The Basics of Picking a Math Curriculum

Hello fellow homeschoolers!

Choosing a curriculum can get a little overwhelming with all the home education options that now exist. This is true for many subjects, but nowhere does it seem more common than with math. That being the case, I thought I would give a quick overview of types of math curriculum and a few additional things to consider when picking curriculum.  

The two main types are spiral and mastery. A typical spiral curriculum will teach a concept, have a few practice problems on that topic, and then have a mixture of questions on all previous topics studied up to that point. A good spiral curriculum works well for students who are naturally strong in math. It helps prepare them for standardized tests, and reflects more real-world math, where you never know what the next problem will involve. Advanced students might find a mastery curriculum boring. 

Mastery curriculum on the other hand, is a more traditional approach, where a topic is covered and the homework assignment mostly involves practice on that topic. I have found that a good mastery curriculum works much better for students who tend to struggle with math. It helps them solidify a concept before moving on to another and does not overwhelm them in the process. These students commonly get overwhelmed and easily lost or discouraged in a spiral curriculum.

There are several other things to consider when evaluating a math curriculum: 

  • Does the learning take place strictly from a book, or are there video lessons? If there is no math teacher involved and you are not overly confident in your ability to teach math, you may want to consider picking a curriculum with video instruction. 
  • Is the homework done on worksheets (consumable) or do you have to copy problems out of a book? Copying from a book is no problem for some students but very difficult for others. Students who struggle in math don’t need the extra challenge of copying math problems from books.
  • Is the curriculum “completely online” or does it have a physical book and assignments? Both versions have their pros and cons. I find all online works well for some advanced students, but can be difficult for students who struggle in math. Having a physical copy of a good curriculum helps struggling students because they can quickly remind themselves of past lessons. 

These are just some general tips for diving into the world of picking out a math curriculum for your student. I hope it helps!


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