by Sharon

(Leavenworth, Kansas)

Product: Mastering Mathematics, by Letz Farmer

Subject: Math

Levels Used: All levels from approximately 1st grade to 6th grade

Dates Used: Since about 2003

My Story:

I wrote my own curriculum for first grade math, but later learned that my first-born son saw life through entirely different eyes. He needed a different way to be shown math concepts, and he needed a form of motivation that had not occurred to me. He was highly perfectionistic and needed to slowly copy all his work to be sure that he got everything right, yet he resented too much work or being made to feel bored. I soon discovered that my children would all need very different methods of teaching and motivation.

In the next few years, we tried Miquon (liked it, but it did not work for all my children), MCP, Saxon, Horizons, Math It, Pre-Math It, Cuisenaire supplements and more! I grimaced at how my children all seemed to hate math for various reasons, but I searched constantly for something that could work for all of them, in spite of their varied needs. I knew I was not Superwoman; having only one method to learn and one book to follow seemed worth the long hunt.

When I finally found Mastering Mathematics, my first son was near ten years of age, but still struggled with some addition facts! He is now taking high school geometry and loves it! Oh, and he is an "A" student in math, too! I have one more son who has graduated to Algebra and another who is close behind him. I can't honestly say that all five of my children are happy to do math now, but my search for something that would make them all ready for Algebra ended when I found Mastering Mathematics.

Likes:

The answer keys are all in one book for all the grades. The price was very affordable for all that I received. This program has a great balance of word problems and numerical problems. Unashamedly Christian, sometimes the words problems ask the child to look up verses in the bible in order to work out math problems. It makes children think and it works their brains without frustrating the human being.

This program will work equally as well with a child who has CP (the author has a section distinctly addressing how to teach a child with CP using this method) as it will with a child who excels in all academics!

The principle is simple; the child may continue with various practice until the concept is learned, but the child may skip the review for any objectives in which he/she achieved a grade of 90 percent or better. This was fabulous incentive for my first son to fly through the first few books (he tested in at a very low level but did not need to practice every last concept) and get quickly back on grade level. It then continued to make him determined to do his best so that he could feel good about skipping pages. The additional review pages greatly helped my two children who stuggle more with math concepts. I even used the manipulative for a remedial child I tutored and he loved them. Placement tests are included to find exactly what book and what section of that book in which to begin.

The incentive this program provides to a child who may be temporarily behind in math is exactly what also insures that no holes develop in the child who begins with the program. While designed to take a year to complete each of the six books (Attacking Addition, Subduing Subtraction, Mastering Mathematics, Defeating Division, Finishing Fractions and Perfecting the Point), the incentives allow any child to move faster through the books without creating holes in his understanding of the concepts.

MM is easily adaptable with any other math manipulatives, but comes with its own. Some of the manipulatives remind me of old paper doll books on cardstock. You need to cut and prepare some of the games. The pages of the workbooks are printed on only one side to avoid distracting the student. The blank page on the left allows plenty of space for the child to show his work! The pages use symbols to help coordinate the manipulatives with the level of the child. Other than the symbols, the pages contain only what is needed to teach math; they are not distracting in any way. The program allows for plenty of play time for the younger student so not all of the child's time is spent in the workbooks. The workbook pages have a surprisingly small amount of problems on each page. There are no chapter tests. Math naturally repeats and reviews itself. For example, subtraction is really just a review of addition and fractions are a review of division. Concepts naturally stack on top of each other without the need for tests, believe it or not!

Most of all, the author really seems to understand the child; he/she does not need 20 problems or more on a page plus review of up to five other concepts every day to become proficient in math; that method can make even a math whiz abhor math! Letz is also able to fool the child into going deeper and doing harder concepts than most math curricula allow. For example, the 1st grade child will be adding five-digit numbers. They are not really harder than two-digit numbers but they boost a child's confidence supremely! He/she is actually doing a lot of problems, but it won't seem like a lot that way. You can praise a child for doing such big problems, but it is also not as demeaning for a child who needs remedial work.

The explanations in the workbooks are phrased so well that my only child who has done the program from the very first book is now able to read and teach himself the math concepts! This program streamlined my teaching and created children who can do math with very little help from me, except in the very early years. In fact, I confess that I no longer use the manipulatives even for the first book as often as Mrs. Farmer suggests.

For those who must take state standard tests, the author even has a schedule printed for how to use the different sections of the books together in a more traditional sequence.

Dislikes:

I personally could have benefitted from more explanations about the manipulatives. I had to learn through trials and errors, how to put some of them together. It would have been good to know when I purchased the program that I would need brass fasteners for some of the manipulatives. It would have also been good to know that you do not need to prepare all the manipulatives at the start of the year since the child may test out of the need for that particular review (it just doesn't have to take as long as another review mentioned).

It may not settle with some people that time, money, geometry and measurement are not actually taught in the workbooks. You can get WalMart books for those things, if you think it would help the child. I just teach measurement through cooking and woodworking (life skills combined with math takes less time, too). My 10th grader never had geometry in his elementary years, but his grades now prove that it never harmed him! Having to supplement with a library video about telling time never bothered me and there are explanations about extra concepts to teach in the teacher's manual. Nevertheless, since it might bother some people, I thought I would mention this.

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