Choosing an elementary homeschool math curriculum can feel overwhelming, since there are so many different programs out there. But it really comes down to just two steps.

**Step 1:**Narrow the search to the highest-quality programs.**Step 2:**Out of those options, choose the program that best fits your family.

Only you can choose the program that best fits your family, but I’m here to help you narrow your search so you can focus on the very best math programs as you make your decision. In this article, I’ll explain **what make an excellent homeschool math curriculum, the factors you should make sure to consider as you choose a program, and the 5 elementary math curricula that I recommend.**

## What Makes an Excellent Homeschool Math Curriculum?

### Focus on Conceptual Understanding

**Great programs teach kids not only how to do math but also why what they’re doing makes sense.** In these programs, the parent and textbook help children understand the concepts of math and apply them. Children are actively engaged, thinking through the ideas and understanding how the skills build on each other. (Contrast this with

*procedural*programs, in which the teacher or textbook demonstrates a procedure and then the child’s role is to imitate the procedure.)

Understanding the concepts behind the procedures has many benefits: more confidence in math, more efficient learning, and improved critical thinking skills.

### Plenty of Practice to Solidify Skills

However, while learning the concepts of math is a good start, **children also need to develop *** computational fluency.* That’s just a fancy way for saying that they need to learn the basic math facts (like 5+6 or 7×8) and they need to be able to solve problems (like 426 – 341 or 124 x 78) automatically and correctly. Excellent homeschool math programs provide plenty of practice with these skills so that kids can master them thoroughly.

### Teacher’s Guide that Empowers the Parent

Textbooks are helpful guides, but most elementary-age children also need a teacher in order to thrive in math. **High-quality homeschool math programs also provide plenty of guidance and support to you, the parent,** so that you can teach the material well. The best programs guide you step-by-step and even explain the reasoning behind the lessons so that you can even grow as a teacher while you teach.

## What Makes a Math Curriculum a Good Fit for Your Family?

Even the best math curriculum will flop if it’s not a good fit for your family. Make sure to consider these questions as you go about evaluating programs:

### What helps your child learn well?

You are your child’s parent and teacher, and you know your child best. Consider whether your child thrives on hands-on activities versus written work, and whether he or she does better with simple, black-and-white books or colorful, busy books. Also think about whether your child likes to puzzle things out or have them presented in a more straight-forward way.

### How much does it cost?

There’s no point buying the perfect math curriculum if it means you can’t buy groceries! Good math instruction is worth the investment, but some curricula are very expensive. Fortunately, there are also more moderately-priced programs.

### How much time does it take?

Make sure you’re ruthlessly realistic on this one! Math is an essential subject, but we homeschool moms have a lot to balance. It’s no use buying a curriculum if it’s going to sit on the shelf because you don’t have time to teach it.

## 5 Highly-Recommended Homeschool Math Programs

So, with all of that said, here are 5 elementary math programs that I recommend highly. Not all will be the right fit for every family, but all of them do an excellent job teaching children the concepts and skills of elementary math.

Click on the titles for comprehensive reviews and buying guides.

*Updated April 2016*

Sammy says

So, today because it was available I picked up a Math Mammoth 6B and year 6 answer book for $4. Even if I don’t like it, it is worth the $$ just to be able to review it at home and with my son. I wouldn’t have known to grab it without your recommendation. Thanks, Kate!

Kate says

Ooh, nice deal! Math Mammoth runs amazing sales (or did you get it used?) And no matter what curriculum you go with, you can always use it for an additional explanation of tricky topics or some practice and review.

Kara Swanson says

I’m curious what your thoughts are on Christian Light Education’s math?

Kate says

Hi Kara, I use (and adore) CLE’s Language Arts, but I’ve only looked at samples of their math program. I do have some concerns about the program, which is why I don’t recommend it.

1) It has a very procedural approach. It tells kids what to do to solve problems, but it doesn’t offer much explanation to help children understand why the procedures work. As a result, it’s very dependent on rote memorization of the procedures without much conceptual understanding. Plus, since the program uses a spiral approach, the topics feel very disconnected from each other. One day the focus is fractions, another day the focus is measuring in centimeters, another day it’s the area of a triangle, with little connection. This makes it hard for kids to see the big picture of math and understand how the concepts relate to each other.

2) Because kids don’t really understand what they’re doing, CLE provides a ton of practice for cementing the procedures through rote repetition. To me, this just feels like overkill. Math can be learned in so much pleasanter of a way, without making it into a long, tedious chore each day.

That said, I’ve heard of plenty of people who feel like it’s a great ft for their kids. I can see how it could work okay for children who thrive on workbooks and enjoy that feeling of completing their assignments, but I worry about how well they really understand math. Have you used it yourself? What do you think?

