## Reasons for Changing Homeschool Math Curriculum

Are any of these true in your homeschool?

- Math is causing tears. (Either for your child or you!)
- Math is taking more time than you have to give it.
- You’ve been using a more traditional math curriculum and would like to explore using a conceptual curriculum.
- You have already taught this math curriculum to your first several children and you just can’t handle going through the same book a fourth (or fifth…or sixth…) time.
- Your child is bored and not challenged enough.
- Your child just doesn’t seem to click with your math program, and you’re hoping another approach will make more sense to him or her.

If so, it might be time to change math program. In this article, I’ll help you **weigh the pros and cons of switching math programs** and show you **how to make your curriculum switch a success**.

## Advantages of Changing Your Homeschool Math Curriculum

When you switch programs, of course you’re hoping that the new curriculum will be a better fit for your family and more effective for your child. But there are other advantages to switching, too.

### Meeting Your Child’s Changing Needs

My third-grader Henry has already used three different math curricula: RightStart, Singapore Math, and Beast Academy. All three are excellent programs, and mixing up what I’ve used each year has **allowed me to adjust my math instruction as his needs have changed each year.**

First, RightStart gave him an excellent foundation in number concepts. Then, Singapore helped him transition from hands-on math activities to written work and reading a textbook. Now, Beast Academy provides interesting problems, builds his problem-solving perseverance, and feeds his curiosity about numbers.

### Growing as a Teacher

**Another advantage of switching math programs is how much I learn each time I use a new curriculum.** From RightStart, I learned how to use the abacus and carefully scaffold mental math development. From Singapore, I learned more about the ins and outs of complex word problems. Now, from Beast, I am learning how to let my son struggle and persevere through difficult problems. Because each program has its own distinctive emphases and teaching methods, I’ve been able to add some new techniques to my teaching repertoire every time I use a new program.

### Learning More About Your Child’s Learning Style

Finally, **switching curriculum has also helped me to learn more about how my son learns best.** As I’ve seen him approach different curricula, I’ve learned that he’s a very social learner who likes to figure things out for himself. He quickly loses steam if he has a lot of similar practice problems to do, but he’ll work doggedly on problems that challenge him. This insight has helped me make better curriculum choices not just in math but in all subjects.

## Possible Downsides of Changing Math Curriculum (and How to Overcome Them)

### Different Scope and Sequence

Each curriculum has its own scope and sequence (that is, which topics it covers, in which grades, and in which order.) If you switch midstream from one curriculum to another, **your child may miss some topics **or waste time reviewing material that she’s already mastered.

To prevent this, **make sure your child takes the placement test** for the curriculum that you are switching to. It’s quite likely that your child will place at a different “grade level” than your previous curriculum, since the scope and sequences can be significantly different. Don’t be tempted to push your child ahead just to stay at an artificial grade level—if you didn’t have tears with math before, you will now! It’s much better to build confidence and understanding by doing some brisk review than to risk frustration by floundering in a book that’s too difficult.

### Spending Time Getting to Know a New Program

**Switching curriculum has a learning curve for both the parent and child.** Both of you have to get used to a new format, layout, and lesson style. Plus, you have to learn how to teach the new curriculum and become familiar with any distinctive features of the program.

To make the transition as smooth as possible, **make sure you spend some time with the program before trying to teach your first lesson. **Read the introductory materials to become familiar with the philosophy of the program, and preview the first unit to understand the objectives and lesson formats. When you first introduce the book to your child, spend a little time looking over the book together and discussing how the book is organized. These small steps will make the changeover much easier on both of you.

### Not Finding the Root of the Problem

While there are many good reasons to change curriculum, switching shouldn’t be the automatic answer to math struggles. Before switching, make sure to pause to pinpoint what exactly isn’t working for you and your child. If you don’t stop to analyze the problem, there is a danger of using curriculum as a scapegoat any time math isn’t going well. Just because a child is struggling with math doesn’t mean that the curriculum is at fault. Make sure to consider how much time and effort you’re investing in teaching well, and how hard your child is working to understand and practice the math. Even the best curriculum isn’t effective without focused effort and good attitudes from both student and teacher. And sometimes, learning some math topics is just plain hard work that requires perseverance and struggle, no matter which curriculum you use.

