Comparing Homeschool Math Curriculum
We’ve participated in lots of different homeschool groups and classes over the years. As classes begin each year, my kids all hear the same thing. “Oh, you’re a Saunders?” My older kids blazed a trail of high expectations with their near perfect ACT scores, science fair and math olympiad winnings.
So I frequently get asked by other homeschool moms which homeschool math curriculum I think is best.
That is a loaded question.
After all, the various math curricula share the same basic goal: to teach students to understand mathematical concepts, and to master problem-solving procedures. Most of them are thorough and sequential and incremental — all the good things a math curriculum should be.
I’ve seen a lot of different homeschool math curricula, and I honestly can’t say I think any of it is dreadful (though I can’t say the same thing for a couple of public school math curricula I reviewed for a charter school).
The real question homeschool moms should be asking is which math curriculum is the best fit for THEIR child.
Here are some good questions to ask yourself when selecting curriculum for any subject:
- Does it best fit my child’s learning style?
- Does it fit within my preferred teaching method? (this matters less than the previous questions, but it will be a little difficult to incorporate a super intense, highly rigorous math course into an unschooling methodology. )
- Does it fit within my budget? Will I need to make additional purchases? (One time I bought a Literature-based history program, not realizing that I would also need to find multiple out-of-print, very expensive books) Will I be able to reuse it with younger children? Is it consumable?
- How teacher intensive is it? Does it require a lot of preparation?
- What do reviews say? Have you asked homeschooling friends their opinions?
I’ve created a chart of the best-loved math curriculum among homeschoolers below. But first, we need to talk about a some education terminology. It’s critical that you understand these terms, because you’ll come across them as you begin to search for a homeschool math curriculum.
Conceptual Math v. Procedural Math
Procedural math teaches students to solve problems by giving them a series of steps which must be completed to find the answer to a problem(aka an algorithm). For example, a two-digit subtraction problem would teach students to “borrow” from the tens column without demonstrating that you are actually trading ten one’s for a ten.
Conceptual math clearly explains the reasons why mathematical operations work as they do, or the “concepts” behind math operations. A strong proponent of conceptual math would not teach algorithms, but they why’s behind the algorithm.
A really good homeschool math curriculum will have a blend of conceptual and procedural approaches to math.
Mastery v. Spiral Approach to Math
The terms mastery and spiral describe two of the most commonly-used approaches to teaching math.
The mastery approach focuses on one skill at a time, learning skills incrementally, with each skill building on the previous skill. In a mastery math program, a student develops a thorough comprehension of one topic before moving on. The mastery approach is sometimes called “blocked” or “massed” because concepts are presented in a block or a mass.
The spiral approach is different in that a given set of skills is repeated from level to level, but in greater depth each time. In a spiral curriculum, learning is spread out over time and revisited repeatedly over months and even across grades. Different terms are used to describe such an approach, including “distributed” and “spaced.”
Proponents of the spiral approach argue that learning retention is improved for several reasons: 1)the material is eventually presented in it’s most difficult form, causing students to stretch and 2) making connections repeatedly over time creates more robust neural pathways for recalling information.
Scope & Sequence
Basically, a scope and sequence is a list of all the ideas, concepts and topics that will be covered. The scope is what is covered, and the sequence is the order in which concepts are taught.
Math curriculum for homeschoolers will generally cover the same material, over time. They basically all have the same scope over the 12 years typically spent in school. But they might differ in the order in which things are taught, giving them different sequences.
If concepts end up being taught different years (maybe one math curriculum combines Geometry with Algebra 2 and another curriculum teaches it separately the following year) then those textbooks could be said to have a different scope and sequence entirely, because they don’t both teach the same concepts in 8th grade.
That’s not a big deal if you plan to use the same math curriculum over your child’s entire homeschool career, but it could be a big deal if you do lots of switching around, especially if you use a mastery-based math curriculum without much review, because students could miss out on critical concepts entirely.
Standardized testing also makes scope and sequence a big deal because all the students are tested on the same concepts at the end of each year. If your children are required to take standardized tests and you care about their scores, you should be concerned with scope and sequence.
My kids first tests are AP Calculus in about 9th grade, followed by the ACT in about 10th grade. Because my children have covered the entire math curriculum prior to the ACT, I don’t concern myself with scope and sequence.
Switching back and forth between different curriculum and approaches is not in a students best interest, because of the way each math curriculum differs in scope, sequence and approach. If you have a really good reason to switch, by all means do so, otherwise try to stick with what you’ve chosen.
Now that you have a good understanding of terms used to describe different math curriculum, you are better equipped to evaluate it. Let’s look at several of the most popular choices for homeschoolers.
