Is Your Math Curriculum Effective?

08 Nov

I recently came across an article at Homeschool entitled “Is Your Curriculum Coherent?” Although it sort of has a plug for its products at the end, it raised some excellent points about Math curricula in the states. I definitely recommend checking it out especially if you are a little leary of the typical math curricula out there for purchase these days.

One of the points that the article made was that today’s US curricula (for public schools generally) is that they teach so many topics in one year, not giving enough focus to any one topic in depth. The author suggested that one look at consecutive grades and take the topics from that was presented in both books to give a more in depth treatment of the subject. I have done this before with my older son as he is “behind” in math and I wanted to “catch” him up. So for example, fractions were introduced in one book and I felt that he could handle even more exposure on the topic so I went to the next grade and continued with the subject instead of going to a totally new topic in the next chapter. This was very effective, masha Allah.

Some of the main points that the author brought up with problems with US math curricula:

(from the article)

  • not focused. No country in the world covers as many topics as US in their mathematics textbooks. For example, in Japan, eighth-grade textbooks have about 10 topics whereas US books have over 30 topics.
  • highly repetitive. The average duration of a topic in US is almost 6 years (!) versus about 3 years in the best-performing countries. Lots of spiraling and reviewing is done. Like Schmidt says, “We introduce topics early and then repeat them year after year. To make matters worse, very little depth is added each time the topic is addressed because each year we devote much of the time to reviewing the topic.”
  • not very demanding by international standards, especially in the middle-school. In the USA, students keep studying basic arithmetic till 7th and 8th grade, whereas other coutries change to beginning concepts in algebra and geometry.
  • incoherent. The math books are like a collection of arbitrary topics. Like Schmidt et al. say, “…in the United States, mathematics standards are long laundry lists of seemingly un- related, separate topics.”

The article discusses some of the things you can do attempt to fix some of these problems with your current math book/curriculum. I haven’t gotten a chance to look at the products, but the author talks about the products which are topic books, each book focusing on one topic to give a more “comprehensive, in depth learning experience of a few connected topics.” The whole package is $47 which doesn’t seem too bad, compared to the price you will pay for some curricula. If anyone has tried this product, I would love to hear what you thought.

I just wanted to share this article as I found it very interesting and made me take a new look at math and how to more effectively teach my children, insha Allah. I currently use older textbooks and just am not happy with how material is presented.

Another math site that is really helpful is They have lessons from K – 8 grades with interactive activities. When I first looked at this site I thought, gee I could really just use this for lessons, then I looked at it and wondered what kind of order to present the material, it was grouped by subjects, not arranged haphazardly like a lot of math textbooks where a topic is introduced and then something other may come in between and then an that initial topic is revisited, just a little more advanced. In light of reading the article above, I realized that you just follow the sequence given, working on one concept at a time. Sometimes I find in a math book that even within a chapter that seems to be on one topic, they will throw in other unrelated topics . So I highly recommend checking this out if you don’t have a math program, its free. There is even a progress report where you can record your student’s progress. They have simple interactive practice at the computer (no fluff but gets the job done) and is probably great for those students who don’t like to do a lot of pencil and paper math. If you fill student needs more written practice, you can probably find plenty of free worksheets online for the topic you are studying.

Tip: If you use a program such as Teleport Pro (and there are many programs like it) you can grab the sites and save them to your hard drive or flash disk and view them off line. I found that the interactive activities still work offline. I did the same with the science curriculum see Sweet Science post, so if you have limited internet access, this is a BIG help.

And lastly, I highly recommend checking out North Carolina Department of Education Math resources.

You can find links to the materials on my homeschooling helps by the grade pages at TJ. I find that giving my kids these problems/activities really stimulates them to do more out of the box thinking. They have 36 weeks of activities and a weekly printable game and review sheet as well as weekly mental math activities. Its been just about my favorite math resource since I discovered it. You can’t really use it as your math program I think, but as a supplement. It also has blackline masters for printing and packets that give you activity ideas to provide practice with concepts for your students/children.

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Posted by on November 8, 2007 in Math: Teaching Tips


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