## Conclusion

Just because you’ve used a certain math curriculum in the past doesn’t mean you have to stick with it forever. **You are your child’s teacher and you know your child best. So, do your research, think through your options, and trust yourself that you’re able to make a good decision.** No matter what, make sure to keep your end goal in mind: raising children who are capable and confident in math…*without* pulling all your hair out in the process.

Marie says

Hi, I’m considering switching from Singapore to Right Start and was wondering if Right Start is easier to teach. I spend a lot of time coming up with additional review using Singapore and I feel like I am constantly trying to evaluate my kids understanding of the material and I use the HIG and extra practice. Math is actually one of my stronger interests, but I struggle with communicating those concepts to my kids. Starting next school year I will have a 3rd, 2nd, and K, and would really like a more open and go curriculum. One that I can be confident at the end of the day knowing they are getting a great math education, and we accomplished what we needed to for that day. Do you think Right Start would be a good choice for us knowing this information?

Kate says

Hi Marie,

There’s a lot that I like about Singapore, but not the HIG! RightStart is definitely much more open-and-go than Singapore. Plus, it’s scripted, so you don’t have to come up with your own words for explaining and asking questions.

However, RightStart doesn’t offer a whole lot more in terms of review or extra practice. The review is a bit more spread out than in Singapore, with “warm-up questions” at the beginning of each lesson that provide some review. There are also written assessments and some review embedded in the worksheets in the higher levels.

My biggest concern for you would be the amount of time you’d have to spend on direct instruction on math if you teach 3 levels of RightStart. You might want to check out this thread that was on the Well-Trained Mind forums recently about moms who juggle multiple levels of RightStart: http://forums.welltrainedmind.com/topic/585170-rightstart-tips-for-juggling-multiple-levels/ Personally, I’d be reluctant to attempt it with three kids, but it depends a lot on how much time you’re comfortable spending on math instruction each day.

I hope this helps! Definitely let me know if you have any follow-up questions. 🙂

Marie says

Thanks Kate! I really appreciate your advise. I think I’ll start Right Start with my 5year old to get a feel for the amount of time it takes. He’s also my hands on kids who lives games, so from your curriculum reviews I think he is a good candidate for this program. I’ll still with Singapore for my older two at this time, with plans to get my oldest into Beast Academy. He despises repetition in practice problems and said the other day, “If I just had word problems, I could do math all day.” Thanks so much for creating this page and all the time you spend writing. I greatly appreciate your wisdom and insight!

Kate says

Ooh, your oldest sounds like he will love Beast Academy–and RightStart sounds like a great fit for your little guy! It’s such a great perk of homeschooling that we can adjust for our kids’ individual learning styles.

stefanie Byrd says

I just discovered your page and your reviews are so helpful and straightforward! I bought Right Start off a friend and it happens to be a perfect fit for my son and his personality (sociable, enjoys hands-on stuff). Do you plan to write reviews on other programs? Would love to hear your take on Miquon Math (uses cuisenaire rods). I read somewhere that it pairs well with Singapore math. And also Math U See.

Kate says

Stefanie, so glad you’re finding the reviews helpful, and that RS is a good fit for your son. I’m planning to write a review of Math-U-See this spring, but I’ll consider adding on Miquon, too. It’s a program that’s always intrigued me, but I’ve never taken a close look at it. Thanks for the suggestion!

Marie says

I’ve started Right Start with my five year old and it’s going really well. I’ve been using Singapore with my older two and after you posted that you don’t care for the HIG, I’ve quit using it, just using the text book and workbook. They are able to work more independently this way and seem to be understanding fine. Any other tips on using Singapore without the HIG?

Kate says

Hi Marie! Glad your 5-year-old is doing well with RightStart! Just to clarify, the HIG drives me a little crazy, but I do think it has some useful info. The main thing it adds is tips on how to demonstrate the concepts with hands-on manipulatives, which of course a textbook can’t do.

That said, hands-on manipulatives are much more important at the lower levels when kids still think very concretely. Starting in third or fourth grade, I think the textbook is perfectly sufficient for most kids. My main tips are to make sure your children can explain why what they’re doing works and to check that they’re not just following rote procedures. I also recommend keeping up with the mental math exercises in the back of the HIG–these are very valuable and add a lot to the program. Happy math!

