Math Curriculum: Review of Singapore Math, Saxon Math, Beast Academy, Miquon Math, and more!

Each year, people start searching for the homeschool math curriculum that perfectly fits their needs. It can be so hard to take the time and do in-depth comparisons of homeschool math curriculums, especially being so many years removed from being in school oneself.

Fortunately, I have compiled a list of the most talked-about homeschool math curriculum, and listed out their benefits, their drawbacks, and their quirks. Not every program is a perfect fit for every family, but this should help you review some math programs that more closely align with your goals of an easy-but-challenging math year where lots of learning happens with little stress. All of these are secular math curriculum – they focus on the math without someone else’s views entering into the content.

Here are a review of some of the best math curriculums out there for homeschooling.

  1. MEP Math review
  2. Math Mammoth review
  3. RightStart Math review
  4. Miquon Math review
  5. Beast Academy review
  6. Singapore Math review
  7. Saxon Math for Homeschool review
  8. Math-U-See review
  9. Teaching Textbooks review

Let’s begin with a look into these nine very popular math homeschool curriculums.

MEP Math 

https://www.cimt.org.uk/projects/mepres/primary/index.htm

Benefits of MEP Math:

  • Free! A program of entirely free math lessons, high quality and used in schools.
  • Scripted (the teacher lesson plans go through what questions to ask, activities to do. A full answer key is available for all grade levels.)
  • Designed for the British school system, based on the award-winning Hungarian math education.
  • Available also in Afrikaans for South Africa, Spanish language, and Jamaican version.

Drawbacks of MEP Mathematics:

  • The curriculum starts off rigorous and slow (so a lot of focus on 1 – 20 for first grade, but including addition, subtraction, and inequalities.) Other curriculums push on to 1 – 100, but without the same level of number sense.
  • It is in the British system, so there’s topics that may not align. MEP covers Roman Numerals (I, II, IV, VIII, XVI)
  • The lesson books can be confusing. There is an MEP group on Facebook that has merged files – so the teacher lesson plans and answer keys are combined together for easier use.

Other things about the MEP maths curriculum:

  • The Reception year is Preschool, and can be used for kindergarten. It’s picture-based.
  • Year 1 is kindergarten/first grade, Year 2 is first grade/second grade, Year 3 is second/third grade, Year 4 is third/fourth grade, Year 5 is fourth/fifth grade, and Year 6 is fifth grade/sixth grade (a curriculum sufficient enough to enter into Pre-Algebra right after.)
  • MEP stands for Math Enhancement Programme.

Math Mammoth

https://www.mathmammoth.com/

Benefits of Math Mammoth:

  • Print the pages you need, it’s very flexible.
  • Designed by an experienced math tutor, with quality question-making.
  • Getting the package deal of all grade levels can make the entire curriculum very affordable. (7 years of curriculum for $150 or so.) Look for those deals!
  • Can be done somewhat independently. (Teachers should support math and not expect it to be done independently, but this is simpler in providing guidance/help than other programs.
  • Perfect for parents who don’t have much time, but want a solid math curriculum.
  • Over time, the creator of the program is making math videos for each lesson that help families go through the program.

Drawbacks of Math Mammoth:

  • There’s so many questions for those that need it. Many families shorten the assignment as needed, including down to 50%. Also, math can be done orally – it doesn’t have to be forced writing down.
  • Some students struggle with how many questions are on a page. People print the pages zoomed in, so it’s 2 pages per 1 page.
  • Another option is to print single-sided, and cut the assignment in the natural sections that form (usually about 3 on a page.) Then the student only has to do those four to six questions (as a warm-up), later on they do the middle section of the page, later on they do the final section.  This turning it into index-card sized assignments prevents that overwhelming feeling that there’s too much to do.
  • It is all worksheets, not much in manipulatives. Feel free to take the questions on the flat page and make them real again. If a child is doing 5 + 4, grab 9 Hot Wheels cars and add them. If they’re doing measurements, take the inspiration from the page and go measure actual flour or water. Math shouldn’t live only on the page, it should express what is happening in real life around us.

