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Monday, June 19, 2017

A Review of Math U See

A Review of Math U See Curriculum 

There isn't a perfect mythological  curriculum that will magically make math easy and wonderful every day of the year. Math is hard, but we work at it. Anything worth learning may require work. 

Math is a hard subject to find just the right fit for your child!  For us the pros outweigh the cons with Math U See 

We used My Father's World Curriculum for our Core Subjects of History, Geography, and Science in K-8th grade.  Their one-classroom-approach is great for families with multiple children, but you need to choose your own Math Curriculum separately because Math is such an individualized subject. 

On recommendation from a  friend, we tried the  Math U See  (MUS) Primer for Kindergarten. 

 We have ups and downs, tears and triumphs, but we still use it even through high school.

Math has never come naturally to me, even as a trained Elementary school teacher I was nervous about teaching my children a subject I struggled in my entire life.   When I was told MUS had a teacher's manual and a DVD teacher, I was super excited.    I do have to read the manual, watch the short video alongside them, and usually do some reinforcement activities after the video (all listed in manual with exact wording) for each concept with them, but I feel like the videos really teaches the concept to them and to me that I can help them with any questions that have. Because of Math U See I am relearning the "whys" behind math myself  as we watch the videos together, and understand Pre-Algebra better now than when I was taking it as a student. 

I  was first drawn to  Math U See  because I have visual and tactile learners. The colorful blocks were very appealing to my always moving little boys.  As we dug into the approach, I was very pleased with the fact that Math U See address more than just visual learners.  

The  "Build , Write , Say " approach, which is part of the 4 Step Approachhits on many different learning styles:
  • "Build" with the colorful blocks, during DVD lesson and during practice pages. This appeals to visual and tactile learners.
  • "Write" the problems and solutions with the practice pages.  This also appeals to visual learners. 
  • "Say" by talking through the why of the concept as you build and write, and later showing they have mastered the concept by teaching me, the teacher, how to do it. This is useful to auditory learners, who benefit when they hear their own voice while learning. 


Mastery versus Spiral

  • Mastery Approach-"Proponents of math mastery believe that math is learned best when learned incrementally, with one skill building on the next. In a mastery math program, a student develops a thorough comprehension of one topic before moving on." Demme Learning
  • Spiral Approach -"In a spiral curriculum, learning is spread out over time rather than being concentrated in shorter periods. In a spiral curriculum, material is revisited repeatedly over months and across grades."

Spiral Approach is taught in most public schools. As a teacher, I knew that spiral means if the child has not learned the skill, the class still moves on, with hopes that when it is revisited later in the year, or the next grade, they will get it then.  With a large classroom of 30 plus kids, I can't imagine doing it any other way than spiral.  Kudos to AMAZING public school teachers who do make this work. Thankfully, I have a classroom of only two, and can choose what works best for my specific children.

Mastery Approach was attractive to me based on my personal  experience in elementary math . I remember vividly getting stuck multiplication tables, and never being able to catch back up when they moved on.  While the spiral approach does circle back around, but it is done so at a higher & more complicated level.   By that time they came back, I was so far behind and ashamed for being that far behind, that I just couldn't catch up. I didn't want that for my boys.


There are no grade levels in Mastery approach, which means no stressing about finishing , or NOT finishing, a book in a year.  You literally go at the pace your child needs. We did Primer in only 5 months, then just moved onto the next book. We finished Alpha (addition) in one school year, plus LOTS of summer review We finished Beta (subtraction) in  only 2/3 a school year, and Gamma (multiplication) was almost was the death of me because it took a year and a half, but it was worth it.
This allowed us one of my children to be "behind' for a few years while we went at his pace, but eventually "catch up".  He is not on track to graduate high school with Trigonometry done. 


One major con of  mastery approach is sometimes you just get STUCKI felt like we would NEVER finish Gamma!!! It took us a year and half, plus 3 months off taking a break to just read Life of Fred math books because we were all frustrated being stuck.  BUT I am so glad we didn't give up and move on because they truly needed to master multiplication facts to get anything that came afterward. All the work, sweat, and tears in mastering multiplication facts has meant we FLEW through the next level, Delta, in only 4 months. The mastering of the facts is paying off; they know the WHY, so the HOW comes easily.

We had a similar experience of feeling a little "stuck" in addition (Alpha), but then flew through subtraction. To those MUS moms who want to throw in the towel on addition or multiplication, keep going. Trust the hard work in mastering the facts now will make your life so much easier later on!

Some critics say there isn't enough review in Math U See's mastery approach. I would disagree on two points:
  1. Scaffolding- Mastery approach is based on scaffolding, meaning they build upon each other. You review past concepts every time you do another, because you HAVE to to get the problem correct. If you don't know know your addition or multiplication, you can not do subtraction or division.
  2. Review in every lesson. Every lesson has 3 practice pages for your current concept, then 3 pages of review, and one enrichment page. The review pages review earlier concepts you've learned in that book. If my boys were struggling with a review page, then that alerted me we needed to go back and review the WHY of an earlier lesson in that book, which we have done on several occasions. 

 Math U See is NOT a grade level book, so you can't jump into the 3rd book just because you have a third grader.   Using the Math U See Placement Test will help you see what book to start in for your child's needs and skills.  This can be very helpful to those moms bringing a child home from public school, so assess what skills they have truly mastered, and help you "catch them up" in any skills that were left behind due to spiral approach.

Quick Note about Common Core and MUS
Some homeschooling families were upset when  Math U See aligned with Common Core. What we have found the main teaching of MUS has not changed. The only change I have seen is the Enrichment pages have incorporated more English and writing. We do some Enrichment pages, and some not, dependent on the time we have. 

For more questions about Math U See , visit their FAQS page

Let me know about your experience with Math U See below in comments!  Thanks!


  1. I love math u see! My youngest daughter just doesn't 'get' math. As a last ditch effort at her ever really learning math I started looking into MUS. Confused on which level to start her in I emailed the helpline at the company and have both emailed and spoken on the phone with s lady there that has been so helpful. We've been working our way through Alpha (even though we were starting halfway through her 4th grade year) so that we can make sure she hasn't missed anything and she truly understands. It's totally crazy, but she likes it. The MUS rep talked to me a long time about my daughter's audio processing disorder and how to use this program with her, and how to watch for any signs of frustration so we stop the lesson right there.
    She actually likes math (I didn't say lives) 😏and her confidence is returning! Wonderful!

    1. That is so wonderful to hear! I have such good things about their helpline.

  2. We switched to homeschool from public schools at the beginning of high school and started my son in geometry. We initially started with BJU after seeing several curriculums at a local homeschool fair. My son (and I) were lost from Day 1. After an online homeschool fair where MUS was presented, we decided to try it. It was a world of difference from the beginning! My son breezed through the course and we learned where his math weaknesses were. We were able to find used MUS teacher materials to review those items and he is quickly moving through Algebra 2 now. We will have a better idea of where he is after he takes the past this fall, but we feel he is on track with his peers in the ps with a better understanding than many of them.