Can we talk about homeschool math curriculum for a minute? For those who don’t know much about us, we’ve been homeschooling for a really long time. Decades. When we began homeschooling things were totally different than they are today. We didn’t have the internet to look for reviews of curriculum, and secular curriculum was almost unheard of. Back then the only resources we had were a small handful of religiously-based books at the library and the very small, often still underground, religiously-segregated homeschool support groups.
I am so, so, so glad that isn’t the case anymore. These days you can’t leave the house without seeing other kids outside during the day. These days homeschooling is legal in the entire country. We have found each other, finally!
This is all a round-about way of telling you that in decades of homeschooling my six children, we’ve used a lot of math curriculum. A lot. I’m going to try to remember all of them and give you my basic impressions of them all. Please keep in mind that many of these were used a long time ago and may have changed, I’ll try to note edition numbers and grade levels when I can.
Types of Homeschool Math Curriculum
There are three types of math curriculum, with the majority of math curriculum being spiral or mastery. The third type, incremental, combines spiral and mastery.
The Spiral Method introduces math to the kids in a specific order, with each new concept building on the last one. In the spiral method children move on the the next concept even if they don’t have a full understanding of the previous concept because the concept will be presented as review in future lessons. Critics of the spiral method say it’s not appropriate to move to a new lesson if the concept isn’t mastered, yet proponenets of the spiral method say it doesn’t bog down children by demanding mastery before moving on.
The Mastery Method presents the child with a lesson and concept that must be mastered before moving on to the next idea. For example, in a mastery math curriulum a child cannot learn division until they have mastered addition, subtraction, and multiplication in that order. Critics of the mastery method feel that it demands too much, moves too slowly, and can be unmotivating and boring. Proponents of the mastery method feel that it is a more complete way to learn math and that children are harmed if they move too fast.
The Incremental Method is a combination of spiral and mastery. With incremental math curriculum the student is presented with an idea with the goal of mastery, but the concept will keep popping up down the road for review, just like with spiral math curriculums. This is a tough one to define because it encompasses both styles and can lean toward either end. Because it’s not a consistently-used term in the homeschooling world, I will add it as appropriate below but also note whether the curriculum leans toward the spiral or mastery side.
Which method is right for you? I can’t answer that question for you because it totally depends on your kid and your preference. Spiral math curriculums are great for kids who don’t like math or maybe aren’t particularly great at it, for older kids who just need to get the credit over with, and for students who need to see progress to stay motivated. Mastery math curriculums are great for kids who are very interested in math, kids who catch onto math quickly, and for those who are intrinsically motivated.
A word about cost- I have marked these math curriculums as inexpensive, moderately expensive, and expensive. This information is mostly arbitrary, but I tried to keep inexpensive to under $50, moderate to under $100, and expensive to over $100.
What does consumable mean? Consumable programs are those that are used once and cannot be reused. Workbooks and online programs that require a subscription are examples of consumable curriculum.
A quick word about worldview: We are secular homeschoolers but you’ll notice that some of the selections below are not secular. We used these items because they were all we had available at the time. I look forward to updating this list as my third generation of kids begin their formal academics.
Every Homeschool Math Curriculum We Have Ever Used
Horizons Lifepac Workbooks by Alpha-Omega
View on Amazon
Grade(s) used: 1st
Year(s) used: 2000
This would be good for: Children with ADHD, families who need minimal instruction, families who need an inexpensive option. Children who need short bursts of work with constant recognition.
This would not be good for: Children who need divergent teaching methods. Children who don’t like workbooks.
Notes: Religious content is present but minimal. Each year is a series of short workbooks, making this a good choice for kids who may struggle with motivation. Series is very basic and while it is easy to understand, it is linear in methodology and meant to serve children who don’t need any extra help or extra challenging work. There is a lot of repetiton, as is common with spiral programs.
