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# Spiral Verses Mastery

Tagged: arithmetic, Developmental Mathmatics, Khan Academy Math, Living Math, math, math mammoth, Math U See, Mathematics, MEP math, RightStart math, saxon math, teaching textbooks

- This topic has 13 replies, 9 voices, and was last updated 11 years, 7 months ago by
Richele Baburina.

- AuthorPosts
csmamma ParticipantWould anyone be willing to share whether your child does better with spiral or mastery based math and why? Which do you prefer? Example, one of my boys did really well with mastery (MUS)… up until a point, and then I found he needed more spiral approach. Other son, has been doing great with spiral (TT) up until recently (this week infact) – now he’s getting frustrated and I’m assuming he needs more mastery. Arggg, what’s a mom to do? Now I see that Rightstart (for example) has a great balance between both spiral and mastery. Maybe I should have started there years ago…Any thoughts? Thanks!

Rachel White ParticipantI prefer mastery, period. I figure that mastery can be sped up much more easily than spiral can be slowed down (and less expensive, too). If you don’t buy “extra” practice problems, you have to use your precious time looking up and printing out (money again) worksheets from online. Whereas with mastery, you just skip or use some for written work and some for oral.

My son has always used Developmental Mathematics, which is mastery based, and excelled; we’ve just shortened the extra practice problems to half-written/half-oral; since he’s good at math. He’s 10 and on Level 8 (going through 3 levels a year now) and will use it till Level 16 then switch to Videotext (becuase I have no confidence in my upper math skills!). Videotext has short lessons and he can go faster or slow down as needed. Could he succeed in a spiral approach? Definitely. Would my husband nag me less about when he’s getting to certain math topics? Yes; I heard all last year about how he should be practicing his multiplication skills, but the curricula has a different scope/seq. Now he’s doing X’s tables and flying through them.

My dd on the other hand, desperately needs mastery. She has many sensory-integration problems and sequencing is a biggie; so math obviously is her hardest subject. She must have repetition. She also started out with DM, but the thinking process wasn’t working for her like it does for my son. So I switched her to TT. Well, in all my research, I never came across anything that mentioned it was anything other than mastery; well, now I know it isn’t. Although she was renewed in math again by the audio and visuals, I realized it wasn’t mastery based and stopped her early to have her use Math Mammoth in the topical blue series (the above mentioned additonal money expenditure issue). MM is mastery based and is so in a different way than DM (MM wouldn’t be challenging enough for my son); so she is able to follow it. It is challenging, not fluffy. It’s colorful and has many things for her to draw, which she likes. It’s thorough, reviews a topic by different methods of working out the problem to help solidify than in just one way; which I noticed TT seems to have “just one way” to solve a problem.

Plus, it just moves too quickly and doesn’t have enough practice, period. MM is also very reasonably priced and promotes independant work, which is important to me. Then hopefully she too can use Videotext, just at a slower pace. I’ll finish TT3 with supplemental MM, but won’t buy it again. Sorry I don’t know anything about Rightstart, but can recommend Math Mammoth as a late intro. I can’t really recommend DM as a late intro. because the thinking skills taught in it is so unique and I don’t think can be jumped into later; JMO. I also don’t know enough about MUS to offer any adjustment advice. Perhaps just breaking from it (and TT) and switching to a topic not yet covered? Like measurements or using living books for different math topics? Then come back to it in a couple of weeks, if your schedule can handle a break.

So, that’s more than you asked for, but I hope I answered your question somewhat!

Rachel

csmamma ParticipantRachel, you’ve been a big help. The problem I ran into with my oldest son, for example, when he was in MUS Delta-Division (which is mastery), while working on mastering division for a few months, he’d forget how to do long multiplication – he’d get frustrated to no end. Now, with my ds who’s in TT 4, he’s moving so fast… going from multiplication to division that he just isn’t understanding the concept of division (though he loves TT). So, I guess I’m having a problem with both mastery and spiral in and of themselves…and a bit confused – at least today. In looking at Math Mammoth I could use the Division 1 book possibly to supplement. What are your thoughts on this? …or maybe I should just be patient in hopes the spiral will end up working out. I appreciate your time! 🙂

Blessedwithseven MemberHi,

Wow..another great topic! My son is also doing DM, glad to hear about Video Text! I have a daughter doing TT3, she is almost finished and she loves it BUT..she gets really frustrated and I often have to explain things to her in a different way, she gets frustrated by their explanations, doesn’t understand, but she does well with it. I have also been looking at MM and was interested to find that she would have to start back in level 2 compared to going to TT4!! So…scope and sequence quite a bit different. I feel that she just doesn’t understand how everything really works, even though she gets good grades w/ TT, I don’t feel like it sticks. So many times a lesson will come up and she will yell for me and I will ask her “didn’t they explain this in the lecture”..she says “no”. So..I am not sure if the lectures just go in one ear and out the other or what. The hard part is she wants to continue w/ TT….EEK! I have emailed Maria Miller from MM and told her my daughters test scores on the Exit Exam for Book 2 and she is so GENEROUS. She emailed me back w/ what Blue books would be helpful for my daughter to get her understanding things…she was also very surprised and her scores knowing she did so well in TT3, she was surprised at what she didn’t know.

