Q&A: Should I Supplement My Homeschool Math Program?

Should I supplement my homeschool math curriculum-I’ve never taken a poll, but I’d guess that worrying that we’re not not doing enough is the number one fear of homeschoolers.

It’s definitely mine.

We’ve made this unconventional choice to educate our kids at home, and we don’t want to mess it up! Sometimes, it can feel very tempting to think that if we just do more, we can guarantee that our kids will turn out okay.

But of course, there are no guarantees in life, whether you send your kids to school or teach them at home.

Plus, we all know that “more” does not always equal “better.” In fact, “more” in a homeschool often turns out to mean “more stressed-out moms and kids.”

When it comes to math–a subject that many moms feel especially worried about–it’s easy to feel that adding supplemental materials will be the magic bullet that makes our kids confident and capable at math.

If you’ve ever felt that way, you’re not alone. I received a great question about this from a homeschool mom on Facebook last week.

“If I just use Math Mammoth, will my son be ready for middle school math and beyond? I guess my question also is: what does the student gain from supplementing math?”

Are Homeschool Math Supplements Necessary?

I’ve got good news: if you are using a high-quality math curriculum and teaching it thoroughly, your children likely do not need any other math. In fact, there are a lot of advantages to sticking with one program and focusing your energy on teaching it well:

  • Your kids won’t feel overwhelmed by how much math they have to do.
  • You’ll have time to discuss each lesson thoroughly and let it sink in, without feeling like you have to hurry to get to the next thing.
  • You won’t waste lots of time figuring out how to schedule it all and get everything in. Instead, you can focus your attention on teaching well.
  • You’ll have more time to use your math curriculum as the author intended. Many math programs include small features that are crucial to the program (like a daily mental math warm-up or math facts review). These components are key, but they’re easy to skip when you feel rushed.

So, what do I mean by a high-quality program? A high-quality elementary math program will:

  • Teach your children both the why and the how of math (that is, both the concepts and the procedures for adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing whole numbers, fractions, and decimals)
  • Provide plenty of practice with the math facts, mental math, and written calculations
  • Teach your children to solve word problems and apply math to real-life situations

Different math programs have different strengths and weaknesses, but most standard math programs will meet these goals. (And it’s certainly true for my top elementary math recommendations: Math Mammoth, Singapore Math, RightStart Math, Beast Academy, and Math with Confidence.)

This is so important that I’ll say it again: If you’re using a comprehensive math curriculum and teaching it thoroughly, most children will learn the skills they need to thrive in math, without any supplementing.

The Key to Choosing Math Supplements Wisely

But that’s not to say that math supplements are bad. Our kids are not one-size-fits-all, and some kids do benefit from extra math work.

Plus, math supplements can be a lot of fun! If you have space in your schedule, it’s wonderful to help your kids develop a positive attitude toward math with math games, read-alouds, or puzzles.

Here’s the key to choosing math supplements wisely (and not out of fear): Before you add a math supplement, identify exactly what you’re trying to accomplish. Then pick one thing.

For example, here are my goals for my kids this year.

  • Goal: Elizabeth, my six-year-old, will be using Singapore Math. It’s a good fit for her, and she likes the colorful textbook and working independently. But, I want to make sure that she sees math as fun and interactive–and not just a bunch of workbook problems.
  • Supplement: I’ve scheduled time to play math games together on Fridays. (We’ll use a mix of games from Addition Facts That Stick, Subtraction Facts That Stick, and RightStart.) They’ll not only add some fun and variety to her math learning but also help her give her a little extra practice with the addition and subtraction facts.
  • Goal: Henry, my nine-year-old, loves Beast Academy. He thrives on the conceptual focus and the challenging problem-solving. But, he resists writing out his work. As a result, he has stellar mental math skills but is shaky at solving multiplication and division problems on paper. Plus, he needs to develop more stamina in writing to be prepared for middle school math in a couple of years.
  • Supplement: Once a week, I’ll assign some basic computation problems from a traditional textbook. He won’t love having to write them out in a notebook, but it will help him build stamina and gain better mastery with long division and multi-digit multiplication.

