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
Concerning challenging word problems and puzzles
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 intended 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 for 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 whatever span of time you want to allot to it).

You can check below to see how many pages there are to do for your particular grade level. Fill in how many days of school you intend to take. Also allow several days for tests and cumulative reviews - there will be at least twice the number of chapters in the curriculum. Then, to get a count of “pages/day”, divide the number of pages by the number of available days. This number of pages 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 the approximate page count to cover in a week.

Example:

Grade level Lesson
pages
Number of
school  days
Number of days
for tests
and reviews
Number of days
for studying
the student book
Pages to study
per day
Pages to study
per week
5-A170 99 10 89 1.91 9.55
5-B176 101 10 91 1.93 9.67
Grade 5 total 346 200 20 180 1.92 9.61

The table below is for you to fill in.

Grade level Lesson
pages
Number of
school  days
Number of days
for tests
and reviews
Number of days
for studying
the student book
Pages to study
per day
Pages to study
per week
5-A170          
5-B176          
Grade 5 total 346          

Now, let's assume you determine that you need to study about 2 pages a day, or about 10 pages a week in order to get through the curriculum. As you study each lesson, keep in mind that sometimes most of the page might be filled with blue teaching boxes and very few exercises. You might be able to “cover” 2 1/2 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 graphs, because the large 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, first and second graders might spend 25-40 minutes a day on math. Third and fourth graders might spend 30-60 minutes a day. Fifth and sixth 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 generally a test for each chapter (with a few exceptions), 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 wish. These tests are not aligned or matched to any standards.

These test files are located in their own folder. They are provided as PDF files and html files. Backup files are also provided. If you print the html files from your web browser, set the margins to 0.6 inches in the Page Setup. You can also set your header and footer in the Page Setup of your browser.

You can open the html files in most any word processor program 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. If this happens anyway, and you wish to go back to the originals, backup files are provided in a folder called /backup-copies/.

The end-of-the-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 for 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 htm and pdf files. You are welcome to edit the htm 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 the 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, so he/she 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 in which  this topic or concept was taught.
  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 or a mistake 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 5 include exponents, mean (average), and introduction to ratios.

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 tried to make the word problems progressively so that they involve concepts and skills studied in earlier chapters.


Concerning challenging word problems and puzzles

While this is not absolutely necessary, I heartily recommend supplementing Math Mammoth with challenging word problems and puzzles. You could do that once a month, for example, or more often if the student enjoys it.

The goal of challenging story problems and puzzles is to develop the student’s logical and abstract thinking and mental discipline. I recommend starting these in fourth grade, at the latest. Then, students are able to read the problems on their own and have developed mathematical knowledge in many different areas. Of course I am not discouraging students from doing such in earlier grades, either.

Math Mammoth curriculum contains lots of word problems, and they are usually multi-step  problems. Several of the lessons utilize a bar model for solving problems. Even so, the problems I have created are usually tied to a specific concept or concepts. I feel students can benefit from solving problems and puzzles that require them to think “out of the box” or are just different from the ones I have written.

You can use the resources below for some problem solving practice. You can find more puzzles online by searching for “brain puzzles for kids,” “logic puzzles for kids,” or “brain teasers for kids.” Choose something that fits your budget (most of these are free) and that you and your students will like.

Problem Solving Decks from North Carolina public schools
Includes a deck of problem cards for grades 1-8, student sheets, and solutions. Many of these problems are best solved with calculators. All of these problems lend themselves to students telling and writing about their thinking.
http://www.homeschoolmath.net/teaching/problem-solving-decks.php

Math Stars Problem Solving Newsletter (grades 1-8)
These newsletters are a fantastic, printable resource for problems to solve and their solutions.
http://www.homeschoolmath.net/teaching/math-stars.php

A+ Click
A+ Click features a graduated set of over 4700 challenging problems for students in grades one through twelve, starting from the very simple to the extremely difficult. No fees, no ads, no calculators, and no sign in. The questions concentrate on understanding, spatial reasoning, usefulness, and problem solving rather than math rules and theorems. The tests adapt to student ability.
http://www.aplusclick.com

Problem Solving from MathWire.com
Neat and creative problems to solve for K-8.
http://www.mathwire.com/problemsolving/probs.html

Challenge Math For the Elementary and Middle School Math Student
by Edward Zaccaro
Over 1,000 problems in areas such as algebra, astronomy, trigonometry, probability, and more. Answers are included in the back of the book. Challenge Math is designed for children in grades 4-8. $20, ISBN 978-0967991559.
http://www.amazon.com/Challenge-Elementary-Middle-Student-Edition/dp/0967991552/?tag=mathmammoth-20

Mathematics Enrichment - nrich.maths.org
Open-ended, investigative math challenges for all levels from the UK. Use Stage 3 problems for 7th grade.
http://nrich.maths.org/
http://nrich.maths.org/public/themes.php lets you find problems organized by mathematical themes.

