One of the benefits of reviewing curriculum is that I have an opportunity to try a wide variety of products every year. One downside may be that you never can use everything that you review all of the time. You really have to pick out your absolute favorites and stick to those as your core curriculum. I am going to start writing a series of our all time favorite curricula for each subject starting with math.
If you have been a long time reader of my blog, you probably have heard this story before, but if you haven't, it's worth reading. My first year of homeschooling, a friend who had been homeschooling for almost 20 years recommended Math U See to me. Chelsea was in the 3rd grade and the books were set up very different back then, but we really liked it. She enjoyed the videos and understood the concepts very well with the help of the manipulative blocks. When Nick started Kindergarten the next year, he started on Math U See as well and really liked it. A year after that though, after talking with some homeschool friends, I began to have doubts in Math U See. They talked quite a bit about the "gaps" that Math U See had in their program and that because it is a mastery and not a spiral program that it was way behind public schools and would affect standardized testing. I listened to their advice and decided to switch programs. For four years we tried different programs: Abeka, Horizons, Alpha Omega, and some online subscriptions and the children just floundered. Chelsea was having the most difficulty and by now was in high school. Finally I decided enough was enough and I was going back to the program that worked for us instead of making the children suffer because other families felt that Math U See had too many short comings. I switched all of the children back to Math U See that year.
So does it have gaps and is it behind compared to public school? I think every program is going to probably have some gaps. Nothing is going to teach absolutely everything. I mentioned above that the program has changed a lot since we started watching Mr. Demme on VHS in 2005. Math U See has made a lot of changes to their program over the years, and all of these have taken a great program and made it even better. Just last year all of their elementary books were overhauled and expanded to include application and enrichment pages and expanded teacher content. As far as making your child be "behind" Math U See does teach differently from the public school. But, my children have always scored exceedingly well on standardized tests (not that I think standardized tests are a good measure of knowledge but it is the only one we have to go by.) Also, by following the Math U See levels from K and up, Pre-Algebra falls about the 7th grade most students in public school do not take it until 8th or 9th grade.
So why do I like it so well? There a few different reasons. I love the video instruction. I have 7 children and using Math U See, the older children can watch the videos and complete the lessons with little to no instruction from me at all. I like that it is mastery based and makes sure students understand a concept completely before throwing others at them. I like that right from the beginning they teach real world math through using word problems and beginning algebraic equations. Many children struggle with math because it is abstract and they can't "see it." By using manipulative blocks, children can see and understand exactly what they are doing. There are plenty of worksheets included in each lesson to make sure the student understands the concepts, but if they don't you can print off more on their website. The few times I have contacted customer service, I have found them to be very helpful. The children enjoy learning from Mr. Demme and his "corny" sense of humor.
Isn't it more expensive then other math programs? I think the initial cost is the biggest expense. When you first start out you have to buy everything: Instruction Pack, Student Pack, and manipulatives. But the manipulatives last all the way through Algebra 1 and you do not need to add any other until you reach Epsilon and need the fraction overlays and then in Zeta the decimal inserts. The student book and test booklet are consumable and have to be bought for a new student every year, but the instruction pack can be used over and over again with other students. So if you have more than one student the cost goes down, and if you don't you can always sell the teacher's manual and DVD when you are finished. The elementary sets (alpha-zeta) are $43 for the instruction pack, $30 for the student pack, and the manipulatives are $38. The primer level is a little less expensive and the upper levels of math get a little more expensive, but price wise are still cheaper than other DVD instruction programs that I have seen. Math is the most expensive thing that we use in our homeschool, and honestly it is important and if it works it is worth paying for! Right now I have children using: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Zeta, and Stewardship. Even my little one enjoys getting ready for when she will use Math U See!
Math U See is our favorite Math curriculum ever!