Marie says

Thanks so much! I REALLY appreciate your tips! I can see the value of what you’ve mentioned, knowing to keep up with these will give me greater confidence continuing with Singapore.

Hannah says

Hi!

I just found your blog and YouTube channel!

I’m trying to find a math curriculum that fits our needs and wants. And I have a few questions if you have time 🙂

We have used and not liked MUS. We still use the blocks heavily and love them, but my kids were bored with all the worksheets and they like color in their work pages.

I’m considering Mcruffy Math, horizons, MM or CLE, Singapore. I know, I’m spinning from all the options!

I want a mix of both Asian inspired math, with easy scripted lessons for me(the teacher) and color worksheets.

Math is not my strong suit, but my kids love games and I want them to be strong in math! We do the Math Verbal Lesson and LOF too.

If I purchase your math book, will it walk me through how to use the program? What about manipulatives?

Sorry, I’m so all over the place, it’s just soo confusing 🙈

Kate says

Hi Hannah! Hmm,I don’t believe a curriculum exists that fits all the criteria you’re looking for. CLE, Horizons, and McRuffy aren’t Asian-inspired, MM doesn’t offer scripted lessons, and Singapore’s worksheets are black-and-white. Of the 5 programs, I think Singapore Math Standards edition would probably fit your needs the best. The textbooks at least are in color, and the Home Instructor’s Guide is more scripted than the U.S. edition.

For my Preschool Math at Home, it walks you through exactly how to teach each activity (and also helps you understand how each one builds on the previous activity). The only manipulatives you need for it are everyday household items.

Amy says

I have 2nd grade twins who have been using Rightstart B this year. One daughter flew through the lessons, she easily picked up abstract concepts and often times did not need the manipulatives (she tested in gifted program at public school prior to homschooling). Should I continue her with level C or switch to Singapore? I read on the WTM forum that you switched after some of level C was completed. I hate to purchase C only for a few lessons. By the way, my other twin who hated math …now loves it. I am shocked by her mastery of number sense and mental math. This is the one program I have not questioned or regretted as a first time homeschooling mom.

Kate says

Hi Amy,

RightStart is a great program, but I did feel like C moved a little slow for my math whiz. (Bear in mind that I was using the first edition, though. Second edition is quite a bit more streamlined.) Since RightStart is working so well for both your girls, I’d suggest sticking with it through C with both of them. If you feel like it’s starting to drag for one of your daughters, you might consider switching to Singapore or Beast Academy for her after C. But certainly don’t feel like you HAVE to switch–it’s a solid, well-thought-out program all the way through.

Jen feik says

Hello- we’re just looking to start homeschooling in the fall. I will have a 4th grader and 5th grader as well as one in pre-k. Both the older are good students and do well in public school. Although I don’t feel like they have been challenged this year at all. I’m leaning towards the Singapore math programs. When we did the online placement testing it seems like we would need to start one in 3 and one in 4 they just didn’t do well on the 4/5 tests.

Do you think this is a program we can start as first time homeschoolers and do well in? It seems to be a bit intense but I’m really wanting to challenge them and raise strong learners.

Kate says

Hi Jen! You’ll be fine starting Singapore in books 3 and 4 (especially since you’ve used the placement tests to find the correct book for each child). Just make sure to buy and use the home instructors’ guides, and you’ll be good to go.

Carrie says

Hi Kate, I so appreciate your advice and your blog – thank you! I have a question about switching our math program. My 7 year old daughter has completed rightstart A and B. She’s older for her grade and did very well with these. I taught my 5 year old son A while teaching her B this past year and it was a lot of one on one time. I liked the program but think it would be nice to have her math be more independent since I also have a 4 year old and 2 year old. My 7 year old also loves worksheets and was always excited for the assessments. 😛 She didn’t like all the parts of right start like I did. So my question is, do you think I should do one more year of right start with her and complete level C before switching or do you think she could switch now? I am leaning toward math mammoth for the switch. Thanks!

