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The video below explains the basics of the Light Blue series curriculum.
Download a catalog of Light Blue Series (PDF, 7.2 MB)
1. Do you have placement / diagnostic tests?
2. Is there a teacher's manual?
3a. Are there printed versions available?
3c. I hesitate to buy MM because I can't print in color. Any suggestions?
4b. Is there any advantage for buying the curriculum on a CD?
4c. Does it work on a Mac or Linux?
4d. Can the PDF be filled in on the computer or tablet device (iPad or similar)?
6. What is the difference between the Blue Series and Light Blue series?
8. Are earlier concepts reviewed in later levels?
9. Do the books have review problems that continue to review previous concepts?
10 Are tests included? And should I score every assignment or just tests?
11. What about kindergarten math? At what age is it appropriate to start your 1st grade books?
12. Will you be writing more grade levels?
13. How far can I use the Light Blue series? Will it cover pre-algebra or algebra?
17. Is Math Mammoth aligned with any state standards?
18. Does Math Mammoth curriculum encourage the use of manipulatives?
19. How and when to use the 100-bead abacus?
22. Is Math Mammoth a spiral or mastery curriculum (horizontal or vertical math)?
23. Some graphics are missing from the PDF file. Why?
24. What is the origin of this curriculum?
25. What do you recommend for high school math?
26. Does the author have any mathematics or education credentials?
1. Do you have placement / diagnostic tests?
Yes. Simply click here for placement tests for all the grade-levels.
2. Is there a teacher's manual?
No. This curriculum does not contain a separate teacher's manual nor scripted lessons. The student worktext contains in the text itself explanations of the concepts, and I've tried to create a text that is as self-explanatory as possible. Students will often be able to read and study through the lessons on their own. The parent can "get it" at the same time as the student, if they have not understood math concepts before.
Also, in the Introduction of each chapter I have included some general notes and helps for the teacher.
If you have previously used a scripted curriculum and are worried about your ability to teach with Math Mammoth, I would encourage you to try it out by purchasing one of the Blue Series topical books.
3a. Are there printed versions available?
Yes. The books are available as softcopies (printed books) through Lulu.com and at Rainbow Resource Center. The inside pages are gray scale (not full color) because full color publishing is fairly costly. On the web page of each grade level (here at MathMammoth.com) you will find direct links to these two stores.
3b. Can we buy the downloads and then take them to a Kinko's or Staples type place to have the book printed up and bound nicely?
Yes. The copyright notice that is printed on page 2 specifically allows the person who purchases the book(s) to make copies — whether by Kinko's or their own printer — to his or her students, but not to other teacher's students. You can also use online printing services such as Mimeo.com or Bestvaluecopy.com. Keep in mind color printing can be expensive no matter where you do it.
3c. I hesitate to buy MM because I can't print in color. Any suggestions?
1) Print in b&w, but let the child color the boxes the problems are in, using crayons.
2) Utilize the online games recommended in the notes for each chapter for the "color" (so to speak). It works for some!
Yes. You can purchase each of the grade levels of the Light Blue series on a CD at Kagi store or at Rainbow Resource. You can buy all available grade levels on one CD at Kagi, Rainbow Resource, or Homeschool Buyers Co-op.
4b. Is there any advantage for buying the curriculum on a CD?
Usually no, because the CD contains the exact same files as the download. Also, if you purchase a download, you may make a backup copy of the files on a CD or on a flash drive.
However, a CD is a good option if you cannot download large files. Some people may prefer a CD so they can resell it or so as to not lose track where the files are stored. Even if you purchase a CD, I recommend you make a backup copy, because CDs do not last forever.
4c. Does it work on a Mac or Linux?
Yes. The actual files you get (whether from a download or on a CD) are PDF or html files so Math Mammoth is compatible with Macs and Linux machines. However, you will need to install Adobe Acrobat Reader for Mac or Linux to view the PDF files correctly. I've had some customers tell me that Mac's native PDF viewer shows black boxes in the files or that many of the graphics are missing. Similarly in Linux, some images will likely be missing or messed up if you use other PDF viewers, so again, you need to use Acrobat Reader version for Linux.
Please note that the bonus software "Soft-Pak" is Windows software only. However, Soft-Pak is not a part of the actual curriculum and is not needed when using Math Mammoth — it is only an additional bonus.
4d. Can the PDF be filled in on the computer or tablet device (iPad or similar)?
Yes, it can. The PDF files are enabled for annotating. This means that if you prefer, the student can fill the math books in on the computer or tablet device using annotating tools in a PDF application.
On a computer, use Adobe Reader version 9 or greater. It has typewriter and drawing tools.
