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MUS creator Steve Demme....

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gave me this awesome response to my inquiries about the program after reading some pretty disparaging thoughts about whether MUS is enough for 'college bound' or 'math bright' kids. This is for you moms using MUS and loving it, but feeling pressure to switch to something 'more rigorous' for high school!



Thank you for writing and giving me an opportunity to assure you that MathUSee will more than equip your student for college, upper level science, advanced math applications, and standardized testing such as the ACT and SAT.

There are several issues being raised in the comments by the “advisorâ€. I will respond first in in a general sense addressing the big picture and then go through the “review†more specifically point by point. At the end of these responses I have included several testimonies from students, parents, and one from a college professor.

I hope my explanation will help to restore your confidence in your original decision to switch to MathUSee. You and your student will do well and in a few short years be glad you made the switch and did not hearken to the nay sayers.



Steve Demme


General Comments on Math Education in the U.S.A.


As you are probably aware, when it comes to math, the U.S. does not fare well when compared to other nations. Our education experts have responded by increasing the quantity of math topics in math textbooks. They reason that more is better and more material will produce stronger math students. But this has not been the result.

Interestingly, countries that excel in these international comparisons spend more time on essential concepts mastering the material instead of hustling through a dizzying array of math subject matter as we do in America. Subsequently our math curriculum in America has the reputation of being a mile wide and an inch deep.

My conviction is to improve the quality of each lesson by spending as much time as is necessary for students to thoroughly master a topic before moving on to a new subject. I believe one concept understood is better than three that have been covered in a table of contents.

Most of us who have been through the school assembly line recall that it is possible to pass a class without understanding what we have been taught.

By the time a student has completed the MathUSee curriculum he will have studied the same math topics as his contemporaries in other math curricula PLUS he will understand what he has been taught and be able to apply this knowledge in upper level science course and other advanced math applications. The sampling of testimonies will bear this out. But one in particular from an Academic V.P. of a respected college will illustrate this best.


He told me in no uncertain terms that their students had come to them with excellent test scores but they didn’t have the requisite math knowledge to complete the one required science class. They knew how to do math on paper but they didn't understand the underlying concepts of math and were not able to apply what they had “learned†from the textbook in their upper level science course. (The science class in this case was physics. I didn't ask the professor's permission to quote him so this is purposely vague).


Review of the Comments from the “Advisorâ€


I selected sentences in the comments you sent to me from the forum and they are in green. My comments follow in blue.


“I can only speak in general terms on MUS.

1. Obviously I can speak to MathUSee since I authored it. But I also taught 4 levels of Saxon, the 76, Algebra 1/2, Algebra 1, Algebra 2 in the classroom and tutored from several other books. I chose these books for my classes because I like the word problems and spiral review in each lesson.


It is a very different set up than Saxon, more of a mastery approach than spiral approach.

2. When I wrote MathUSee I incorporated what I think is the best blend of mastery and spiral. In each lesson we have several Lesson Practice pages which focus exclusively on the new topic and these are followed by several Systematic Review pages which reinforce topics previously taught. Our students have time to thoroughly master each topic AND review all that they have studied up to that point.


So an entire year is mostly dedicated to fractions, while another year is mostly dedicated to two-digit multiplication etc.

3. MathUSee was written for home educators. This is a very different approach to teaching. A home educator is more of a tutor than a classroom instructor. Tutors move at an individual student’s pace, whereas classroom instruction moves at the pace of a textbook. Tutors teach children with textbooks, classroom instructors teach textbooks to children. We do not have grade levels or “year†expectations on any of our levels. A level may take 6 months and it may take a year and a half. We encourage teachers to move at the pace of their student.

I thought it interesting (and providential) that fractions and multiplication were commented on. Recent studies have observed that the reason American students do not do well in Algebra is because they do not understand multiplication and fractions. Another reason we do not have grade levels, is that some students may need to go back and take a refresher course on fractions or decimals before delving into PreAlgebra or Algebra 1. Math is sequential and builds upon previously mastered topics. Where a student is placed is just as important as moving at his pace.


There are not many homeschool friendly Calculus programs out there

4. We are 4-5 lessons from completing the MathUSee Calculus which will be out this fall. Since the fall of 2008, we have been teaching a group of MathUSee students who had completed PreCalculus as juniors and were eager to be a part of our beta testing group. One young man had finished PreCalculus as a sophomore.


I think what is most important is that you have the tools to successfully teach the math to your student so that they can do well.

5. I couldn’t agree more. And we have many tools. In addition to an Instruction Manual, a Student Text, and a Test Booklet, we also have instructional DVDs, manipulatives, Honors lessons (now a part of the Student text), ongoing support from qualified tutors, online forums, and other online resources.


