Math taking too long

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  • kymom

    My 10 year old girl is taking far too long to do her math. We are using Math Mammoth this year for the first time. She’s appropriately placed for her skill level and has actually asked if we can stick with this program because she likes it better than last year’s.

    I’ve read that with this program, most children her age take 20-25 minutes a day to do their work, with older children at more advanced levels needing “up to 40 minutes.” Just today she’s spent 2 hours and finished only 2 of her assigned 5 pages for the day. This is very common. It’s especially frustrating on days when I explain that we have a special project/outing/job we need to do today so we have to finish school EXTRA FAST today to have time for it. We have one particular project that requires her presence that has been delayed a whole week now because this happens every day (and it’s a project she really wants to do). We haven’t done any narration or poetry at all since we started school this year, because there isn’t time left in our school day to get to these things.

    The whole family is getting thrown off schedule in so many ways because this one child is taking forever to do her work!

    I need to get her to focus and speed up so she can complete her assignments in a reasonable amount of time, or at least figure out a way that her decision to take forever doesn’t make the rest of us suffer. Thank you for any suggestions!


    A few ideas:

    Say there are 30 problems in a day’s work. Put a sticker after every 10th problem (or 5th or whatever you want) and have her get up and do jumping jacks when she gets to the sticker so she gets a quick brain break. Or set a timer and have her try to get to the sticker before the timer dings. For every timer she beats, there could be a little reward: sticker, a chocolate chip, or something like a coloring page, MagnaTile or Lego, then at the end of the lesson she can have a few minutes to play with the toys or color.

    Have her use a wobble chair or yoga ball while doing math so her body can be moving while she works.

    Split up the work into a couple of sessions per day. Does Math Mammoth have any sort of warm-up exercises like flashcards, speed drills, and skip counting? You could have her do that sort of work first, then move to other subjects, then come back to math for the main lesson.

    Spread a lesson over 2 days.

    Set a timer for the day’s lesson. Keep track of how many days she beats the lesson. If she can go a certain amount of time without going over the timer, you could make cookies or buy a new book. Usually I don’t like rewards, but she needs to see/feel the benefit of finishing on time in a way that is enticing to her. These reward-based ideas would be temporary–maybe for a month or two until it becomes a habit.

    Make Friday a day for math games. Some good books are Games for Math, Math Detectives, Challenge Math, or RightStart has a book of math games. You can buy it in a set with all the cards needed. I don’t like their program as a main curriculum, but my kids enjoy playing the games after school time. 🙂 Anyway, a slight change in the routine can help a lot!


    When my kids used Math Mammoth, they never did more than two pages at a time because that’s all they could handle. Even then, sometimes I crossed off some of the problems because there were often too many. I believe the author even endorses crossing out extra problems if your child doesn’t need all that practice.

    At two pages per day, I think you can get through the whole course in a year, so I would not assign more than that.

    Also, do you need to sit with her to make sure she stays on task? Or at least check on her often?

    Karen Smith

    Are the problems you are assigning review for her or new concepts? If they are review, she may just be bored with them. If this is the case, you can quickly move through the review by selecting a few problems for each review concept and having her answer them orally. Then, place her where there are new concepts.

    If they are new concepts, is she having difficulty understanding the concept? If so, take some time to do some oral lessons with her on the new concept before assigning problems for her to work on her own.

    If it is just a case of dawdling, then set a timer for an appropriate time. Let her know that you know she can complete the assignment in that time and you expect her to do it. When the timer goes off, if she was dawdling, close the book and move on to the next subject with a very matter of fact comment informing her that you are disappointed that she wasted her math lesson time and she will now have to do her math when she would normally have free time. If she was concentrating on her math and didn’t complete the assignment, then close the book when the time for math is up and move on to the next subject, encouraging her with a comment that informs her that you know how hard she was working on her math and she can finish that lesson tomorrow.


    Thank you all for the suggestions!

    A little more about her situation: after five years of jumping to a different curriculum every year and her making no progress, we finally found Math Mammoth, which seems to explain things in a way that she “gets” it and she’s actually moving forward for the first time in years. BUT, she’s in the second grade book. I’m feeling a little desperate to move her forward quickly, which is why I am assigning 5 pages a day. I’m hoping we can get through 2nd and 3rd grade both this year and start catching up. I know many people in the homeschooling community say not to worry if your child is behind grade level, just focus on learning, but with other kids her age in 5th grade I am frankly panicky about our math situation. She is at or above grade level in all other subjects.