For iPad, there exist several PDF apps that have annotating tools and work well for Math Mammoth files: PDF Expert ($9.99), Goodreader ($2.99), iAnnotatePDF ($9.99). You can add text, lines, and shapes, or use a stylus to write. The apps neu.AnnotatePDF ($1.99) and Notability ($2.99) work also, but are not as user-friendly as the other three.
Adobe Reader app for iPad (free) unfortunately does not allow annotating protected PDF files (such as I have to use with Math Mammoth). So, you cannot write into the PDF on your iPad with Adobe Reader (Adobe Reader for PC and Mac works great though.)
Worktext means that the book contains both the "text" (= the explanations) and the "work" (= the problems). Simply put, the textbook and problems are in the same book. This is especially useful for homeschooling and for any kind of independent study.
6. What is the difference between the Blue Series and Light Blue series?
These two series have nearly the same lesson material. There are only a few lessons here and there that are in one series but not in the other.
The main difference is in how the material is organized. The Light Blue Series goes by grades and being a complete curriculum also includes tests & cumulative reviews. The Blue Series consists of topical worktexts, and the material in each book usually spans 2-3 grade levels.
So, which series you choose depends on your goals: Do you wish to have a complete curriculum for a given grade level? Go Light Blue. Do you wish to review or reteach only certain topics? Choose Blue. Do you want to cover all topics as in a full curriculum but without mentions of grade levels? Blue Series can work there as well.
7. How does the complete curriculum (Light Blue books) compare with Singapore math, Math-U-See, or other popular homeschool math curricula?
Please read comparisons of Math Mammoth with other homeschool math curricula here.
8. Are earlier concepts reviewed in later levels?
To some extent, yes, but not so much as in a typical spiral curriculum. For example, I often introduce somewhat difficult topics in two grades. A few topics are "introductory" in one grade and "in focus" in the next. For example:
Topics such as place value, measuring units, geometry, clock, and money are covered over several years in a spiraling style.
The following topics are not reviewed much in later levels (mastery is expected): single-digit addition and subtraction after 1st grade, double-digit addition and subtraction after 2nd, and reading the clock and counting coins after 3rd grade. The multiplication tables and basic division facts receive a quick review in 4th grade but not after that. I cannot list every single concept and its progression in this short space though.
9. I am concerned that there won't be enough review. Do your books have review problems that continue to review previous concepts?
The program includes mixed review lessons (one near the end of each chapter) and additional (separate) cumulative review lessons that you can use when needed. Both of these cover a mix of topics that have already been studied.
You can also use the worksheet maker to generate additional worksheets for practice. This worksheet generator requires an Internet access. If you don't have Internet at home, you can use it in an Internet cafe, public library, or at a friend's house, and save the worksheets on a flash drive to print later.
Also, all the major concepts, such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, decimals, and fractions get reviewed in a sense because they are used all the time. For example, a child will keep using the multiplication tables when studying division and multi-digit multiplication. The student will use various addition and subtraction strategies in word problems about money and measuring and when studying place value. Division facts are used in long division.
I never make all the word problems to match the lesson exactly. By this I mean that a word problem found in a multiplication lesson might require both multiplication and addition to solve. Similarly, word problems in the other chapters (such as money, measuring, division, or fractions) will include the usage of multiplication. The word problems in the curriculum constantly use important concepts that have already been learned.
10. Are tests included? And should I score every assignment or just tests?
Yes. There is a test for each chapter and an end-of-year test to be used after each grade level. Each test includes a grading rubric. However, you don't have to follow the grading rubrics -- they are provided for you just in case you want to use them.
Personally, I feel that grading needs to be done in such a manneter that it doesn't discourage the child. So it really depends on the child. Some children do better if they only receive feedback about where they need to work more, how to fix errors, etc.
All grading is best accompanied with notes such as, "You worked hard and I appreciate that!" "Here you show you've learned this topic and worked hard in it," so that the emphasis is on the appreciation of the hard work and on giving feedback on specifics, and not on the actual percent score.
On the other hand, if a child is getting a "big head" (proud) over their accomplishments, you could find a really hard test so they can learn they have room to improve. But this is not nearly as common as the opposite situation where children are discouraged and think they "can't do math".
I don't recommend grading the day-to-day work with percent scores or letter grades. Of course you need to find if the student made errors, but that should be sufficient.
Also, when you assign a final mark for a whole grade, don't look at only the tests but also at the overall accomplishments, the effort, etc. I like to give my children assignments outside of tests that count towards the final mark. In math, it could be for example a neatly written solution to a hard word problem, a set of definitions for geometry terms accompanied by drawings, or a description or exact instructions for a math game. Those can then go to their portfolio if you use such.
