Math U See Primer

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When we started using Math U See, I loved it.  I was leary of the DVD lessons it came with.  I was afraid my children would already be “too cool for school” when it came to watching Steve Demme on the big screen – considering he’s just a regular guy standing in front of a dry erase board giving straight forward math lessons.  No crazy animations or silly characters or songs or poems.  Just math.  And Steve.  And my kids love it.  I can’t explain why and you’re kids might not, but even so – no worries – the videos are short, you could easily watch it before hand and then teach the lesson yourself.

I also loved it because it seems to be very strategically thought out.  This series carries them all the way through calculus so I felt confident that this book would approach the foundations in a much more organized way than I would have – because let’s be honest, teaching kindergarten math seems like it should be a breeze.  And some strong willed, independent moms like myself might think needing a real curriculum is silly.  Let me just say, I don’t remember why I ended up choosing this curriculum or deciding to buy a “real” math curriculum at all, but I am oh so glad that I did.

Apparently all of the really simple math concepts I envisioned a 5 year old learning, well, they’re not so simple to a five year old!  And without Steve’s wonderful step by step lessons, I wouldn’t have realized just how far those “simple” concepts can be broken down into smaller pieces, not to mention, how to do so in a way that a 5 year old will get it.  Thus far, we’ve learned how to read two and three digit numbers outloud, how to skip count by 2’s and 10’s, how to add ten’s and hundred’s, and we’re working on solving for the unknown (?+2=7) which thanks to all the previous lessons, my kids caught on to right away!  This year, we’ll also learn how to tell time, how to subtract, and how to find the area of a rectangle.

I say I loved it when we started, because there did come a point when I didn’t love it – it was short lived, but worth explaining.  From lessons 4-8, I started to feel like maybe this book was too basic.  It seemed like we had done pages and pages of worksheets identifying circles or triangles.  Then we hit lesson 9 – beginning to learn place values – and the pace picked up.  It’s been great since then!  We spend 3-4 days on a lesson and it’s been a perfect fit for our girls – challenging but doable.

A couple of notes about the materials…

Teacher’s Materials – This is a set that includes a manual and the DVD.  I haven’t cracked open the teacher’s manual yet – the DVD has been totally sufficient.  Next year we’re moving on to Math U See Alpha and I think the manual will definitely be helpful as things get more involved.

Student Workbook – We only ordered one for our twins to share this year.  Each lesson has 6 front and back worksheets.  The girls have done fine splitting the worksheets and after completing three each, they’ve mastered the concepts and are ready to move on.  Next year, we’ll order two workbooks as the work gets harder.

Manipulatives – So I thought I ordered the right manipulative blocks.  I did not. I ordered a set of generic unit blocks which has been useful but not as useful as the actual Math U See blocks would have been.  They’re a bit pricey (especially if you order two sets as is recommended, and with two students – we definitely will) but totally worth it.  If you stick with Math U See, they get use for a good six years or so and I haven’t found anything that would make a suitable replacement.  But we’ve survived the Primer year without them and I’m sure you could too if you wanted to get your feet wet before diving all the way in.

Just like The Reading Lesson, this is one of our curricula that truly runs itself.  We just pull out the workbooks (and the DVD when we start a new lesson) and get to work.  Occasionally, we take a day off from the worksheets and do some activities with pattern blocks or cuisinaire rods.  Some days we get really crazy and do both.  But all in all, Math U See has been worth it’s weight in pricey manipulative blocks.  If teaching math to your kids intimidates you, let Steve Demme do the heavy lifting and you take a cheerleading role in the arithmetic arena.

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