The Best Homeschool Math Supplements

Once you’ve decided what you’d like to accomplish with a math supplement, you’re ready to choose something that will help you meet your goal. Here are some of my favorite math supplements, organized by goal:

 Goal: My child needs more practice with a particular skill.

  • Kumon books are my hands-down favorite for inexpensive skill-builder books. Children already need to be familiar with a topic before beginning a Kumon book, since there’s no explicit instruction, but the slight increase in difficulty from page to page builds kids’ confidence and skills slowly but surely.
  • Sometimes, all you need is a couple free worksheets to help a child cement a skill. Math Mammoth has a great worksheet generator that will create practice problems for nearly all elementary math topics.

Goal: My child is struggling with word problems.

  • Singapore Math’s Challenging Word Problem Series walks children through the process of solving word problems, step by step. These books are hard; I recommend you buy the book a grade level lower than your child is currently working at in math. But their thorough instruction makes them one of the best word problem books out there.
  • Evan-Moor’s Daily Word Problems provide one word problem per day for the entire school year. This book provides a really nice mix of practice problems that will push your child to think. Perfect for the child who already has a handle on word problems but needs more practice.

Goal: My child loves logic puzzles and challenging problem-solving.

  • Ed Zaccaro’s Primary Grade Challenge Math and Upper Elementary Challenge Math are great choices for kids who love math. They introduce kids to some higher-level topics through a chatty text and interesting real-life applications.
  • Critical Thinking Company’s Balance Benders prepare kids for algebra through deceptively-simple-looking balance problems. These are addictive!
  • AnimaLogic and Rush Hour are two of my kids’ favorite logic board games. Both are designed for one person to play independently, so they’re perfect for when you want to keep a kid occupied while you work with another child.

Goal: I want my kids to appreciate the truth and beauty of math.

  • Check out the Your Morning Basket podcast that I did with Pam Barnhill. You’ll find lots of suggestions for enjoying math together as a family in the podcast and list of resources.

Goal: I’d like to add some fun and games to our math time.

  • RightStart Math offers a comprehensive Math Card Games Kit that covers nearly every elementary math topic: time, money, fractions, decimals, plus basic computations and math facts. It’s expensive, but worth it if your family enjoys games.
  • For free games, take a look at my list of free math games. All of them are designed so that your school-aged children can play together, even if they’re working on different math skills.

Happy Math!



20 thoughts on “Q&A: Should I Supplement My Homeschool Math Program?”

  1. We love Life of Fred. I treat it like a read-aloud and my boys love the random story, and the chapter questions and I find the Microsoft Word clip art amusing! We use Xtra Math online for math facts and some guilt-free screen time. Will have to check out Beast Academy–I think my oldest would enjoy it!

  2. I’m beginning to homeschool my daughter this year who is starting Kingergarten, and we’ve chosen to use Right Start Math. After reading your blog post, I feel at peace that we can take our time and don’t need to supplement. What do you think about Miquon Math? From what I’ve read about it, it sounds like it could serve as a supplement starting in first grade. I’d love to hear what you think about Miquon in a future post!

  3. Ooh, those are some good ones, Sarah Jo. Life of Fred is such a fun, silly math read-aloud. I love the set-up of Xtramath, but my kids always got so stressed out by the typing that they couldn’t enjoy it. Glad it’s working well for your kids.

  4. Glad the post helped you feel peace about doing just one curriculum, Liz! I’ve heard great things about Miquon but never taken a close look at it–I’ll have to add it to the list to review. 🙂

  5. Have you ever heard of strayor upton Mathematics? How about the ones called Jr high school mathematics and school arithmetic by George Wentworth et al? The ones by Wentworth are scanned into google books.

