Every homeschooler wants to make the best choices for their children, and one of the questions I am asked the most is, "What is the best math curriculum?" Actually the answer is, "All of them." Every student learns differently, so every single math curriculum (or spelling curricula, or english curricula, or science, etc.) is the best for someone. The best question to ask is actually, "What is the best curriculum for my child?" This is a harder question to answer, but once the work is done to define all the criteria, the result will be the best possible solution for your child.
Step one, in figuring this out, is to understand the different types of math curriculum.
Traditional/Sequential: These programs take one step at a time and have lots of rote memorization. The student learns the basics first and builds on what they know. This is how your parents learned math.
Abeka, Rod and Staff
Spiral Math: These math programs present a new math concept everyday and usually have 4 - 10 problems to work of these new problems and then have a larger set of "Practice Problems" which review all the math which has come before. Think of a spiral staircase: always going up, but always going back around as well.
Saxon, Horizons, Teaching Textbooks, Bob Jones
Conceptual Math: These math programs present the math concepts in ways which emphasis understanding over memorization. For young students these programs will teach with pictures and stories without emphasis on math fact memorization. These programs usually do not review as much as spiral math, but strive to make sure the student understands the concepts.
Miquon, Singapore Primary Mathematics, Making Math Meaningful, RightStart Math, MathMammoth
Developmental Math: These math programs work something like a pyramid. They make sure the foundation is solid before they move to a new concept. Usually one concept is presented and worked on for a long time, and the next concept builds on the one before.
MathUSee, Developmental Math
Living Math: Uses "living" books, life experiences, games and activities instead of textbooks to learn math concepts. The idea that finding math fun and engaging will encourage a child to pursue the skills needed to do it on their own. For example: a child who needs to know their addition and subtraction facts to win a math game with their siblings will work on them and enjoy learning them so they can win the game.
MathIt, Life of Fred, living books, games
Student Focused:These programs are designed so the student can go at their own pace or the parent can teach to their specific need. Some programs are a combination of some of the other philosophies above and include games, flashcards and worksheets.
Math on the Level, Mastering Mathematics
The next questions to answer are about your child. Do they need stimulation and like bright colors, or would lots of color be distracting to them? Do they learn hands on? Does math seem to come easy or hard? Have they already decided they hate math? Some curricula comes with manipulatives, some are textbooks and therefore the student will have to write
down all their own problems, some are worktexts so they can work right in the book, and some are on the computer. How you feel about it matters too. How much time do you have to teach the lesson, play games, and work with manipulatives? Which philosophy of teaching math seems right to you?
Make sure you consider all of these questions before picking a math curriculum for your child and you will have chosen the best curriculum.