Math Woes (4th grade) – Please pray with me

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  • missceegee

    I am so discouraged regarding my dd10’s math. She is an extremely bright and capable girl, but I pushed before she was ready and switched curricula too many times trying to get it right and now we’re at a place where it is unlikely that she will be able to catch up to grade level for I don’t know how long. This is not her failure, but mine. Math has always come very easily to me and I have difficulty in explaining things to her in ways that help her to understand without getting frustrated. She prefers (as do I) self-teaching materials. We are slowly working through Strayer-Upton’s First Book and are in the 3rd grade portion right now. She has mastered all addition, subtraction and multiplication facts and we’ll soon work on division facts. This was a L.O.N.G. process until we found a program that worked, Rapid Recall by Little Giant Steps. 

    She really wants to use Pet Shop Math from SCM, which we have, but I want her to be ready to succeed with it. My plan at the moment is to combine Math Mammoth Blue series with our Strayer-Upton to work as expeditiously as possible to get up to speed. At some point, I’ll either add in or swap in the Pet Shop Math for her. I’m working on a detailed plan right now, but it is simply discouraging to realize that she’s so far behind. 

    Would you please pray with me that God will help her to understand and make progress despite my inadequacies as a teacher in this area? I am not looking for other materials as I do know what works best for her, but could simply use some prayer and encouragement to work on the right plan and that where that plan fails, God will direct as need be.

    Thank you,


    ETA: We used the End of Year Grade 2 Test from Math Mammoth today and she scored 91 out of 131 points. This means she’d need to start in the Grade 2 level of the MM Complete Curriculum. That’s 3 years behind! The sad part is that it isn’t her failure or inability, but mine. This really isn’t a pity party for me, but I am grieved that I’ve failed her thus far in this regard.

    I hear you Christie, I will certainly pray for your situation. My daughers have always been behind in math because of the lack of teaching in their first years of public school. Then with all the events in our lives in the last years, they fell further behind, but we are getting there and are not stressing about it much anymore – there is no point – we cannot make them understand until they figure it out themselves. Good luck and don’t feel a failure – she will catch up. Hugs, Linda


    Hmmm, I too have been playing catch up with math for a while with my 11yo soon to be 6th grader.  I have felt frustrated at times – and we are always working on “last year’s” material.  3rd grade – very hard for her to learn her mult facts – she is just not good at recall. Period.  4th grade – she was back in public school and had good grades in math, but no retention.  I still don’t know quite what happened there, but I knew we couldn’t have another year like that, so back home and doing 4th grade math for a while, long division…then tried to use Right Start for the first time.  It just wasn’t for us.

    So back to the trusty Math Mammoth for fractions, and spent the rest of the year on fractions to be somewhat ready for the state mandated end of the year testing.  The math was not a complete disaster, but she did not get a great score. (Very high in the critical thinking portion though LOL she is great at figuring things out, not good at rapid recall – in 20 years which skill will be the most useful?)  I have the full math mammoth curriculum, but I admit to being tempted by the Mathmatical Reasoning series from Critical Thinking Company.  We do use their Math Detective as supplement.

    The best thing we did last year was integrate some living books in math – Number Stories of Long Ago was a big hit as a read aloud (we did not do the problems at the end of each chapter, just enjoyed thinking about the story).  And we watched a great video The Story of 1 – that the kids still talk about.  I hope to watch it again this year to revisit the topic.  Also watched some mathy videos on you tube like the great Donald Duck video where he plays billiards and decribes the golden section, and one about fractions that really provided a “light bulb moment” for my daughter with equivalent fractions.

    Here is what I think about your situation – my 7yo son will be starting Math Mammoth gr 2 as well.  Your daughter must be much more mature and capable than my little one, who is 7-going-on-3 LOL.  I bet you all will progress quickly, don’t be afraid to move ahead.  I have read research about delaying math study until kids are older and accomplishing in a number of months what took years in early elem.  

    I found that the “facts” really worked for my daughter once we started actually using them to do math – all the practice was not moving her forward.  You may find that as well.

    Just yesterday I was having a gentle talk with my daughter about our math goals for this year – my goal for her is to think about the work – not just get through the problems.  I talked to her about working hard, but working smart, being aware of the math concepts as she is working her problems, that we are looking for comprehension, not quantities of problems completed.  This year I want to try the grade level work with Math Mammoth – 6th grade. We would be working at “grade level” for the first time… My expectations – those are my problem, not hers.  I am trying to not lower my expectations, but eliminate them as much as possible to see what she can do.