So overall, it seems like their sequence of courses is about 1/2 year to 3/4 of a year behind a typical sequence in high school math.

6. Since we move at the student’s pace, our sequence can’t be behind. If you read the testimonies you will notice that many of the students were ahead of traditional grade level expectations. In MathUSee we encourage students to move at their pace. If they need longer to master a topic they have that freedom. If they understand a new topic quickly they are encouraged to keep moving. Since we use manipulatives, abstract concepts are learned more readily.


Again I've not actually delved into the MUS books themselves

7. MathUSee is much more than books. While we continue to improve our books, the focus is on understanding math (math you understand or math you see). Teachers (and many students) learn the concepts of math from watching the DVD and students (and many teachers) experience and understand math through the use of the hands-on manipulatives.


My post here is too LONG---so I am going to post the Testimonials on the next post :001_smile:

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Dear Steve,

Well at least one of your students has made it to the "big leagues". Elizabeth and I are very proud of Michael and his many accomplishments and we thought you might enjoy an update on one of "your kids". He has worked incredibly hard over the past few years. After completing Math-U-See Trigonometry as a ninth-grader he was very ready for college level calculus. You may remember Michael as he was one of your early "Beta Testers" for the Trig tapes.

He will be attending Texas A&M in the fall as a Mechanical Engineering and Math major. But because he has so many hours coming in, he hopes to take some electronics classes as electives!

Steve, Thank you for Math-U-See and being a significant part of Michael's becoming an excellent math student and potential engineer.


Dan, KY




How well were the boys prepared for college courses? According to the chair of the math department of U.N.H. Manchester, they had a better understanding of the concepts she taught in her PreCalculus and Calculus I than many of her incoming students. I believe this has to do not only with their preparation but also their love of learning. Math-U-See remained interesting throughout and never became drudgery for them. They liked using the manipulatives initially to grasp the concepts in Algebra but quickly moved beyond them. The name "Math-U-See" aptly describes the program. Once the student visualizes the concept, it becomes imprinted in their brain, and they can apply the concepts learned to the next level.

My two younger children use Math-U-See and also love the program. My youngest, in 6th grade, will soon finish PreAlgebra and can't wait to begin Algebra I. Perhaps some would say they are just bright in math. I would agree that Benjamin has exceptional aptitude in math - in fact, he plans to major in mathematics in college - but the rest have no greater aptitude than many other students. Because of the way Math-U-See incrementally introduces concepts, I believe children can advance more quickly than with traditional math programs.


Enthusiastically, I can not only recommend Math-U-See to the child struggling with math but also to the exceptional student whose favorite subject is and always will be math.



Helen, MA



(Excerpts from a MUS Users Group Discussion)


I can give you some personal experience with using Math-U-See through high school. My son was eligible for the Naval Academy with his math scores, and he did Math-U-See exclusively from 3rd grade through the Trig program. When he finished with Trig, he had to go to the local community college to take a PreCalculus course. He had to take a placement test before they would accept him, and they were amazed at his score, saying that they don't often see such high math scores. He is now a sophomore in college and is doing great with his math courses. My daughter, a high school senior, has wonderful scores on her ACT and SAT and she only took them once. She has used Math-U-See since 1st grade. She is eligible for scholarships as a result. Of course, everyone will not have the same story because people are individuals.

Math-U-See is organized according to the sequential order of mathematical concepts. It is a very logical approach and makes learning math easy. If you put every math curriculum side by side, you would see that they all cover things at different times. There isn't a standard for what to cover when.

I hope this is helpful to you. Please feel free to call me or e-mail me with any questions. I would be happy to help.




Dear Dan and Angie

I was the parent that was being advised by mentors in my homeschool group to stop MathUSee for upper levels. I wrote you earlier in the year and Mr. Demme graciously responded to my concerns via your email. The email encouraged me to stick with the program and not be swayed. We did struggle some through Algebra I and progress slowed down after lesson 13 but my son finished the book in a timely manner and did well. He took the Standard Achievement Test through our homeschool group in late March 2003 for 8th grade and he ended up testing very well with a percentile score of 99.9%. I did not know his test results until late June after we finished the Algebra I program. In July I went to my homeschool conference to map out a high school plan for my son. I was gently encouraged to consider another math program for high school. At that point, I referred the counselor to my son's SAT scores and asked if I should change programs if the results I were getting were satisfactory. The curriculum counselor viewed my son's National Test scores and could not say anything negatively about his math program. After all, what can you say when the child only misses one question in a nation wide test for math understanding. This happened to be his highest math score ever. Anyway, I was told my no means should I change what is doing so well for us. I had no intention of changing as my son's test scores were confirmation from the Lord for me to keep doing what we have always been doing, MathUSee.