Most children in our society tend to get the idea that math is about "speed" and getting correct answers, and thus math test scores become really important to them. We need to discourage that line of thinking. See also: Timed tests and how it damages students learning of math.
11. What about kindergarten math? At what age is it appropriate to start your 1st grade books?
There are no Math Mammoth books for kindergarten, but I've written a fairly comprehensive article about kindergarten math to use as a guideline. You can start 1st grade once the child can write and recognize numbers, count to 20 (preferably to 30 or beyond), has mastered basic concepts of equivalence, more, and less; and has a basic idea of addition.
12. Will you be writing more grade levels?
I will be writing a pre-algebra (grade 7) curriculum in 2014. Part A (the first half) is available already. You can also see my ideas and recommendations for pre-algebra and algebra 1.
13. How far can I use the Light Blue series? Will it cover pre-algebra or algebra?
Math Mammoth Grade 7-A is the first half of a pre-algebra curriculum and includes concepts such as linear equations and slope. The latter half (7-B) will be available sometime in 2015, and it covers ratios, proportions, percent, the Pythagorean Theorem, geometry, statistics, and probability. After completing Math Mammoth grade 7, students can continue to algebra 1.
Also, you will find worksheet collections for grade 7 (pre-algebra) and grade 8/9 (algebra 1) in the Golden Series. Being worksheets, these are supplemental and will require that a parent/teacher or an additional textbook to supply the instruction.
14. How do I pace the Light Blue curriculum? How many pages or worksheets per day should the child do?
For pacing, check how many actual lesson pages there are to study (this is mentioned on the web page of the book, below the cover image), and how many days of school you have in mind. Then to get how many pages per day you would need to study, divide the number of pages by the number of days. The user guide for each grade has this information also.
Assuming you have school 5 days a week, about 40 weeks a year, the student should study between 1 and 2 pages each day. If you homeschool for less than 200 days a year, you will probably need to study 2 or more pages a day. Please allow some time also for tests and cumulative reviews.
For example:
Grade level | Page count | Number of days in your school year |
Number of days for tests and reviews |
Pages to study per day |
Pages to study per week |
1st grade | 249 | 200 | 10 | 1.3 | 6.7 |
2nd grade | 281 | 200 | 15 | 1.5 | 7.6 |
3rd grade | 321 | 200 | 15 | 1.7 | 8.7 |
4th grade | 353 | 200 | 15 | 1.9 | 9.5 |
5th grade | 346 | 200 | 12 | 1.84 | 9.2 |
6th grade | 323 | 200 | 20 | 1.8 | 9.0 |
So as a general guideline, about 1 1/2 pages a day is sufficient for grades 1-2, about 1 3/4 pages for grade 3, and fourth, fifth, and sixth graders should aim to do about 2 pages a day. However, you need to pace it depending on how the lessons go. Sometimes your student might be able to do several pages in a day, and sometimes the student cannot do but one page. Also, in some topics you might be able to go through the pages quicker, for example in the chapters about clock, because the clock pictures are so large that one page does not have many problems.
15. How will I know when to review with computer games or worksheets rather than continuing? How will I know when to take a break and review an old concept so it will not be lost? Is this type of review incorporated in the program?
A curriculum that "spells" out in exact detail what the teacher is to do is called a "scripted curriculum". I simply have not had time nor the energy to build Math Mammoth to be scripted. Instead, Math Mammoth gives the teacher various tools, such as the main wortext, links to games, additional worksheets, and cumulative reviews & tests, but I have not spelled out what exactly should be done, or when, or how.
Basically, this is how you can get started. Start out using the student worktext and over the course of 1-2 weeks observe how much your child can handle daily - it might be 1-2 pages, maybe 1 1/2, maybe just 1, depending on age, maturation level, etc. Then map out your school year, and see also the answer #14 in this faq.
As far as when to use additional resources, I would say that when you go on with the worktext and it seems to go too quickly, then that is one SIGN that you should use additional worksheets and games.
Another sign: let's say you finish some chapter and go on. Then in the next chapter there are WORD PROBLEMS that require knowledge or concepts that were taught in the previous chapter, say multiplication or perimeter. If your child has great difficulty with those kinds of word problems, then it might be time to review the particular concept or skill. I have always striven to make the word problems progressively so that they involve concepts and skills studied in earlier chapters.
Then there are matching cumulative reviews for each chapter that you could assign near the end of the chapter, or middle, or however you like. Those will also give you an indication if a child has forgotten something.