I will warn you in advance that this is practically an ebook, but hopefully the chart is arranged well enough that you can skip around to find what you want. Don’t feel like you have to read the whole thing! Please keep in mind that the costs I’ve listed are a general approximation. Hopefully, you’ll be able to find used curriculum and sales and deals!
Homeschool Math Curriculum Chart
Saxon Math (Math K – Calculus)
- Teaching Method: Saxon uses a very short spiraling approach, combined with a blend of procedural and conceptual. In the younger grades, Math K- Math 3, moms should use the Teacher Guide and the morning meeting to introduce concepts, as the texts are just consumable workbooks with zero instruction. Math 5/4 on contain instruction and are supposed to allow students to learn independently.
- Includes: You’ll need a textbook, a Solutions Manual, and a Test booklet. Additionally, you can purchase Saxon Live Tutorial CD’s. The Teacher’s Guide is helpful for Math K – Math 3.
- Cost: You can purchase newer editions as kits, with everything included, for $85-$100 on Rainbow Resources or Christianbooks.com OR you can purchase older editions, used, on Amazon for around $20. Just make sure you can find the corresponding (same edition) answer key and other components.
- Notes: John Saxon, a brilliant air force pilot, engineer and math teacher, wrote most of the Saxon texts because he felt math texts of the day lacked clarity. Saxon’s two-digit, grade-level designations in the titles of the courses can help you figure out the correct grade level for each book. Typically the second of the two digits indicates the grade level usage for bright students and the first digit indicates the grade for slower students. Stephen Hake wrote Saxon 8/7 and John Saxon wrote Algebra 1/2, both of which contain the same material. I’ve used Saxon 8/7 in my homeschool and skipped Algebra 1/2, but you could do it the other way around with just as good results. John Saxon wrote the earlier editions, but following his death, his children sold the rights to a publisher, who has made changes to many of the books. Saxon originally included Geometry in both Algebra 1 and Algebra 2, so that students have a good understanding of Geometry by the time they arrive at Advanced Mathematics. In the 4th edition books, the new publisher removed all references to Geometry from the Algebra books and slapped a Geometry book in between the Algebra books. Why sell two books when you can sell three? The Geometry book isn’t Saxon’s work, and it lacks his clarity and simplicity. The older editions are now referred to as the “Classic Editions.” I prefer the older editions, and not just because I already own them all. I read (in Art Reed’s newsletter) that it’s important to stay within a single edition, though — use all 2nd edition or all 3rd edition. He says that some of the 1st edition texts are academically weaker. He also says that the 3rd edition of Algebra 1 is academically stronger than the 2nd edition. He’d know better than me, because I haven’t used it. But my kids so far have aced the ACT and AP tests, so the edition we use must not be too lacking. We use a 1st edition Calculus (the 1st edition does NOT have parantheses referring students back to a particular lesson beside each question, which is difficult), but all the rest of our Saxon textbooks are 2nd edition. Definitely make sure you can find the corresponding edition of the Solutions Manual and Test booklet before buying used books, however.
- Here is the recommended sequence:
- Kindergarten – Saxon K (this covers the same material as Math 1 — why waste time on redundancy?)
- 1st grade – Saxon Math 1
- 2nd grade – Saxon Math 2
- 3rd grade – Saxon Math 3
- 4th grade – Saxon Math 5/4
- 5th grade – Saxon Math 6/5
- 6th grade – Saxon 7/6
- 7th grade – Saxon 8/7 or Algebra 1/2** (See explanation above)
- 8th grade – Saxon Algebra 1
- ***Geometry (see explanation above)
- 9th grade – Saxon Algebra 2
- 10th grade – Saxon Advanced Mathematics
- 11th grade – Saxon Calculus
- 12th grade – Saxon Physics
- I don’t follow the recommended sequence. I start my kindergartners in Math 1 and we work year round (with large holiday breaks and breaks for travel and lots of field trips) and skip the tests (I know Art Reed frowns on that, but I don’t need anyone’s approval) on Fridays. So my kids end up way ahead. Most of them have completed Algebra 1 in about 5th grade, Algebra 2 in about 6th grade, and then we spend 1.5-2 years on Advanced Mathematics, and finish Calculus in about 9th grade. I like it that way because my kiddos are very mathematically prepared for college entrance tests that fall. My high schoolers like to take college classes and finish their associates degrees during high school, so we work on college admissions during 10th grade. Here’s the important thing: if any of my kids objected to or were incapable of maintaining this pace, I’d change it up in a heartbeat. My oldest three were totally on board and my fourth is currently a 9th grader halfway through Calculus.