Other things about Math Mammoth:

  • Math Mammoth Placement test for each level located here.
  • The curriculum is secular, but the author sends out occasional religious emails asking if people want to opt in to her book study.

Rightstart Mathematics

https://rightstartmath.com/our-curriculum/the-rightstart-difference/rightstart-for-home-school/

Benefits of Rightstart Math:

  • The hands-on style of RightStart was designed based on Montessori methods. It’s very interactive, play-based, and structured in developmentally appropriate ways.
  • Every topic has GAMES built in. (Parents overlook the games and just ‘teach’ the curriculum, but the games are just as important for solidifying understanding. It’s the equivalent of other program’s “worksheets”, just done in game format.)
  • Rightstart Math Reviews always have a hands-on component to make the math learning visible.
  • Great for gameschoolers, with that element of playing through the learning.
  • It develops really strong mental math skills as a result of the activities done.

Drawbacks of Rightstart Math:

  • It is expensive compared to some other programs, at least initially (because of the hands-on manipulatives.) Over time, more years and with more children, it becomes very affordable.
  • It is about $50 per level, even when hunting for it used.
  • It takes heavy parental involvement (to play games, to lead a scripted lesson, to pull out the manipulatives required for the lesson.) Parents may not have time to dedicate 2.5 hours to parent-led math each week. (Per kid, too!)

Other things about RightStart Math:

  • The curriculum goes through RightStart A (preschool, kindergarten) through Rightstart F (fifth grade). It has a Rightstart Geometry, but no Rightstart Algebra. The levels are designed so students can work at their own pace (a child can be in Level A at anytime, Level B at anytime: it’s not required that they must do “2nd grade math” in 2nd grade.) Still, the Rightstart curriculum correlates to national standards such that Rightstart A is Kindergarten, Rightstart B is 1st grade (ages 6-7), Rightstart C is second grade, Rightstart D is third grade (ages 8-9), Rightstart E is fourth grade, and Rightstart F is fifth grade.
  • The sequential nature of the program does allow students to go at their own speed, moving through math faster or slower than a year per course depending on their interest.
  • Rightstart Mathematics Placement test can be found here, created by the Rightstart Math company.

Miquon Math

https://www.rainbowresource.com/category/2204/Miquon-Math-Labs.html

Benefits of Miquon Math:

  • This curriculum could be described as “lego math.” If your child would love to take toys, play with them, and learn a comprehensive amount of K-3 math doing so, this is perfect.  Playing, creative, contruction-based math.
  • It isn’t structured into the prescriptive style of ‘Lesson 27: your child MUST learn this now.’ It values student-driven math readiness, letting student interests lead the math. A child can start to fly through the addition lessons, or the clock time, and make asynchronous progress.
  • It’s relatively inexpensive: 6 floppy softcover workbooks cover Kindergarten through 3rd grade math. It’s about $47 total for three years of math. Slightly more if you add in the “Lab Sheet Annotations” book, which is the teacher guide/answer key to all 6 books.

Drawbacks of Miquon Math:

  • It can be confusing at first – the pages are listed as A23, B12, C24. There’s 50 pages per book, or 100 worksheet pages (50 two-sided page: think like a coloring book would have 100 things to color, on 50 pages.)
  • The books are Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple. That is designed to correlate to 1st grade 1st grade, 2nd grade 2nd grade, 3rd grade 3rd grade, but the Red and then Orange books can be begun starting in Kindergarten (as kindergarten wasn’t universal when the books were published.)
  • The program doesn’t go beyond that 3rd grade level. It introduces multiplication and division, like 4 sets of 5, 3 sets of 6 – but another curriculum would be needed to pick up next. (Lots of Miquon users move onto Beast Academy, since it’s a 2nd grade and up program.)
  • The program has a First Grade Diary and an Annotations book. The Annotations book is the Answer Key (although not 100% of an answer key, it’s more explanations of the answers.) I highly recommend having the Annotations Book, while the First Grade Diary was somewhat less useful.