I guess I am saying all this to say, it might not hurt to check out MM, that is what I am going to do. I decided to have her do MM for a bit, to go back and get her understanding things, doing things in a different way etc..then will we reevaluate TT4.

Also…homeschoolbuyerscoop has a group buy for all the Blue and Light Blue books, everything for grades 1-6 of whichever set you choose, for under $60, I believe. That is 50% off. It ends 3/31, I am just trying to decide if I want the Blue topical books or the Light Blue Series.

So..thanks for the post!

suzukimom ParticipantJust a thought… if you mainly need more practice, or another person (video) explaining a concept… and don’t mind your children using the computer… why don’t you check out Khan Academy?

You can set it up to do exercises on a topic, and just keep doing them… You get a question on the screen, and you can ask for hints. When you do 10 right in a row, without hints, it suggests you may have mastered it, and you can go on to another topic (or do more practice… it tracks the highest number done right in a row.) There are also videos to explain each concept. There are videos right from 1+1=2 all the way up to college level, including calculus (I think…)

And… it is FREE.

I know of people who use it as their math curriculum. (I use MEP, which I love, and is free… but I keep Khan Academy link handy in case my kids do at some point need more practice on a topic….)

Rachel White ParticipantYes, I’d definitely use the topical Division 1 to supplement. Putting a pause on TT and reviewing addition and subtraction up to the 3rd grade level (combined with oral drill 3x a week using my ray’s book) w/my dd has helped her better than anything I’ve ever done. Then when we start back w/TT and hit multiplication, I’ll do the same thing and so on till TT3 is finished.

Rachel

my3boys ParticipantI don’t know if I have enough experience to share but I’ll give it a try.

My oldest (now 12) has used Saxon (spiral) since 2nd grade. He says he likes it and doesn’t want to change. Awhile back I noticed he needed a little more in the fractions dept. so I purchased him the MM Fractions set. I believe it was just one semester/year worth and that helped him alot. He was able to take it with him wherever since it fit in a binder (no teacher’s guide needed). He would go between that and Saxon. Well, that did make the Saxon take longer to get through, but I didn’t mind since he felt he was ‘mastering’ fractions.

My 8yo has used mostly Saxon with some MM Telling Time as a supplement. He learned alot with the MM, but for some reason he just wasn’t ready to ‘get’ that concept so we have taken our time with it. I believe we still have some more of that left to do, or we actually may start over with it when he’s a little older. Anyway, a while back I thought he didn’t need repetition (silly mom, I know) so I skipped certain parts in the lessons (Saxon) because I thought he knew them well enough. Well, I guess you could say I was looking for a math that was less teacher intensive so I started shopping around. I told my son my plans and of course he said, “Okay.” I decided on MM and card/math games, etc. He hated it. He asked me if we could go back to what we were using. I had a mental breakthrough and realized for him that what we were doing was actually working (I just didn’t want to do all of the work involved)…he loves all of the extras that come along with the spiral approach:) So, my new plan that has been working out beautifully is:

I break the lesson up into 2 parts. There is a ‘Meeting Strip’ that goes with each lesson (he loves it) that has some patterns to complete, fill in the date, counting coins, etc. It is a very small piece of paper and is something that he can do on his own for about 5-10 minutes. Then we do the oral counting (by 2’s, 5’s, 10’s, odd/even, hundred numbers chart, etc.) maybe some extra calendar work, then we are done. I may have him do a practice sheet of addition/subtraction. Then we are done.

Next day we do the oral lesson (manipulatives may be needed, dry erase board, geo board) and he does side A of the mix practice sheet. If he has any trouble he does side B’s problems. Then we are done.

I’d say that we are doing about 20 minutes a day. If we did it in one day it would take about 40 minutes and that’s too much for both of us. So we are completing 2 lessons a week. May not seem like much but with this routine he is really turning some corners. Understanding the whole clock thing (am/pm, 1/4 hour, etc), coin value, etc. has really sunk in (finally). It could possibly be him just getting older…but I really think it has been me being more consistent and not overwhelmed with the length of the lessons. Breaking them up the way that I did (and that was just pure chance) has made such a huge difference in my ability to actually complete the lesson, gives him time to digest it, and we have time to add in math/card games which have helped him as well.

My boys have been soooo different in this area. My oldest struggled with reading but not math as much. My 8yo did not struggle with reading but has with math. Go figure.

