So, we have completed Beginner Math Sticks (JK/SK), Math Sticks 1 (grade 1), and Math Sticks 2 (grade 2). Are there plans to design math curriculum for grades 3 and up? The answer is no… one reason is because children are very different in how they learn math best once they are generally leaving the hands-on learning aspect aside.
Some children still really thrive with hands-on math and might not learn well unless some types of manipulatives remain often in the lessons. So keep using manipulatives if this is what makes math really enjoyable for them!
Some prefer the “hands-on” application of math to be in with science (i.e. physics) instead and want a workbook or textbook for regular math lessons and practice.
Tip: Try to do math outdoors some of the time and also apply math to real life projects (e.g. building a sandbox, etc.). Outdoors is great for anyone but I think it is of extra-special interest for kids/teens who really like hands-on learning in math!
Some families want to prepare a student for upper levels by using a spiral method.
Some families want to prepare a student for upper levels by using a mastery approach.
Some families just want a very basic understanding of math which is then applied to real life in experiences.
Some families like a newer style or multi-media or something taught with a different methodology for setting up a problem and then finding its solution.
Some families (like ours) prefer to keep things in unit chunks similar to the “old math” taught in Canada in our generation and previous ones, preparing a student for both a real life math application as well as abilities to succeed in post-secondary coursework in math.
Once the foundations for math have been laid in the early grades, it really depends on personal preference as to which direction and approach fits YOUR family the best!
Some families will prefer an “old-fashioned used” textbook (e.g. from grandma’s day), others a worktext, others a newer textbook, etc..
We prefer something with paper in our family for math and we wanted something that was Canadian with the metric system with degrees Celsius, Canadian-based place and people names rather than American word problems, etc.. (It’s harder to input symbols in a computer but it has been done in upper levels too.)
We used to distribute Math Mammoth curriculum for the grade 5-8 levels; it is excellent for being comprehensive and generally laid out in a unit-chunk style as well. It has its own style and methodology that we liked in many ways although did not personally use it before a grade 5 level, partly due to fairly small print for the younger grades and partly because I wanted more hands-on and visuals for K-2/3. The print size is good though for grades 5-8. We have a few “Golden” printable CDs (a set of several grades together on one CD) left in stock but do not plan to reorder these even though they are very good. (Disclaimer: This author’s math program is superb but, we don’t promote her religious studies.)
For a while, we offered Prism Math for grades 3-8. They are also very good but to our understanding are now also out of print which means that quantities are limited to whatever suppliers have left. Although they are promoted as resources for “struggling students” who cannot read at that same grade level, to me, “reading complex sentence structures with rich vocabulary” is not a necessary factor in one’s ability to succeed in math. To me, when I teach math skills, my purpose is to teach math. When I teach reading skills, then I’ll be concerned about complex sentence structures. But not in math class as long as a student can understand ordinary sentences and instructions and compute what is right and logical.
For the high school levels (after trying a few types of curriculum), our family likes Nelson textbooks from nelson.com (which DO have answers in the back thankfully). They contain lessons with examples, problems/exercises to solve, answer key including for the chapter self-tests, which we use as “the tests”. We’ve sometimes sold these textbooks as well, as special orders, and still can do so but for high school texts, please contact us directly because prices tend to fluctuate for those. (Tip: Prices tend to be raised in the month of September or October there.) We have teens who do fairly well in math (if it is presented clearly enough) so have chosen these titles for our family: Principles of Math 9, Principles of Math 10, Functions and Applications 11 (this is the college/university pathway one with less theory emphasized but same math skills from what we can tell as the Functions 11 university pathway one), Advanced Functions 12, and Calculus and Vectors (grade 12). We have seen Mathematics for Everyday Life (grade 11 & grade 12 levels – intended for workplace students, not those heading to post-secondary) and can recommend those as well. Update June 2021: For families wanting lessons taught, there ARE now youtube channels which have high school math teachers teaching the lesson material according to these textbooks. So for us, it’s like having a video component plus textbook. (We still use the chapter self-tests for the tests because they have the answers in the back of each textbook.)