Other things in Miquon review:

  • Miquon uses Cuisenaire Rods. Students can arrive at the answer through any method (they learn to do it mentally), but the cuisenaire rods are the “building blocks” of the program.
  • This program is not a good fit for people who want there to be only one way to do math. Again, it is like a play-dough of math curriculums. The children will learn, and they will learn a lot, but there has been many a parent freak-out over how do you do the page. Just let it be, let the play time happen. Don’t tell them they’re “using the manipulatives wrong,” outside of throwing them. Building flowers, bridges, patterns (playing with them like legos) IS an important part of the creative process, and they’re going to run into design challenges that require math.  I was building a log cabin out of Cuisenaire rods, and needed to organize them to make sure that each level had a smaller rod length than the level before it. There’s a lot of perimeter work that comes up naturally in play, as well.

Beast Academy

https://beastacademy.com/

Benefits of AoPS Beast Academy:

  • This curriculum is designed by Art of Problem Solving, the organization most responsible for the US Math Olympiad team. It is designed by the mathiest people that exist, in other words.
  • The curriculum is full of deep critical thinking.
  • The curriculum is mostly independent – the online version of Beast Academy includes videos that provide instruction, and has self-graded problems for an interactive experience.
  • This meets and generally exceeds all state and national math standards.
  • The textbook is a graphic novel style story about math. Children tend to enjoy reading it, but it isn’t fully required to be able to do the questions.
  • Beast Academy online and Beast Academy textbooks provide two methods of math delivery.

Drawbacks of Beast Academy:

  • It is rigorous and it promotes a great amount of critical thinking. That can feel intimidating starting out.
  • Note to parents implementing this for the first time: Be comfortable with long amounts of “think time”, with the high failure rate of not figuring out a question in a moment (compared to other curriculums where questions might be formulaic, procedural, cookie-cutter). When doing Beast Academy online puzzles, the mantra is “try, try again”, even pause and start afresh tomorrow.  There’s no time limit for solving a big concept. People who do best in Beast Academy have a high comfort level with not knowing answers.
  • Because of the difficulties, some families feel intimidated by it. For best practice, it can be best to start off in level Beast Academy 2A regardless of what grade the child is in. (If the child is math-loving and in 4th grade+, that might be a good reason to do Beast Academy online, so they can speed through the lower levels quickly in just a few months, and the parent is able to “unlock” multiple grade levels so the student can find where they’re comfortable.)
  • The program is so rich in content, it is very much okay to work behind ‘grade level’ – there are examples of 14 year old eighth graders finishing up Beast Academy online Level 5, which puts them at a perfect place to start Algebra 1 in 9th grade. If you spread out the time, the achievement can happen.
  • While starting students at Level 2 gives a student a great, solid conceptual understanding of math and is the often-recommended pathway, it can cause one problem that is fixable. If a child is in 3rd grade (where multiplication is generally introduced) and they do the Beast Academy 2nd grade curriculum, they will temporarily not have seen multiplication, which could be an issue if transferring programs. This can be fixed with a little multiplication review, or by continuing onto Beast Academy 3 before transitioning back into a public school program. Students perform very well on state tests despite not having sat through the 3rd grade multiplication intro, and they use their critical thinking skills to “download that patch” quickly.
  • Beast Academy curriculum goes from 2nd grade to 5th grade. After that, students often do Art of Problem Solving’s Pre-Algebra course for 6th grade, or they transition into another Pre-Algebra or Algebra text. (They will have seen a lot of pre-algebra in the 5th grade Beast Academy, so they’d be able to enter into the start of many Algebra courses. The Art of Problem Solving Pre-Algebra course is mathematically more rigorous than other Algebra 1 courses that exist, because again it’s being created by the mathiest people out there.)