- Notes: Over the last 17+ years of homeschooling, we’ve tried a few other things, but we’ve always come back to Saxon. My oldest three (so far) have scored near perfect on their college entrance tests, and the highest section for all three of them has been math. My oldest is working on going into the Foreign Service, but my next two are both studying math-y fields (an astrophysicist and a computer engineer) and feel very well prepared. In fact, both of them have commented that they feel their multiple college Calculus courses have been quite easy and they can’t understand the disconnect their college peers express. My kids have responded very well to the the constant review. They love learning a new concept and practicing it a little, then spending the rest of the math lesson reviewing and cementing and delving further into previously learned concepts. I don’t love the Saxon Calculus text as much as the rest of the series. With my first, we supplemented with Stewart’s Calculus in order to pass the AP exam. My 2nd and 3rd children both used Derek Owens math (reviewed at the bottom) for Calculus with great success, and my current Calculus student is using Derek Owens again.
- Pros: Saxon is very thorough. The constant review helps kids to remember concepts.
- Cons: Saxon is not at all kinesthetic. I remedy that with my own homemade manipulatives, games, drawing (I’m an artist and an engineer, so I draw diagrams to illustrate practically every concept) and discussions. Pages are black/white and full of computations and problems. I’ve heard lots of homeschoolers complain about the quantity of review — they find it boring — I appreciate it for my own kids. Some of the word problems are just plain weird, but that doesn’t bother me. The Calculus text doesn’t cover everything the AP College Board outlines for the AP Test.
Teaching Textbooks (Grades 3 – Pre-Calculus)
- Teaching Method: Mastery / Conceptual
- Includes: The new 3.0 version includes a fully interactive, digital student e-book with answer key. Your student will be provided with an account for his math level and he will work online. The old version 2.0 included a set of discs and a physical textbook. You may also purchase a physical textbook separately, if you want, for the new 3.0 version.
- Cost: It depends on what you want. You can find the old version CD’s used. They offer a substantial discount for large families with multiple students!
- Notes: Lessons are taught online (or via CD’s) and then problems are worked and answered in your students account. Program features include reference numbers for each problem so students can see where a problem was first introduced. Here are a few Video Examples.
- Pros: Parental burden is greatly decreased. Students appreciate the format, especially the immediate feedback from the auto grading feature. Students don’t have to wait for mom to teach, help or grade. Kids like the independence, and it’s also great for helping them to learn independently. The explanations are concise and easy to understand.
- Cons: I used Teaching Textbooks with three teen boys I tutored (it was their parent’s choice). All 3 of them tended to rush through the lessons and ignore concepts they didn’t fully understand, just because they learned to game the system — they could match the patterns of the software. I’d look through previous lessons and work through missed problems with them, and I could see where they had completely missed important concepts, but the computer program couldn’t. This wouldn’t be a deterrent for a student who wanted to learn math, but it’s a huge negative for kids who just want to get it out of the way. Also, the verbiage is a little different than in traditional math. Jargon is really important when it comes to standardized testing, especially the college entrance tests. A student might fully understand all of the concepts, but might misunderstand what is being asked if the student’s terminology doesn’t match the test.
RightStart Math (Kindergarten – Grade 8)
- Teaching Method: aspects of both spiral and mastery / Conceptual
- Includes: A book bundle per level. I’ve seen these used, including the manipulative set, for quite a big discount.
- Cost: The book bundle for each level is about $90. Each book bundle includes all manuals and worksheets to teach that level. You’ll also need the manipulative bundle (can be used for multiple levels) which is an additional $210. Be sure to look for coupons and group discounts.
- Notes: RightStart Math is based on an AL abacus, a speically designed, two-sided abacus that is both kinesthetic and visual. It also emphasizes mental math methods and provides strategies and games for learning the facts through the use of manipulatives, and games.
- Pros: RightStart seems to be a favorite among Charlotte Mason style homeschoolers. It looks very appealing to all types of learners. Practice is provided with math card games to provide the necessary repetition for memorizing math facts in a fun and interesting way. Kids who use this program develop fantastic number sense and conceptual understanding. The highly scripted Teacher’s Manual spells everything out, which could also be a con, depending on your preferences.
- Cons: The required (and very necessary) manipulative kit is expensive on top of the required book bundles. You have to be willing to look at this program as an investment. RightStart is very teacher dependent and time intensive.
Math-U-See (Primer thru Calculus)
- Teaching Method: Mastery / Conceptual
- Includes: Instructor Packs include solutions and the DVD, Student Packs have workbooks & tests. The manipulative set is necessary.
- Cost: You can buy a Universal set that includes all of the components of the program for $135-$182, depending on the level. Level up sets are cheaper, if you only need the student workbooks, DVD and instruction manual. The manipulative kit can be reused from year to year.