    Sorry to go on for so long, but this has been on my mind as well.

    :::Virtual Hug to you::: I am hoping for a productive math year for all of us!



    Don’t fret, my son is doing MUS and is entering 6th grade.  Over the past 2 years we have had to learn multiplication facts.  That said we switched last year to Math Mammoth and just finished that and being we took so long we are going back in to Gamma (MUS times book) and am trying to whiz through it.  He is behind but and I mean BUT for once he FEELS good about what he’s doing and he’s getting it right.  It’s been a long 2 years but my dh and me felt it was the best thing to do for him. 

    Addition, subtraction and multiplication are so very important.  The rest or at least the major life “rest” will come in place as we go. 

    Goodluck and you are not alone


    Christie, I see you have a photo now as your avatar–nice to see your smiling face! (I have no photos to upload unfortunately….I’m starting to feel a kinship with the Amish.)

    I understand what you are going through and will pray for your families. I could use prayer for mine, especially my son. DD’s are doing okay with MEP math, although I feel as though I dropped the ball with fact memorization (inconsistent and too much boring drill). 10yo dd is a little behind on facts….she knows the concepts well but still counts on her fingers for higher numbers and is still working on multiplication facts. Otherwise, she is doing very well in math. 13yo dd is starting to flourish in math in spite of her earlier disdain for it.

    12yo ds has learning difficulites (autism), and he has always struggled with math. Most of the time now, he dislikes doing math lessons and just wants to take a worksheet and get it over with. Half of the time last year, we only got through 2 of the 4 sets of problems on his MEP 2A practice sheet before he gave up on it. I have been considering Math Mammoth for the upcoming year. I hate to keep changing materials with him, but nothing seems to click with him. We have been working on memorizing addition facts for over a year now, and he gives answers for most of the doubles facts rather quickly, but we’ve only gotten as far as 3+ and he forgets them often. We play active games while we practice them (shooting a foam ball into a wastebasket after he repeats a fact several times, etc.) and I made colorful flash cards placed up high (per Dianne Craft’s article, “Right Brain Math”), but he still struggles.

    When my daughters were in the process of memorizing multiplication facts, I would allow them to use their multiplication table to refer to while working on word problems or double-digit problems. Otherwise, a lot of mistakes would be made by guessing at products or it would take forever to complete. I’m wondering now if I ought to allow my son to use addition cards with the answer while he is working on problems with the higher numbers.

    I’m hoping to find someone locally who has used Math Mammoth so I can take a closer look at it. The sample pages don’t quite give me a complete picture of what the day-to-day math lessons would be like.

    Are the End of Year tests available on the website to use for placement, or do you have to purchase them? I’m not sure if I can get him to take a really long test, though it would be very helpful for me to know what he remembers and what he has caught onto.


    Thank you, everyone, for the encouragement. I am really clinging to the fact that the Lord will help where I fall short. DD is progressing and the Rapid Recall program was just what we needed for fact memorization. It’s when I focus on the end goal instead of the next few steps that I am discouraged. I must remember God leads ONE step at a time and not by LEAPS and BOUNDS. 

    The Math Mammoth placement tests are free and found here. Maria Miller, the creator, has been a tremendous help and is very responsive via email. She has helped me to evaluate what our next steps should be and where we need to focus our efforts to help work on bringing her up to speed. I like that the books are all in one and not separate child/teacher type books. As a side note, Homeschool Buyer’s Co-Op has the books right now. 

    I will be in prayer for our families that we will follow the Lord’s leading and trust Him where we all fall short in certain areas.




    I will certainly pray for you about this as I went through a very similar circumstance with my dd9. MUS had a good start but too many holes in the program, then we used Rod & Staff Arithmatic to fill in those holes. That only lasted so long because she needed more than what it offered. it was a frustrating proceeds with tears on her part and private tears on my part. Then I said sod it, and put her in Teaching Textbooks because maybe ( quite possibly ) I could not teach her math well enough. I saw sighing a months wort of lessons a CHANGED child. things started to really click for her as she did the lesson on CD then did the lesson in the book. IT was AWESOME to see her SO excited to do math. I will never turn back. It totally works for us and I praise the Lord for blessing us when I gave it up to Him and swallowed my teaching pride. I know He will bless you as you turn this over to him too. And by the way, there are sample lessons your child can try on their website. We went back and did grade 3 math and it has made all the difference. Now she is back on track for starting grade 4 and happy as a clam.


