Deciding between homeschool math curriculums can be intimidating, so let’s take an in-depth look at some of the options.
New homeschooling moms often ask me about my experience with different homeschool math curriculums. There seems to be more concern over choosing a math curriculum than any other subject.
I’m not sure if this is because math is such an essential life skill to master.
Or it might be that moms feel less confident teaching math than other subjects.
Regardless, it is a big job to choose between the many different homeschool math curriculums available!
Choose a math curriculum that suits your kids’ learning styles
Over the course of the past eight years, we’ve used five homeschool math curriculums.
Why so many?
I have several different types of learning styles among my five kids and different math curriculums cater best to various learning styles.
(For more on the importance of understanding your child’s learning style, check out this post here! There’s a link to a simple learning styles quiz too.)
Keep reading for an in-depth review of five popular homeschool math curriculums!
We’ll go over the pros and cons of each program and what learning styles are the best match for each curriculum.
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Homeschool Math Curriculum #1: Saxon Math
Saxon Math is one of the most popular homeschool math curriculums available, and it was the one we started with first.
Saxon Math is known for its repetition and overall methodical system of building foundational math skills.
For the elementary grades, there are five main instructional components: The Meeting, Number Fact Practice, The Lesson, Guided Class Practice, Homework, and Assessments.
The Meeting is scripted in the Meeting Book, and involves the teacher asking the student several questions as review.
Number Fact Practice is a simple flashcard review of math facts, like addition, subtraction, multiplication or division.
The Lesson consists of a written description of a new math skill, along with plenty of examples.
Guided Class Practice contains five to ten math problems that focus only on the newly introduced skill.
For kindergarten through 3rd grade the daily homework is presented in workbook form. Each workbook page has two sides and anywhere from five to ten multistep problems to solve.
For 4th grade and above, the Homework section is in the textbook. The homework sections each contain 30 cumulative review questions.
Finally, the Assessments occur every ten lessons. They are a short graded review of all math concepts.
Saxon Math does a great job of reaching all of the different types of learning styles.
The Meeting is great for all types of learners, as there is usually a visual, auditory and kinesthetic element to each meeting.
The Number Fact Practice is great for auditory learners.
The Lessons are best for visual and kinesthetic learners.
Saxon Math relies heavily on an extensive math manipulatives kit for kindergarten through 2nd grade. The manipulatives are things like clocks, counters, pattern blocks, geoboards, and more.
While the manipulative kit is pricey, you will use it daily and it is worth it!
Update: right now the Saxon Math manipulative kit is hard to find. But this Learning Resources math manipulative kit is very similar and is available on Amazon!
Pros of Saxon Math
There is no doubt that Saxon Math is a great homeschool math curriculum. It will produce confident math students with a very solid understanding of math.
It is a great curriculum for kinesthetic learners and also provides lots of opportunity for homeschool moms to connect with their kids.
Every lesson is scripted and makes teaching homeschool math very simple and straightforward.
Saxon Math can be purchased easily as one bundle for each grade and contains the Meeting Book, textbook, workbooks, and an answer key.
Lastly, Saxon Math makes placement in the curriculum very simple with these placement tests.
I have found all of the placement tests to be spot-on for each of my kids. If you’re considering Saxon Math, be sure to take the pretest so you purchase the right curriculum for your student!
Cons of Saxon Math
One of the biggest negatives about Saxon Math is also one of its strengths: the repetition can get extremely dull.
By the time my oldest son was in 4th grade, I allowed him to choose either the odd or even problems in the homework section. The monotony of doing 30 of the same math problems over and and over everyday was draining.
If you have a student who craves novelty, Saxon Math may not be the best fit.
Also, the kindergarten and 1st grade books require a significant amount of parent preparation for the daily lessons.
Finally, Saxon Math is pricier than other homeschool math curriculums, especially during the elementary years.
Math Curriculum #2: Khan Academy
Khan Academy has gained a lot of attention over the past few months as it has become a resource for many families trying to do math at home!
Khan Academy is a completely online platform that offers full curriculum in a variety of subjects for every grade from kindergarten through 12th.
Visual and auditory learners will do best with the online aspect of Khan Academy.
Each math lesson has an accompanying concept explanation video that features a voice-over talking through the steps required to complete each math problem. With practice sets, quizzes and tests, Khan Academy’s math is very well organized and well instructed.
Khan Academy aligns its programs with Common Core, but keeps the individual learner as its focus.
I love what Sal Khan, founder and CEO, said about the curriculum, “While the standards may be common, we know that students are not — they each have their own learning journey. This is why we are committed to personalized learning that lets students practice what they most need help on, at their own pace, at absolutely no cost.”
Pros of Khan Academy
Isn’t that amazing news? Khan Academy is completely free!
As a registered user, you may receive an email asking for a small voluntary monetary donation, but other than that, there is no mandatory financial obligation.
I am amazed at the quality of instruction and the efficiency of Khan Academy. I often find myself wondering how something this good can cost zero dollars!
Khan Academy also makes it super simple to track your student’s progress. It offers real-time data of what they’ve accomplished and the grades they are getting.
Cons of Khan Academy
Reading that out loud just made me smile. The CONS of KHAN Academy? Ha. (P.S. It helps as a homeschool mom to find humor in the little things!)
Some parents may feel that having their kids in front of a screen is not ideal and may prefer a pencil and paper style of learning. If that’s the case, Khan is not a good fit.