- Notes: Each level focuses on one topic, with a few subtopics. Each level is divided into 30 lessons, with most lessons taking about a week. This is mom directed for the younger grades and independent for middle and high school.
- Pros: MathUSee is very incremental and hands-on. The manipulative blocks (kind of like legos in that its easy to tell the numbers of each block) provide excellent visual respresentation of math concepts. It does a great job of teaching kids how to manipulate numbers and it provides mental math understanding and practice. It’s very easy for mom to plan and execute. It can build confidence in kids who struggle with other approaches.
- Cons: I’ve heard the MathUSee approach called both gentle and watered down. Pro or con? You decide. There is not as much depth as in other homeschool math curriculum and many moms complain that it’s too slow. One boy I tutored complained that it was tedious and boring. His mom switched him to Saxon, which he liked better. It can be frustrating for kids who aren’t kinesthetic or visual, or kids who just want to get the work done.
Art of Problem Solving(Grades 6 – 12)
- Teaching Method: Mastery / Conceptual
- Includes: Text and Solutions Manual, as well as an online school (of math and computer science classes), an online community and additional online practice problems through Alcumus.
- Cost: New paperback texts with solutions manuals are $35-$70, or you can find them used for less than half that (but make sure you have the appropriate solutions manual). You’ll pay $545-$570 for a semester long, online, synchronus course, not including the required text.
- Notes: AoPS is usually billed for exceptional math students in grades 6-12, who need a challenge. Their own website states that they offer broader, deeper, and more challenging instruction than other curricula. Because this homeschool math curriculum feels prestigious and because I consider my family math-y, I wanted to try it and like it. I looked through the Calculus book and it felt extremely difficult in the same way that one of my teachers (in an elementary school gifted and talented class) used to present us with daily puzzles that required not only thinking skills but also prior experience and knowledge. I must not be mathy enough, or maybe I’m just not mathy in the right way, but I felt like it might deflate my children’s confidence and we stuck with Saxon. I did feel at the time like an online classes would make a huge difference, but Saxon was working well for us and I’ve previously had bad experiences trying to ‘fix’ things that weren’t broken. I might try it again with one of my children who tends to make very advanced connections in her math work all on her own. She also wants more math depth and reads supplemental math texts to find it.
- Pros: It’s a very dense, meaty text. I’m sure that if you can get through it, you’ll get a lot out of it. I love their deep rather than broad math philosophy.
- Cons: Art of Problem Solving is for people who like to play with math — people who enjoy being thrown into a 10′ deep math hole and have to dig their way out. That’s not necessarily a con, but it probably rules out 90% of the population. Also, it’s discovery based and conceptually strong, but there is very little repetition, which is difficult for kids who need repetition to remember concepts. A friend of mine who loves AoPS says her son loves his online class, but feels that it moves incredibly fast and wished he had more time to spend on each concept.
Beast Academy (Grade 2 – Grade 5)
- Teaching Method: Mastery / Conceptual
- Includes: Instead of textbooks, students learn math from rigorous, beautifully illustrated guidebooks that are reminiscent of comic books. Concepts are reinforced through practice problems, puzzles, and games. They also offer online instruction which includes a full curriculum, interactive practice and challenges, and progress reporting. It can be used as a complete, stand-alone homeschool math curriculum, or it can be used as a supplement.
- Cost: You can buy an online subscription for $15/month or $96/year, or you can bundle your online subscription with the corresponding level of books for $150. The Math Guides are not consumable, but the Math Practice books are consumable and would need to be replaced each year. If you’d rather buy the books separately, each level is divided into 4 sections, and each section is $27 for the Guide and the Practice book. So if you want all of Level 4, you’d buy 4A, 4B, 4C and 4D for $128.
- Scope and Sequence: This homeschool math curriculum covers up through Pre-Algebra, which is where Art of Problem Solving begins. I did read somewhere that they plan to introduce Algebra curriculum this year.
- Notes: Beast Academy is produced by Art of Problem Solving. The comic book style is deceptive in that it presents serious, rigorous math concepts in simple, fun ways. Beast Academy contains challenging problems and shows kids how to solve math problems using more than one method. My two youngest tried the online demo and thought it was fun. They both said they’d play it for fun outside of school. Even my 6-year-old completely understood the well-explained lesson. I plan to keep using Saxon, but I bought the practice books just for fun, and even my most reluctant learner likes them. I’m not going to assign problems, but rather just let my kiddos work their way through the books for fun in their spare time, the same way I sneakily use Mad Libs to teach grammar concepts.
- Pros: This homeschool math curriculum goes deeper and is more challenging that other curricula on the same level. Your child may not even realize just how much he’s learning due to the fun format in which concepts are presented.
