*I received this question on Facebook this week, and I thought others might be interested in the answer. To the mom who submitted it: thanks for a good question, and for permission to post it! (Question has been lightly edited for clarity.)*

## Question

My son is in 4th grade and I feel his strength is in math. For me, not so much. We started out in K with Singapore. By the end of 3rd grade, I switched to Math Mammoth. When he tested into Math Mammoth, he tested very well. I switched because I felt we were always behind, not realizing Singapore is like 1 whole year ahead. Also I thought buying all those books every year was adding up, and I was also looking for more independence on his part.

Fast forward to today,

I love Math Mammoth’s scope and sequence and simple explanations, though at times I had to email her or use Singapore for further explanations. And I love her word problems because they build upon previous skills and not in a separate text like Singapore. The problem isI can’t quite discern when not to give him every problem.Also he is not doing too well on cumulative reviews.I didn’t have this problem with Singapore.Lastly, I would love him to do Beast Academy, but I don’t feel I am equipped to make sure whatever Beast Academy doesn’t do, I must make sure he knows.

Should I stick with Math Mammoth and if so what can I do to catch up?We are like 4 chapters behind right now. Should I go back to Singapore? Should I start Beast? I don’t want to hop around too much because I know math is sequential.

## Answer

**Since Math Mammoth sounds like it’s working well overall for you, I wouldn’t suggest changing it unless you feel that he’s truly not understanding the material.** Singapore and Beast Academy are great programs, but so is Math Mammoth. You’re raising some really important issues about Math Mammoth, though, so let’s take them one at a time.

#### Problem 1: Not doing well on Math Mammoth cumulative reviews.

First, I’d encourage you to **analyze the mistakes** that your son’s making on the cumulative reviews. Are they all in one topic (for example, all fractions), or are they across all topics? Do the errors show a fundamental lack of understanding, or are they simple computation mistakes (or careless mistakes)? Do you feel he’s focused and doing his best when he’s working on the cumulative reviews?

Then, **create an action plan based on your error analysis**.

- If he’s having trouble with just one topic, go back and review that topic.
- If he’s making careless mistakes, think about what might help him focus better. Doing math at a different time of day? Using a timer? Providing a reward for better performance?
- If he’s making simple computation mistakes, do some math fact practice or computation drill to shore up those skills.

#### Problem 2: How many problems to assign in Math Mammoth?

This is a real challenge with Math Mammoth, since there’s no teacher’s guide or pacing guide. Plus, there are a LOT of problems on most pages, and there is a LOT of practice for each topic. For many kids, it’s more than they need, but this varies depending on the kid. Another complication is that the author builds each topic step-by-step, so it’s important not to skip essential problems.

**In general, I’d suggest skipping about a third of the plain-number practice problems. Try to cross out the problems at the middle-level of difficulty in each section.**

Here’s a couple examples of what I’d cross out on some pages from Math Mammoth 4A. In this first one, I’d skip some of the easy conversions, but keep the operations with conversions at the bottom since they provide some important regrouping practice. In the second one, I’d just skip the middle section in each since the problems seem to build in difficulty from left to right across each box, and I’d want to make sure kids got a few easy ones to warm-up and then were able to do the harder ones.

Skip the puzzle corners unless your son really likes them. Keep the word problems, and keep any problems that immediately follow an explanation box because they usually are helping the child understand and work through the explanation.

Unfortunately, there’s no one answer, and it takes a little trial and error. I personally struggle with it, too. I don’t want math to be boring drudgery, but I know how important practice is for helping kids become automatic and fluent with the basic skills.

#### Problem 3: Being behind in Math Mammoth.

Take a look at my post Do I Have to Finish the Math Curriculum? for some options for how to handle being behind in math. For Math Mammoth 4, some specific topics that you can probably skip without problems are: the last section of the long division chapter (from averages to the end); the section on time and temperature; the geometry chapter. The core work on multiplication, division, fractions, and decimals is much more important.

Happy Math!

Kate

*Have a question about homeschool math? Send me an email or send me a Facebook message, and I’ll see what I can do! *

Laurie says

I was using MM with my 8 yr old since the end of k when we stared 1A. About 1/2 way through grade 3, I am realizing, we might not be sticking with MM. DD might just need a spiral curriculum. I love the word problems and mental math in MM though, so I might still get it for that or just certain chapters. You mentioned that SM was ahead by a year, but there are some things that MM is ahead on. For instance, I really tried to get my dd to understand the level of measuring area and perimeter that is in level 3 and it was taking a couple weeks, found it might be off in how deep conceptual thought for an 8 year old. Did some searching online and it looks like the depth of it was more like 4th or 5th grade in other curricula, and more advanced that CCSS for this topic for 3rd grade, so I was probably expecting too much, and we spent way too much time on it without my dds full understanding of it. I do like that it is CCSS aligned in a way, so that I know that dd is getting at least what she would get in school. I do think MM goes deeper though than most math curricula. — I also have some copies of SM and found that actually show up later than in MM including the one I mentioned. SM is more advanced in basic operations, not so much geometry, measurement, time, etc. (which would be included on cumulative review in MM) I was on the fence with MM this whole year, though we continued it, then when we got to this topic, I felt a real need to switch. We are using CTC math and I piece together other games, worksheets and mental math for now. MM is an excellent for a strong student.

Kate says

Thanks for the comment, Laurie! I agree: Singapore introduces multiplication and division ahead of other programs, but MM’s treatment of other topics is very strong. Hope CTC proves to be a good fit for your child!

Amanda W. says

LOVE your blog….and this post really helped 🙂 We are just finishing 1st grade Math Mammoth this year….and It has worked well for my son. But this will help me if we continue it in higher grades. We plan to use 2nd grade next yr. I always have it printed online from a printer in COLOR and it helps so much with the busy page. And we don’t print on the back. I have LOVED using it like that. We started out with the B&W book pages form MM….that wasn’t working for us. So there’s a tip for others doing this program. Even having it printed is cheaper than buying most math textbooks:) Especially since I bought one of her digital bundles when it was on sale through 3rd grade;)

Question: have you ever reviewed any of the online math programs similar to teaching textbooks…..I know there are many others also. And once my son is older I would actually love to try one of those (since I am not a great mathematician;)

Kate says

Glad the post was helpful, Amanda! That’s a great tip about printing Math Mammoth in color to make it more appealing to kids.

I haven’t reviewed any online math programs so far. The one I’ve heard the most good things about is Khan Academy (which also has the great benefit of being free!) but I haven’t looked at in depth.