Math was always my favorite subject in school as a child, but it’s both of my kids least favorite subject. Both of my kids were below grade level and disinterested in math when I started homeschooling a year ago. In the past year, I’ve tried a LOT of different math curriculums. Here are my thoughts on all of them, along with what I’m planning to use for both of my kids next year.
Life of Fred: I tried Life of Fred with my oldest son last spring and was initially excited about it. My oldest son loves to read, and I thought he’d enjoy learning math in a story form. He did like it when the material was review (I started him about two years below grade level). But once he had to start learning new material, Fred just wasn’t cutting it and the curriculum was fairly quickly abandoned.
Spectrum Math: I start my younger son off using a Spectrum Math workbook. The curriculum is only a workbook without a text book to go with it and teach the material. I’m good at math and my son is never excited about reading textbooks, so I thought we’d be fine working through the Spectrum Math curriculum together. Unfortunately, the problems are overly complicated. When simple numbers could be used in a problem to introduce a new concept, huge numbers were included that made it impossible to do any of the math mentally. I work in a STEM profession and found this elementary school curriculum tedious.
Kumon Workbooks: After abandoning Fred and Spectrum, I shifted both of my kids to Kumon. Kumon workbooks are very inexpensive and provide lots of practice problems on a specific topic. When my son was learning long division, using the Kumon division workbook was great. But the Kumon workbooks are all very topic specific, so it would be easy to miss some important concepts if this was the only resource you were using.
Math Skills by Flash Kids Harcourt: This workbook is very similar to Spectrum in that it is supposed to cover all the topics taught in a given year, but is only a workbook without an associated textbook. While Spectrum math seemed way to hard, this program seemed way too easy. My son rushed through this book really quickly. I could see using this as a review program over the summer but it I didn’t find it useful as a full math curriculum.
Beast Academy: I tried Life of Fred with my oldest son because he loves to read. My younger son loves comics, so I decided to give Beast Academy a try with him. The “text book” is a comic that introduces the concepts. My comics loving son doesn’t like it and never reads it. The accompanying workbook is a mixture of practice problems to reinforce the concepts taught in the comic (or taught by me because my kid doesn’t read the comic), and games. The games further reinforce the concepts in a fun way that I know I would have LOVED has child. Kids who love math already will stay in love with math by using this program. But, if you kid doesn’t love math and doesn’t want to play a bunch of math games, this curriculum is fairly lacking in straight forward explanation and practice of the basic concepts.
Saxon: Saxon is the most commonly used homeschool math curriculum. There is a textbook the clearly explains each new concept. The homework sets are looping, so they continually reinforce past concepts. And there are texts after every five lessons to make sure concepts are being learned. It’s the most like public school math of any of the curriculums I’ve listed. I started using Saxon Level 8/7 with my eighth grade son in January. In February of 2020, this son had a D in public school 7th grade math. He’s now getting A’s and B’s on all his Saxon math tests. This program isn’t gimicky, it’s just a good program. I’ve found the correct level for my son and he’s actually learning/mastering all the math concepts he’s struggled with for years. My youngest son is still using Beast Academy, but I’m fully planning to use Saxon math for him next year too. I honestly wish I’d bought a Saxon math program for him at the beginning of the year.
Mathnasium: This isn’t a program I’ve used while homeschooling, but my kids used it while in public school, so I figured I’d include it in my list. Mathnasium is a math tutoring program. As I mentioned earlier, both of my sons struggled with math while in public school and often needed extra support. My oldest son did mathnasium tutoring for two years. During that time he moved from being more than two years below grade level to about one year below grade level. I liked the tutors and thought the program was beneficial enough that I also enrolled my younger son during the second year. During the year he was in mathnasium, he consistently stayed about one year below grade level and didn’t have a very positive experience. Mathnaisum is affordable as far as tutors go, but still significantly more expensive than buying one of the curriculum I’ listed above and then teaching your child yourself. If you have a child that needs more one-on-one math insturctuion than you feel capable of providing, and you have the funds to pay for a tutor, mathnasium could be a great option. There is a flat membership fee to belong to mathnasium, so you could sign your homeschool child up and have them go in every single day for tutoring and have that be their full math program. Mathnaisum is good at targeting their instruction directly to the gaps in a students understanding, which is a pro over any standard off the shelf curriculum.
What math curriculum do you use with your students?