Monday, February 27, 2017

Review: Math Mammoth Blue Series

My Rose Red (16 years old) struggles terribly with math.  She has to work, work, and work some more to even understand basic concepts, and then she has to work some more to know how and when to apply them.  After any break from working on a skill, she has to start over to relearn it.  We were both very grateful when we received the opportunity to review the Blue Series by Math Mammoth.

The Blue Series is a selection of focused worktexts allowing a student lots of practice in one specific mathematical area.  I counted nearly 4 dozen to choose from, ranging from beginning addition to linear equations.  Rose Red and I counseled together over which subject areas she was in the most need of practice and review right now, and we chose Percent, Metric Measuring, and Geometry 1.

We received a pdf download of each worktext.  While I usually prefer hard copies of math books, this pdf version is enhanced with a lot of great extras.

A partial list of links from Percent.

Upon examination, we found a list of complementary links to online math games, printable worksheets, and videos to supplement the written lessons in the worktext.  In addition the student can do all work directly on the computer, if desired, by using the "add text comment" tool in Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Because Rose Red has a job at a fast food restaurant, and because she loves to shop, we set to work on Percent first; we felt that understanding and being able to work with percents had immediate application in her daily life.  We took it really easy the first week, only completing 2 lessons and some supplemental practice worksheets.  I opted to print out her work, as that is less stressful for us both.

The math pages are in color, and we printed them as such at first, but later we tried out printing one week's worth of assignments in grayscale to save printing costs and to see if it affected the effectiveness of the diagrams; it didn't.  The graphics are high quality, so variations in shading were easy to see and understand whether in color or not.

Percent is targeted to kids doing math at 6th-8th grade levels.  I think that is correct.  Before starting Percent a student needs to be comfortable with fractions, long division, estimating, rounding numbers, setting up ratios, and using a calculator.  The print on the pages is quite small (something easily overcome by working on the computer and adjusting the viewing size), suitable for older students rather than younger ones.  Most of the time, there seemed to be plenty of white space for working out problems.

Rose Red found that the small bites of instruction followed by lots of diagrams, practice, and practical application problems were effective and doable.  Rose Red did need extra explanation and support to understand the lessons and complete the assignments, but I noticed that she grew increasingly comfortable reading and working the problems as she worked her way through the book--a sure sign of learning.

We found that for Rose Red the lessons were too long (3-4 pages), so we spent 2 days completing each lesson.  I can see a student who feels more confident and competent at math having no problem with the length of the lessons at all.

I appreciated that every Math Mammoth lesson includes practical work problems such as:

(I laughed at Rose Red's indignant reaction to #9 when she found that both shirts would cost the same amount.)

The flow of the book is a little bit choppy because the lessons are a compilation of lessons from the Light Blue Series (Math Mammoth's full-year math curriculum), but that wasn't a problem for Rose Red or for me because our goal was to really work as many aspects as possible of one skill set, and Percent is doing that for us.  Any repetition (and there's lots of it) is a blessing and exactly why we chose to work with the Blue Series.

One source of frustration was when the example problem(s) didn't seem to match the assignment.  For example, page 34 of Percent is as follows:

The example was about figuring out price increases given a sale price and a known percent.  Questions 1a-1c are for price decreases, and really threw Rose Red for a loop when she tried to make sense of what to do.

This mismatching of examples to assignment happened at least 3 times in the several weeks we worked on Percent.  Each time it took me sitting at Rose Red's side to talk her through to understanding what was being asked.

It was not frustrating enough to give up on using Percent

Overall, Rose Red and I both felt that using Percent was a real blessing to increasing her math understanding and improving her application of skills.

Because Rose Red needs to work slowly and carefully in her math lessons, we have not had time to actually work from the other two Blue Series books we received, but they are on our list for future work!

Metric Measuring is a compilation of lessons from grades 1-5 and begins at the very beginning with teaching the concept of measuring and moving into understanding relationships by completing conversion problems.
The first lesson begins at the very beginning . . .

 . . . and near the end, the problems are much more challenging.
 Metric Measuring is set up the same way Percent is, with a list of great web resources for beyond the book learning, full color diagrams, brief lesson bites, and plenty of practice.

The same is true for Geometry I, the last of the three books we selected for Rose Red's math skills review.

Geometry I is set up to review standard grades 4-5 geometry skills such as understanding angles, and calculating perimeter, area, and volume.  I was really impressed with the pages and pages of web resources included!

Looking at Geometry I is fun!  There are a lot of interesting kinds of drawing assignments that makes even me (the mom/teacher) want to dive into the work. 
Rose Red will balk at making a notebook, but I am grateful for the suggestion because it will teach her valuable note-taking skills that can be applied to any subject.
And I love this challenge to see geometry in the world around.  Who knows what interesting things will awaken in Rose Red's mind when she starts exercising her powers of observation? 

Rose Red and I feel blessed for the work we've done together in Percent, and we look forward to working in both Metric Measuring and Geometry I in the weeks to come.  We are grateful for these targeted reviews that allow her to develop her math skills to a level of competence and confidence.

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1 comment:

  1. What a thorough review. They are lucky to have you doing this!