Sunday, April 27, 2014

Spiral vs. Mastery , what is it?

The end of the school year is slowly creeping on us. I will admit that I can't believe its almost May.  May is always a nice time of the year with the weather starting to get warm and the sun shining bright. Living where we do we don't usually get much sunlight or warmth, and what we do get is very short lived. So we have to enjoy it all while it lasts. 

This time also signals another time. Getting ready for the next school year time. Right about now most homeschoolers are getting their nice shiny catalogs in their mail boxes.  I'm sure you know exactly what I'm talking about. The catalogs with happy moms and children on the front of the covers yearning to learn. 

 If your like me you spend countless hours pouring over them.  Ooohing and Awwwing over the next new and latest thing. All the super cool books(yes, I'm a book nerd) and cool science stuff.  Trying to decide if your going to stick with the same thing or change to something else.   The one thing that always leaves me pondering, next to what in the world can I get for my children who hate to write, is what math program to get.  

I'm ashamed that we've tried out far to many. Calvert, K12 , Saxon, Christian Light to name a few. Honestly I think we've tried almost all of them at some point.  All in the name of trying something new or trying to find what works for each one.  Sometimes I've had to combine math programs to get the desired effect.  The one question I also notice the most on homeschool boards  this time of the year is : What is the difference between spiral and mastery math?   What is the answer to this time old question I see year after year being asked by parents? 

So after eleven years of homeschooling I think I'm pretty confident in being able to explain what the difference between the two programs are.  Hopefully this will help you decide on what style is right for your family. 

Mastery Math Program  
Singapore Math -mastery math program 

What is a mastery math program?  Mastery math programs sway on the side of discovery. They play with numbers and show children that there is more than one way to solve a math problem.  They tend to focus on one topic or a set of topics for a length of time before moving onto the next .  Meaning each chapter will focus on a different topic.

  Some math programs break them up into chapters or into small work texts.
Lifepac from Alpha Omega divided chapters into worktexts 

One particular math program ( Math U See)  for example focuses on one topic for the entire year. 
If your using Math U See level Alpha will focus only on single digit adding and subtracting

 With mastery math programs some cumulative review can be included with the  program and sometimes not. 
Miquon is discovery based and includes no review or math drill 

 Thought its encouraged math drill is not generally focused on with mastery math programs. Its usually something extra for the parent to include and to remember to do.  From my years of experience I have found that mastery math programs work great with children who need to focus on one full concept at a time. They work well with children who love to play with numbers and generally are good with math. 

Here is a general list of Mastery Math programs that are available today. Of course this list is not limited to , but are the most popular ones used by homeschoolers today. Also remember since the advent of Common Core, if you are against using a curriculum that follows these standards to do your homework and check and make sure that its not following Common Core Standards.  Also these are not listed in any specific order.  

Mastery Math 

Singapore Math or Math in Focus 
Math U See 
Modern Curriculum Press  
Seton Math (grades K-4) 
Math Mammoth 
Touch Math 
Life of Fred 
Right Start Math 
Math on the Level 
Developmental Math
Khan Academy 
Key to Series.... 
Making Math Meaningful 
Time 4 Learning 
Ace School of Tomorrow 
Alpha Omega Curriculum (Lifepac and Switched on Schoolhouse)
Bob Jones Math 
and Rod and Staff math 

Spiral Math Programs 
                                                    Saxon Math program for K-12th grades
What is a spiral math program? This is a good question actually, because within some spiral math programs , some maybe incremental in nature , and some may show the topic but continuously bring the subject back for review so that the concepts are mastered.  

Spiral programs consist of daily review. Most will start with the lesson and end with math drill to practice math facts so they are not forgotten and mastered.

Horizons Math program by Alpha Omega Curriculum 
 Also most spiral programs will have the drill included with the package, very few require you to purchase a separate drill sheet and only one does not include drill which would be Teaching Textbooks. 
Some are divided into worktexts  that continually review past concepts and have drill included. 

Spiral/Incremental Math Programs 

Saxon Math ( spiral and incremental) 

Christian Light Education 

Teaching Textbooks 



*This list is not limited to all the possible math programs out there, but consists of the most widely used programs with homeschoolers.  Also with the advent of Common Core be sure to thoroughly check the math programs  that they are not aligned should you chose to not want to use Common Core

Now the fifty million dollar question after getting this far is:  Which one is best for my child(ren)?  Well, it depends. It depends on how your child learns best. It depends on what your child's goals are , it depends on just works best in your home.  Some math curriculum come from secular publishers, some from Catholic , some from Protestant, and so forth.  Some families have children that learn rather quickly and like to play with numbers. Some families have children that struggle with math, need a lot of practice , or have learning disabilities.  All these things need to be taken into account in deciding which is best to choose. Is anyone curriculum better than the other? No.  Which one is better? The answer to that is the  one that truly works for your child is  the best.  

One thing I want to leave you with is , there are a lot of homeschoolers who have a wide range of beliefs of what they believe is truly 'THE BEST". Use what YOU think is the best, and what is working for your child. Don't let others talk you out of it because they are using what is the latest 'craze' at the time. Don't talk yourself out of using what is best all in the sake of using what other people think is best. 
 It all boils down to helping your child understand math ,and at least trying to help  them have some confidence in learning math and using what truly works best for them. 


Eva said...

Thanks so much, Tracy! I have also tried different math curricula and often use two at the same time with a each particular child. There is no right/or wrong here, I think.

Bluebonnetgirl said...

Hi Tracy, What are your curriculum picks for this coming year? Thanks!

Eva said...

Tracy, what happened to your blog?

Eva said...

Sorry, I tried to post a comment, but it said the blog was not there anymore, but now it is there. Strange.

Tracy said...

I could have probably have been working on it during the time you were posting.

Eva said...

I see.