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Sue in St Pete's review of Math U See


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About a year ago, I started a thread on MUS, and she responded to me linking to her review from 2009. Here that one is. I hope it's what you're looking for. I don't know how to quote from another thread, so I'm just pasting:


I haven't posted my review in a while. Maybe you will find it useful.

Math-U-See website is: www.mathusee.com. There is a placement test at the website.

I think MUS is terrific in the elementary years! We completed MUS from K through Algebra.

The advantage for the teacher is that the program is laid out so well. I spend a maximum of 15 minutes a week preparing for the lesson. Each teacher's book comes with a DVD or video, where Steve Demme teaches each lesson in front of a small group of kids. This helps me with ideas on how to present the lesson to my son. The DVD basically repeats what is said in the teacher's manual, but somehow it helps me to see it. I watched the video religiously for the first few years. Now, I just read the teacher’s lesson, which has the same information, and present the lesson to my son. Some parents have their kids watch the DVD with them. Some parents have their kids watch the DVD without them.

The advantage for the children is that each lesson works on a particular skill and yet lays the foundation for advanced material. While they are teaching addition, they have problems like 5+A=12. Because of problems like this, when it came time to do subtraction, my son already knew it. They teach skip counting in K-1st. After they teach skip counting by 5s, they teach reading a clock to the 5-10-15... minutes. After they teach skip counting by 7s, they ask how many days in x number of weeks. So, they apply skip counting right away. While they teach skip counting, they have the children figure out the area of a rectangle using their skip counting. So, they are teaching multiplication before they have even heard the word or seen 5x3=15. While they are formally teaching multiplication, they have problems like 6xA=24. Because of problems like this, when it came time to do division, my son already knew it. In fact, he said 'This is the easiest thing I've ever learned'. Throughout Alpha through Zeta, they are solving for the unknown, which is preparing them for algebra.

They use blocks as manipulatives. The blocks are kind of like legos in that it is easy to tell the number of each block. When they add 5+7, they take a 5 block, stack a 7 block on top of it, then side by side, they put a 10 block and a 2 block. It's easy to SEE the answer. They use the blocks to teach multiplication. When they multiply 12x13, they use a red 100 block with 2 blue 10 blocks on the right hand side to show 12 columns. They use 3 more blue 10 blocks on top to make 13 rows. They fill in the 6 blocks in the corner to make a rectangle. It's easy to SEE that 12x13=156. My son would use the blocks a bit at first, then he wouldn't need to use them anymore. He just knew how to do it in his head.

Epsilon (5th grade) works with fractions. They have fraction overlays that really help the kids SEE fractions. They are a little difficult to describe, but I'll try. On the bottom, there is a white background piece. On the top there is a clear plastic piece with lines dividing the white background piece into halves or thirds or fourths or fifths ... In the middle is a colored piece that represents 1/2 or 2/2 or 1/3 or 2/3 or 3/3 or 1/4 or 2/4 or ... When you add 2/3 + 1/4, you set up the 2/3, set up the 1/4, then take the extra clear plastic piece divided into 4 and place it crosswise over the 2/3, SEEing that 2/3 is the same as 8/12. You take the extra clear plastic piece divided into 3 and place it crosswise over the 1/4, SEEing that 1/4 is the same as 3/12. Adding, 8/12 + 3/12 is easy then.

I have found the balance of new material vs. review to be just right for us in the new program. There are 30 lessons in each book Each lesson has 3 lesson pages (new concept) and 3 review pages. The first review page had a “quick review†of a particular topic. This helps to refresh my son’s memory if he has forgotten the topic. The review of earlier concepts is very methodical.

Sometimes, people ask about testing. Here is my experience. When my son was about ½ way through Epsilon (5th grade), I had to have him evaluated due to state law. He took the Woodcock Johnson test (national test which only took 30 minutes total), and the results were startling. His math calculation came out upper 8th grade and his math reasoning came out mid 9th grade! It took me a while to understand this. It does not mean that he is doing 8th/9th grade math work. It means that my son, working at 5.5 grade level, does as well as the average 8th/9th grader. When he was ½ way through Zeta (6th grade), he took the Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement and scored post high school in math. After MUS Pre-Algebra, he scored 11.4 on the math total of the ITBS.

Sometimes, people are concerned about the scope & sequence of MUS. If you look at the scope & sequence of some other math curriculums or what is being taught in your local elementary school, you may find it different from MUS. MUS uses a "mastery" approach. It focuses on single digit addition and subtraction in alpha, multiple digit addition and subtraction in beta, multiplication in gamma, division in delta, fractions in epsilon, and decimals in zeta, roughly 1st-6th grade. Other curriculums use a "spiral" approach. They do a little bit of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions in each grade with each year getting progressively more difficult. This concerns some people. If they put their child in school in 3rd grade, their child may have not seen fractions at all, whereas the ps'ers would have seen simple fractions. This does not mean that the 3rd graders who have been taught simple fractions actually understand them, just that they have seen them.

But, because MUS focuses on one concept each year, I see that as one of its strengths. I think it really helps the child to know multiplication (for example) until they know it forwards, backwards, sideways, and upside down. I think it helps to CEMENT it in the child's head.

Here are some of the negatives I've heard over the years: (1) It has no color, pictures, or games to make it “funâ€. That’s true. It’s more of a solid, straightforward approach. (2) The word problems aren't as challenging as they could be. We do supplement with Singapore’s Challenging Word Problems.

I have a degree in math. My son picks math up very quickly. But, this program is so well laid out that most of the time, the learning is easy. Once in a while, it’s a little difficult, like multiple digit multiplication and long division. But, the approach is so incremental, that they learn little by little until they know a whole lot.

I hope this has been helpful. Believe it or not, I'm not a rep. Just a very happy user.

Final note: I was not as impressed with Algebra as with the previous levels. It did not cover as much material as traditional Algebra texts (ex. quadratic formula was not presented). We will not continue with MUS through high school.

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