Math-U-See {Review!}: Primer Level

A review of the Math-U-See homeschool math curriculum, from a math teacher!

Here at our house, my sweet, precious, eldest daughter is wrapping up Kindergarten. Now that we have completed the entire Math-U-See Primer curriculum, I thought I would write a review to let you know what I think.

*NOTE: This post is NOT sponsored or affiliated with Math-U-See in any way, and I am not being compensated for this review.*

The basic philosophy behind Math-U-See is to build understanding of math concepts by starting from a concrete, hands-on introduction and then moving to the more abstract. The program is a mastery program, looking for students to practice and master each concept (and be able to explain what they’re doing) before moving on. They state on their website:

“Math-U-See is designed to teach students specific skills that build as the student progresses. This systematic and cumulative approach uses a definite, logical sequence of concept instruction.”

Based on my experience with the products, I would agree with this. The way topics are presented is not only kid-friendly, but logical and conceptual mathematically. I also very much like the concrete introductions to topics. I always introduce a concept to my daughter using hands-on manipulatives so she can hopefully “see” the math and explore ideas before ever moving to pencil and paper.

Another benefit to this curriculum is that the lessons are short. There are not dozens of ideas, vocabulary terms or concepts thrown into one lesson (as is often the case with traditional textbooks). This makes it easier to focus on one skill and master it before moving on.

We also used the workbook that corresponds to the Primer curriculum. Overall, I was pleased with the types of questions, and the amount of practice included. Each lesson comes with 3 practice pages specific to that lesson, 3 practice pages that include review of previous concepts, as well as an application and enrichment page. I felt like this was a sufficient amount of practice for my daughter, but if your child is still struggling, you can generate more practice problems on their website (please note, however, you will have to generate problems from the Alpha curriculum, but most of that overlaps the Primer). While these worksheets are not pretty and colorful, they offer a reasonable amount of work for a 5 year old, and are easy to understand. My daughter could usually do it on her own without much assistance from me.

I believe there are tons of benefits to this curriculum and we definitely enjoyed it this year, however, I’m not sure there is enough breadth to it. It was a great starting place, but there are only 30 lessons, so even if we only did 1 lesson a week, that’s not enough for the whole school year. But in the beginning, the lessons were so easy for my daughter we moved much faster than that, so we finished the curriculum incredibly early. This means I am creating my own curriculum for her at this point, which can be tiring. If you are looking for a complete, take it out of the box and go curriculum, this may not be it.

However, if you are okay with going slow, incorporating a lot of “living math” lessons and math games into your school year in addition to the more formal curriculum, this may be a great start for you.

Bottom line? There are enough good things that I see in this curriculum that I would definitely recommend it, just know that you may have to supplement with other math lessons or materials, especially if your child is gifted mathematically and moves through it quickly.

Will I continue on to book “Alpha” in the Fall? At this point, I’m not sure what we’ll be using for math next year. If I can find it at our homeschool sale, I am planning to purchase Math-U-See Alpha, as well as another curriculum or two and use a variety of resources. Once I have my choices figured out, I’ll let you know! *UPDATE: To read all of our curriculum choices for 2015-16, check out this post!*

What to purchase:

To use this curriculum, Math-U-See recommends the Instructor Manual, Instructional DVD, Student Workbook as well as their block set. I purchased all of that this year, except for their block set. It costs $38.00, which seemed like a lot to me. I was able to find this larger set of base-10 blocks for less, and we had no problems using a different set. (In fact, I think I prefer it).

I didn’t use the DVD much, but my daughter liked watching the lessons, so sometimes I would let her watch it just because she enjoyed it. I don’t think it’s necessary, but it comes with the instructor manual. If you are purchasing from somewhere else, however, you may not need to buy the DVD.

I hope this was helpful as you consider various math curricula! For another perspective and in depth video review of Math-U-See products, check out this one at Confessions of a Homeschooler!

~Math Geek Mama

*Please note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and help support the work of this site. Feel free to read our full disclosure policy here.*

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14 Comments

  1. We have five children, and all five love MUS. Instead of stopping at the end of the level and not moving on until the next school year, we have chosen to get the next level and keep going. There will come a time when my children need to slow down, and we will be glad of the extra time that they’re ahead. MUS has enough levels to get ahead and stay ahead. One of my children is almost two full years ahead of where public school says he should be in math. I’m sure he’ll hit a topic that will slow him eventually, and he will be able to slow down without getting behind.

    Thank you for your thoughts on the primer level, as I have twins starting that this coming school year.

    1. Yes I totally agree! We could have easily moved on to the Alpha level, I just didn’t have the money to purchase another curriculum so close to the end of the year. 🙂 I’m glad your kids like MUS! I enjoyed it and so did my daughter!

  2. Thank you for your honest review. I have heard a lot of good things about MUS… Last year was my first year homeschooling, and i pulled all the curriculum together myself for my kindergartner and first grader. MUS sounds like a possibility for our future.

    1. That’s great! I hope you find what works for your family. I think MUS has lots of great qualities, especially for the early years. 🙂

  3. I’ve used MUS from Primer to Calculus! We LOVE the curriculum. It definetly gets more challenging as the student progresses through the levels. Thank you for sharing your experience using it!

  4. We are using the MUS Primer this year for K as well with my 6 YO. She likes the CD lessons and the enrichment pages the best. Short and sweet. We do school 4 days a week so most days we do 2 pages to cover for the 7 pages a week. To solve the problem of finishing quickly or needing more math (since it’s only 30 lessons and not 36) couldn’t one just get the next years book? That’s what I would do if I needed to show more math in a reviewer situation. However in my state we just need to show regular thorough work so 30 weeks is enough. We just take a week off here and there when we need to catch up on other subjects.

    1. Hi Grace! I’m glad you enjoy MUS and find that it works for you! There are definitely lots of great things about this curriculum, and yes, you could certainly purchase the next book if you’re looking for more work beyond what’s covered.

      At the time, I didn’t have the money to buy another years curriculum, and I didn’t want to get too far ahead. If I were to use it again (and I may next year), I would simply go more slowly and weave a lot more games into our learning. 🙂

      Thanks for sharing your experience! I know that will be helpful to others looking at the curriculum!

  5. Can you comment on why you prefer the 10 base blocks? The manipulatives are my sticking point when comparing a couple of programs.

    1. Hi Linda!

      It’s not that I prefer a basic set of base 10 blocks over the Math-U-See blocks, I just found them significantly cheaper. Try not to get hung up on manipulatives. You can use a set of base 10 blocks with any curriculum you choose, or you can use things you have around the house such as dry beans, candy, or beads and pipe cleaners. 🙂 I hope that helps!

      1. The hang-up is more about whether I’d end up switching curriculum later (and thus manipulatives) than the manipulatives themselves.

        Thank you. It did help.

  6. Hi, this is my 1st year homeschooling. I am interested in the Math U See curriculum. Im not sure what level to order for my children What level do you suggest for a 2nd & 5th grader?

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