- Cons: After looking through the level 3 and 4 books, I didn’t see any cumulative reviews or testing. I think that would be a con for my own children.
Mr. D’s Math(Grades Pre-Algebra – Pre-Calculus)
- Teaching Method: Mastery / Conceptual
- Includes: Everything the student needs is included with the purchase of either a live online class or a self-paced class. He also offers SAT/ACT math prep classes.
- Cost: Live, synchronous classes are $197 upfront plus $29/month for 10 months. Self-paced classes are a flat fee of $197, as are the test prep classes and summer classes.
- Notes: In math, the teacher can make all the difference, and Mr. D is a great teacher with a remarkable gift for connecting with his students. I wanted one of my children to try one of Mr. D’s classes, so I signed one daughter up for Mr. D’s math awhile ago and it made such a difference in our relationship. It was a great way to take pressure off and let her be accountable to someone else for awhile. The curriculum, written by Mr. D himself, is all online. Kids can choose to attend a synchronous, online class with peers at a specified time, or take a self-paced class taught via video. Not all of the classes are taught by Mr. D, but the other teachers are just as great!
- Pros: This method truly takes the pressure off mom.
- Cons: The cost isn’t high, especially since it includes the online curriculum as well as the class. But it adds up if you plan to to it every year for every child. I love that when I buy a physical textbook I can reuse it with subsequent children in my homeschool, which isn’t the case with this homeschool math curriculum.
Math Mammoth (Grade 1 – PreAlgebra)
- Teaching Method: Mastery / Conceptual
- Includes: Each grade level consists of two consumable worktexts (a combination textbook and workbook that guides students step-by-step through each math concept) a level A and a level B. Students write directly in the worktext. Word problems, cumulative review, and mental math practice are also included. Tests and Cumulative Reviews are in a separate book, and the Answer Key is a separate book. There is no teacher’s guide. The author also highly recommends a very minimal manipulatives kit with an analog clock, a ruler, and an abacus.
- Cost: Each grade, including level A, level B, Tests and the Answer Key, is about $45. These are hard to find used because they are consumable, but they can often be found at a discount. You can also purchase digital versions and print them at home.
- Scope and Sequence: Comparable to other homeschool math curriculum, but before buying anything, have your child take the Math Mammoth placement test.
- Notes: This is a great curriculum for kids who just want to get math done and out of the way. It is very streamlined. It’s also best for kids who don’t mind completing worksheets and don’t need a lot of hands-on teaching. You can download free samples from the workbooks to give it a try.
- Pros: Math Mammoth uses pictures and diagrams to help kids understand concepts visually. It’s great at teaching children to understand math concepts rather than just memorize procedures.It advertises itself as completely self-teaching, meaning less work on mom (yay!). I think that’s reaching pretty far, because whose children really learn math entirely independently? That said, it absolutely requires LESS input and direction from mom than many math curricula.
- Cons: Because Math Mammoth is supposed to be self-directed, it provides very little guidance to parents. Parents who are competent and confident at math should be able to work around that just fine.
Singapore Math (Grades 1 – Algebra)
- Teaching Method: Mastery / Conceptual
- Includes: Each level includes a textbook, corresponding workbook and an instructor’s guide. Only the workbook is consumable, so the rest can be reused for subsequent children.
- Cost: About $85 for the essentials. The recommended manipulative set is
- How scope and sequence compares to other curriculum: Concepts are introduced in a different order, so have your child take the placement test.
- Notes: 17 years ago, when my oldest was just starting first grade, Singapore Math was the in thing. Everyone was talking about how Singapore students had these incredible math skills, so I bought 3 levels and we tried it. The consumable workbooks are pretty and colorful, but my daughter thought it moved too slowly, so we switched back to Saxon 1, which she had worked on the previous year.
- Pros: Singapore emphasizes mental math (taught from the Instructor’s Guide) methods and problem solving abilities. Singapore takes a concrete > pictorial > abstract approach, which greatly facilitates understanding. The textbooks and workbooks are pretty and colorful.
- Cons: Singapore is pretty time intensive for mom. Lessons must be taught every day from the Instructor’s Guide or the kids miss out on the most fundamental benefits of the curriculum.
Life of Fred (K-Calculus)
- Teaching Method: Conceptual / Mastery
- Includes: A textbook that reads like literature, but with practical applications of math. Many families use Life of Fred in addition to their math curriculum and not as a stand along curriculum, though some certainly do that. You can also purchase the Home Companion Guides for additional math practice, or you can purchase new, “Expanded Editions” of each text, which just combine the original textbook with the Home Companion Guide.
- Cost: Varies, but I can usually find used editions on Amazon or Thriftbooks for a significant discount.