Other things about Beast Academy review:

  • There’s the online option, and the textbook/workbook option. Some families do both, others do one-or-the-other. The curriculum can be completed successfully with just one option of the two.
  • Both/any of those two options are fine, and people find that their child can do the entire math curriculum “online only”, or through only textbooks. There are slightly more problems in the textbooks than in the online version. Beast Academy online version is much more responsive (giving feedback, correcting student work) and that is a bonus. It is also more independent, and can be used as “screen time” for families. The two versions do not use the exact same questions, so it won’t be a total repeat using both of the learning options. Families that choose the textbooks either want completeness (textbooks + online, cover all bases), or may have a strong preference for non-electronic math time.
  • Beast Academy placement test: https://beastacademy.com/resources/placementtests

 

Singapore Math

https://www.singaporemath.com/programs/

Benefits:

  • This is based off of the Singaporean math curriculum, which was ranked first in the world in international tests.
  • Singapore Math is very focused on the number sense-building. That teaches students how to think about math, teaching flexible thinking and creative thought.
  • It builds strong mental math, modeling multiple ways of solving a problem mentally.
  • It provides strong pre-algebra awareness, showing the Bar Method for word problems. (Students can use this strategy to solve Algebra problems even when they are only able to do 2nd grade, 3rd grade methods – using pictures.)

Drawbacks

  • It has a lot of moving pieces: 3 books are needed per semester.  The textbook, student workbook, and the Challenging Word Problems (which are needed because they provide the critical thinking component mentioned above.)
  • Some families find that the lessons are so methodical that they can go too slow in pacing – if you need to fast forward quickly through lessons when your child understands the material, do so.
  • The three textbooks per semester, 6 textbooks per year can make it more expensive than other comparable curriculum (which would most likely be Math Mammoth – the “worksheet” version to Singapore’s “textbook” version; Beast Academy in terms of ‘what are the most rigorous math curriculums out there?’, or MEP – another nationalized curriculum built on rigor and starting off going slower but deeper in theory in the early grades.)
  • The textbook component of Singapore Math requires parental involvement.
  • The program is designed for classroom use, so there is a steep learning curve for homeschooling parents reading the teaching guide. The Singapore Math forums have a lot more “Help!” questions than some of the other curriculums. If you can understand the flexibility of method in mental math, it goes a lot easier than if you feel math should be strictly procedural.

Other things

  • There are multiple versions of Singapore Math: Singapore Dimensions, and Singapore PM (Singapore Primary Mathematics). The Dimensions curriculum is newer than the Primary Mathematics version, both have been used with success.
  • Here is the Singapore Math Placement Test, made by the Singapore Math company, for a math assessment of child’s current placement.

Saxon Mathematics

https://www.hmhco.com/programs/saxon-math

Benefits of Saxon Math for Homeschool:

  • This book is as structured, practice-oriented, rigorous as it comes. The student will do math until their hand falls off. They won’t enjoy math, but they’ll remember it.
  • The book takes a spiral approach, so the child will see the same questions again on later days, allowing them to get additional practice if they need additional practice for it to stick in their memory.
  • The book focuses primarily on procedural memorization. Students walk away knowing how to solve a math problem because they’ve previously studied dozens before just like it.

Drawbacks of Saxon Math for Homeschool:

  • This book is as structured, practice-oriented, rigorous as it comes. The student will do math until their hand falls off. They won’t enjoy math, but they’ll remember it.
  • This book takes a spiral approach, so the child sees the same lesson again and again and again, even if they have already learned it.
  • The book focuses primarily on procedural memorization. It teaches how to do the math, less so on why math is the way that it is. There’s less of the “joy of math” that is found in curriculums like Beast Academy, Miquon, Rightstart, even Math Mammoth. The importance is on the mastery of math.

Other things about Saxon Math for Homeschool:

  • I am personally not the biggest fan of Saxon Math, but it is a quality program. You don’t meet someone who has gone through Saxon Math and they’re bad at math. It provides a very strong, albeit procedural, foundation for math. It works best for students who need a lot of practice to learn the material.
  • Saxon Math Placement Test: Saxon Math Placement Tests, from Learning Resources

 

Math U-See

https://www.mathusee.com/parents/

Benefits of Math-U-See:

  • This curriculum focuses specifically on representing math through visuals and number blocks. It is extremely hands-on and tactile.
  • It comes with videos that make it a much easier curriculum to implement, with less stress on the parent.
  • Its focus on visual representations can make it a good choice for children with some learning difficulties.

