available for purchase, or you can buy your own storage alternatives (craft boxes with compartments, tackle boxes).
I’ve found that using a clear, plastic storage bin that is large enough for little hands to rummage around in without causing all the blocks to spill over the sides is ideal. It makes for an easy clean-up when maths class is over that even your youngest kids can take care of independently.
2. Should I get matching colouring crayons or pencils?
While we’re on the subject of bins & blocks, why not take a few extra minutes while you’re setting yours up for the first time to add a little container with the crayons that are the perfect match for the blocks? Those early levels of Math-U-See have your kiddos doing a lot of colouring and matching to blocks and your lessons will be delayed regularly if you have to find them again each time. Find the correct colours, designate them for maths use only, and add them into your plastic block bin!
If you complete any of the online Foundations or Fractions Training with Maths Australia, you'll receive a complimentary set of coloured pencils that are matched to the blocks along with your Training Manual.
3. Is Place Value important?
In my opinion, Math-U-See’s teaching of place value leaves all others in the dust. And that’s great, because EVERY level of Math-U-See hinges on the mastery of this concept. Repeat after me errrr.. Mr Demme: “To compare or combine, they must be the same kind” and the other famous Demme saying “Every value has a place”.
It's the first thing all kids need to know when starting out in maths - you can't start building the house before the foundations are made. If you have older kids and they don't understand Place Value and struggle with regrouping, you can start straight with the Alpha level that teaches these fundamental concepts.
By using a) manipulatives so that kids can feel and touch the numbers and b) Decimal Street and the concept of numbers having a house, you can save yourself a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears trying to teach this concept with other methods. It's totally worth it!
4. Do you need to complete every page?
You don't need to complete every page in the Student Workbooks. Because Math-U-See is a mastery-based curriculum, it means you can spend time on the challenging pieces and can skip the extra practice pages (Student Practice D, E and F) once your child has mastered the concept.
You'll keep your kids much more engaged by tuning into what they need. If they've mastered the concept and can show you easily, it's time to move on to the next lesson.
5. Where do I find bonus worksheets for extra practice?
So what do you do if your child has worked through all six lesson pages and STILL isn’t getting it? Maths Australia's bonus worksheets and downloads page makes it easy for you to practice your maths facts with your kids.
You can check out all the bonus downloads, including lesson planners, maths facts sheets, word problem tips, record sheets and research-based documentation below:
6. Should I add maths drills and other supplements to my maths lessons?
The Math-U-See program is a complete curriculum, meaning it has no holes! The way each resource is used covers all ages, grade levels and learning abilities. It means you have everything you need to teach and your kids are fully supported to learn maths in the way that they'll understand in the best way.
However, using maths games, activities, maths facts sheets and other resources may be necessary to help your kids practice a certain topic. There's so many resources out there that you can use, including in-person tutoring, online maths drills and extra practice sheets.
We've also put together a massive list with the 100 Maths Activities you can do with your kids - all outside the classroom! This helps when you don't want to sit at a desk and work through your books because you're still learning and covering the topics you need to!
Here's the free download for those 100 Maths Activities:
7. Should I start my kids on a new lesson at the same time?
If you are working for mastery and moving forward at your individual child’s pace it may be difficult — but as much as possible try not to have ALL your children starting new lessons on the same day. If your children begin each lesson with the online video lessons with Mr Demme, there will be a line up for the computer to watch the lessons.
Having multiple children starting new lessons on the same day can also stretch you as the teacher pretty thin! You'll have to have the right headspace and mindset to start a new topic on the same day - times the number of kids you have! It’s so much better if you can focus your teaching attention on just one student per day.
8. How do I keep our maths workbooks tidy?
It can be really hard to keep each sum lined up — especially if you are working on long sums and double digit addition, subtraction or multiplication. Do your kids a favour and show them the trick of turning a piece of lined paper sideways. Or better yet, get a stack of graph paper (make sure the squares aren’t super tiny) and use that to write out practice sums to help them keep the columns AND rows all lined up.
9. What if multiplication takes longer to get through?
I suspected the problem was related to maturity — she understood the concepts, the mechanics, and single digit multiplication was a breeze. It just seemed that the more numbers that were added to the problem, the more the potential for error there was. Columns not lining up. Steps being skipped. Even providing her with a times table that she could copy from didn’t remedy the problem.
So we kept working at the level where she was comfortable, and I introduced the much easier concepts of division from the beginning of the Delta book. After about 4-6 months, she was able to tackle the end of Gamma book and then easily finish off the long division in Delta.
I love that Math-U-See isn’t a graded curriculum. You don’t have to complete a book each year, and your child doesn’t have to be discouraged if their maths book doesn’t match their grade level. Don’t be afraid to camp out for as long as it takes, whether it’s multiplication, fractions, or exponents that is tripping your student up.
10. Why should I correct maths work daily?
I hate marking maths as much as anyone, but it’s so important! What can happen if you leave all your marking to the weekend? Well, your child can waste an entire week making the same mistake over and over again
I’ve found what has worked best in our homeschool (although sometimes not very convenient!) is to mark maths exercises as quickly as possible after the child has completed them — and then hand them back to be corrected until perfect. The near immediate feedback seems also to have a motivating effect and your student is more likely to work carefully and get it right the first time if they know they have to work until it’s all correct.
11. Should I let my kids mark their own work?
I’ve seen a lot of information promoting self-correction of work. I’m sure it can be a good thing for mature learners — but I want to offer two HUGE cautions if you want to go that route.
Firstly, correcting your child’s work keeps you in the loop. When you see what your student is struggling with, you are able to help them and ensure that they are learning and not just moving forward. What good does it do to fill a page with x’s and √’s and then move on the next day without re-working the problem, identifying problems, and getting it right?
Another, perhaps even greater reason not to have your child self-correct their maths work is the huge potential for cheating. I know none of us wants to believe that our little darlings would lie or cheat, but the truth is, I have heard of more than one homeschool student who has fallen into this trap. The lure of the answer book is just too great, and parents are flabbergasted when they make this discovery.
We hope that's helped out in your homeschool lessons!
If you have a few more tips and tricks that has worked for you and your kids, leave your comments below
The Team at Maths Australia
References: homeschool mum's blog post