Singapore Math (USA version & Asia version)
View on Amazon
Grade(s) used: multiple elementary
Year(s) used: early 2000s (Asia version), 2011 (USA version)
This would be good for: Children who need divergent teaching methodologies. Children who are gifted in math. Visual learners. Students who enjoy puzzles. Students who aren’t neurotypical.
This would not be good for: Students who struggle with math concepts, parents who aren’t comfortable explaining math concepts, below-level readers.
Notes: This is a very solid curriculum for problem-solving math especially. I found the combination of two workbooks, a teacher book, and a teacher text to be too confusing and on occassion the teacher pages didn’t match the student pages.
6/5, pre-Common Core version
Grade(s) used: 6th
Year(s) used: 2007
Style: Incremental, leaning toward mastery
Consumable? Both options available – Use older versions for non-consumable, newer versions for consumable
Cost: Inexpensive used, moderately expensive new
This would be good for: Children who need minimal distraction, parents who need little preparation, students who are receptive to textbook-based learning. Newer, post-Common Core versions are good for children who need divergent teaching methodologies. This is a good option for kids who want to study the maths in depth in the future.
This would not be good for: Students who struggle with math, visual learners,
Notes: There are so many different versions of Saxon available that it’s hard to know what to get. If you don’t like common core standards, you’ll want to find the old textbooks from the 90s. If your child doesn’t do well with Western teaching methodologies, the newer workbook versions are probably a better fit. In either case, it’s important to recognize that a textbook-based approach is the core of this program.
Grade(s) used: 2, 4, algebra 1
Year(s) used: 2012
Style: Incremental, leaning toward mastery
Consumable? Yes (online version) or No (disc & book versions)
Cost: Moderately Expensive to Expensive
This would be good for: Multiple learning styles accomodated. Good for kids who struggle with handwriting. High school students who need math credit but won’t be math or science majors. Students who want to quickly move through material to qualify for higher level instruction at community colleges. Individual units are excellent for intervention and remedial help. Lower levels do not pander to very young children, making this a good remedial program for older students.
This would not be good for: Those with a poor internet connection should buy the disc version. Students who need a large level of personal instruction.
Notes: This product is available as a whole curriculum or as individual units. There are some cartoons and illustrations in the program but we didn’t find them distracting.
Teaching Textbooks version 1.0/3.0
Grade(s) used: 3, 4, Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Geometry
Year(s) used: 2011-current
Read my review of the NEW for 2018-2019 Teaching Textbooks 3.0 Online
Consumable? Yes (online version, workbook version) & No (disc version)
Cost: Moderate (online & used disc versions) to expensive (new disc version)
This would be good for: Students who need math credit for college entrance but aren’t going into the maths or sciences. Students who need a slower pace. Students who need extra reinforcement and motivation. Visual learners. Students who respond well to screen learning. Persons who have dyslexia and/or dysgraphia (if you skip the optional workbooks.)
This would not be good for: Persons with slower internet speeds should buy the disc version. Persons advanced in math or who want to finish a large amount of learning in a short amount of time.
Notes: *Version 2 includes self-grading. Version 3 is an online-only option. Versions 1 & 2 are very easy to find used and come with lifetime support. Workbooks are not necessary to use version 1 or 2.
The Great Courses
Grade(s) used: Algebra, Geometry
Year(s) used: 2014, 2016
Consumable? No (DVD only) & Yes (subscription video, printable workbook, printed workbook)
Cost: Inexpensive (monthly subscription) to Expensive (the entire course on DVD with printed workbook)
This would be good for: Students who want to learn more about mathematical theory and history. Adult students who need a refresher. Supplemental lessons. Students who need a math credit without having to prove skill. Pass/fail options. Students who will be continuing their education outside of the traditional university system.
This would not be good for: Students who need to pass a college entrance exam will not be able to rely on this course alone.
