Thursday, May 27, 2010

Finally Made a Decision about Math

After a few near sleepless nights, discussions with dh, reading, research and much deliberating on my part, I decided to buy Math Mammoth (MM). I got the Light Blue Series, the complete curriculum. I'm having ds review 1st grade math from now throughout the Summer. My goal is to be ready for 2A by October. By ready I mean, well-versed in the basics of addition and subtraction 1-20 and comfortable.

We got the download instead of the CD, as I could easily burn the whole program, 1A-6A, on a CD. The 20% discount on Kagi doesn't expire until June 1st. With this discount, I received a complete math curriculum from 1-6th grade for just a bit over $87! That's a steal, especially considering I can print out as many sheets as I like, and thus can use it for ds, myself and eventually dd.

Here are the benefits of this program:

- It's been described as like Singapore, but with better, simpler explanations
- MM is in worktext format, meaning the text and the workbook are in one book. No switching books back and forth
- Text is written directly to the student
- Really inexpensive at $109 for the complete download for worktexts 1A-6A
- Program includes resources such as game ideas, Internet math websites, create your own worksheets, answer keys, cumulative reviews, tests, and SoftPak for Windows, a math and sample language arts software (haven't tried it yet, I have a Mac at the moment)
- Answers the whys as well as the hows of math
- Combines conceptual math with games and drill for a three-pronged approach
-Different options to buy: download or CD, or print
- Downloads can print in color, and print is exclusively black and white to keep costs down
- The author, Maria Miller, is a Finnish born Mathematics teacher and combines Finnish and Asian math. Finland and Asia are ahead of the USA on all test scores in math (and incidentally, science, too).
- She answers questions promptly and courteously

Can you tell that I'm happy with my decision? I'm so excited about this program. I find no need for MEP as of now. Although it's free, the format is a bit confusing to ds, and as it's not colorful and has no explanations, it doesn't engage him. I have it as a back-up if or when I need more drills. However, with the worksheet generator MM provides, I may not even need that. That said, I'm using MM with Miquon. I like Miquon's discovery approach too much to drop it. I feel it enhances rather than burdens.

For the first time ds is excited about math, and actually said he likes math now! Wow! He really appreciates the explanations. He's a good reader, so Maria can talk to him. I'm right next to him, of course, and explain further.

My project on the side: As soon as I downloaded MM, I looked through it and determined I'm going to review and do the worksheets from 3A-6A to stay ahead and give myself a good foundation for algebra. I bought Foerster's Algebra. I won't get to it until a year or two from now, but at least I'll have a good grounding in my arithmetic first. I'm good at mental calculations, especially in addition and multiplication, but even I am learning some new tricks from working on MM. It's actually fun, something I hadn't thought I would hear myself say when it came to math.

I'm also reading Liping Ma's interesting book, Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics. So far I'm only on page 12, as I'm reading it carefully and try to understand everything well so I can be a good math teacher for my children.

All that said, I'm still intrigued by Japanese Math, although I have no room for it right now. I like the colorful graphics, but I don't know if I would like glossy paper. The mental math is comparable to MM anyway.. If I feel I need it down the road, I will sample it. However, I need more hand holding than Japanese Math can provide me at this time.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

In Praise of Story of the World Volume I: Ancient Times

I love this program. It's as simple as that. It's what ds and I look forward to every day (from Monday through Thursday that is), and it's what inspires us and motivates us. Can we have History first? his exuberant, hopeful voice echoes through the house first thing after breakfast. Of course I think to myself, save the best for last. Somehow we end up doing History in the middle, not all the way last, but not first either.

Susan Wise Bauer has written an engaging narrative for youngsters like ds who are just starting on this academic learning journey. She writes in a genial way, but that doesn't take away the serious connections, pathways and learning that take place between the lines. Furthermore, the Activity Guide is her masterpiece, where she combines quality reading lists with comprehension questions, encyclopedia pages linking to the subject, both fiction and nonfiction recommendations, mapwork activities, coloring pages, and projects that tie in and reinforce the learning. It's a complete history curriculum! I like the idea of incorporating reading, writing, researching and crafts all in one. Ds is having a blast and is engaged. We listen to the audio version, and ds follows along in the book. Next year I think he'll be ready to read on his own, but we have the audio at the ready to introduce and review.

A plus is that I am learning along with him! I loved history in high school and college, but in elementary it was so-so. To me, it was all a string of wars with no rhyme or reason. In my adulthood I realize I aim to see the big picture, the whys as well as the hows. SOTW 1 offers me this and more. More rabbit trails to explore, more literature, and a smile on my son's face. Thank you, Ms. Bauer!