Best Homeschool Math Curricula: Our Recommendations
Getting the right math curricula for a homeschooler is an enormous responsibility and can be incredibly stressful. Each child is so different and justifying spending hundreds of dollars on math textbooks is hard when it’s unclear if the child will actually benefit from the curriculum.
Fortunately, we’ve compiled a list of math curricula for homeschoolers that have been rated among the top for homeschooling families and individual curriculums. Each has its own pros and cons and we’ll cover them all to help any homeschool parent make a decision. These aren’t in any particular order, just a good place to start in the journey of homeschooling children through a mathematical education.
1. Life of Fred
Life of Fred is a story-formatted math series. It’s less of a textbook and more of an interactive journey. It follows Fred Gauss, a child prodigy as he teaches math through the narrative focus of a novel. It is marketed as a series that will make a child think, getting them to process mathematical equations by including them in regular language and not a textbook filled with numbers and equations.
It includes a lot of humor and some silly illustrations to really bring out the interactiveness of the novel-style math books. Some families love it and some just do not click with this style of mathematical learning especially since it is far from the usual style of mathematical instructions. (Source)
Life of Fred is a great resource for helping children to understand math and not only understand it but understand why they are learning math. It focuses on the real-world application in a story format and this can be extremely helpful for kids who need to make that connection to really get math.
A lot of homeschooling kids have at one point or another questioned what they would use math knowledge for in the future. Life of Fred gives them direct examples of what they would see in the application of math knowledge and theories in and from the perspective of the real world. This is a huge pro for the book, as it shows that clearly in an engaging and funny way.
As much as the Life of Fred series has the novel style going for them, it is also a detriment to actually working out the math problems in a simple manner. The kid reading would have to decipher a lot of the math questions and what it is asking from textual-based questions and work off of that. This works great for some kids, and not so well for others.
Specifically, kids with dyslexia or dysgraphia troubles will have more of a problem with this type of math teaching style. There is no workbook material to check that learning is mastered. This is the harder part of Life of Fred as there isn’t a concrete way to prove mastery of the concepts discussed and learned during the course of the book. There is an answer key at the back of the book, but unlike a lot of math textbooks, it doesn’t always show how they reached that answer.
2. Singapore Math
Singapore Math has a good curriculum that builds upon itself as it goes up. It is a good example of how to integrate a more self-directed approach to mathematical textbook work, but also still provide the answers and explanation of problems needed to be understanding what the math is entailing. (Source)
The pros for Singapore Math include that it is mostly consolidated, keeping it very centered and focused on the math concepts assigned to a specific math textbook. It is much more self-directed and has the ability to go at the pace needed to help a child properly understand the math concepts. The images and visuals in the textbook are also a nice touch.
Singapore Math doesn’t go past the 8th grade in the concepts it covers, so a homeschooling parent would only be able to use it up to that grade level of mathematical concepts. The math is all workbook based with no teacher support, and while self-directed is a good way to help students take the reins in their education, it can be a detriment in this case. (Source)
The Singapore Math method also lacks the flexibility of other learning styles, which confines it to a very small potential audience. It’s a toss-up for whether or not a homeschooled child will respond well to a reading-based, readability-required textbook with only a few images for correlation as opposed to other incorporated methods for teaching. There are no hands-on examples and no auditory options, which really breaks down what a child could need for a certain concept.
3. Saxon Math
Saxon Math has a variety of combining effects from several different math sources that we’ve discussed and will discuss, including the introduction of manipulatives into the equation as well as online interactive tools. It has been reported as being something of a straightforward and straight-laced textbook, which has its pros and cons. (Source)
The straightforward, train track way the textbook goes through the different concepts, while also maintaining a revisitation of past and previous concepts helps to strengthen the constant understanding of the math concepts and perpetuate continual learning. This is a huge pro for this type of learning and keeping that learning will help cement concepts for a child.
The cons of Saxon Math are themselves rather straightforward. Most homeschooling parents find that their children become bored easily with the textbook and math problems as it is hard to find enjoyment in the learning. This lack of love of learning costs the attention of the child and eventually the mastery of the concepts and the constant revisiting and repetition will bore the child so much that they won’t consider math an important thing for them to focus on anymore. (Source)
It is also mentioned to be just too much in a moment. The manipulatives, the online tools, and the amount of work in the textbook there are can be quite overwhelming, especially in the K-4 ranges since it is a lot to consume at that age and several homeschooler parents have reported that being difficult for their students. Too much is just as much of an issue as not enough would be, and knowing the line where that is helpful will be better for those who use Saxon Math as a resource.