Kate says

Carrie, I think you’ll be just fine switching to Math Mammoth at this point. Just make sure to do the placement test to put your daughter in the right book. (And keep the abacus and place-value cards handy–they’re a great add-on to Math Mammoth.)

rachel says

Hi Kate! I read this article, the review of RS, and all the comments under each. I was trying to answer my own question without bothering you, but alas, I need advice. My oldest is finishing up first grade and my youngest will be starting k5 next year. I have been doing Saxon math with my oldest and my younger jumps in and out when it suits her. We have only made it about half way through Math 1 because of some serious medical issues that stopped life for several months so she is not where I would like her to be by this point. But we can’t seem to make much headway with Saxon because the lessons are SO long and we are both bored to tears. I think it is time for a change and as I have been researching programs RS stuck out to me, but I am a little worried that I am going to put her WAY to far behind starting with a program that teaches so differently. I have considered buying it an starting with my kindergartener just to see if I like it but we live in a tiny home and space is limited to own two full math curriculums (also, thinking of continuing Saxon makes me want to cry). I need to research Singapore more, maybe that would be a better fit for us. So far math has honestly been the first subject we will cut in a day if we run out of time because we hate it and I don’t feel like they really understand why they are doing what they are doing (place value has not even been mentioned!) I keep telling myself that the beauty of Homeschooling is they get to be on whatever level they need to be on so I think I would rather her be behind and really grasp math then to continue to do something that is obviously not working. If you were in my situation, which curriculum would you lean towards starting?

Kate says

Hi Rachel,

If you’re attracted to RightStart, I think you should go for it. Both your children could start Level A together, so you’d only have to teach one lesson per day. Even though RightStart A is generally recommended for kindergartners, it goes way beyond most other K programs, especially with its focus on mental math and place value. So, even though your older child would be technically “behind”, she wouldn’t be very far below typical grade level skills, and she’d develop a much better foundation for mastering the rest of elementary math.

Happy Math!

Kate

rachel brown says

Kate, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my question. I think you are right. I am going to go with my gut, even if it is a lot of repetition I think that is worth it for a really strong foundation. I think I just needed a “go ahead” from another mom that I wasn’t making a completely absurd decision. 😉

Kari says

Hi Kate! Thanks for this post! I’m struggling to decide whether to switch my son from Singapore (Primary Mathematics). We are just about to finish 1A and he is finishing up first grade. I can’t say he’s ever been a huge fan of it, but he especially hates the mental math sheets, and says he hates number bonds which are a significant part of how things are taught. I know part of this is learning perseverance, but I wonder if the curriculum just doesn’t click with him. Lately he has gotten very resistant because the explanations for how to solve subtraction problems like 17-9= just are not clicking with him. I’m planning on finishing an excellent math facts program called Addition Facts that Stick and also Subtraction Facts that Stick over the summer in case his weakness in the math facts is causing this (thanks for creating those by the way). Do you have any advice for me?

Kate says

Hi Kari,

Math is definitely no fun when your child is resisting. I think there’s probably a few tweaks you can make to help make Singapore a better fit for your son, though, without having to switch programs.

First of all, Singapore 1A does move VERY fast through the addition facts, and the explanations and strategies that it offers are often too abstract for first graders. Singapore is a great program overall, but this is definitely one of its weaknesses. My goal with my books was to take similar kinds of mathematical thinking and make them more concrete and more understandable, so working through Addition Facts and Subtraction Facts this summer should make a huge difference.

Second, my daughter isn’t a huge fan of the mental math sheets, too. With her, I only do about a third of a page per day, we do lots of them out loud, and others we do on the whiteboard to mix things up. As long as you’re doing some mental math regularly, you should be in good shape–even if it’s not a whole sheet at a time, or even some mental math every day.

And finally, regarding the number bonds. You’re right, part-whole thinking is crucial to the program and understanding the underlying structure of addition and subtraction problems. What to do there depends on what he doesn’t like about them. The format? The difficulty level? (Too easy or too hard?) My main advice would be use them sparingly, and make sure that he’s working at the right difficulty level when he does number bond problems. But I think he’ll feel a lot better about them in general once he’s more proficient with the facts.

Happy Math!

Kate

Sara Seifert says

Hello Kate,

I have referred to your website often and appreciate all you do to help with math. I’m hoping you can help me with my dilemma for this year, and I apologize ahead of time for the rather lengthy post.

