I am looking for a good math program (mid- to upper elementary level--3rd to 5th grade) that is inexpensive, easy to use (I don't want to have to download 73 .pdf files, even if they're all free!), and good for a child who claims not to like math. It also has to have a relatively fast pace--not too much repeating material over and over.
Is there any such math curriculum?
For students who want to go at a "relatively fast pace," as you asked, a number of parents have recommended Singapore Math. We've used it, and still do, and it's good, but not ideal. For "gifted" kids, there's the Stanford EPGY math program, and it's also good, and a lot of kids like that. I think it's meant to provide work beyond a regular curriculum, but seems to cover some pretty regular stuff. The benefit of a computerized program, if there's a great one out there, is that it should be able to have just the right amount of review and "know" when to go onto the next topic -- it should be possible to make a great computerized curriculum, but I don't know if one exists. I'd be interested if there are programs that can beat Singapore Math and EPGY, which I'd consider the baseline until I hear otherwise. (Another benefit of a computerized math curriculum for an uninterested learner is that it can be made snazzy.) I've seen some background material for ALEKS, www.aleks.com, and the background material looks good, but I don't know if the online program's good or not.
When looking for a good math program, it helps to understand what type of learner your child is. It's taken me several years to figure out that my oldest child hates to do math on the computer, the younger likes pictures and manipulatives, etc. We supplement a great deal with math related literature, different text books, and practice pages.
I recommend checking out LivingMath.com, it is a very thorough and inspiring website about learning math created by a homeschooling family. If you interested in starting a math club in your area or would like to get involved in online math conversation with other parents and educators, check out Math 2.0 at NaturalMath.com.
This list is by no means comprehensive, but these are some of the programs we have tried (and a few we have not, but have been recommended):
Singapore Math - favored by my younger daughter. We order directly from Singapore from sgbox.com, they have the standard Singapore math curriculum as well as supplementary texts. The version they sell is supposed to be slightly different from the US version, but I haven't compared them.
Stanford EPGY/ JHU CTY - I put these together since Johns Hopkins uses EPGY for their elementary program. My daughter hated this program, not very good when you consider the expense. We had a great deal of technical problems and when it was all done, she had little more benefit than listening to a pre-recorded lecture on the computer. Human interaction was found to be preferable to her, but some children like learning on the computer!
Life of Fred - This programs starts with late elementary math, but is an enjoyable prgram for those who like literature. The books are math textbooks in literature form with the problems thrown in as part of the text. My kids love it, but we do not use it exclusively.
ALEKS.com - We have used this program on several different occasions, mostly for testing purposes and never as an exclusive math curriculum. You can try ALEKS for a trial period and let your child take their placement test which will show you explicitly where their knowledge gaps are. This can be very helpful.
Thinkwell.com - This is primarily for more advanced math, but some kids may be at the pre-algebra level in elementary school. We have enjoyed Thinkwell. You can order an online subscription, typically available at a discount from HomeschoolBuyerscoop, or purhcase the cd's. Thinkwell has video lectures by the very entertaining Ed Burger as well as tests, notes, and exams. We bought CD-ROM's off ebay at a reduced price.
Art of Problem Solving - Aops, run by award winning mathematicians, also provides resources for more advanced math, but if your child is ready to move into pre-algebra at a younger age, it is considered the gold standard. They create and sell textbooks as well as run online classes. The classes tend to be very fast pace, but transcripts are available for those who want them. The textbooks alone are wonderful, but with the classes you get the benefit of the teacher. My daughter did not enjoy the classes, but we have loved the books.
Saxon Math - Many people love this textbook based program. We have only used it very intermittently for supplementary testing. While this program would not be an ideal choice for math lovers, it can be helpful for children need a lot of repetition and review.
Calculus by and for Young People - This has been highly recommended by a friend who is a mathematician and teacher. It is designed for use by children ages 7+ and intended to foster the comprehension and love of mathematics!
This list is by no means comprehensive, but I thought I would share some of my experiences here!
These are all great suggestions! I think that it is important to keep in mind your child's learning style. Hands-on, visual, & auditory (learn best through listening or reading) are the main types.
My daughter (9th grade) has ADD and is extremely visual, for her we have chosen Math U See. It's also fairly hands-on, it involves special blocks that allow her to physically see HOW the math works. It also includes videos (again, a visual thing) with an instructor explaining the Math and using the blocks, and then work books to help her practice the problems. We find this is a great solution for her learning style.
My son (6th grade) is a fair mix of all three learning styles. For him we decided to go with a different program that we just discovered after a friend of mine recommended it to us: http://teachingtextbooks.com Teaching Texts are fantastic! They use a computer program as well as a workbook and separate answer key to help your child learn his math. The program is really outstanding, it really is like having a personal tutor at your fingertips whenever you need them. I highly recommend you give them a look-see.
We're planning on using Teaching Texts for the coming school year, and if we like them and think that they would work well for her, we may switch my daughter over to this curriculum.
There was a conference held by The OEEC (now called the OECD) in the 1970s called "New thoughts in school mathematics", where one of the co-chairs, Jean Dieudonne describes a curriculum that will produce a professional mathematician. One can probably obtain a copy of the proceedings of this conference from one's local university library, or get a copy from interlibrary loan.
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