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Frequently Asked Questions - Math Mammoth Light Blue Series

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

7. Are earlier concepts reviewed in later levels?

8. Do the books have review problems that continue to review previous concepts?

9 Are tests included?

10. What about kindergarten math? At what age is it appropriate to start your 1st grade books?

11. Will you be writing more grade levels?

12. How far can I use the Light Blue series? Will it cover pre-algebra or algebra?

13. How do I pace the Light Blue curriculum? How many pages or worksheets per day should
    the child do?

14. 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?

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

16. Is Math Mammoth aligned with South African syllabus?

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

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

19. 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?

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

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

22. What is the origin of this curriculum?

23. What do you recommend for high school math?

24. 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 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?

Currently, no. This can be an option if I find a local reseller.



3b. Can we buy the downloads and then take them to a print shop 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) to HIS / HER students, but not to other teacher's students. 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!



4. Can I buy it on a CD?

Currently, no. However, I am interested in finding local resellers in South Africa that could sell the curriculum on CDs.



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 where the files are stored. Even if you purchase a CD, I recommend a backup copy be made. CDs do not last forever.



4c. Does it work on a Mac or Linux?

Yes. The actual files you get are PDF or html files. You will need to install Adobe Acrobat Reader for Mac or for Linux to view the PDF files correctly. I've had customers tell me that Mac's native PDF viewer shows black boxes in the files, or that lots of the graphics are missing. In Linux, if you use other PDF viewers, some images will likely be missing or messed up, so again, you need to install Acrobat Reader version for Linux.

Also, it won't matter whether you get a download or a CD.

The only thing that does not work in Mac or Linux is the bonus software "Soft-Pak".



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. 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.



7. 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:

  • Adding so that the result "goes over 10" is included in the last half of 1st grade and first half of 2nd; for example 6 + 8.
  • Borrowing over zeros is included both in 2nd and 3rd.
  • Multiplication concept is introduced in the very end of 2nd but studied in depth in 3rd.
  • Multi-digit multiplication (the algorithm) is touched in 3rd grade but studied in length in the first part of 4th grade, and studied once more in 5th (5-A).
  • Similarly, long division is studied both in 4th and 5th.
  • The concept of decimal numbers is introduced briefly in the end of 3rd grade, and then studied quite a bit more on 4th. Decimals and their operations are studied in depth in 5th grade (5-A). They are reviewed in grade 6.
  • Fractions are introduced a little in 2nd grade, and gradually studied some more in 3rd and 4th. In 5th grade, they are in "focus" — all the fraction operations are studied in-depth in the book 5-B. Then they are reviewed in 6th grade.

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.



8. 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 don't 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 multidigit 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 thus review these operations. The word problems in this curriculum constantly use important concepts that have been already learned.



9. Are tests included?

Yes. There is a chapter test after each chapter and an end-of-year test to be used after each grade level.



10. 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.



11. Will you be writing more grade levels?

Math Mammoth Light Blue series goes up to pre-algebra (grade 7). I will not be writing more levels beyond that. Please read my ideas and recommendations for kindergarten and high school math.



12. How far can I use the Light Blue series? Will it cover pre-algebra or algebra?

Math Mammoth Grade 7 is designed to be a pre-algebra curriculum (SA version is not yet available). It covers integers, linear equations, slope, ratios, proportions, percent, the Pythagorean Theorem, geometry, statistics, and probability. After completing Math Mammoth grade 7, students can continue to algebra 1.



13. How do I pace the Light Blue curriculum? How many pages or worksheets per day should the child do?

For pacing, you can check how many actual lessons 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 a "pages/day" number, divide the number of pages by the number of days. The user guide for each grade also has this information.

Assuming you do 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 get 2 or more pages a day. Please also allow some time for tests and cumulative reviews.

Example:

Grade levelPage 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 grade249200101.36.7
2nd grade281200151.57.6
3rd grade321200151.78.7
4th grade353200151.99.5
5th grade361200152.09.8

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 2 pages a day. However, you need to pace it depending on how the lesson goes. Sometimes you might be able to go through several pages in a day, and sometimes you cannot do but one page. Also, in some topics you might be able to go through the pages quicker, for example in the clock chapters, because the clock pictures fill the page so that one page does not have many problems.



14. 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.



15. 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.



16. Is Math Mammoth aligned with South African syllabus?

No. Instead, it follows a typical scope and sequence in the US and for the most part exceeds South African standards or syllabus.



17. 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



18. 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:

  • Show the child additions and subtractions with whole tens. For example, to solve 50 + 20, first make 50 on the abacus. Then add 20 more.
  • Add a two-digit number and a single-digit number. For example, to solve 23 + 5, first make 23 on the abacus. Then add five beads.
  • Show some "shortcuts" in addition or subtraction. For example, to solve 34 + 20, first make 34 on the abacus. To add 20, add two whole rows of beads. Then the student checks how many whole tens and how many individual beads is the total.
    Or, to solve 85 − 20, first make 85. Then pull back two whole rows of beads.
    Or, to add 23 + 44. First make 23. Then make 44 on using the five lowest rows of the abacus. Have the child now count the whole tens (6), and the individual beads from the two rows (3 + 4). This shows adding the tens separately, and adding the ones separately. From this you can graduate to making first 23, then adding 4 full rows of beads for 40, and then adding 4 individual beads from the same row as the 3 beads.

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:

home made abacus


19. 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



20. 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), area of 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.



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

This is a common problem in Mac computers. If it seems that some images or graphics are missing (such as number lines, bar graphs, diagrams, etc.), you need to use Adobe Acrobat Reader to open Math Mammoth PDFs, and not in some other PDF viewer. Download and install Adobe Acrobat Reader for Mac from this link, and open the PDFs in it.



22. 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.



23. What do you recommend for high school math?

Please read my advice for high school math here.



24. 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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