Courtney says

Hello! Thanks for posting this article, its been very helpful. I am planning to use Math Mammoth at this point, its a great fit for my oldest. I have heard from various mom’s that they use MEP for their elementary math curriculum. I have found the curriculum but have not found many reviews that I necessarily deem robust. Do you have any familiarity with the curriculum? Any comparisons or opinions about the type of learner this curriculum best fits? Thank you for your time.

Kate says

Hi Courtney, I haven’t done a full review of MEP, but it looks like a solid conceptual program, similar to Math Mammoth or Singapore. It’s also very strong on teaching mathematical thinking, but without being quite so difficult as Beast Academy. MEP would be a good fit for a child who likes to figure things out for herself and enjoys puzzles, but probably not a great fit for a child who likes to have everything explained for her.

To me, MEP’s biggest drawback is that it doesn’t feel very user-friendly. The lesson plans are essential for teaching the content, but they’re written for classrooms and don’t provide much explanation for parents to understand why they’re doing what they’re doing. I’m also not a big fan of the practice book layout, especially in the younger grades. (The boxes look so small!) But if you can get all the papers printed and organized, it would provide a high-quality and free!) math education.

Matthew says

We switched from Singapore to Beast Academy for our just turned 9 year old and we are very pleased.

Kate says

Great to hear, Matthew! Glad it’s working well so far.

kristy says

This is our first year homeschooling and we have been using Saxon math for our 3rd grader. Wondering what your thoughts are on this curriculum?

Heidi Leets says

That you for this article! I’m struggling with trying to decided what I should do with two of my kids next year. We have been using Singapore Math/ Math in Focus since we started homeschooling 4 years ago. Two of my kids do really well with it, while my other two don’t. A lot of it has to do with the lack of constant review. They just seem to need a lot of it. Do you have any suggestions on this type of math program? Do you feel like a spiral math concept is good?

Kate says

Hi Heidi, In general, I’ve found the most effective approach for most children is a combination of mastery teaching of new concepts along with spiral review of old material. So, new lessons are presented in coherent chunks so that kids can deeply understand the topic and see the parts of it form a coherent whole. But then review is incremental and spiral to make sure to cement the info and give them plenty of practice to build speed and fluency.

If the lack of consistent review is the main problem for your kids with Singapore, how about taking the reviews in the textbook and workbook and spreading them out? Instead of doing them all together, you can have your kids do a few problems per day from a review page to give them practice. I’ve personally been doing this with my daughter with 2A recently: she needs more practice with multi-digit addition and subtraction, so I just give addition and one subtraction problem to solve each day.

The only program I know of that incorporates spiral review well is RightStart. Every day includes a review warm-up, and review is incorporated regularly in the practice pages. You might take a look at it, but it depends on how old your kids are. It’s a program that’s best started with kids in 2nd grade or younger, in my opinion. It’s also a big investment, unfortunately.

Other than that, there aren’t any programs I can recommend that combine this sprial review and mastery teaching approach. (And if anyone knows of any, I’d love to hear about them!) There are several out there that take a spiral teaching approach (notably Saxon and Christian Light), but the teaching ends up very disjointed when the topics are chopped up into so many little pieces and mixed together. It makes it hard for kids to see the connections and tends to encourage them to just memorize procedures rather than trying to actually understand what they’re doing.

Lily says

Hi Kate, thank you for writing this blog post. It is very helpful. I noticed Saxon Math is not on your list of recommended programs. I would love to know your thoughts and opinions on Saxon Math K-3 as well as the Saxon Math 5/4 and up series. Thank you.

Kate says

Hi Lily,

Yes, Saxon is not on my list of recommended programs. I’m hoping to write an in-depth review of it later this summer, but I’ll give you the brief version here. 🙂

My 2 main concerns with Saxon:

-The number of practice problems is excessive. Some children may benefit from so much practice, but it’s not necessary for many children. The lengthy assignments can make math very stressful for families and cause children to hate math. The long assignments also often cause families to skip more important components( like teaching the new content in depth or doing the mental math exercises) because of the time crunch.

-Saxon textbook’s focus mostly on procedural math (the “how” of math) rather than conceptual (the “why” behind the procedures). This plus the spiral format makes it hard for children to see how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together and can lead to not understanding math very well.

That said, there are certainly families that love Saxon and have found it to be very effective in building students with strong math skills. Some kids do thrive on the huge amount of practice. And, it’s certainly possible to use Saxon and still give kids a solid conceptual understanding, but it takes a lot more effort on the parent’s part to help kids make those connections.

Look for more on Saxon at the end of the summer, but I hope this at least gives you a partial answer to your question. Happy Math!

-Kate

KaTie trumbauer says

Hi Kate

Your reviews have been so helpful. I’m considering homeschooling my second grader, kindergartner and I have a 2 year old to deal with as well. Trying to puck a math curriculum is overwhelming. They have been in public school and been using common core and do well in math. I personally don’t understand common core at all. They are attracted to colorfully illustrated type things. I liked the horizons math program, but was turned off by the religious aspects. I’m torn between math mammoth and Singapore math. Do you like a particular one more than the other. Is one more easy to transition to after doing common core?