Notes: The Great Courses is a video-based adult education company. Courses are available on DVD with supplemental workbooks, through the Great Courses Plus streaming service (with printable workbook options), or as an Amazon Prime Video Add-On Channel. You can see some The Great Courses options here.
FLVS (Florida Virtual School)
Grade(s) used: 7th, 8th, algebra 1
Year(s) used: 2013, 2014
Consumable? Yes (online classes)
Cost: Inexpensive (free for most Floridians)
This would be good for: Students who need a state-certified transcript. Students who plan to apply for Bright Futures or a state university. Students who need little math intervention. Students who do well with screen learning. Students who are skilled in math and wish to volunteer as peer tutors. Students who are self motivated. Parents who don’t have the ability or desire to teach math.
This would not be good for: Students who need math help. Students who are not self motivated. Students who have poor internet connection and unreliable phone service.
Notes: We’ve had more negative experiences with FLVS than positive, for both full time and a la carte classes. We’ve had teachers forget appointments, email us information for the wrong student, and kick a child out of class for reasons we still don’t understand. If your child needs any math help, don’t count on being able to get help from the tutoring sessions. Our experience, however, isn’t shared by all and FLVS offers a solid math program for kids who are serious about getting the Bright Futures scholarship.
Prodigy Math Game
Visit Prodigy Math Game
Grade(s) used: Elementary through Algebra
Year(s) used: 2012 to present, premium membership
Consumable? Yes (online service)
Cost: Inexpensive (free basic account) to moderate (premium version)
This would be good for: Children who enjoy video games. Children who like Pokemon and trading card games. Students who respond well to play & game-based learning. Children who need extra motivation to practice math. Competitive students. Persons with ADHD, dysgraphia.
This would not be good for: Students who don’t respond well to fantasy games and fairy tales. Children with poor reading skills. Parents looking for a complete curriculum.
Notes: This is not a full curriculum but I’m including it because I see people ask if it’s a full curriculum or supplement frequently. Prodigy Math Game is a fantastic supplement to any math curriculum that is fully customizable by the parent-teacher. The paid membership allows access to exclusive worlds and pets, and allows for faster leveling up. I highly recommend splurging on the paid membership when possible.
Grade(s) used: 2
Year(s) used: 2009
Consumable? Yes (online service)
This would be good for: Students who enjoy video games and problem solving. Students with ADHD. Students who respond well to game & play-based learning. Students with dyslexia and/or dysgraphia.
This would not be good for: Students who are not visual learners.
Notes: *The math program we used is no longer available but I’m including it anyhow because it was really great.
DK Math Made Easy Workbooks
View on Amazon
Grade(s) used: Supplemental for elementary math
Year(s) used: 2010-2013
This would be good for: Reviewing concepts for standardized testing. Covering large amounts of material in a short period of time. Students who don’t need a lot of repitition and practice. Summer bridge learning. Students who do best with very short lessons. Students who need intervention.
This would not be good for: Students who desire an in-depth math education. Students who are easily distracted by colorful images on the pages.
Notes: This workbook series is actually really great for mathphobic kids. I’m not sure it’s intense enough to qualify as a full program, but I feel it’s adequate for most kids to be considered complete for early elementary school and as supplemental practice or intervention for later elementary grades.
Math U See
Grade(s) used: Alpha
Year(s) used: 2011
Worldview: Secular-friendly, Christian publisher
Consumable? Yes (workbooks, online elements) & No (manipulatives, DVDs)
Cost: Expensive but easily available used
This would be good for: Children new to formal academics. Children who need hands-on learning. Visual learners. Kinestetic learners. Students who are receptive to lecture-based learning. Students who are not strong in math. This is regarded as a program that is especially good for students who have dyslexia.
This would not be good for: Students who excel in math. ADHD students. Students with short attention spans.
Notes: You can make MUS more affordable by sharing workbooks, each lesson comes with more than enough practice pages for 2 kids to use one workbook. I highly suggest watching sample videos before you commit to purchase. MUS has a huge following, but my kids simply found it too dull and slow. We used an older version and the production quality of the videos was just so-so and featured a man in front of a white board for the entire lesson, hopefully the videos have improved in the newer version.
