Math-U-See Calculus: A TOS Crew Review

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Up until this review, Calculus was the one level of Math-U-See I had not used. We tinkered with the primers, but my first real engagement was with Delta and I used each level right through Pre-Calc. My middle son finished through Geometry, and my youngest is the one who it didn’t jive with. Because of his learning style, he needs a “Math-U-Hear”.

I must confess that teaching calculus is out of my comfort zone – I bailed teaching math after geometry and my boys became independent with Steve Demme as their sole teacher. When dad couldn’t help them figure out how to work through a problem, the Math-U-See support staff was available and indispensable. Pre-calc posed some challenges for my eldest last year, but it was easily rectified. I called the Math-U-See support number, handed my son the phone, and an hour later he understood what step in his “proof” he had overlooked.

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Math-U-See has been my personal choice math curriculum for the last seven years for a reason – Steve Demme is a fantastic teacher, versatile enough to teach the easiest concepts right through to the most brain wracking formulas and principles associated with higher level math. He talks to the student, has mastery of the subject, and an ease with a splash of humor in his presentation style.  Aptly named, Math-U-See is perfect for visual learners. The lower/middle grades make good use of manipulatives.  Mr. Demme uses many visual examples and common sense scenarios to accent the mathematical demonstrations. The instructor’s manual is a complement to the DVD – which is simple to navigate and can easily be picked up where you last left off.  Treat it with care though, scratches are never good for maintaining DVD quality.

In this full year Calculus program, you get the combined instructional DVD/companion hardcover (nearly five hundred paged) manual for $92. The consumable student text  is $32. The thirty lessons are taught to the student by Steve Demme (via DVD) and depending on the concept, vary in length from 10 to 45 minutes.  Ideally, four days are lesson practice and the fifth day can be used as test day (my son chooses not to do a test unless he has difficulty and would then use the test as an extra worksheet). The first five lessons are primarily review of fundamental must grasp concepts of a moderate to advanced level of algebra. It works through trigonometry and graphing and then delves into introducing the basis of calculus such as functions, continuity, domain, range, derivatives, integrals, differential equations, optimizations, and more. Some of this was taught in pre-calc, but the student may not have recognized it as calculus concepts.

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Due to its advanced nature, calculus is not a subject that all homeschool students will tackle.  A solid foundation in algebraic principles is necessary, and still it may require an initial immersion with a revisitation later. What helped my son be successful with Math-U-See calculus was that this was not his first exposure. Prior to this review, he completed an eight week non-credit MIT calculus course via You Tube. With a prior introduction a student could reasonably move faster through the first five review chapters and reach the meaty portions of the program more quickly. Otherwise, follow Mr. Demme’s advice on how to approach his calculus:

You may spend a day on a new topic, or you may spend several days. There are so many factors that influence this process that it is impossible to predict the length of time from one lesson to another…If you move from lesson to lesson too quickly without the student demonstrating mastery, he will become overwhelmed and discouraged.  If you move too slowly, your student may become bored and lose interest in math.

work book problemsHere’s a few thoughts my son had to share about the last six weeks of working through Math-U-See calculus:

The program is heavy on graphing on the first five chapters, and of course is very visual.  I didn’t plan for this amount of review, and could have gone through the beginning quicker as I was ready for the new concepts. The instruction manual provides extra explanations and examples with two variations of the problem in addition to Mr. Demme’s lesson example. It took me about thirty minutes a day to complete a worksheet (four per lesson).  I am an independent student and like this kind of curriculum that allows me to remain independent.  Someone who isn’t as motivated or doesn’t keep up with math every day will have trouble with this approach.  I liked that adequate review was offered, and that the math problems were challenging. I didn’t like the amount of graphing in the beginning, it did get tiring.

 

graphing

Mr. Demme is a great teacher, I felt like he was my personal tutor. He knows how to share his knowledge in a way you can understand.  He eases you into the subject, has a clear path. This is a good course for a high school senior like me, who enjoys math. Mr. Demme has been my math teacher since seventh grade. In case he’s reading, I want to say thanks and let him know I got a perfect score on my Standford math test last summer and tested at the pre-calc college level last year when doing placement testing for community college. The majority of the other students testing with me only qualified for the college algebra level.  Oh, and even though I only agreed to use this curriculum for a six week review, I like it and am enjoying it enough that I plan to finish it.

 

I am so proud of my son, and grateful for the help Math-U-See has provided in developing his solid foundation and for reinforcing the love for math he has shown throughout his K-12 homeschool education. There are many more perspectives on the various levels of Math-U-See. Be sure to check out more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

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