    Christie, Don’t think of her as behind. We use this curriculum and this is what sold me on it.

    I know you’re not looking for a new system; I just shared that to say that she is not necessarily behind as much as she is just not maturing as fast in her abilities to do math. You said in your post that you pushed before she was ready, so you already recongnize this.


    As for multiplication facts, ugh. My 9YO knew them so well a few months ago and now he is having trouble with recalling them, so back to drilling for us though i’m going to try and make it fun.

    Big hugs and don’t be too hard on yourself!


    Cedar Girl, we did use TT4 for about 5 months. It was a good change of pace for review, but we do not care for the spiral approach overall. Too frustrating for us. 

    LDIMom, I will read through that link. No, I know we’re a mastery approach family with more teaching tools than a school needs, but I appreciate reading through other approaches.

    Thanks again. 



    My dd8 will be 9 this Sept and starting 3rd grade.  Math is hard for her and b/c I love math and understand it well it is very hard to keep my cool and not get frustrated when she is struggling, which is a lot of the time.  I feel like a failure as well and we didn’t switch programs, though I look into it every year.  As I am putting together our schedule for the coming year I am already dreading all the tears (from both of us) and looking at the lessons already defeated.  This is not my personality in general at all!  I will be praying for you and your daughter as well, please send up a prayer for us too if you don’t mind!  Glad to know we are in this together and that we have other subjects she is very good at to try to balance out the day.  God bless.


    As a mathematician, I feel that I should have the answers for anything and everything related to math.  But I don’t.  I do wish we all lived in the same small town, so that I could sit down with these children and see if I could reach them using any and every modality to teach them until it clicked…then I could teach YOU how to teach them. 

    I remember one time a boy I could not seem to reach.  I could not for the life of me figure out what his learning style was.  I worked with him everyday for 8 weeks…and the 8 weeks was almost over and I didn’t feel we were making significant enough progress except to identify problems.  His mom sweetly kept trusting me, and I kept plugging away at it (what else could I do)…and then one day I went to working with him on neg and pos numbers and out of sheer desperation I went to the cabinet and got out some uncooked rice and pop corn kernals (not popped) and did my best (with no lesson plan or guide book but completely on the fly making it up as I went to teaching)…and click…just like that we had the ah ha…but it wasn’t ah ha…neg and pos numbers…though that came (I did send him home with two bags of our new manipulatives :-)…it was learning style.  I am by no means an expert on learning styles, but in my lay experience I have found that most people have two learning styles…a dominant one and a secondary. 

    For instance, I am AUDIO (really strong audio…but my secondary is kinetic…I need to do it, touch it…etc.)…so writing something down in college put it right to my brain, cause as I wrote hearing the professor say it, I said it to myself as I wrote it and physically I manipulated that pencil and felt the scratching it into the paper…I am even thirdly a bit visual (much smaller) and after training myself for years as a mathematician to be more visual…I also saw it in my mind’s eye or even saw where the professor was standing in the room when he said it (one reason that sitting in the same spot each day can help some students).  I rarely had to ever look back at my notes, because I was using my dominant, my secondary, and even my weak third learning modality. 

    Well, with this boy, I only ever discovered ONE style.  It was kinetic.  And because it was so dominant as to overshadow any others…if he didn’t act it out, touch it, move it, physically manipulate each and every thing for each and every concept…nothing happened in the learning department.  NOTHING.  When this light bulb exploded for me…and his mother later that day…we rejoiced.  And sure enough the rest of the 8 weeks was great.  I coached his mom, and when I heard back from her, math had become his favorite subject instead of the dreaded hated one. 

    I am telling you this to try to encourage you to not be weary in well doing.  And dare I say it, not to rely heavily on curriculum.  Sometimes curriculum is not necessarily the answer.  They all have different sequences/scopes.  And none of them are necessarily RIGHT.    Take the time to think about how your children learn.  Find ways to incorporate that into the lessons.  This might require thinking, research, trial and error, asking for help, etc.  Your child is an individual.  The 3rd grade or 4th grade label is just that, a label. Don’t beat yourself up over the “grade” level they are at.  Try to reach mastery of the basics before it is time for Algebra.  I suggest trying to teach Algebra in 8th or 9th grade IF possible.  SO ALL of the elementary and middle years can be spent getting the basics down (see previous posts about the basics—if can’t find, let me know.). 

