Our Math Journey: Honest Reviews of The Good and the Beautiful, Masterbooks, and Math-U-See Curriculum

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Our Math Journey: Honest Reviews of The Good and the Beautiful, Masterbooks, and Math-U-See Curriculum

Disclaimer: Treehouse Schoolhouse is not partnered with any of these companies and all opinions are based purely on personal thought and experience. Every family and child is unique and may connect with a curriculum that was not a good fit for us. This is simply our path and experience.

When we started our homeschool journey I knew that math would be an area of struggle for me, simply because it’s not my personal favorite subject.

The Good and the Beautiful

The first formal math curriculum I ever purchased was The Good and the Beautiful K (kindergarten). At that time my children were 5 & 6. It was primarily for my 6 year-old, but my younger daughter joined in on some games and such when she wanted to. At that time, school was very casual and we had a lot of time to play games, work with manipulatives, and do lessons. Our days were wide open and long lessons where I needed to be totally hands-on were more manageable. The Good and the Beautiful was a great fit for us at that time. We would spend 30-45 minutes each day on math and it was enjoyable and effective.

Fast forward a year later and we went ahead and began level 1 from TGATB. A few weeks in and I just knew that we had to make a change to something more “open-and-go” with shorter lessons and with the option for my children to work more independently. Lessons weren’t getting done and the kids' understanding of the material was waning. The main reasons were that we were now including many other subjects into our day and just couldn’t fit it all in. We also now had two little ones in tow to keep safe and cared for.

That being said, I have since heard that The Good and the Beautiful has since simplified their curriculum and their updates are loved by many. I have not personally used the newest version, but if we found ourselves searching again, I wouldn’t hesitate to give it a try.

Check out the revised versions of The Good and the Beautiful Math here.

The Takeaway

I don’t regret using TGATB for the season we were in. We all enjoyed it as it was such an elaborate, fun, and engaging math curriculum for young learners. I think it was a great fit for the earliest year of our formal schooling when we had the time and space in our days to use it. They have since revised the curriculum to seemingly solve some of the issues we personally had with it and I would still recommend the curriculum as a solid choice.

Masterbooks: Math Lessons for a Living Education

We stopped using TGATB 1 and switched to using Masterbooks: Math Lessons for a Living Education when my children were the equivalent of 1st and 2nd grade. I did so much research and wrote this blog post right when we began on the reasons I chose it. I really thought it would be a good fit for us and it just wasn’t. In summary, the curriculum uses one long storyline weaved throughout all of the levels. My children love stories, so I thought that alone would draw them in. I also loved that it was more hands-off from me. It was a huge change from TGATB in that it was strictly workbooks. My children weren’t opposed to that but I would’ve liked a happy medium. There were some recommendations for manipulatives using household materials for some of the lessons, but for the most part it was story and worksheet based. Unfortunately, the storylines did not hold my children’s attention and they wanted to skip the stories altogether, but if they did so, much of the actual teaching of the math concepts were also being skipped. I also didn’t love the way place value was taught in this curriculum. The kids were beginning to gain understanding of it, but to me, it could have been presented in a more straight-forward way. One of the activities that the children were asked to do on a continual basis was to make flashcards of the basic math facts with a storyline attached to them. We attempted this at first but it seemed awkward and my kids weren’t into it. We all began to dread math lessons for all of these reasons.

We stuck it out for awhile but I started realizing that my almost-3rd grade son had almost zero confidence in recalling his math facts (addition or subtraction) and my 1st grade daughter started saying she hated math. I started looking around to make another switch and quick.

The Takeaway

I know many families that use and love this curriculum, but for multiple reasons it wasn’t a good fit for me or my children and I did not see their math skills strengthening. If we would’ve done all of the lessons as instructed (including all of the stories and flashcards), we may have had a better outcome academically. I personally would not recommend this math curriculum.

Math Games

We took a math break for awhile after that and simply played math games while I researched for what to do next. Here are a few of our favorite math games:

Math U See

A month or so later I finally decided on Math U See. Initially the main reasons I went with it was that it is recommended by a few experienced homeschool mamas and by graduated homeschool students whom I highly respect. What really pushed me over the edge was when I discovered that they had an accelerated program to focus on mastery of the addition and subtraction facts (the exact area of weakness I was seeing in my son). I started by getting that program to see if it would be a good fit for the long haul.

Here is what the Math U See website has to say about it.

“Accelerated Individualized Mastery (AIM) provides a new solution for struggling math students with gaps in their foundational math skills set. The AIM programs use proven Math-U-See strategies and manipulatives in combination with an accelerated approach to help students successfully master math facts.”

See more about Math U See AIM program here.

We began using the AIM program and I saw how brilliantly designed the curriculum was. It really clicked for both myself and my son. We worked hard on mastering his addition facts with the AIM program and succeeded in about a month.

At that point I went ahead and decided to purchase the DVDs, manipulatives, and math books for both of my children and we have been all enjoying it now for several months. I see both of my children gaining joy, skills, and confidence in math!

Here is what I love about Math-U-See so far:

Someone else is teaching the concept.

Yes, I said it. I love that Mr. Demme (a sweet and funny homeschool dad and math genius) is teaching my children the lessons. I sit in on the presentation while my child is watching (5-20min, depending on the lesson), and then I have had first-hand experience on how to reteach the lesson if they need more explanation.

It is mastery-based.

This means that the children don't move on until they have mastered a skill. After they have watched the lesson and then narrated it to me (taught me what they learned), the child works out problems according to that lesson for as long as they need until mastered. This is usually a few days- a week for us.

It is cumulative.

This means that while it’s teaching only one new skill at a time…and continuing with THAT skill until it’s mastered, it also reviews past skills. Each week they review bits of everything they have learned in past lessons.

It will grow with my children.

Not all math curriculums go all the way through high school, but this one does. I can’t say for sure, but I could see us using it for the long haul.

The Takeaway

I highly recommend Math-U-See and wish we would’ve started sooner! It has given me confidence as the teacher, as well as my children joy and confidence as students. We plan to use it for the long haul.

I hope those reviews were helpful to you!