Figure This! Math Challenges for Families
Word problems related to real life. They do not always have all the information but you have to estimate and think. For each problem, there is a hint, other related problems, and interesting trivia. Website supported by National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
http://figurethis.nctm.org/

MathCounts School Handbook (PDF)
This handbook contains 300 creative problems for grades 6-8. All problems are mapped according to topic, to difficulty level, and to the Common Core State Standards.
http://mathcounts.org/resources/school-handbook

Noetic Learning Challenge Math
This is a program with weekly assignments, designed to hone young students’ mathematical problem solving skills and logical reasoning skills. The problems are non-routine problem solving questions that are adapted to many math competitions. Price is about $20 for a semester (10 weeks).
http://www.noetic-learning.com/gifted/index.jsp

“Problem of the Week” (POWs)
Problem of the week contests are excellent for finding challenging problems and for motivation. There are several:
 

See even more word problem and problem solving resources at
http://www.homeschoolmath.net/online/problem_solving.php

You can also use puzzles from the Internet:

Search in Google for “brain puzzles for kids”

Search in Google for “logic puzzles for kids”

Search in Google for “brain teasers for kids”


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 cannot 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. Is Math Mammoth aligned with any state standards?

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

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

14. What is the origin of this curriculum?

15. What do you recommend for high school math?

16. 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 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 Light Blue series books are available as paperbacks in two stores:

On the page for each grade of Light Blue series at MathMammoth.com you will find direct links to purchase printed copies for that grade level in these two stores.


3b. Can we take the download version to Kinko’s, Staples, or similar 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 — for his or her students, but not for 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 cannot print in color. Any suggestions?

1) Print in black and white, but let the child color the boxes the problems are in, using crayons.

2) Utilize the online games recommended in the introduction of each chapter for the “color” (so to speak). It works for some!


 

4. Can I buy it on a CD?

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 Center, or at Homeschool Buyers Co-op or Educents (at special sales).
 


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 of 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 have 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 lessons. 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 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 of the topics as in a full curriculum but without the mention of grade levels? The Blue Series can work there as well.


 

7. How does the complete curriculum (Light Blue Series) 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 as much as in a typical spiral curriculum. For example, I often introduce somewhat difficult topics in two grade levels. 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 first grade, double-digit addition and subtraction after second, and reading the clock and counting coins after third grade. The multiplication tables and basic division facts receive a quick review in fourth 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 will not be enough review. Do your books have 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 do not 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-the-year test to be used after each grade level. Each test includes a grading rubric. However, you do not 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 does not 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 have learned this topic and worked hard on 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 “cannot 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, do not look only at 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. For example, in math, it could be 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. Then those can go to their portfolio if you use such.

Most children in our society tend to get the idea that math is all about “speed” and getting correct answers, so 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. 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.


 

12. 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. Examples of such topics include regrouping 2-digit numbers in subtraction (2nd), multiplication tables (3rd), and long division (4th).

Often the topic is present in two (or even three) neighboring grade levels. Examples include: equivalent fractions (both 4th and 5th grade), percent (6th and 7th), the area of a triangle (6th and 7th). Some topics are “developed” to mastery over several grades, going from simple to more complex. For example, we learn reading the clock (grades 1-3), counting coins (grades 1-3), adding like fractions (grades 3-5), and 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.

 


13. 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.
 


14. What is the origin of this curriculum?

Math Mammoth books had their start around 2002, when I (Maria Miller) was tutoring homeschooling children, and noticed the difficulties their parents had in explaining mathematics.

I initially wrote books on certain math topics, and later those books gave rise to the Math Mammoth Blue Series books.

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.


 

15. What do you recommend for high school math?

Please read my advice for high school math here.


16. 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 out a form at www.mathmammoth.com/contact.php or just email me at maria_miller@mathmammoth.com

I wish you success in teaching math!
Maria Miller