One other possibility is that whenever the exercise set has lots of problems, just assign 2/3 of them or 1/2 of them. Then a week (or few weeks) later assign some of the rest for review.
But in a nutshell, Math Mammoth does better suit parents and teachers who are able to follow the child's mathematical progress just from the way the child solves the various problems in the worktext. However, I truly feel that is the BETTER way to go about it, and that all teachers eventually, with experience, gravitate away from scripted curricula.
16. For drilling the addition and substraction tables should we just go over each lesson over and over until she memorizes her tables?
First of all, you should go through the books and check that she knows all the concepts related to addition and subtraction.
To learn the facts, go carefully over those lessons that present fact families and number rainbows. These provide the structure and a context for learning the facts so that they are not learned as separate, random things.
Then, once she thoroughly understands fact families and the pattern in the number rainbow, you can move on to other math topics such as place value, geometry, etc. but keep up the facts practice a few minutes a day with games, worksheets, and flash cards.
These basic facts are also used a lot even when studying place value and other topics, so that helps kids remember them too.
17. Is Math Mammoth aligned with any state standards?
Grades 1-7 meet and exceed the Common Core Standards. Please see this FAQ for more information.
18. Does Math Mammoth curriculum encourage the use of manipulatives?
For the most part, the curriculum does not specifically emphasize manipulatives but visual models. The exercises with visual models COULD be done equally with manipulatives (beans/counters, base ten blocks, fraction manipulatives, etc.)
The exception is the 100-bead abacus, which I feel is needful for first grade. (The other option would be base ten blocks.) I feel that it is essential that kindergartners and first graders have the opportunity to learn tens and ones (place value) using some manipulative.
On each of these pages you will see a list of needed manipulatives for grades 1-3. You need to scroll down the page a bit.
19. How and when to use the 100-bead abacus?
The only way the abacus is used in my books is where each bead counts as one. Nothing fancy. It is NOT used like Chinese, Russian, or any of the other abaci where one bead might count as 5, 10, or 100.
A 100-bead abacus or school abacus simply contains 10 beads on 10 rods, a total of 100. In the school abacus, each bead simply represents one. The 100-bead abacus lets children both "see" the numbers and use their touch while making them.
First and foremost, the abacus is used in the place value section in 1st grade where children learn about tens and ones (numbers up to 100). We use it to show clearly how 45 is made up of 4 tens and 5 ones, for example.
Secondly, you can use the abacus with addition and subtraction problems in 1st and 2nd grades. For example:
The purpose is mainly to help children to visualize two-digit numbers, and to add and subtract two-digit numbers.
The goal in my books is to drop the abacus by 3rd grade. Even before that, students use visual models, and from those go on to the abstract. The quicker the child can use visual models, and then do the math problems without any models, the better.
See also these abacus-related articles on my blog.
At Amazon you can find Melissa & Doug Classic Wooden Abacus at Amazon for around $12. An abacus where the beads alternate colors by fives is even more useful. TIP: If you get a regular abacus with 10 beads the same color, paint a thin white line on the right side of bead #5 and also on the left side of bead #6 on each row (counting from the left). This will make it easier to see 5 and 5 on each row.
Browse Amazon's abacus selection here. Other stores carry abaci as well.
You can also use this virtual abacus. Or, make your own abacus. Just don't make it exactly like they show on that web page but instead use 10 bamboo skewer with 10 beads in each so you get a 10 x 10 abacus.
Here's an image of a home-made abacus one of my customers made using bamboo skewers, craft sticks, and beads:
20. My son is doing 4-A and having trouble with the word problems. I'd like him to get more practice with them. Is there a place to get more worksheets for word problems?
Word problems in Math Mammoth 4 are no longer simple one-step word problems, and that is why they may appear difficult to a child, especially if the child has not used Math Mammoth before. If children do lots of word problems from early on, and the problems increase in difficulty, they won't find them that difficult later on.
Whether you look at the Blue or Light Blue series, the child gets to do lots of word problems from the very beginning. In first grade, the problems are either addition or subtraction problems, and mostly one-step problems. However, already in second grade, most of them require at least two steps. Children who do not encounter multi-step word problems in their math curriculum (from grade 2 on) can have difficulty transitioning into Math Mammoth.
Please read these two posts of mine to help you further understand the issue with word problems:
Problem with Word Problems
Which operation should you use in word problems?
To remedy, you could have your child solve word problems from the earlier levels of Math Mammoth. Go back to first grade word problems if necessary, and build up from there. You could have the child solve several problems a day alongside your regular math, or take a break and just do word problems for a few weeks.