I have five children, three of whom will be in home school next year. I also have a three-year old, and a baby. My oldest son did level 3 Beast Academy last year. It was a success, although he finally reached a point near the end of 3D where he was just burned out. It is just plain hard! My daughter, in first grade, did a math curriculum I had used with child 1 (Rod and Staff), but it was a disaster for her. She plodded through worksheets, rebelling and in tears all the way because she hated the monotony. I’ve got to switch her program., and am considering Math Mammoth. I am not sure that Beast Academy is a good fit for her, although she read all of older brother’s guide books for fun. Not sure how much she understood, but she loves to read! I’m not confidant that she has yet developed a strong number sense. Math doesn’t seem all that intuitive for her, and I don’t want another year of tears!

My pre-schooler (birthday in September, so will officially start kindergarten this year) was really ready for kindergarten last year, so I did Singapore Math Essentials with him. He loved it, but also didn’t like me to do too much teaching. He seemed to find great satisfaction in finishing the worksheets, but didn’t have a lot of patience for most of the suggested teaching tips at the bottom of the page. After he finished Essentials, I started him on Primary 1A, insisting on taking plenty of time and not rushing through the worksheets. He was doing really well before we stopped for a summer break. I also bought a copy of your “Addition Facts that Stick” book. I’ve used it as a supplemental resource for both child 2 and 3. I just noticed you have a subtraction version, and will have to check it out. Thanks!

With all that as background, my dilemma comes down to this: Obviously, my time is stretched pretty thinly, and I’m not sure that teaching three different math curriculums is going to work for me. For the sake of my daughter and stream-lining, I’m tempted to switch them all to Math Mammoth. Do you see any red flags with that idea? Do you have any advice for me?

Kate says

Hi Sara,

No red flags at all–Math Mammoth is a great curriculum, and it will simplify your life a ton. Go for it!

A couple thoughts that might make the transition go more easily:

-Since your daughter had some struggles with math this last year, I’d anticipate that she may need more hand-holding than your other two children. I’d suggest planning a little time in your daily routine to make sure to do direct teaching with her, and to make sure you have manipulatives at hand . The MM chapter intros are a treasure trove of teaching hints that will help with this.

-Depending on your youngest child’s fine motor skills, he may have a little trouble with the small blanks on the MM 1 worksheets. Probably not a big deal, but just something to watch out for. You can always have him do some of the page orally or enlarge them.

-If your oldest son misses Beast, you might consider getting just the Guides for fun reading and for reading along with the matching MM sections.

Hope your transition goes swimmingly! Happy Math!

Kate

Gia says

Hi Kate!

I am so very thankful to come across you’re blog. I was hoping you can give me your opinion on the following. I started my oldest one with Horizon (2nd grade) and while he liked it, it was difficult for me to teach because it basically did not include instructions on how to teach it. As we reach 3rd grade, it got complicated for both of us, and this was the first time, we did not finish the book (thank you by the way for the awesome article about not finishing the math book!). Last year, as we reach 4th grade, we used Rod and Staff, it gave us consistency and we completed the book; However, I became concern once we tried a few placement test for other math curriculums (Saxon, Singapore, Beast Academy), and my child tested at least two grades behind! This was a child who would always test two grades ahead!. So I am considering now switching to a more conceptual curriculum. Will Saxon math fit this criteria? I understand it is spiral which is different from the mastery style of Rod & Staff. I was actually considering using Saxon 76, Singapore and Beast Academy (as fun) but I don’t know if it’ll be too much too soon. Thank you!

Kate says

Hi Gia!

Rod and Staff is a solid curriculum, so I’m a little surprised that your son tested so far behind in the placement tests. Did you look at what kinds of mistakes he made? Were they were mostly in topics that Rod and Staff hasn’t covered yet (for example, graphing or geometry)? The pattern of errors matters a lot more than the overall score, so I’d take a close look at what kinds of problems he struggled with to try to analyze what was going on.

If he’s doing well in arithmetic (adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing whole numbers and fractions) and if using the curriculum is going well, I’d be inclined to stick with it. Singapore and Beast Academy both have very unusual scope and sequences, so I’m not surprised that he might test “behind” in those two programs. Saxon is definitely not a conceptual curriculum,. If the mastery style of R&S works well for your son, switching to a curriculum that teaches in such bits and pieces may not be a good fit.

Sorry not to have more specific advice for you. The math teacher in me is very curious about those placement tests!

Happy Math!

Kate