Please pass on this report to Mr. Demme and tell him how much I appreciated his email as it encouraged me to stick with the Algebra I program and not be persuaded to change to another program midstream. I also appreciated that he did not have to defend his program by talking against another program.



Jeanne, CA


Mr. Demme,

Wanted to let you know that Aaron (who has used Math-U-See from Foundations through Algebra 2) recently took the COMPASS placement test for college (he will be taking college courses for dual credit). Out of 100, he earned the following scores: PreAlgebra 99, Algebra 99, Trigonometry 19, College Algebra 32. They placed him in Intermediate Algebra which is after College Algebra/Trig ... and he hasn’t even had Trig. We are very pleased with the results & credit Math-U-See's emphasis on understanding the reason “why†behind the “howâ€.







I've been homeschooling for 12 years, and I've bought for, and taught, every level of Math U See to my kids through Trig.

My oldest is now in college, and I have a 10th grader who went to school for the first time this year. She's taking Algebra II AC (honors) and is doing better than either my spouse or I ever did in that subject, THANKS TO her foundation in Math U See, through the old Algebra/Geometry book.

Our Christen started Cedarville last week. She is majoring in Physics. We regret that we did not teach her Calculus BEFORE college, but she certainly had a STRONG Math foundation (THank you!)--and scored a 730 on the Math section of the SAT! We hope she will get the hang of Calculus,too. We are SO grateful for the excellence you put into Math U See. I am starting our soon-to-be adopted son in Math U See this year. He's 8 and joins our other five on Decimal Street! :)



Idora, OH




I was an advanced math student (several years of calculus and differential equations in high school), but I'm learning and strengthening my math foundations as I teach my kids using Math U See. I would like to use Math U See to help my college students fill in the gaps from their elementary and high school education. Keep up the great work!


Albert Yee, Ph.D.

Adjunct Professor, William Jessup University

My Ph.D. is in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Mathematics



We used Math-U-See for five years with one of our children. He loved math and found that MUS provided a solid foundation. That same son will be starting his junior year in college next September and is a math major. Currently, as a sophomore, he is enrolled in two very difficult and very different calculus courses--doing well in both. He's even been asked to be a math tutor! Thanks, Steve!


Vicki, MN


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Thank you for taking the time to post all this. It is hugely reassuring to read. I have a 12 year old in zeta (we went back and restarted from alpha at almost 11 years of age) He is learning and whilst he doesn't 'love' maths, he can now do it, and he understands it too. We plan to keep on with MUS through High School

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Thank you for the post - great encouragment. My son has done very well in MUS and will complete Zeta next year so was contemplating what to do for pre-algebra on up. Have felt that I shouldn't fix what isn't broken so plan on staying with MUS.



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I have recently switched my son over to MUS. We have acquired an older set which includes episilon, zeta and pre-calculus all in one. (It is the Classic Advanced).

DS has been using Saxon for several years and he could not retain anything long-term. He could do a lesson on multiplying fractions just fine, but then a while later, not recall how to do it. The "one lesson a day" method of Saxon was not working for him.

We are in week 4 of our MUS lesson and so far, so good!

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My dd used MUS from the beginning. We started with the classic form and then switched to the new for. She finished with Pre-Calculus. On the college placement exam she placed into Calculus and took it. She ended up being the top student in her class and actually helped tutor several others. So, for us, MUS did an excellent job of preparing my dd.

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  • 1 year later...

If you read the testimonies you will notice that many of the students were ahead of traditional grade level expectations.


But isn't that the same thing the Advisor said (use it ahead)?


I don't understand his response (and I have NO horse in the MUS/not MUS race.) He replied to all the points where she was not saying anything negative about MUS, but skipped the parts where she actually told what her concerns were in each book. I think it would be more helpful for him to address those. He probably has a very good reason for not presenting them or presenting them later, and it would be more convincing to give those reasons. (See, no interest in the math aspect, I'm just interested in the rhetorical aspect. :D)

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Thank you for this post. My recommendation, after 14 years of homeschooling, is that there comes a time when you have to stop asking other people what they think otherwise you'll spend all your time second-guessing yourself and wasting your time instead of homeschooling. It was a lot easier to homeschool (and way less stressful or competitive) before the Internet allowed for so much discussion. There's a lot to be said about the good old days!


If you like MUS, ignore the critics. There will always be critics of just about any curriculum, but something about math seems to invite more comments than any other subject, it seems.



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I agree with Yolanda in Mass, I have one son who has tried just about every other program out there and MUS is all that seems to work for him and he actually enjoys math for once! I have another son who really dislikes it and actually started to dislike math while he was using it, as soon as we switched to EPGY he was fine again. My kids are proof that what works for one may not work for another.

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