- Notes: I’ve only read portions of LOF Trigonometry (I’ve used it to supplement Saxon) and LOF Calculus. I have the expanded editions of both, so they include extra practice problems. A couple of my kids will read it for fun and laugh over Fred’s antics, while learning/cementing math concepts, and that’s always a win. Two of my children thought it was cheesy and refused to use it.
- Pros: This is a literature-based curriculum. If you have a child who loves literature but not numbers, this could be a great way to learn. (Another fun resource for learning math through literature is Living Math, a website with a a long book list of math readers.)
- Cons: It may require additional practice problems for students to be completely comfortable with difficult math concepts.
ALEKS Math (Grade 3 – Grade 12)
- Teaching Method: Mastery / Procedural
- Includes: ALEKS is entirely online and does not require a textbook.
- Cost: $20 per month per child, or $180 for a year. They offer family discounts. Be sure to look for the 2-month free trial!
- Notes: I’ve never used ALEKS (Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces) but I know it’s popular among homeschoolers and used in many publicly funded online schools like K-12. ALEKS is a research-based, web-based, artificially intelligent assessment (it uses adaptive questioning to adjust the learning modules presented) and learning online math program. It provides the advantages of one-on-one instruction and is accessible from any device with Internet access. It seems to be particularly appealing to moms who simply have no time to teach math, or who lack confidence in their own math abilities. You may take a tour of it’s other features here.
- Pros: Kids can work independently, completely without mom. Feedback is immediate and continuous, for effective and efficient learning. It moves at the student’s pace and continuously adapts to what they need to work on. Students are not limited to one grade level. They can work more quickly and cover multiple grade levels each year if desired. You can print off the worksheets if that works better for your child. Parents can choose to receive a detailed report of their child’s progress each week. ALEKS also offers Chemistry and Physics.
- Cons: It’s a little pricey. There are no teaching videos. The program lacks manipulatives and graphics that benefit visual and kinesthetic learners. I’ve heard a few complaints about software glitches and mistakes. ALEKS doesn’t provide much instruction and works better as supplemental practice, according to many reviewers.
CTC Math Online(Grade K – Grade 12)
- Teaching Method: Mastery / Procedural
- Includes: All of the online curriculum and video tutorials (for all the levels) are included. You may also print pdf’s of each lesson if your child prefers to work offline.
- Cost: CTC Math costs $15 per month or $98.50 per year for individual students. Or you could choose a family subscription for $20 per month or $148.50 per year, which would provide individual logins for the entire family. Students have access to all grade levels for the subscription period.
- Notes: CTC Math is an online, subscription-based, video homeschool math curriculum. It is self-paced, so students can work through lessons as quickly as they feel comfortable. After learning concepts via video, students complete practice problems online, though you can print the lesson if you’d prefer.. Parents can easily track the progress of their students.
- Pros: CTC Math is a great way for students to learn independently. It is easy to navigate, and it is efficient in both the tutorials and the presentation of problems to solve. Students can review videos repeatedly if they need more practice, or they can jump in and try to complete the problems without watching the video if they think already know the concept. CTC Math provides weekly, cumulative reviews for better retention. It’s very simple to use and doesn’t require any extras. Lessons are short and high interest.
- Cons: As with any online program, students may not spend much time actually writing math. The writing itself leads to better retention. Lessons are taught visually, but some students still learn better with a kinesthetic approach, so you would need to supplement with actual, physical math manipulatives.
Khan Academy Math (Grade K – Calculus)
- Teaching Method: Mastery / Conceptual
- Includes: Online video explanations followed by online review problems
- Cost: 100% free!
- Notes: Sal Khan teaches through online, video-based lessons. We like to use Khan as a supplementary tool when we have a question about a particular concept. You can search by topic and the site is very well organized so things are easy to find. I’ve talked with other moms who use Khan Academy as a stand alone curriculum.
- Pros: Sal is a wonderful teacher! I love the way his mind works, and he’s great at explaining concepts simply but profoundly.
- Cons: I personally don’t feel there is enough practice, nor is there enough review, for this to adequately prepare students for higher math. As a frustrated college student in a Differential Equations class, I visited the math tutoring center for help. The tutor showed me a profoundly simple way to solve a problem I had really complicated. I commented that I hadn’t even thought of the simple way to solve it and the tutor responded that I just needed more experience and familiarity with the concept. Isn’t that true of everything? Familiarity doesn’t happen after solving 4 practice problems per concept.
Jacob’s Math (Elementary Algebra & Geometry ONLY)
- Teaching Method: Mastery / Conceptual
- Includes: Teacher’s Manual, Student Text, Solutions Manual, DVD Set. Free homework helps available through email support. Pages are perforated & 3-hole punched for convenience. Ask Dr. Callahan videos work great with the Harold Jacobs textbooks.