  6. Anyone have thoughts/experience with where to pace the Addition/Subtraction Facts that Stick books in their sequence? My daughter is five and we’re working through the second Singapore K basics workbook even though she placed into grade 1 on the Singapore Dimensions pretest. I have the 1st grade dimensions curriculum, we’ll start that after we finish this book. She has the concepts of this book down, but there just didn’t seem to be a reason to rush to the next grade level. But I’m wondering if we should do “Addition Facts….” before we start the grade 1 curriculum, or break for it midway, etc. She clearly understands the difference between addition and subtraction and can solve problems in a variety of K appropriate ways (abacus, counting up/down, manipulatives), and is starting to memorize basic facts in her own. Any thoughts?

  7. Hi Erin,

    That’s wise to work through the K workbook before beginning the the first grade program. Singapore asks kids to do some pretty abstract thinking, so it’s helpful to make sure they’re really ready.

    For combining Facts That Stick with Singapore, I recommend beginning Addition Facts That Stick after the addition unit in 1A (Unit 6 in Dimensions ). You can either stop Singapore altogether and focus on AFTS for 6 weeks, or you can use it for 5-10 minutes per day as a warm-up to your regular lesson. Either way is fine–it just depends on how much time you want to spend on math each day.

    If you use Addition Facts That Stick in conjunction with your regular lessons, begin Subtraction Facts That Stick whenever you finish Addition Facts That Stick, sometime in the middle of 1B. If you prefer to do it all in one chunk, it fits well after Unit 11 (Comparing).

    Happy Math!

  8. Thanks, that’s very helpful! It’s so easy to labor over little decisions… am I “ruining” my child for life by starting a book a few weeks early?!? Obviously it doesn’t work out that way, but I appreciate your suggestion as someone who knows the subject and these materials far better than I do.

  9. Hi Kate,

    A couple of years ago I found your site and took your advice to use RightStart Math. We are currently using B & C and I am very happy with the progress. I am thinking we will finish both programs by March and am looking for supplement books that I can give my kids to do for the remaining of the school year, besides playing games and continuing to practice math facts. Can you suggest any supplements that would be appropriate for someone coming out of RightStart B & C? Thank you!


  10. Hi Laura,

    I’m so glad that RightStart has been a good fit for your family! That’s fabulous that they’ll finish so early in the year. From the above list, I’d recommend the Evan-Moor Daily Word Problems as a great supplement to the word problems in RS. Life of Fred would also be a great way to supplement and look at the same material from a different (and fun!) perspective.

    Happy Math!

  11. Hi Laura,

    The student book is definitely enough. Those are roughly the grade level correlations–I think that’d be a good way to go, even thought the first few pages may be a little too easy.

  12. I am getting ready to begin Right Start Math level B with my son. I recently bought the supplement books, Addition facts that stick and Subtraction facts that stick. Any recommendations on when in the RS2 level B book to add them in? Will using these supplements be helpful or are they not really needed with RS since there are so many math games?

  13. Hi Kate,
    I am homeschooling my 5 year old, and we have been using your book Kindergathen Math with Confidence. I am curious why you didn’t mentioned on your list of favorite and comple math programs.

    • Hi Claudia,

      🤣 Thanks for pointing that out–I wrote this years before MWC was out, but I definitely need to add it!

      Hope you and your 5yo are enjoying it, and happy math!

      • Hi Kate,
        My son and I are in love with the program. We love the activities and the games. I really like the books list and the extra material we can use that we have around the house.
        Thank you.

  14. My 6 year old K son is struggling sitting for much of anything, but he does like the CTC Math online program that was on sale last month. so we bought a year and got another 6 months free for about $98. He liked it to start but fights sitting to do it… I still think he enjoys it once he will do it, but I still worry that I am not “Teaching” him enough… 🙁 I was thinking about RightStart Math for all the manipulatives and games, or Shiller Math – also manipulatives (Montessori – style) I am at such a loss trying to get him to comply and do much of anything these days.

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