Thursday, June 6, 2013

Math Mammoth - Light Blue Series (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

 photo lighblue_zps2ba8ce5b.jpgMath Mammoth is a program for grades 1 through 12.  The program for grades 1 to 6 includes the Light Blue Series full curriculum, as well as several supplemental and review programs.   If you are new to the program, there is an online assessment/placement test available to see where your child should begin.  We did not formally use the assessment, as Jude is just entering first grade, but seeing the test (it is an end-of-year, equivalent to "final exam" assessment) did allow me to see that the work would be appropriately challenging for him.   While some books are available pre-printed, all texts are available as a PDF download.  We received the Light Blue Grade 1 PDF ($34), which I printed and then claw-bound.   (Warning: it is VERY color-intensive.  Do not try to print this when you are running low on ink!  Some of our colors are a little wonky.  I could reprint the text, but it is 145 pages and I can't bring myself to just toss that many pages in the recycle bin.  Since Jude cannot read yet, I simply adjust the colors in the instructions as I read them to him -- for example, if it says "Circle the green..." I'll scan ahead and substitute "yellow" as appropriate, etc.)   It is a two-part text, so it was easy to print the "1A" Worktext Book, leaving the "1B" section on the computer for later in the year.  (And I'll make sure to check the ink levels before printing!)

 This was Jude's first official foray into First Grade learning.  He was very excited to get started doing "regular" Math with numbers and not just pictures.  The first section of the book was more pictures - reviewing patterns, counting, etc. - a general Kindergarten review.  We completed one review concept each day, so by the end of our first week, we were truly on our way into "First Grade."


The text starts out with very simple ideas, and builds upon them.   For example,  Addition is the first section of the 1A Text.  It starts out with just counting objects in the Kindergarten review, and writing the number that corresponds.  It then segues into groups - four circles and the instructions "Circle a group of ____ and a group of _____."  For example - "Circle 1 and 3."

The program builds upon this by then having the student complete the group, and then draw his own groups.

Once the student has the concept of "this and that is the same as <the sum>," it moves on to more technical aspects such as "three plus two equals five."  I like this process, because it's just giving official terms to a concept Jude already understands.  He picked up "When we see a + we say plus," and "The sign = means equals," very quickly, and he had a strong enough idea of how to combine the addends that adding the symbols did not affect his ability to combine the component addends.  While he still struggles to read simple words, being able to read -- and solve -- math sentences really helps his confidence.   While he still needs close supervision to keep him on task, I can say to him "Do the next row out loud and by yourself," and he is capable.

It begins number sentences still with visuals, and then moves into plain numbers - ie, a number sentence of "3 + 2 = _____" and the student is expected to be able to solve the problem.  Generally speaking, Jude can.  One thing this program focuses on a lot is mental math.  There are some days Jude can do math quickly and in his head, and sometimes he needs the visual reinforcement of drawn groups or manipulatives. The program recommends an abacus, but we have found using simple things like colored blocks that he can move around really help (often we will do one number in a single color, with the second in another color, so he can really see the groups moving together to make the larger number).  We are still working our way through the addition section (it alone is 40 pages long, providing a very solid understanding of it before moving on), but subtraction begins in a similar manner, with visuals followed by plain numbers.

 We average just under a page per day - usually one or two sections of each idea - so each lesson takes us 2-3 days.   I think this also has to do with his age and personality - he learns better with shorter/repetitive lessons rather than one longer session. You can see from the table of contents, each concepts gets two to three pages dedicated to it, with a total of about 30 or so problems for each section.  There is also the ability to create extra worksheets for specific concepts if the student is struggling.  I definitely think that his attention deficits are what keep him from progressing more rapidly.  He definitely understands the concepts; he just can't pay attention long enough to complete an entire lesson in one sitting.  I think the one risk of this type of mastery program is the student loses focus and just "autopilots" through.  At the beginning of a concept, Jude does every problem; as we go on through a section, he may only do the "end columns" or I will say "There are 10 problems, you pick seven and do them," etc. However, breaking it into smaller chunks of only 7-10 problems daily helps avoid the practice becoming tedious.  Since we are planning on year-round schooling, I'm also not concerned about running out of time.  It may take us more than 180 days to complete the entire curriculum, but I would rather go slower with good focus than push too quickly and Jude not truly understand. 

While Math Mammoth does align to the Common Core Standards for grades 1 through 5, I do feel the program goes well beyond them.  It doesn't just include a little of each category to say "Yes, you'll see all of the things in it," but rather is packed full of lessons that make sure the student has mastered the basics by the end of first grade, and has not just "been exposed to" them.  Math Mammoth Light Blue for Grade 1 focuses on four main concepts:
  • Addition and subtraction
  • Understanding whole numbers and place values (units, tens, hundred)
  • Measuring length
  • Understanding simple geometry (number of sides and the number of corners in a shape; how to draw/take apart a shape) 
Grade 1 also includes lessons on telling time and value of coins.  The program is suitable for both US and foreign students, as the downloadable 1B book includes worktext pages for US, Canadian, British, European (Euro) and Australian coins.  This would definitely have value for a military/expat family, who needs to learn to navigate shopping in both US and local currencies.

As a "mathematically challenged" person (I fully admit, I was an arts major for a reason!), I like the simple explanations and examples.  They are not wordy, and there is no separate teaching text to study. The text explains concepts, shows examples, and then dives into practice.  This works very well for both of us, because we both learn by seeing and doing.  It also builds upon ideas without necessarily advertising that it is teaching something new; for example, the idea of "fact families" are taught organically.  Rather than a heading that says "fact families" and having pages and pages of them (as my other children have had with their particular mathematics curricula), it's a more low-key learning of these ideas.

Math Mammoth Light Blue for Grade 1 is very thorough, and presents concepts in advancing degrees, with each new idea building upon a previous concept.  The student can really grasp the idea being taught and solidify it before moving on to the next step.  This is a program we are very much enjoying, and Jude is quickly gaining a solid skill set as well as confidence in himself and his abilities.  Although I originally had plans to purchase a different curriculum for Jude,  I think we will be continuing with this one because it definitely suits his need to see ideas to learn them (a group of two carrots plus another group of three carrots means you have five carrots total) but also provides opportunity for him to practice them mentally (two plus three equals five no matter what the items are - carrots, dots, or even fingers).  I've noticed that he is slowly becoming able (and confident in his ability) to add and subtract in his head, rather than always needing manipulatives.  This is definitely a good thing, especially for when we begin adding numbers where the sums and differences are greater than the number of fingers you have!

The Crew Reviewed a number of Math Mammoth's programs.  Come check out what others tested and their opinions!


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1 comment:

  1. Your son is adorable! I enjoyed your review. Math Mammoth sounds like a great curriculum! I'm going to look into this for next year.


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