Math U See, my love/hate relationship

Where to begin with this math curriculum. The good, bad or ugly? First let me start by saying I actually do like this math curriculum, at least for the most part. But we’ve put it on the shelf for a while, maybe even till next year.

Okay, I love math. I love solving puzzles, and math classes were kind of like my personal “lets do some mental puzzles” time. Yep, I was weird even in grade school! So now that I’m teaching Peanut the basics of numbers, I thought Math U See Primer in the Timberdoodle Custom Kindergarten Kit would be a perfect fit for my hands-on, kinesthetic learner. It is, and it isn’t. Here’s my review and our experience so far with it. Grab a coffee, this may be a long one…

We bought Math U See Primer Universal Set in our custom Timberdoodle Kindergarten curriculum kit. This came with the manipulative blocks, a teacher’s guide, a student workbook, a DVD, and a code to access an online version of the DVD for 12 months. img_20161106_095449

I knew the student book was going to be trouble if I left it bound the way it came, so I carefully removed each page. Thankfully they’re perforated, so this made the job a bit easier, but still took me about 15 minutes to do. Then I cut the front and back cover and the spine and made a binder. It’s so much easier to use this way!

Each lesson in primer has 7 parts, each part is 2 pages (one page front and back). A,B,and C are all practice pages, D,E,and F are all review, and G is application and enrichment.

First thing I do is read the lesson instructions in the teacher’s guide. Most of the time the teacher’s guide isn’t needed, but sometimes it has great tips. One thing to remember about Primer is it is the ONLY book in the series that doesn’t require mastery before moving on to the next lesson. This is supposed to be a gentle introduction into the language of math, getting the child familiar with the ideas of plus, minus, equals, etc.

Next we watch the lesson. There is a video on the DVD (or online) that explains how to teach each lesson. Really it’s meant for the parent, but most homeschoolers watch it with their kids, or even just have their kids watch it on their own (not really recommended, parent’s miss so much if they don’t watch them). Some people love Steve Demme (the creator of this curriculum) but so far he seems a bit dry in front of the camera, Peanut only seems interested in the videos when other kids are involved for his demonstrations. He does get the message across easily though, and I’ve even had a few “Aha, so that’s why this is” moments. Yep, even Mama can learn stuff from a Kindergarten curriculum!

The Manipulative blocks. Oh those blocks. This is one of those love/hate things. They are such a great tool to teach the math concepts. Peanut can easily figure out how to add numbers up to 10 by taking the two different blocks (ie a 3 block and a 1 block), adding them together (4) and taking a 4 block and putting the 3 and 1 on top to check if he was right. Talk about fun and positive reinforcement! Now the hate part. Those blocks make excellent distractions from the actual work. Peanut will build tanks, rocket ships, boats, anything except do his math work. It’s always a battle. I honestly don’t know if it’s worth it. Yes, he is learning, and learning it well, but the ongoing battle of “okay, leave the rocket alone now and do the next problem” has given me a few more grey hairs.

His battle ship complete with a ‘walk the plank’ in brown under the green loop…img_20161103_121839

Now to the meat and potatoes of the Primer Curriculum. At first it is very easy, so much so that Peanut flew through 8 lessons in 3 weeks. We did slow down when we hit lesson 9. It was a huge shock going from counting to 10 to all the sudden being expected to know the numbers 0 – 99! Then lesson 10 introduced the concept of hundreds! ACK! Too much too soon!!! Peanut and I began to get frustrated.

Lesson 11 introduced all the different colored blocks, and soon we were associating the color with a number, for example 2 is orange, so two little pumpkins. 3 is pink, the three little piggies. 8 is brown, so chocoleight. 7 is cream, so sevenilla, etc.

So it seemed that even with the bump in the road we had from lesson 9 and 10, we were back on track again. The next few lessons were learning how to add to 10, and count to 20. Peanut can count from 0-12, but skips 13-17 consistently, going straight to 18-20. Lessons 11-16 were wonderful in teaching Peanut how to add by 1, 2 and he even figured out 5+5=10 all on his own! He is so proud of his achievement!

I was sure with the repetition and learning to add to 10, the next step would be going to 20. I was wrong!

Along comes lesson 17. Skip counting by 2. Okay, our comfortable drive just hit a huge roadblock. That smooth road suddenly had a huge landslide covered with trees and boulders. How could I move on to teaching Peanut to count by 2’s to 20 when he hasn’t even mastered counting to 20 by 1’s yet! I looked at this landslide, these boulders, and thought “no way, absolutely not! We are not going to even try to pick our way through this disaster. We need to go back and regroup.”

This was last week. Week 11 in our kindergarten year. Here we were, 7 weeks ahead in math, and now we have a full stop. Rather than getting Peanut all confused and me all frustrated, it was time to put Math U See Primer on the shelf for a while, maybe even starting it fresh again next year for grade 1.

So what did I decide to use now? That post is for next time!

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