- Cost: The entire curriculum set for each level, new, is about $125 at ChristianBook or Rainbow Resources. You might be able to find used sets on Amazon.
- Notes: I haven’t used Harold Jacobs’ textbooks but I have a friend who raves about them. She says that they are very no-frills, concise and simply taught. She was happy with Saxon up through Algebra 1, when she switched to Jacob’s, and she likes Jacob’s better. Here is a preview from the publisher’s website (scroll down and open the Preview pdf).
- Pros: Students find his explanations to be humorous, entertaining and interesting. It seems to be an easy course for students to use and understand, while also being pretty easy on parents. He uses a lot of visual representation to explain concepts, and his books are full color.
- Cons: I haven’t heard any negatives about Harold Jacob’s homeschool math curriculum, except that it’s difficult to find a text to switch to upon finishing them.
Horizons Math (Grade K – Grade 8)
- Teaching Method: Spiral / Conceptual
- Includes: 2 Math Workbooks (consumable) per year, plus a Teacher’s Guide
- Cost: The complete set per grade is about $65
- Notes: I like how the lessons in Horizons are presented visually and colorfully. The lessons are concise but effective and challenging in a basic way. The teacher’s guide has a section with the list of concepts taught in each lesson, along with a list of objectives, teaching tips, materials and activities to teach and expand the lessons. It’s really helpful to be able to see all of that and the scope and sequence at a glance. It also includes the answer key and worksheets for additional practice for those who need it. It also includes a placement test to give to your child.
- Pros: Each concept is taught and then reviewed for 3-5 lessons after it is presented. Then, for the next two months, it is continually brought back as a part of the lessons to help them really grasp it. The approach is gentle, yet challenging at the same time. There are 160 lessons in 2 workbooks. This math is totally non-intimidating for parents and students alike.
- Cons: I’ve heard complaints about it being disorganized in the order in which it introduces concepts. I’ve also heard repeatedly that grade 4 and up are much less thorough than in the younger grades.
Chalk Dust Math (Algebra I – Calculus)
- Teaching Method: Mastery / Conceptual
- Includes: Text and Solutions Manual plus a set of DVD’s.
- Notes: Chalkdust is video based instruction. The lessons are quite long, and they advance through concepts very quickly. Mr. Mosley usually explains multiple ways to complete each problem. Each lesson includes a ton of problems, but most parents just assign every 4th problem. Kids can learn independently, though, with the video instruction. They have great customer support (even if you’ve purchased a used package) and they offer a money back guarantee on any learning package returned in good condition within 30 days of purchase. So you can buy it, try it, and send it back if it doesn’t work for you. I haven’t used it myself, or even looked through it, but it is very well reviewed on different homeschool forums.
- Pros: There is plenty of review as well as an entire review section preceding each test. Kids who use Chalk Dust all the way through the sequence seem very well prepared for the AP Calculus test.
- Cons: It can be pricey to purchase new, but you can often find it used. Just make all of the components match.
Dr. Shormann Math (Algebra I – Calculus)
- Teaching Method: Spiral / Conceptual
- Includes: Textbook, Solutions Manual, Teachers Guide and online video instruction.
- Cost: 24-month ecourse subscription is $129 per course for everything. Sibling subscriptions can be purchased for $39.
- Scope and Sequence: Because it’s based on Saxon, this fits perfectly into the Saxon sequence following Math 8/7.
- Notes: Published by Dr. Shormann, the author of the award-winning DIVE video lectures for Saxon Math, this homeschool math curriculum is based on John Saxon’s original teaching methods of incremental development, continual review, and integrated algebra and geometry. Shormann Math includes concepts like teachnology applications and computer math that are required to excel on the newly redesigned PSAT and SAT as well as the ACT, CLEP, and AP exams. Dr. Shormann teaches math as the language of science and he also teaches everything from a biblical perspective. The Shormann’s are homeschool veterans and very helpful, offering Q&A help directly from Dr. Shormann. Here is a sample lesson.
- Pros: Dr. Shormann is acknowledging and responding to changes in standardized tests and college entrance tests. He is using proven methodology from John Saxon, but bringing it into the 21st century by adding a few necessary concepts. Most of the assignments can be completed offline. This is a great way for kids to learn independently. My 14-year-old, who is currently in Calculus, went through all of Dr. Shormann’s sample lessons and enjoyed his clear, live video instruction. She also loved the Computer Science integration and thinks the immediate grading and feedback would be a huge positive, too.