    Is my plan to plow through quickly and catch up a bad idea? It is burning us out on math, but I feel it’s necessary that we start making progress! Would it be better if I backed down to 2 pages a day and just accept that she’s three years behind grade level? She is my oldest and I’m still figuring things out. I want to do what’s best for her and hopefully give us both a good experience homeschooling.

    As far as concepts, it’s really back and forth; some new concepts she easily understands, others she has trouble with and I need to spend a lot of extra teaching time and walk her through the problems. She’s getting carrying pretty well in the current section, but the last section on AM/PM and clocks, I had to do every problem with her.

    I can see the periodic check in/reward/break ideas being helpful because she does get distracted and day dream a lot. The problem is, with her being my oldest, I want to count on her to do some work independently while I focus on teaching younger siblings who can’t work by themselves at all yet.

    Thank you for all the ideas and for any further advice!


    I wouldn’t say it’s a bad idea to catch her up in math, but it does sound like the 5 pages a day might be too much for her. I think I would still cut it down to 2, and then maybe work through the summer with small breaks here and there. Also, it’s possible that if she gets faster at it, you can increase the number of pages later.

    But I agree with the advice that it’s more important that she really gets the math than stays on grade level, especially if she isn’t understanding everything easily right away.


    I jumped around with my oldest with math a bit too.  It’s hard. We landed in Math mammoth most of last year and this year for the oldest 2. Here are a few thoughts

    She does say to skip about 1/2 the problems as a default. Then use them if you need more practice then or later.

    You can work in 2 chapters at a time when you hit a tedious one. My daughter need to practice long division a bit more but a page of long division problems is a nightmare for my distractible 10 yr old. So she is doing 1 a day with her other 3 pages.aybw try 2 easy pages and 1 hard page …put in 2 bookmarks. Even do 2 slots of math?

    I make my distractible one sit near me to do math even if I’m working with someone else .

    Yes to move on after (I’d say 45 min) math time. It’s homework if dwalding or this is hard we’ll finish tomorrow no big deal .

    My oldest struggles sometimes with math so we only do a page sometimes.

    Math mammoth has you ready for algebra in 8th which is a year early for some kids. say you are 2yrs behind.

    Sometimes math mammoths bar diagrams(these may be more later like 6th grade books) don’t make sense to my oldest in 6B….I think some of that can be just gone over and saved for algebra.

    Email Maria Miller she may have some thoughts.

    I wouldn’t sweat clocks too much…. Focus on arithmetic come back to stuff like clocks later if need be. Math mammoth has topical books too.




    ErinD and Ruralmama, thank you both for a lot of good tips. I’m making a list of plans for going forward! I can see her really benefitting from breaking math into multiple slots for starters. She’s really good in spelling and grammar, so maybe doing a brief bit of math before and after each of those would help. I really appreciate the advice of those who have used this program before.

    Did either of you go all the way through the level 7 Math Mammoth, and if so what did you use for Algebra? I know I’m really getting ahead of myself since we’re on the 2nd grade book now, but I’m wondering what to plan for in the future?



    No we’re not through 7 yet. We’re doing 6B then 7A at least this year. Here’s what I’m looking at for next spring though.

    VideoText I have it…. found it used. RightStart recommended it (we used RightStart for much of elementary) and it looks like it might be a good fit for this child. Another mother uses it after math mammoth 7 and likes it.

    Foerster algebra is the other one I’m considering. Maria Miller recommends it. Rainbow resource sells DVDs to go with it. My sister in law uses the algebra 1 and thinks it’s through.

    Maria Miller has also written a 1st half of algebra 1 so that’s an option too. She reviews several highschool options on her website. That is worth reading.


    We didn’t go all the way through MM 7 either. I ended up switching my boys to Teaching Textbooks around the 5th or 6th grade level because they needed a lot more review at that point. Two of them used TT for algebra, and one did MUS.


    Thank you so much to everyone for sharing your helpful advice! I’ve received a lot of great direction. Thank you for taking the time to share!

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