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Math on the Level Full Curriculum Set Review by Brittney Rutherford5-A-Day Online Essentials
John and Carlita Boyles
Math on the Level, LLC
PO Box 235
Clear Brook, Virginia 22624
Math on the Level is a unique math curriculum designed by a former classroom teacher turned homeschool parent. Written specifically for homeschoolers, Math on the Level has no grade level distinctions, no required scope and sequence, and is a non-consumable resource that can be used with all students from Pre-K to pre-algebra. The entire curriculum is based on following the child’s maturity, and the parent directs the scope and sequence, making it different from any other math curriculum I have ever seen.
The full curriculum set includes seven physical components. There are six spiral-bound guides and a 3-ring binder. The four primary teaching guides cover four broad strands of math and are titled Operations,Fractions,Money and Decimals, and Geometry and Measurements. These guides are each a different color, with corresponding color-coding throughout the Overview and Record Keeping binder. A general overview of concepts across the four strands of math might include counting, place value, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, equivalent fractions, reducing fractions, ratios and proportions, probability, recognizing money, making change, dividing with decimals, computing interest and taxes, patterns, shapes, metric units, coordinate planes, perimeter, area, angles, protractors and compass, pi, volume, and so much more. This is only a small sampling of the 146 elementary and middle school concepts that are covered throughout the four volumes.
In addition to the core teaching guides, there are two supplementary guides titled Math Adventures and Math Resources. The Overview and Record Keeping binder is kind of like the “brains” of the curriculum, and the 5-A-Day Online Essentials allows you to put the fundamental review process into action quickly and efficiently. All of these resources are used together to create a custom math program for each child.
I recommend starting with the Overview and Record Keeping binder before trying to dive into the manuals. It explains the philosophy and approach, and includes a Concept Chart (everything that is taught), multiple record keeping forms, FAQ, and other “how to” type information. The Concept Chart allows you to track the progress of multiple children through every concept they have mastered. There is a Beginning Math StudentsRecord Keeping Form, a Delayed Formal Math Record Keeping Form, a Review Chart, and different versions of the 5-A-Day Record. These forms are essential for using the curriculum effectively. I found it helpful to read everything first, then begin working through the Getting Started process one step at a time as I read through again, looking at the sample forms for reference.
To implement the program, you determine every concept your child knows following the “getting started” guidelines. There are different guidelines depending on your child’s age, as well as if they are a beginning learner, steady learner, eager learner, or a struggling learner. With a focus on my 10-year-old who is transitioning from 4th to 5th grade, I followed the instructions for the Steady Learner, described as a child who may or may not enjoy math, may struggle occasionally, but doesn’t usually find math difficult. This is my son. He does well in math but claims to hate it. I began to use the Concept Chart as described, marking everything he knows and could do easily. This process is done for all four of the teaching guides. Then when I got to concepts where I was unsure of his mastery, I began with the 5-A-Day pages. This initial 5-A-Day process confirms which concepts are mastered and which need more review before moving forward with new material. For instance, when checking the concept Converting Percents, Decimals and Fractions, I knew he could convert between decimals and fractions, but I realized his previous curriculum didn’t really teach converting with percents, so he would need more time with this concept. This process only took a few days, but may take longer with an older or struggling student.
Since there are no grade-level distinctions within Math on the Level, I feel it is fairly easy to transition into the curriculum this way, because you aren’t placing a child by age or grade level and hoping it is a good fit. You are placing them according to what they have already mastered, which is the perfect fit. Then you simply move forward with a reasonable sequence of concepts, covering everything they need, but most importantly, as they are ready.
Once you determine which concepts are left to teach, you then decide approximately which order to teach them. There is a potential scope and sequence in the back of the Overview binder that combines the four guides in a logical order. However, it’s stressed that this is only one potential scope and sequence and that parents should only use it as a suggestion. We are still free to move around based on each child’s unique needs.
Each of the four primary guides starts with the simplest concept and works in a logical sequence for that strand of math. The concepts can be taught in the order of the guide, or you can move around within the guide, or between the guides, as long as you are mindful of certain concepts that will build upon one another. I found there was a note when topics that are naturally connected could potentially be taught together, which was very helpful, especially if a related concept was in another guide. One thing that makes Math on the Level so unique is that you will see many references to the maturation of the child. If the child is “not getting it,” you aren’t stuck reviewing it forever with a frustrated child. You are encouraged to move to another strand of math and work on different concepts. I absolutely love that this program does not require me to follow an arbitrary scope and sequence. My son wasn’t ready for some of the advanced division concepts within Operations, so I could continue to let him practice the easier concepts, and we moved to Money and Decimals for awhile, because he’s all about math that involves money! Not being bound to someone else’s lesson plans was very freeing.