Drawbacks of Math-U-See:

  • The scope and sequence is out of order, which can leave students with gaps as they move between MUS and other curriculums.
  • It is easier than other curriculums – while it does cover most of the same sequence (a year of Math-U-See does count as a year of the same course in another program), it leaves out things like analyzing graphs, measurement, fraction practice, and critical thinking in word problems.
  • The bulk of the emphasis is put on learning how to do the concept in a way that can be demonstrated visually, even if the student moves into quicker representations (like solving it on paper, or mentally, without representing it with math blocks.)
  • The pages are entirely in no fuss black-and-white which can make them unappealing for some young learners.
  • Many schoolers find they have to fill in the gaps – especially in the lead up to state testing, or moving back into the public schools.

Other things about Math-U-See:

  • Math-U-See is a program that has value to people, it teaches the concepts. If it is the program used, it’s good to keep an eye on scope-and-sequence to not leave holes in knowledge. There are benefits to this approach, but also drawbacks as currently created.
  • Math-U-See Placement Test can be found here, from the Math-U-See company’s website. [These grade level equivalents are not absolutes.]
  • Math-U-See Alpha is 1st Grade (age 6-7), but kindergarteners could be ready.
  • Math-U-See Beta is 2nd grade (age 7-8)
  • Math-U-See Gamma is 3rd grade (age 8-9)
  • Math-U-See Delta is 4th grade (age 9-10)
  • Math-U-See Epsilon is 5th grade (age 10-11)
  • Math-U-See Zeta is 6th grade (age 11-12), but advanced 5th graders could be ready.

Teaching Textbooks

https://www.teachingtextbooks.com/

Benefits of Teaching Textbooks:

  • This curriculum comes with videos. Every question in the program has a video to acccompany it.
  • Students who dislike math say that they do enjoy the Teaching Textbook style. (In part, because it makes math easy – it handholds them through the topic, has explanations for each question they get wrong, and doesn’t demand as much critical thinking as other programs  since it is video tutorial walkthroughs.)
  • The video component means that parents can be hands-off in the math learning. There is a parent console where parents can check grades on past assignments the student has completed.
  • Students with learning differences or a history of math struggles may really find the video course teaching method to be comfortable and low-stress. For this reason, it can make a good review of math, to de-stress from past situations and then on-ramp them to another program.
  • You can find the Teaching Textbooks Placement Test here to find placement.

Drawbacks of Teaching Textbooks:

  • The scope and sequence is extremely limited compared to other curriculums. A year in Teaching Textbooks is not equivalent to a year in other programs, this often leaves a student with gaps. It is frequently a year behind in rigor compared to other curriculums.
  • The hands-off, “watch a video” approach, while a benefit, can mean that it takes a year or two before parents discover that their child hasn’t gained much in regards to retention of their math knowledge.

Other things about Teaching Textbooks:

  • You can find the Teaching Textbooks Placement Test here to find placement.
  • Parents who use this program might want to aim for their child to keep staying 1 grade-level above what is listed as Teaching Textbook’s grade level equivalent, such that they are working a year ahead in Teaching Textbooks. For example, this is because Algebra 1 + 2 combined cover what is in other courses’ Algebra 1 content.
  • Similarly, multiple people report that the Teaching Textbooks 5th grade curriculum is equivalent in standards to other programs’ 4th grade curriculum. [Looking at it, I fully concur with that assessment – the 6th grade standards for TT would be covered in the 5th grade standards in my state’s curriculum.)
  • A good review of Teaching Textbooks by a long-time user of the program can go into some more detail about its strengths and weaknesses.

 

 

 

Next:

Want picture books or children’s chapter books for US history and geography about all 50 states? Find picture books about the U.S. states.

Leave a Reply