    I wish I had the answers.  I wish we all lived close.  I wish I really could sit down with these children (someone would have to watch my littles! :-), and that I could help you come up with some real workable solutions.  But since I don’t, please know that I know YOU can do it.  And I will add you to my prayers.  If ANY ‘woman’ lack wisdom, let her ask of GOD, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it shall be given her.  AMEN!

    May the Lord God uphold you during this time.  Keep on pressing on!



    Thanks so much Jo.  My daughter is really (REALLY) kinesetic and I know that and I like how our math program works in that regard but it is also heavy on mental math and she is just not there yet.  Does she have to be?  No, of course not.  I hate watching her struggle and being not kinesetic at all myself I forget to incorporate that into her lessons if the teacher’s guide doesn’t specifically tell me to.  This was a great reminder and I know it helps her.  I think I will pull out the button box tomorrow so she can relax with her multiplication again.  Thank you, thank you.



    It’s that time again. I’m evaluating where to go from here for dd11’s math. This year (grade 5) she completed the Pet Shop Math course from SCM and is finishing up Strayer-Upton, book 1. When we finish this book, it should be equivalent to finishing Delta in MUS and a headstart on Epsilon since it includes fractions. My daughter is doing well. She has to go slow, but she IS getting it.

    She is also working through the Life of Fred elementary series and is midway through D. We will continue LOF as she LOVES it!

    We could continue with S-U, book 2, but I am considering either Math-U-See or Systematic Mathematics as I simply cannot adequately explain things to dd11. I love math and just get it, but explaining it, well that doesn’t go so well. I want only 1 more change for her to finish out her schooling, if at all possible. I own one level of Systematic Mathematics, but am bugged about having to print things and have already seen at least one page where some problems don’t line up. I love the methodology and think they are similar, but I need simplicity, too. I know, I’m picky. I also think that while I HATE manipulatives personally, they would probably benefit her. If we choose MUS, then I’m switching everyone which will include ds8 who will likely start in Gamma and dd5 who will get Primer.

    • Can MUS be done independently for the most part by dd11 and ds8? Must I watch the DVD with them each time?
    • How do you store the blocks? The MUS box or a fishing tackle type thing? Organization and keeping from the 2 year old are musts.
    • Should each kid have 1 set of blocks, 2 sets, or is 1 set enough for all 3 to share?
    • Does it include review of previously mastered concepts?
    • What about challenging problems? Word problems? Are these included?

    Sorry, I’m repeating myself, but it helps me to gather intel and think out loud.

    Going forward, my plan could be to mix LOF and MUS and throw in challenging and word problems as needed. Maybe. Thoughts. Ideas. Anyone want to take over math at my house?




    I just switched to MUS for all my kids this past year. So far, I’m loving it! For your questions, here’s my two cents:

    -MUS is not to be considered independent, especially in earlier years. It is recommended that the teacher watch the video, as well as the student. Steve Demme, the teacher on each video, does a great job of explaining. Now, once my kids understand the concept, they can be fairly independent the rest of the week doing their worksheet on that lesson….but I check it often.

    -I would love to own the MUS block storage container, but too pricey for me. I have a strong, large ziploc bag that my kids just tote with them when they need it. It stores well in my cabinet. My kids share. If you’d like more than one, you can find many of these used online.

    -MUS has 2 review sheets after each weekly lesson, and there is a separate test booklet as well. I love the MUS layout!

    -There are lots of word problems in each lesson. They include concepts of current lesson, as well as reviewing concepts already

    learned from previous lessons.

    Let me know if you have any more questions. I’m sure you’ll have a lot of feedback on this one.


    Hi Christie,

    MathUSee is great. Although it is not recommended, our kids usually watch the video themselves and come and tell me what they’ve learned. If it doesn’t make any sense, I go and watch it with them and help.  This has never taken a long time.  The videos are usually very short in the early levels.  They generally understand the concept quite quickly (and these are not math geniuses) and then can be quite independent for the rest of the lesson (6 practice sheets).

    We do store the blocks in the MUS box.  It is wooden, nicely organized with a see-through slide out cover.  It is put away in a closet when not in use.  One set of blocks should be enough. There is plenty of review, word problems, and challenging material. 

    Have fun!

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