Grade(s) used: 3, 4, 5, 6, pre-algebra
Year(s) used: 2016-present
Consumable? Yes (all online content)
Cost: Moderate (for 1 child or paid monthly) or inexpensive (multiple children plan)
This would be good for: Students with ADHD. Students with dysgraphia and/or dyslexia. Students who do well with screentime. Students who want to move at their own pace, be it slower or faster than average. Students who need little to no intervention or additional help. Students who struggle with western teaching methodologies. Students who want to practice for standardized and college entrance exams. Parents who want no preparation work.
This would not be good for: Students who need a lot of intervention or extra help. Students who need written materials. Students with hearing or processing disabilities.
Notes: This has been my favorite curriculum so far, as it is my 15 year old’s. Note that the narrator has an Austrailian accent, which some children may have trouble understanding. Also, as the program is based on Austrailian teaching methodologies, there are some differences in how problems are completed. I most noticed this difference when learning order of operations, but it was ok because I actually like doing it the Austrailian way better than the American way, and so did my kids. This program is totally self graded too, that’s very handy! Parents receive daily and weekly notification of work completed, as well as unit-end certificates, via email.
Learn Math Fast
Grade(s) used: Volume 1, 2
Year(s) used: 2017-present
This would be good for: Older students who need intervention. Unschooled & child-led learners. Families who espouse delayed formal academics. Project-based learners. Adults who need to review math concepts. Standardized & college entrance exam review. Anyone who needs to learn a lot of math in a short amount of time. Children who do well in math and wish to move quickly. Younger gifted students who wish to complete basic mathematics in just a few years. Parents who want little to no preparation work. High School students who want a rigorous program they can complete quickly.
This would not be good for: Students with poor reading skills or dyslexia.
Notes: This is the absolute favorite math curriculum choice of my rising 8th grade son. This son has ADHD & dysgraphia and this is the first program we haven’t fought over. While this is a workbook-based series, it’s unique in that there is no additional textbook. Children will need a notebook and some basic math tools like a protractor and ruler. This program was written to specifically meet the needs of delayed learners, unschoolers, teenagers, and adults who need to cover large amounts of information relatively quickly. The entire program moves from basic addition to algebra & geometry in just 3-4 years.
Grade(s) used: 3, 5
Year(s) used: 2015
Style: Incremental, leaning toward mastery
This would be good for: Students who are gifted in math. Students who do not learn well with western teaching methologies. Visual learners. Students with ADHD. Students who need intervention. Parents who learned maths outside of the USA. Parents who want little preparation and little to moderate instructing. Creative thinkers.
This would not be good for: Parents who are resistant to European teaching methodologies. Parents who are not comfortable providing some instruction and grading.
Notes: Math Mammoth’s individual units are great for adults and older students who want to review or prepare for a test. MM is a great program for divergent thinkers as it’s based on European teaching techniques.
In the 2018-2019 school year we will be using:
10th grade: CTC Math Algebra (*we may be switching to Teaching Textbooks V3)
8th grade: Learn Math Fast volumes 2 & 3, Prodigy Math Game
6th grade: We bought Beast Academy to try, if it doesnt work out we’ll likely switch to Teaching Textbooks v3 and just stick with that (or CTC, it depends on what we do for the 10th grader so we can take advantage of family rates), Prodigy Math Game
Kindergarten: So many games that we’re gonna need a separate post!
Meg Grooms is a long-time homeschooling mother of 6 children, ranging in age from preschool to married with kids of their own. Always a vagabond at heart, Meg and her family have embraced a slow travel lifestyle and currently call Southern California home. Your guess is as good as hers as to where they’ll end up next.
Meg blogs about secular homeschooling and gameschooling at Homeschool Gameschool.