- Cons: Dr. Shormann teaches Calculus from a religious, Christian point of view. My daughter noticed some minor theological differences from what we believe, but she never felt bothered by it. I just want to make you aware of it in case you prefer strictly secular homeschool math curriculum. I really wanted to love Dr. Shormann math, because it seems like it would be such a great follow-up to the Saxon series we love, and I gave my daughter the choice to switch. But she chose to remain with Derek Owens. She said that DO’s explanations were clearer and more concise. She thought Dr. Shormann was too verbose with the Christian element, despite the fact that we are very Christian and have similar beliefs. I also felt that, after looking over and comparing they syllabi, that students would have a greater chance of success with the AP exam using Derek Owens math.
Derek Owens Math (Algebra 1 – Calculus)
- Teaching Method: Mastery but with plenty of review / Conceptual
- Includes: Online video instruction, textbooks can be printed from his site or you can purchase printed, spiral-bound versions from Lulu ($20-$25 per semester), his TA’s grade all assignments and tests.
- Cost: $15 registration fee, plus a monthly fee. Online, asynchronus classes are $58 per month. Nine months is the maximum payment for any course, even if you need more time to complete the course. You only pay for the time you are enrolled. If you need to stop for some reason and resume later, you do not need to pay for the time away. If you finish a course in less than nine months then it costs less. Live classes (taught in Atlanta) are $70-$85 per month. Families that enroll in more than one course at a time receive $10 off the monthly tuition for each course. There is also a self-grading option. Mr. Owen’s staff will send you the answer key and you grade your own student’s work, and the course is half the regular price.
- Scope and Sequence: Syllabi are posted for each class.
- Notes: Our only experience is with the AP Calculus class. I feel that it prepared my children very well for the AP Calculus AB test. Mr. Owens provides clear, concise videos online, along with a partially printed lecture for each video. Students take notes in the text during the videos. Students complete problem sets following the lectures. The AP College Board outlines requirements for each course designated AP, and his course follows it perfectly. He offers both regular and honors versions of his other courses (not Calculus). The honors courses cover material more quickly and in depth than the regular courses. You can watch a few sample lectures if you want to check out his teaching style. He also offers Physics and Computer Science.
- Pros: Students are entirely accountable to Derek Owens and his TA’s. Mom might need to help the student stick to a schedule, but students submit their work for grading and the burden is entirely on someone else. TA’s are also available for help, and they are VERY helpful and respond very quickly.
- Cons: I wish there was a sibling discount for subsequent years. For example, I wish I could purchase the Calculus course outright and own it for my subsequent children. It feels expensive to keep paying the monthly fee, but I still feel it’s completely worth the cost. A successful AP Calculus test grants your children 8 quantitative literacy credits toward an undergrad degree. Even though it feels expensive, this class is a bargain compared to what you’d pay for those credits from a university.
How do I choose with so many choices?
Whew! That’s a whole lot of homeschool math curricula right there, each with plenty of positive aspects. I don’t know about you, but when I’m presented with too many choices, I end up with analysis paralysis!
So let me make this easier on you by sharing a little secret.
The curriculum matters a whole stinking lot less than the teacher!
I’m not joking.
There is honestly not a best homeschool math curriculum.
The program that will be best for your family is one that your family can get done.
A really good teacher doesn’t have to be an expert on the subject. She just has to be enthusiastic about it. The saying that if mom ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy is all too true. If you are a math hater, that needs to change — or you need to use a curriculum that will allow your child to work completely independently, so you can just be excited about the curriculum not requiring you to touch or look at it.
A good math teacher will explain concepts by drawing pictures to illustrate them and using manipulatives to explain abstract concepts in a concrete way. If a teacher can do that, the book can be relegated to the role of a guide, presenting the order in which concepts are learned, and providing practice problems.
The better you teach, the less the curriculum matters. That can feel like a huge weight, but keep in mind that as a homeschooler you have the privilege of teaching the child, not the curriculum. It’s also a privilege to get a second chance at this whole education thing.
Purchasing Homeschool Math Curriculum
I have lots of tips for homeschooling cheap, starting with always checking for used curriculum first. Amazon, Thriftbooks and local homeschool curriculum sales are a great place to find used math curriculum. Here are a few more helpful tips.
If you can’t find what you need used, there are a few great places to purchase new curriculum for a significant discount. One of my favorite places to check for discounts is the Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op.
I’ve seen most of these math curricula at the co-op for up to 50% off at different times! Group Buys expire and then begin again pretty often, so check back if the current group buy has expired. You’ll need a membership in order to participate in group buys, but you can get a membership for free!
Learn more about a Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op here. Once you’ve registered for the free membership, check the ‘shop’ section and then search under the math section.
Get your free membership to the Homeschool Buyers Co-Op!
Pin this Homeschool Math Curriculum chart for later!
What’s your favorite homeschool math curriculum? Did I miss any of the best ones?