Also, kinesthetic learners may struggle as there is nothing offered to manipulate with their hands other than a keyboard (and maybe some scratch paper).
Homeschool Math Curriculum #3: Life of Fred
My kids adore Life of Fred. Let me tell you why.
The Life of Fred books tell the story of Fred, a five-year-old math genius who is a math professor at KITTENS University.
Stanley F. Schmidt, PhD., the creator of Life of Fred writes, “Every piece of mathematics first happens in Fred’s everyday life; he needs it and then we do it.”
Each chapter is about six pages long and features a Your Turn to Play section for practicing math skills.
Life of Fred for lower elementary grades is a series of ten hardcover books with fun names like: Apples, Butterflies, Cats, Dogs, etc.
The upper elementary school grade math books are titled Kidneys, Liver, and Mineshaft and focus on teaching concepts such as fractions and decimals.
The middle school Life of Fred books focus on teaching pre-algebra and algebra in conjunction with other subjects such as physics, biology, and economics.
The high school books are more traditionally named Geometry, Trigonometry, Advanced Algebra and Calculus.
Life of Fred is ideal for visual learners who love to read. The light-hearted tone and fun tongue-in-cheek illustrations keep kids highly engaged.
Auditory learners could also do very well with the Life of Fred curriculum if it is read aloud to them by a parent.
Pros of Life of Fred
If you have kids who are overwhelmed by math or who are easily distracted, Life of Fred may be a fantastic option for them!
ALL of my kids have read and re-read the Life of Fred books from start to finish just for fun. They laugh out loud and discuss the funniest parts of the books with each other at lunch.
And this is a math curriculum, people. Crazy, huh?
Life of Fred is also very affordable! You can often find the single elementary hardcover books for less than $20.
Cons of Life of Fred
One of the most common criticisms of the Life of Fred homeschool math curriculum is that it is TOO fun. I tend to agree.
It is very easy for kids to get caught up in the story and forget to focus on the math!
Also, the Your Turn to Play sections are quite short, and although they are a cumulative review, they rarely contain more than ten questions.
For the upper elementary books and beyond, you can purchase additional Life of Fred books for more practice. If you choose to rely solely on Life of Fred for math, these practice problem books are a must-buy.
My personal preference is to have my kids absorb math for fun with Life of Fred in conjunction with one of the other homeschool math curriculums, such as Khan Academy.
Finally, the order of the middle school Life of Fred books is different than traditional schooling. All of the basic algebra years are presented before geometry. In traditional school, geometry comes in between the algebra years.
(If you are homeschooling for high school and PSATs or SATs are on the horizon, you’ll need to be sure your student has a basic understanding of geometry before they take these tests!)
Math Curriculum #4: Math-U-See
Offered by Demme Learning, Math-U-See is a favorite for many homeschool moms who have kinesthetic learners.
Math-U-See’s website offers this fantastic overview of their homeschool math curriculum:
“Math-U-See’s simple but powerful set of colorful manipulatives allows abstract math concepts to be represented in clear, relatable ways. These manipulatives, combined with distinctive strategies presented through videos, textbooks, practice, systematic review, and assessments, guide students from concept to concept as they build a solid understanding of mathematics.”
Every Math-U-See set comes with a DVD of lessons, a textbook, and a workbook. There is now an option to purchase online support too.
Their manipulative set is an essential pillar of the program, and it is a must-purchase item if you choose to use the curriculum.
Math-U-See is one of the best curriculums available for a wide variety of learning styles.
If you have a kinesthetic or auditory learner, your student may struggle with the upper elementary grades of Saxon or Khan Academy – which would make Math-U-See a very strong option to consider.
Pros of Math-U-See
Math-U-See is a very well-organized and aesthetically pleasing homeschool math curriculum.
If you have a kid who loves to learn from a screen (like my second boy!), Math-U-See may be an ideal fit.
Each lesson is quite brief, but is very straightforward and clear.
Also, Math-U-See was created to work well with every method of homeschooling – from the traditional, classical, Charlotte Mason, or unschooling approach – you can find a way that Math-U-See can work for you.
Lastly, Math-U-See offers a very good placement test, great customer support and an excellent sister program called Spelling-U-See.
Cons of Math-U-See
Math-U-See is definitely on the more expensive side. The initial buy in with the manipulative set is typically upwards of $150.
(Definitely look for online coupons or discounts for Math-U-See! They do exist!)
It can also be tricky to find the curriculum consistently from any other source than its parent publisher, Demme Learning. This can be a bit of a pain if you are used to Amazon Prime! (Oh, first world problems, right?!)
Homeschool Math Curriculum #5: Starfall
While not an extensive math curriculum, Starfall is a website that offers a great introduction to math for young kids.
It has lots of great math games and fun videos for younger elementary ages up through third grade.
They offer many things for free, but all of the games and videos can be accessed for a very inexpensive yearly fee.
I have found Starfall to be a great incentive math program for my younger kids. If they are ever feeling burned out with math, I set them up with Starfall and voila! They are happy because they have a fun break, and I am happy because they are still learning.
Final thoughts on homeschool math curriculums
I hope this has shed some light on a few of the most popular homeschool math curriculums available.
I know it is common for many new homeschool moms to put a lot of pressure on themselves to buy the perfect curriculum for their kids right from the start.
Let me reassure you that if you purchase a curriculum and it’s not working for your kids or you’re unimpressed, you can usually resell your curriculum right in your own community!
If you have further questions about any of the homeschool math curriculums I’ve shared, don’t hesitate to send me an email!