This is a paid curriculum review for the Learn Math Fast system written by The Happy Housewife contributing writer, Beth.
The Learn Math Fast System is a comprehensive math curriculum for 1st-9th grades written by JK Mergens, a homeschooling mom. It is a series of five books designed to allow students to work page by page and master mental math. I’ve used the curriculum for one month with my 1st, 3rd, and 9th grader.
Previously, I’ve used Saxon and Switched on Schoolhouse/Monarch for my 9th grader. The other children have used workbooks from various publishers to build a basic math understanding for the younger years. I have a strong math background and felt very comfortable teaching any curriculum. However, the Monarch math has been lacking sufficient instruction for my son’s understanding. I’ve been supplementing the instruction from Monarch even though it was designed for the student to do independently on the computer.
I was excited to try the Learn Math Fast System in hopes of finding a solid foundation of no-nonsense math.
Pros for Learn Math Fast
The books are not marked with grade levels. This is a plus for me since some students might be uncomfortable, nervous, or embarrassed about working above or below their grade level.
There are only five books for 9 years of instruction. They take up a minimal amount of real estate on your bookshelf and make it easier to school multiple ages at once.
The company website provides a placement test. It’s a great tool to help decide which book to buy and where to begin.
The price is right. $190 is the current price for all five books with free US shipping. Or you can choose any individual book for $49 (with free shipping). Plus, paying for the books couldn’t be easier. You can checkout through the author’s secure website or with Paypal, if you prefer. You can also purchase the series of books through a number of payment plan options.
There is no teacher manual. You just read along with the student. There are no separate tips or pointers. Everything is included in the paperback text.
Fast, personal customer service. I contacted the company through the website. I just wanted to bring to their attention a small error on one of the printables. Not only did the author e-mail me to thank me for the note, but the error was fixed on the website within a few hours of my comment. This is prompt customer service that is priceless for busy homeschooling families.
Nonconsumable. All the worksheets, quizzes, and tests are found on the website. Your password gives you access to print as many copies as you need. This makes it easier to make copies for multiple students and only print the pages you need.
Concepts taught together. In Volume I, the concepts of addition/subtraction and multiplication/division are taught together. I think this saves time in introducing concepts by explaining that they create fact families (even though this term is not used).
Timed tests show measurable improvement. My kids love the timed tests in Volume I. They get a real sense of accomplishment as they watch their quiz times come closer and closer to the goal time that allows them to proceed to the next lesson.
Some commonly overlooked concepts are explained thoroughly. Volume III has a fantastic explanation for the order of operations. This is the “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally” order for solving equations that most adults don’t remember in correct detail. I love the clear and concise presentation of this idea along with several examples for guided practice.
Instruction uses everyday examples. From the very beginning the author tries to bring math to the level of everyday experiences. Each lesson uses examples any student will be able to relate to and understand. Fractions talk about slices of a sandwich, decimals begin by talking about money, adding uses pennies as counters for concrete understanding.
Hands-on help. From the very first lesson of Volume I, students are using their hands to find answers with pennies. The examples given regarding every topic throughout the system encourage the student to touch math and feel it in their hands. The geometry book (Volume IV) includes a pouch of handy manipulatives to help the student really use math and measurements in a tangible way. There’s even a built-in hands-on exercise for measuring the circumference of a circle. I love the hands on emphasis.
60 Day Money Back Guarantee. Learn Math Fast comes with a money back guarantee. If after completing lessons and worksheets for 60 days you don’t feel that your student is learning basic math, you can return the used books for a full refund.
Cons for Learn Math Fast
You must have internet access to print additional worksheets, quizzes and tests. All the materials are included in the system, however if you want additional worksheets, then you’ll need internet access. There is no option to save the worksheets and tests to your computer. I understand the desire to regulate the distribution of these tests and worksheets, but I would be interested in purchasing a CD containing the printables.
Repeating lessons is common. Students and teachers might have to repeat a lesson before moving forward. My 1st grader worked on Lesson 1 of Volume I every day for a week before even trying the quiz the first time. She understands adding and subtracting, but she is not to the point of recalling math facts. She still has to recreate the problem with counters (or adding on to a number) for every problem. Only after the fourth day did she begin to recall math fact families. She became slightly bored with repeating the same lesson over and over. If this will cause the student or teacher anxiety or frustration, then I’d recommend modifying the lesson while still maintaining the foundational concept.
Some concepts are oversimplified. I understand that sometimes math students don’t want to know WHY something is done; they just want to memorize steps to get the right answer. In my opinion, this just doesn’t build a solid foundation of comprehension to build on. Here are a couple of examples (all from Volume II) about concepts being oversimplified if that is a concern to you:
- The fraction of ½ is offered to compare fractions and show equivalency. However, there is no method taught to compare any other fractions to determine if they are equivalent.
- Most problems requiring common denominators used one of the existing denominators as the least common denominator. In the rare cases where this was not the case, the book instructs the student to multiply the denominators together. There is no mention of finding the least common multiple. In my opinion, this just leads to more work later if the answer must be reduced unnecessarily.
- The idea of reducing fractions is taught without addressing how to find the greatest common factor. Students must depend on incrementally reducing the fraction by small numbers if they can’t think of a greater number that divides evenly. While this process does lead to the same answer, I can’t see how this could be faster than finding the greatest common factor the proper way.
Learn Math Fast would be a great addition to help students master math facts. I can also see this being a tremendous tool as a summer bridge builder from one grade to the next. If you use this to reinforce topics that have already been taught, the student will be able to brush up on foundational skills easily and independently. The sense of confidence that comes with these quick lessons will do a lot to encourage less eager learners that you really can Learn Math Fast.
Learn Math Fast System Giveaway
One reader will win a complete Learn Math Fast system including all 5 volumes! Enter the giveaway by leaving a comment below telling us how you feel about teaching math to your kids. Winner must have a United States mailing address. Giveaway ends November 2, 2012.
Beth K. is a homeschooling mom of 5. Curriculum was provided by Learn Fast Math, and Beth was compensated for her time while maintaining her own opinions.