4. Khan Academy
Khan Academy is among the more recent internet-based resource for math. Which makes it highly accessible to a wide variety of people and places across the globe, but also makes it a little bit less moderation based. It was created primarily to reach a wider base of students that might not have the same resources as, for example, USA-based students. (Source)
The pros of Khan academy include it being free at the moment. There isn’t a payment fee for accessing the countless resources they have available and not just for math. It has a variety of education grades available for kids to learn through and was put together by a team of talented and educated individuals. (Source)
The cons of this internet-based tool are something of a modern problem that many schools and colleges face and have had to adjust in order to combat. These include guessing on quizzes, which a student could take again and retake until they get all the questions right. This can cause pretty big skips that leave a student without mastery or a base knowledge of certain concepts.
Another aspect of Khan Academy is that it is primarily taught through video instructions and some online interactive exercises. There is not much in the way of hands-on or other types of learning. This can get pretty tedious for students, especially ones working off of their honor reporting system, and can be more hassle for a homeschooling parent with younger kids. The boring nature will only get worse if facilitation and side-by-side learning isn’t introduced.
Math-U-See is one of the most highly recommended mathematical curricula for homeschoolers. It covers a wider variety of both simplicity and at the same time, complex concepts that allow a student to make leaps and bounds in their education, while also being able to shift to a different learning style if that is needed. While it is a more expensive option, the results have far outweighed the cost for most homeschooling parents who’ve used this curriculum before. (Source)
The textbooks come with a video series, a basic worksheet textbook, a test book, a teacher manual with an answer key in the back, and depending on the level, a variety of manipulatives that are simple and straightforward, yet engaging enough to be useful with bright colors and a good design.
The whole concept of Math-U-See is that a student can take and apply any one of the learning styles and work towards mastery of a concept. They have plastic films and sheets that have lines in them to simulate and visualize things such as fractions, which for a visual learner is incredibly valuable. In the same way, they teach about clocks using manipulatives in a way that a child can hands-on approach their education.
The whole program can be as self-directed as needed or carefully monitored as a parent can manage. Videos can be watched over and over again until the ideas stick, the same information is presented in text form in the teacher’s manual, and it can all be practiced through the textbooks. (Source)
While much of Math-U-See is a huge pro, there are a few different things that make it less appealing to some than other programs do. The information is very matter-of-fact and much less colorful or engaging than a book with illustrations inside it. A younger child might struggle more with the self-directed approach due to the high volume of electronic and reading-based resources.
Additionally, Math-U-See can be pricey, especially since it gets all the way into calculus with their textbooks. It can be a great resource, but if the funds and resources aren’t available for a homeschooling parent to buy what they need to start their kid on that journey, it becomes less of a help and more of a drain.
6. Beast Academy
Beast Academy is a combination of an internet-based resource as well as taught through a narrative and story method that will engage with younger kids more than a typical textbook might. It introduces a tiny world of mathematical characters inside of a screen and teaches through a game interactive method. It has both textbooks available but the majority of the resources and learning are online resources. (Source)
This game’s interactive learning style is a huge pro, especially for kids who struggle to focus. Having interesting characters, motivating storylines, and things that have them wanting to do the math will motivate and encourage them to learn as they play. It also helps develop a love of learning and a desire to do that math.
The pace is easygoing and calm for the students to be able to choose how much effort and how much time they need to understand certain concepts.
Having a mathematical course solely online is a great way to access the curriculum, but it can also be a huge distraction. Instead of focusing on the math, the story might be motivating, but only really helpful for a younger age group of children, in fact, Beast Academy is marketed towards a younger age group.
Additionally, this is a subscription-based math course that starts at $96 a year. Not the most expensive things, but definitely something to think about before committing almost a hundred dollars. It won’t hit all of the different learning styles and could be rather boring for some kids, while it could be a great hit for others.
7. Rightstart Math
Right start Math takes a similar approach as Singapore Math does and has some similar problems. Something they say right on their website is that they de-emphasize counting. They want students to be more focused on the strategy of learning and less on the numbers. They use an abacus as their primary kinetic tool. (Source)
Perhaps a bit of an unusual take, the abacus is more of an ancient tool for counting and mathematics but has been proven in this math course to be something that can be used to kinesthetically teach math and keep the visual and kinesthetic learners engaged with a very simple object.
While the abacus and the other visual tools that the course incorporates are especially helpful, there aren’t a lot of interactive and colorful, eye-catching illustrations. It is very straightforward and would require a lot more attention from the teacher to help with understanding concepts, running through flashcards, and learning math.
8. Horizons Math
Horizons Math goes through K-12 grades and has a well-versed, teacher-directed curriculum for mathematics. It uses the same spiral-based method of learning with a constant revisiting of concepts incorporated into building on those blocks for students. It includes colors and interactive activities. (Source)
It has a very Christian-based workbook ethic, and this is usually a pro for most homeschooling families. Additionally, it has the same concept of building on previous knowledge to continue learning with repetition.
The program lacks a self-directed aspect as it is credited with being teacher-directed. This is great for younger kids since it usually and will have additional resources walking teachers through how to teach the curriculum, but does make it harder for older, more capable children to take their education into their own hands.