My oldest boy liked the fractions from MM, but would not like to be on on topic forever. He likes the problems/concepts to be changed up a bit. But, to have one concept to work on that is supplemental worked great.

I say that to say….maybe it depends on the child:)

csmamma ParticipantThanks for your reponses. I think I’ll surely give MM a try – Division 1 download is only 3.50. Also, I checked out the free Khan Academy and am very impressed! I’m beginning to think it really does depend on the child, whether spiral or mastery is best. Also, a combination would be ideal – if there was such a thing as an ideal curriculum (sadly those of us who’ve been homeschooling for any length of time know there is no ideal 😉 ); Just when I think I’ve found it….wham back to the drawing board – today it’s math.

bethanna ParticipantHow is math going for you all now? Last year we used a spiral approach for first grade concepts using a variety of resources/materials. We focused on understanding, but I felt like we didn’t get very far. Especially with addition/subtraction facts. So I ordered Math Mammoth grade levels 1 and 2, thinking that a mastery approach must be the key. We are almost through the parts of level one that she needed, but without review on other topics,such as money or time, she has forgotten some things and needed a bit of re-teaching. So we used portions of MM for that too.

bethanna ParticipantSo I’ve been thinking that both spiral and mastery approaches have merit, but wonder how to find a balance based on each child – “teach the child, not the curriculum.” Any thoughts? Also, does the new math book from SCM discuss this?

Tristan ParticipantBethanna,

I would say that Math U See is the best of both worlds. They are a mastery program, so you focus on one thing until it is mastered, but each week you have practice pages divided this way:

3 pages just on the new concept (with the option to print more online from MUS)

3 pages with the new concept plus review of past concepts.

You do not have to do all 6 pages in a lesson, but can. We tend to do 1-2 of the concept focused pages unless the child is having a hard time ‘getting’ the new concept. Then we move to doing 2 of the review pages. Then test.

If a child IS having trouble on the new concept we will hang out and just practice that (printing pages if needed) until they’re getting it.

I like having the review pages because I can notice if my children have ‘forgotten’ how to do a past concept and we can go back and shore up that area if needed. It has happened occasionally. Not often as the mastery approach really is cementing what they are learning.

Hope that helps give you an idea of how to combine spiral and mastery!

bethanna ParticipantThank you, Tristan. I know a couple families who are very pleased with MUS. The price makes me wince, for all four children eventually. I went with MM cds so I can print what each child needs. But considering the price ink… I do like the way MM teaches more than one way to solve problems. I just need to figure out how much review is necessary and how often. In the early grades, approx. how much of the MUS review page is new concept and how much previous material?

MamaSnow ParticipantI started my first grader in Math Mammoth this year, which was OK, but I always felt like I was tweaking it to make it work for us (adding in games, etc.)…and even with all that I didn’t feel like the facts were really sticking for her. And while I was able to supplement/tweak for this beginning level, I was concerned that this would become more and more problematic with the upper levels. (That’s not to say MM is a horrible program, it just wasn’t really a good fit for us – dd’s learning style or my teaching style). So we finally broke down and switched to Math U See. I was initially turned off by the price too, but SO GLAD we did it. It is easy to use, and I see my dd making good progress. I usually work through the new lesson with her, but then in general she can do the rest of the pages on her own (I just check and review as needed). In Alpha, the ‘review’ pages are usually around half-and-half new and review. We still occasionally play a game, and do some mental-math type drills, and I did use the topical Math Mammoth book about clocks to help teach her how to tell time this year. But overall, we’ve been very pleased with MUS.

Just an interesting note about sprial vs. mastery programs – I was listening to a talk by Andrew Kern yesterday (you can find it here: http://circeinstitute.org/free-audio/) in which he mentioned the principle that in order to truly know and understand one has to imitate and contemplate and that spiral-type math programs don’t really allow a child to do this because they are always jumping around to new concepts. Mastery type programs, where you stick with one concept until you understand it, is much more in line with this principle. Whether or not that is true for every child I don’t know…but it was still a very, very interesting thought.

Jen

Richele Baburina ParticipantHi,

Just wanted to reply to Bethanna’s question, “…does the new math book from SCM discuss this?”

The book does discuss in detail the securing of a child’s understanding before moving on to the next concept, which Charlotte Mason thought of as a must.

How this was done in CM’s classrooms is really extraordinary, involving an unfolding of ideas through interesting examples and predominately oral work. Her method facilitated a child’s use of their reasoning powers over mere mechanical ability while also awakening a sense of awe in the fixed laws of the universe. Charlotte saw the importance of mathematics in daily life but really valued the study of math for its use in habit training (ie effort of mind, neatness, attention, etc.) so the question of “mastery vs. spiral” had farther reaching implications than we might have previously considered.

HTH,

Richele

p.s. Once a concept was mastered, there was still sufficient review in CM’s classrooms.

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