For additional practice and resources, you can find lots more word problems on the websites listed here:
Problem Solving Resources
21. We are using the Light Blue Grade 1A. The kids ran into their first Puzzle Corner. I love it! However, it was pretty difficult for them. Should I give them more of those for practice before we move on?
The puzzle corners are meant to be challenging so don't worry if it was difficult. You don't have to "practice" them as such because they are not something that the children absolutely have to master. They have several purposes: to challenge children to think, and also to inspire them about mathematics. There are more coming later in the curriculum.
If you notice the puzzle corners start discouraging the children, please skip them or don't require them to get the right answer... that defeats their purpose. The idea is to get them try to solve something challenging, even if the don't get the correct answer. The thinking process and the trying is the important part.
That said, you can find more practice if you google "math puzzles for kids". But don't force the children to have to do puzzles... try instead encourage them to do them so that they would learn to LOVE the challenging of their minds. For that to happen, you MUST not put down mistakes or failures, but emphasize how good it is that they work hard... EVEN IF they don't get the answer.
Please also read this article of mine: The value of mistakes.
You can have a puzzle day once in a while where you present them other challenging problems. I also have a list of additional word problem websites at my other site, HomeschoolMath.net.
At any rate, do not stop there at the curriculum but just move on.
22. Is Math Mammoth a spiral or mastery curriculum (horizontal or vertical math)?
till mastery within one and the same chapter. Examples of such topics include regrouping 2-digit numbers in subtraction (2nd), multiplication tables (3rd), and long division (4th).However, often the topic is present in two (or even three) neighboring grades. Examples include: equivalent fractions (both 4th and 5th grade), percent (6th and 7th), factoring (4th and 5th). Some topics are "developed" to mastery over several grades, going from simple to more complex; for example reading the clock (grades 1-3), counting coins (grades 1-3), fraction arithmetic (grades 4-5), decimal arithmetic (grades 4-5).
So, you could call Math Mammoth a mastery-oriented program with some spiraling over the grades. It does NOT employ a "tight" or "short" spiral where the same topic would be present, say, every 10 lessons, or dozens of times within the same school year.
23. Some graphics are missing from the PDF file. Why?
This is a common problem in Mac computers. If it some images are missing , download and install Adobe Acrobat Reader for Mac from this link, and open the PDF files in it, instead of in Mac's native PDF viewer.
24. What is the origin of this curriculum?
Math Mammoth books had their start at around 2002, when I (Maria Miller) was tutoring homeschooling children, and noticed the difficulties their parents had in explaining mathematics.
I initially wrote books for certain topics, and later those books gave rise to the Blue Series books currently sold on this site.
I always designed the lessons in the books so that they would teach BOTH the parent and the child the processes and concepts of elementary math. Thus, the books contain very clear explanations, lots of visual exercises and pattern exercises that help children see the structure of mathematics and clearly understand the concepts of mathematics, instead of just memorizing rules.
Ample practice for computation is not forgotten either. Word problems abound.
The complete curriculum had its start in 2007, when I was asked to combine my books into material that could be sold by grade levels.
25. What do you recommend for high school math?
My recommendation is to get a regular textbook and supplement that with videos. The main reason I recommend regular textbooks over products by various homeschool companies is as follows. The authors of regular high school math textbooks have studied math at university level and know higher mathematics, and that enables them to teach high school math better than people who have not studied math beyond high school level. When you teach a subject, it helps tremendously to know what is coming next (such as the math taught at college level) and to know the "roots" and origins of math concepts. It just so happens that some of those roots and basics, in a sense, are only explained in detail in college level mathematics (such as the axiomatic system for real numbers or the various types of proof techniques).
After completing Math Mammoth 7, students can go directly to algebra 1. Please see recommendations for an algebra 1 curriculum here.
For high school geometry, I have reviewed these two textbooks: Geometry: A Guided Inquiry and Harold Jacobs Geometry.
I have also heard that Teaching Textbooks Geometry is a decent curriculum (though their grade-level series is very easy and at least one grade level behind Math Mammoth). Keep in mind I have not seen it myself.
Some companies that provide videos and other helps to match regular high school textbooks are: www.mathwithoutborders.com, www.askdrcallahan.com, and www.chalkdust.com
Another, cheap option is to get a used textbook and supplement it with videos from various websites. You can see a list of such sites here.
26. Does the author have any mathematics or education credentials?
Yes. I have a master's degree in mathematics (1997) after studying 5 years in in university of Joensuu, Finland, and one term in the University of Nottingham, UK. My degree includes minors in physics and statistics, and the educational studies required to become a teacher (as required in Finland).
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