Math Mammoth User Guide
The Light Blue Series

This document has the following sections:

Basic principles in using Math Mammoth Complete Curriculum
How to get started
Pacing the curriculum
Using tests
Using cumulative reviews and the worksheet maker
Frequently asked questions
Contact the author

Basic principles in using Math Mammoth Complete Curriculum

Math Mammoth Complete Curriculum is not a scripted curriculum. In other words, it is not spelling out in exact detail what the teacher is to do or say in a specific lesson. Instead, Math Mammoth gives you, the teacher, various tools for teaching:


How to get started

Simply start out by printing the first lesson from the student worktext. Study the teaching part (within the blue boxes) together with your child. Go through a few of the exercises together, and then assign some problems for your child to do on his/her own. You can also let the child study the lesson completely on his own if you feel he/she is capable.


Pacing the curriculum

The lessons in Math Mammoth complete curriculum are NOT written to be done in a single teaching session or class. Sometimes you might be able to go through a whole lesson in one day, but more often, the lesson itself might span 3-5 pages and take 2-3 days or classes to complete.

Therefore, it is not possible to say exactly how many pages a student needs to do in one day. This will vary. However, you should calculate yourself a general guideline as to how many pages per week you should cover in the student worktext in order to go through the curriculum in one school year (or some other span of time you want to allot to it).

You can check below how many pages there are to do for grade 2. Fill in how many days of school you have in mind. Also allow several days for tests and cumulative reviews; for example twice the number of chapters in the curriculum. Then, to get a “pages/day” measure, divide the number of pages by the number of available days. This number will be between 1 and 2, assuming you do school 5 days a week, about 40 weeks a year. Then, multiply this number by 5 to get an approximate page count to go through in a week.

Example:

Grade levelPage
count
Number of
school  days
(total)
Days for
tests and
reviews
Days for
the lessons
Pages to study
per day
Pages to study
per week
2-A133 95 10 85 1.56 7.82
2-B148 105 10 95 1.56 7.79
Grade 2 total 281 200 20 180 1.56 7.81

The one below is for you to fill in.

Grade levelPage
count
Number of
school  days
(total)
Days for
tests and
reviews
Days for
the lessons
Pages to study
per day
Pages to study
per week
2-A133          
2-B148          
Grade 2 total 281          

Now, let's assume you determine that your child needs to study about 1.6 pages a day, or about 8 pages a week in order to get through the curriculum, based on the number of school days in your school year. As you study each lesson, keep in mind that sometimes most of the page might be filled with those blue teaching boxes, and very few exercises. You might be able to "cover" two full pages on such a day. Then some other day you might only assign one page of word problems. Also, you might be able to go through the pages quicker in some chapters, for example when studying the clock, because the large clock pictures fill the page so that one page does not have many problems.

When you have a page or two filled with lots of similar practice problems ("drill") or large sets of problems, feel free to only assign 1/2 or 2/3 of those problems. If your child "gets it" with less amount of exercises, then that is perfect! If not, you can always assign him/her the rest of the problems some other day. In fact, you could even use these unassigned problems the next week or next month for some additional review.

In general, 1st-2nd graders might spend 25-40 minutes a day on math. 3rd-4th graders might spend 30-60 minutes a day. 5th - 6th graders might spend 45-75 minutes a day. If your child finds math enjoyable, he/she can of course spend more time with it! However, it is not good to drag out the lessons on a regular basis, because that can then affect the child's attitude towards math.


Using tests

There is a test for each chapter, which can be administered right after studying the chapter. The tests are optional. Some homeschooling families might prefer not to give tests at all. The main reason I have provided tests is for diagnostic purposes, and so that homeschooling families can use them for their record keeping. I have not provided any grading system for the chapter tests. You can grade them however you want.

These test files are located in their own folder. They are provided as PDF files and as editable html files. You can open the html files in most any word processor (such as Microsoft Word) for editing. Then you can edit the test and change the numbers or problems in it. However, remember to save the edited test files under a different file name, or you will lose the original test file.