While teaching, I found it easiest to pre-read the lesson and have any practice problems or manipulatives ready, because the guide is written to the parent, but it is not scripted. It’s easier for me to teach a lesson if I’m not skimming the material in the moment. Initially, I was apprehensive about so much direct teaching, because we’ve always used DVD/CD-based math, but the guides are well-written and thoroughly explain how to present a concept. Examples are worked out, and there are plenty of visuals. There are frequent suggestions for easy manipulatives from household items, if they make demonstrating a concept easier. The lessons also contain notes and sidebars with definitions, clarifications, and tips. I loved the idea of using graph paper to help children keep columns of numbers lined up correctly. I’m surprised I’ve never seen this recommended in other curricula, but it’s been helpful. Every concept also includes the page number where you can find corresponding 5-A-Day problems. I think one or two new concepts per week is good for us, so we have time to review if necessary, and we have time for Math Adventures. Based on what he has already mastered, this is a solid pace for him.
Once he has mastered a new concept, I mark it on the concept chart and add it to the 5-A-Day Review chart. The 5-A-Day Review allows you to give your child five math problems every day, rotating through previously learned concepts to ensure long-term retention. Occasionally a concept will be dropped from the review process, and some will be replaced by more difficult concepts that practice the same material at a higher level. Concepts can also be combined for daily review so students aren’t doing too many problems each day. Learned concepts are reviewed at least every three weeks, or more frequently as needed. The 5-A-Day Record allows me to note which problems were answered correctly or incorrectly, so I can watch for patterns and determine if I need to change the frequency of practice. To choose the five daily problems, you can just pull appropriate problems from the back of each manual (solutions are included) and write them out for your child. Alternatively, there is the 5-A-Day Online Essentials, and I highly recommend it.
The 5-A-Day Online allows you to login and quickly create a worksheet just by typing in the concept numbers and the level of difficulty for some problems. It is very intuitive to use and will generate questions and answers to save, download, or print. You can choose to “attempt to combine concepts” if you have more than five concepts that need to be practiced on a particular day. There is even an option to import your 5-A-Day scheduling spreadsheet, and it will generate the next problems for you. If you’re tech savvy, this will likely be another important and time-saving feature, though it’s not necessary if you prefer the paper records. If you are a conservative printer, you could still generate the 5-A-Day problems then write them down in your child’s math notebook. This was still quicker for me than going through the teaching guides and trying to choose problems and combine concepts. I loved implementing this as daily review, as opposed to handing over a workbook with an entire page of problems. If you find your child needs a few extra problems in only one concept, there is also a worksheet generator that works similarly to the 5-A-Day Online component.
In addition to the four main teaching guides, there is also Math Adventures and Math Resources, which are full of what some might consider supplementary or auxiliary material. On the contrary, I found these books to be extremely useful for reminding myself why I am homeschooling in the first place. Math Adventures gives great ideas for activity-based math. It teaches you how to teach or review math through cooking, traveling, games, unit studies, and everyday conversation. Math Resources will help you round out your child’s mathematical education with graphs, word problems, and memorization of facts. These two resources offer practical advice for learning to do math quickly and efficiently, to recognize the natural math we see everyday in our life, and to see how the pencil-and-paper math translates to real world application.
Another feature that makes Math on the Level unique is that because it covers all math from Pre-K to pre-algebra, it can be used with an entire family at once. Parents can choose to focus on one topic, teaching the simplest concept to the youngest child, then allowing older children to go more indepth as necessary. So, using Money and Decimals, I can teach all my children by having my four-year-old counting coins, my seven-year-old making change with money, and my ten-year-old multiplying with money. Math Adventures would come into the picture when they “play store” together to practice these skills, or when we work on a grocery budget together.
I think, however, what truly distinguishes Math on the Level from every other math curriculum, whether spiral or mastery based, is that it actually allows the parent to create a customized math plan for each of their children. I get to allow my children to move through concepts as they are ready, without worrying about a 36-week schedule or someone else’s arbitrary scope and sequence.
I believe Math on the Level can easily complement many educational philosophies and all learning styles. Since it is non-consumable and covers everything through pre-algebra, it is extremely cost effective because I can use it with all my children for many years to come. This program has the potential to be time-consuming because of the high need for parental involvement for teaching and record keeping, however it gives me the flexibility and freedom to offer each of my children their own customized math education.
-Product review by Brittney Rutherford, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July 2017