We also have appreciated the math handbooks of the following (and may have some copies still in stock):
0-17-620342-7 – Math to Learn (Canadian version for grades 1-2)
0-17-620344-3 – Math to Know (Canadian version for grades 3-4)
0-17-620340-0 – Math at Hand (Canadian version for grades 5-6)
0-17-620346-X – Math on Call (Canadian version for grades 7-8)
0-669-47151-8 – Algebra to Go (high school level handbook)
0-669-48129-7 – Geometry to Go (high school level handbook)
Another math program which looked interesting but we have NOT used ourselves, is called “Math Without Borders”. It apparently teaches by providing full step-by-step solutions for about half of the assigned questions in a textbook (using video-based learning). In other words, the student work is “taken up in class” so that they can see “where” they may have missed something. (You can search for that program online if it interests you.)
Tip: If a product appears that it is intended for remedial students and you know your student is an average or even a gifted student, this might actually be an excellent product for you to consider anyways! Sometimes, things get marketed sort of funny in my opinion. So how you can tell if something is below-math level or at the right math-level is by comparing the skills expected in a resource with the expectations in the ministry of education standards in your province/territory/state (which can be found easily online) or sometimes by comparing a detailed table of contents of two resources, one being marketed as “at the average or better level” and the other “at a remedial level”. See if there is really much of a difference in the math part or is it just how many trivia puzzlers are added. You can always add puzzlers if your student really likes these. What you really want is to be assured that your students will be presented with an excellent level of math in the curriculum resource(s) that are chosen so that they don’t “fall behind” in this subject. I’d like to explain this a bit further…
There are some students who enjoy challenges and puzzlers of all kinds, who like overcoming tricky questions that are worded on purpose to confuse/stimulate and get a brain really digging for advanced logic. There are students who enjoy knowing “why” something works in math and to prove the theories behind why it works the way it does. But I don’t believe these students represent most students and thus, I tend to stay away from curriculum which focuses on theories or tricky questions meant to challenge students. IF a student likes these sorts of things, there are plenty of puzzlers and challenges that can supplement a math curriculum and that means, the rest of the students don’t have to feel frustrated or discouraged over something that really isn’t all that important in gaining the ability to do both basic and advanced math calculations and logic well.
I was a pretty good student in math, even taking it a wee bit of it in university, but I personally don’t care about the theory or “whys” in this subject – I just want to know the “whats”, “whens”, and “hows” and apply things (e.g. like a pattern) to make it work correctly. Call it personality or preferences or whatever – but this is how a number of people view the subject of math, including our oldest who excelled in advanced functions and calculus. When a curriculum presents itself as “for struggling students” but all it really is is a method of just being straightforward (which is what math should be for elementary levels), then I get a little perturbed. To me, a “struggling math student” should define someone who fails to grasp much of the math skills and needs extra help to work with numbers or lines. It has nothing to do with not preferring to know the theories behind something or comprehending complex word-sentence structures. Test complex reading comprehension in reading and leave the math complexities to math stuff. Please don’t call people who don’t enjoy that unnecessary sideline of math “struggling” if they can work well with numbers and apply math to real life! They’re really not struggling with math – they just don’t appreciate the theory or quirky puzzler sidelines of it. And quite possibly they also aren’t struggling with “reading levels” either. I know I wasn’t – I was an early reader and top student in reading comprehension. But if you put poorly-worded or super-complex sentences in math, then I (or other students I know) can get confused and even sometimes fail. (I’ve seen it before where some math writers may have a great strength in math but a weakness in writing English properly to the point that it confuses even a math minor who enjoys puzzlers!) Yet if it is worded more clearly, we can do the math correctly most of the time. In summary, I believe that math should be presented in a straightforward manner for all elementary levels (and even beyond that in some cases) because this is the period of time when students are learning the foundational skills and these need to be very solid for future success.
Perhaps it is time for a change in your math curriculum. We know from personal experience that methods can make a huge difference in whether or not a student grasps math concepts well! And sometimes, we’ve had to make the changes to a different curriculum, one that isn’t out to see if you can catch the tricks in every question and one that isn’t poorly-worded. Recycling resources in a blue box can be a good thing!
I don’t think that math should be overly frustrating in elementary years for anyone. Start with what students already know, add to the lessons in a clear presentation to show “how”, subtract the distracting aspects, and give it some time to show itself measurably useful in life.
Keep up the good work!