The end-of-year test has a suggestion for grading. This test is best administered as a diagnostic or assessment test, which will tell you how well the student remembers and has mastered the math content of the entire grade level.


Using cumulative reviews and the worksheet maker

There is a cumulative review matched for each chapter, except for chapter 1. For example, the review titled "Cumulative Review, Chapters 1 - 4" means that the problems in that review cover topics from chapters 1-4. These cumulative reviews are available as PDF files and as editable html files. You are welcome to edit the html files for the purpose of providing a slightly different review for your student. For example, you can easily change the numbers in the problems.

Use the corresponding cumulative review some time after you are done studying a particular chapter. For example, you could use the "Cumulative Review, Chapters 1 - 4" right after or before administering chapter 4 test. Or, you could use it 1-2 weeks after finishing chapter 4.

There are no "hard and fast" rules when it comes to cumulative reviews. It is not necessary to use all of them within a school year; however I do recommend that you use at least 1/2 of them.

One of the main reasons for the cumulative reviews is to spot any areas that the student has not grasped well or has forgotten, and thus needs additional practice. When you find such a topic or concept, you have several options:

  1. Check if the worksheet maker lets you make worksheets for that topic (for example, conversions between measuring units or equivalent fractions).

  2. Check for any online games in the Introduction part of the particular chapter this topic or concept was taught in.

  3. You might also be able to simply reprint the lesson from the student worktext and have the student restudy that.

  4. Or, maybe you only assigned 2/3 of the exercise sets the first time through, and can now use the remaining exercises.

  5. Occasionally a lack is not of concern. This is true if the topic either is going to be taught in-depth or can safely be delayed to the next grade level.

    Such topics in grade 2 include: regrouping in subtraction with three-digit numbers and multiplication. Even clock reading may be delayed to the end of 2nd grade or beginning of 3rd. If you decide to delay a topic, just don't forget to study it thoroughly later on.

Another sign that the student has not grasped a necessary concept is if he/she cannot do WORD PROBLEMS in the subsequent chapters that require past knowledge or concepts. If your child has great difficulty with those kinds of word problems, then it might be time to use the worksheet maker, online games, or restudy the concept using the worktext. I have always striven to make the word problems progressively so that they involve concepts and skills studied in earlier chapters.


Frequently asked questions

1. Do you have placement / diagnostic tests?

2. Is there a teacher's manual?

3a. Are there printed versions available?

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?

3c. I hesitate to buy MM because I can't print in color. Any suggestions?

4. Can I buy it on a CD?

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)?

5. What is a worktext?

6. What is the difference between the Blue Series and Light Blue series?

7. How does the complete curriculum (Light Blue books) compare with Singapore math,
    Math-U-See, or other popular homeschool math curricula?

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?

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?

14. For drilling the addition and subtraction tables should we just go over each lesson
    over and over until she memorizes her tables?

15. Is Math Mammoth aligned with any state standards?

16. Does Math Mammoth curriculum encourage the use of manipulatives?

17. How and when to use the 100-bead abacus?

18. My son is 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?

19. Is Math Mammoth a spiral or mastery curriculum (horizontal or vertical math)?

20. Some graphics are missing from the PDF file. Why?

21. What is the origin of this curriculum?

22. What do you recommend for high school math?

23. 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 have 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 the math concepts before.

Also, in the beginning of each chapter there are some general notes and helps for the teacher (Introduction).

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. The inside pages are black-and-white (or grayscale) (not full color) because full color publishing is fairly costly.


 

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?

Sure. Just remember the copyright notice: the person who owns the book(s) is allowed to make copies (whether by Kinko's printer or some other printer) for HIS / HER students, but not for other teacher's students. You can also use online printing services such as Mimeo.com or Bestvaluecopy.com. However, 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!
 


4. Can I buy it on a CD?

Yes. At Kagi, you can purchase each of the Light Blue grade levels separately on a CD or all six grade levels on a single CD.  Rainbow Resource sells the CD for all six grade levels.