Thanks

Katie.

Kate says

Hi Katie,

Both Singapore and Math Mammoth were written before Common Core came out, but they both incorporate much of what is best about Common Core: a focus on helping kids understand both the “how” and the “why” of math. Both programs do a good job of developing conceptual understanding along with solid computation skills. Both would be relatively easy for your kids to transition to from Common Core curriculum, and both are terrific programs. Singapore definitely has a nicer layout than Math Mammoth. If having some cute and colorful pages is important for your kids enjoying a program, Singapore is a good way to go. But truly, both are great options, and either should serve your kids well, so just pick one and go for it! 🙂

Happy Math!

Kate

Jen says

Thanks or writing this! My son did MUS alpha last year and flew through it, but purely by memorizing the ‘tricks’. Math comes very easy for him, I was thinking of switching him to Singapore but can’t seem to make up my mind. Do you have any suggestions or advice?

Kate says

Hi Jen, If math comes easily to your son, I’d definitely recommend switching to Singapore. Alpha mixes up topics some, but later books focus on just one major topic per year. For kids who find math easy, it can become very boring. Singapore uses a mastery model, but it mixes up topics more and asks more challenging questions, which helps keep mathy kids more engaged.

Happy math!

Kate

Marissa says

Hi Kate!

I love your reviews and getting information about these curriculums. I was curious if you knew much about Horizon math. We used if for Kindergarten. My son loves math and numbers. I’m wanting to make sure I have the best program to help.him learn and grow.

Thanks!!

Rach says

We just purchased BJU’s math curriculum for my oldest who is starting 4th grade. He is a very kinesthetic and auditory learner so I wanted something with manipulatives for hands on learning. He did Abeka last year and we fought all year long at math time. I was torn between BJU and MUS and only went with BJU because I got my hands on it. Do you have any thoughts on BJU’s math?

Kate says

Hi Marissa and Rachel, I haven’t done enough research on either horizons or BJU to be able to offer much. Sorry! I’m hoping to write some more detailed reviews this year (and both are on my list), but it will be a bit.

Thanks for asking, and happy math!

Kate

Amy says

Kate, I am so undecided about my 2nd grader. It is between math u see and Singapore. Up to this point we have just used workbooks and hands on math. This will be our first year to do a math curriculum and I just want to start her off right.

Can you offer any suggestions on how to pick? Would it be crazy to combine math us see and Singapore math? I tested my daughter for Singapore and it put her in the 1B. If I go with Singapore should I start 1A to have a good foundation? I am leading toward Singapore, but have so many friends and heard such great things about Math U See.

Any help would be great! Thank you so much!

Kate says

Hi Amy,

Definitely don’t try to do both programs! Each is a full curriculum, and it’d be a ton of work to try to combine them well. If you teach either of those programs well, your daughter will likely do just fine with math.

That said, unless you feel like your daughter has struggled with understanding math, I’d suggest going with Singapore (and putting her in 1B, if that’s what the placement test suggested). MUS tends to become such a slog for kids around 3rd or 4th grade when they spend the whole year on just one topic. (And if you’re the sort of mom who’s essentially put together your own first grade math curriculum, I’d guess you’ll want to poke your eyes out with a stick after spending 36 weeks on multiplication in MUS Gamma.) Some kids do need the very slow and steady approach that MUS takes, but most don’t. And Singapore is a way more rigorous and interesting program for those kids.

Hope that helps! Happy Math!

Kate

Stacia hillis says

Have you reviewed BJU? My kids have only used BJU from K through 4th grade. Math is not my best subject so I liked the detail of teachers manual . However, I have one child who is gifted and another, who is just a strong math student. I’v thought about changing to Singapore, ( even bought it ) but it was a little o verhelming. The teachers managed I just didn’t get it. My husband, who is a CPA and a numbers guy is wanting to teach them math. My question stay with BJU or switch to Singapore, Math Mammoth, Beast Academy or Art of Problem Solving or Rodd and Staff

Kate says

Hi Stacia,

I’ve never reviewed BJU in depth, but overall it looks like a really good program. It has a great balance of conceptual and procedural teaching, and the teacher’s manual is fantastic. Since BJU sounds like it’s been working well for you, I’d suggest sticking with it through 5th grade and then taking a look to see if Art of Problem Solving Pre-Algebra looks like a good choice for your kids for 6th grade. You might decide that your child who’s strong in math (but not gifted) would be better off staying with BJU.

Beast Academy is a great program for mathy kids, but it works best when the parent loves it as well and feels comfortable with it. If your husband takes a look at it and loves it (and plans to do most of the teaching), you might switch to that for 4th and 5th grades. But if he doesn’t absolutely love the look of it, I’d say to skip it and just stick with BJU (or use Beast Academy as a fun supplement.)

Happy Math!

Kate