Over the last few years since we started homeschooling, I have heard repeated praise for Demme Learning’s Math-U-See
program, but it wasn’t until we were offered a chance to review their Digital Packs
that we actually tried it out for ourselves. Arianna (4) hasn’t really had any intentional exposure to math concepts apart from what she encounters in daily life, so I decided to give her some formal instruction with the Math-U-See Primer Level
Please pardon the laundry and baby in the background 🙂
About Math-U-See with Digital Pack
Different members of the Crew reviewed various levels from Primer through Pre-Calculus (click on the banner at the bottom to find those reviews), but because we were totally new to Math-U-See and had none of their materials, they generously provided us with the Primer Universal Set, which included everything we needed to get started:
- Instruction manual (hardcover, 128 pages of teacher notes for each lesson and complete solutions)
- Instruction DVD (with a short video for each lesson introducing the concepts being taught)
- Student workbook (softcover with 429 perforated, 3-hole punched pages)
- Integer block set (with plastic manipulatives for numbers 1-10 and 100)
- 12-months of access to the Primer Digital Pack, which includes the following:
- Skip Count Songs (MP3 download–about 25 minutes long)
- Songbook (44-page PDF with melody, lyrics, and black and white pictures)
- online access to the instruction videos found on the DVD
- online access to Digital Manipulatives
- Instruction Manual (PDF)
Math-U-See also has additional resources for record-keeping and extra practice available on their website. (For higher levels there is even an online worksheet generator.)
If you don’t need everything in the Universal Set, Digital Packs can be purchased individually, but student workbooks (and test booklets for the higher levels) are not included and will need to be purchased as well.
From the moment the curriculum arrived, all my kids were drawn to it. I wan’t sure the digital manipulatives would make sense without having at least some familiarity with the physical set, so I let everyone take some time being creative with the integer blocks.
Arianna was SO excited to have her own school work, and the older boys loved helping her. The concepts in Primer are introduced very gently, so for her this was more a time of learning how to fit concepts she’s already learned (like counting and writing numbers) into a set structure.
The primer level starts about as basic as you can get, with simple counting and number recognition. Over the weeks that we’ve had it, our lessons have also covered shapes, writing numerals, and place value. Each lesson has lots of practice pages in the student workbook, and she often wanted to do multiple pages in a sitting. I usually just let her go until she seemed to be losing interest and then we’d put it away. However, she never really grew bored with it overall. She loved taking it along with us when she thought she might need something to entertain herself.
Each lesson consists of a short instructional video, which can be viewed from the DVD or online as part of the Digital Pack, and a lesson in the Instruction Manual. These were more for me as a parent than for Arianna, and I often went through them the night before as preparation so our math time was more about just having fun together. I really liked the convenience of accessing the videos online through the Digital Pack, and usually chose to do that rather than putting on the DVD.
Another great feature of the Digital Pack is the online manipulatives. Math-U-See’s integer blocks are a key component of the curriculum because they help students really see and understand what the numbers they’re working with mean. Having access to the digital manipulatives makes it easy to do lessons away from home without toting along the whole set, especially in the higher levels of the curriculum. However, I don’t think they’re quite as useful at the Primer level, where children really need the hands-on experience. (The instruction manual even says, “Young children…need to see, touch, and build with concrete objects in order to understand.”)
Arianna really never had any opportunity to use the digital manipulatives in all the Primer lessons we did, but the boys and I spent some time exploring them. The boys had no trouble using them on our laptops in the Chrome browser (though there is a separate app available if you want to use it on a tablet). The blocks are easy to drag and drop onto the screen wherever you want them.
Just like with the physical integer block set, the digital set can also be used for all sorts of creative purposes.
The skip counting song was another great bonus for all my kids to enjoy. We often put on “school songs” to sing along to as we drive around town, and this was a great addition to our collection. I also love that the skip counting songs aren’t just about the numbers but refer to Bible stories and other familiar tales to make them more interesting. I just wish the songs had been available to download separately instead of as one long MP3 file.
I think the Digital Packs are a great addition to the Math-U-See program, but they’re probably more helpful in some situations than others.
- Digital manipulatives don’t take up precious space (or get lost).
- Online videos and manipulatives make it easy to do lessons away from home.
- Even at home, the online videos and manipulatives are often more convenient than the DVD and physical integer block set since you can pull them up on any device with Internet access.
- If you have multiple students using the same level but on different lessons, one can be online while the other uses the DVD.
- Digital manipulatives don’t help with the Primer level workbook pages, which are designed for the child to use with the physical integer blocks.
- 12-month access to Digital Packs may not be ideal for families who pass down curriculum from child to child. I like that I’ll be able to pull out the DVD and Instruction Manual with my younger children long after my access to the Digital Pack has expired.
Arianna really enjoyed Math-U-See, and I think the Primer materials were the perfect gentle introduction to formal math for a four-year old. We’re looking forward to the rest of the lessons, which include addition, skip counting, telling time, and beginning subtraction. I’m not sure when I’ll be officially starting Kindergarten with her, but I would definitely consider moving up to Alpha once she completes the Primer level.