4b. Is there any advantage for buying the curriculum on a CD?

Usually no, because the CD just contains the same files as the download, and if you purchase a download, you may always make a backup copy of the files on a CD or on a memory stick (flash drive).

However, a CD is helpful if you know beforehand that you cannot download large files. Or, some people may prefer a CD so as to not lose track of where the files are stored. Even if you purchase a CD, I recommend that you make a backup copy. 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.)
 


5. What is a worktext?

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 practically the same lesson material. Comparing with the Light Blue series, 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 and cumulative reviews. The Blue Series just consists of worktexts for various topics, and the material in each book usually spans 2-3 grade levels.

So, which you would choose depends mostly on your goals: Do you wish to have a complete curriculum for a given grade level? Use the Light Blue. Do you wish to review/reteach certain topics only? Use the Blue. Do you want to cover all of the topics as in a full curriculum but without mentions of grade levels? The 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 curricula. 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:

Some elementary mathematics topics are covered over several years in a spiraling style, such as place value (with increasing digits), measuring units, geometry vocabulary (pentagon, octagon, parallel), reading clock, coins, and money problems.

The following topics are NOT reviewed in any great depth, but mastery is expected: single digit addition/ subtraction after 1st grade, double-digit addition/subtraction after 2nd, clock reading or coins after 3rd. Multiplication tables and basic division 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 cumulative reviews meant to be used after each chapter. These have various kinds of problems, including word problems. When you notice that your child needs additional review of any kind of calculation topic (such as after using the cumulative reviews), you can use the worksheet maker included in the downloadable curriculum, and generate additional worksheets with it.

This worksheet generator requires an Internet access. If you do not have Internet at home, you can use it in an Internet cafe or public library or a friend's house, and save the generated worksheets on a memory stick to print later.

Also, the major concepts, such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, or fractions, actually get reviewed in a sense because they get used all the time. For example, a child who learns their multiplication tables will keep using them all the time in division and multi-digit multiplication. Addition and subtraction strategies are used in word problems about money or measuring, or again when studying place value and large numbers. Division facts are used in long division.

I never make word problems to exactly match the lesson. 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 will include multiplication. So, the word problems dealing with various topics (money, measuring, division, fractions) include the usage of all operations all the time (once the operation has been studied), and review these operations. The word problems in this curriculum constantly use important concepts that have already been learned.


 

10. Are tests included? And should I grade 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 manner 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 my article on 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 have 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 am currently writing a pre-algebra (grade 7) curriculum. Part A (the first half) is available already. You can also see my ideas and recommendations for kindergarten and high school math.


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. For drilling the addition and subtraction 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.
 


15. Is Math Mammoth aligned with any state standards?

Grades 1-6 are aligned to the Common Core standards as of 2013.


 

16. 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.

grade 1
grade 2
grade 3


17. 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 ideas on how to use the 100-bead abacus.
 

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:

home made abacus
 

18. 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 articles to help you further understand the issue with 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.
 


19. Is Math Mammoth a spiral or mastery curriculum (horizontal or vertical math)?

Math Mammoth is basically a mastery-based curriculum. Some topics are studied till mastery within one and the same chapter. Example of such include regrouping in subtraction for 2-digit numbers (2nd), multiplication tables (3rd), or 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 (5th and 6th), the area of a triangle (5th and 6th). 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), adding like fractions (grades 3-5), 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.

 


20. 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.

Another possible problem is that some graphics/images will not print on a Mac. Try select "print image" in the advanced section of the printer window, and see if that helps.


21. 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 inspired 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. 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. There are numerous word problems.

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.


 

22. What do you recommend for high school math?

Please read my advice for high school math here.


23. Does the author have any mathematics or education credentials?

Yes. I have a master's degree in mathematics (1997) after studying 5 years in the  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).


CONTACT THE AUTHOR

In case of any questions about this product, you can fill a form at www.mathmammoth.com/contact.php or just email me at mariamiller@mathmammoth.com

I wish you success in teaching math!
Maria Miller