I think the main reason I chose to start with Math-U-See for my son’s math curriculum is because I loved the name. Calling a textbook “primer” makes me think of a one-room schoolhouse in the 1800s. The second reason is because it has a great reputation online – people seem to really like it or they don’t. I think I may fall into the “don’t” category. Before continuing with my review, I wanted to note that I did not buy anything else other than the Primer student workbook. When we needed manipulatives, I just used things around the house.

Primer is the first workbook available from Math-U-See and is often referred to as the “pre-school,” and sometimes “kindergarten,” workbook by people online. One issue with that is that it does start out that way but the early lessons go very fast if a child has already mastered counting that they will soon be doing math that is a stretch for a pre-schooler. My son is four and four months and definitely math inclined. The book moves so quickly that my son is already working on math problems like 100 + 300 and most recently solving for the unknown! (As in blank + 3 = 7) Am I wrong or is this stretching pre-school/kindergarten math? I would at least think this would be towards the second half of kindergarten so the first half of the book should take more than 6 weeks to get though, right!

They do say on the website that Primer is supposed to be a ‘gentle introduction to math” so mastery is not necessarily the goal. Perhaps it could have been easier if I had watched some of the videos, but I just did my best to explain things to him.

Here are a few other things I didn’t care for in Math-U-See:

- It is not a complete curriculum for the year. There are 30 lessons which at most take a week to get through. (However, the rest of the year could be spent in review or moving to a new level.)
- I’d rather have the lessons just be the suggested work for one day, rather than a whole section. It’s motivating to complete one lesson a day, or to be getting through a chapter, and demotivating to spend a week on one lesson. So I’d rather the lessons be called “Chapters.”
- I have not seen the other levels, but Primer did not include enough worksheets for mastery, or near mastery, for some of the harder concepts. I feel a curriculum should provide enough work for an average student to gain mastery. Skipping extra problems because you don’t need them is motivating (we did this earlier on in the lessons) but having to get extra problems because the curriculum does not provide enough is demotivating.
- My son is motivated by math problems written traditionally, which he somehow sees as real math, and is less motivated by how Math-U-See writes some of their problems.
- The Primer level is marketed for pre-school/kindergarten age but requires A LOT of handwriting in the skip counting sections, so math has become for us number writing practice and math practice. On one hand this is a good thing, but it has caused some frustration to my son. Two lessons from now, he will be skip counting 2’s, 5’s, and 10’s at random and having to write out all of the numbers himself. He is mentally there but I am dreading keeping him motivated to write it all out! I try to only correct him if he writes a number backwards, completely illegible, or reverses the numbers in a two-digit number, otherwise we wouldn’t get anywhere!
- I’m not interested in a program that requires watching a DVD for it to work well…on top of that, I don’t own a DVD player.

Good things about Primer:

- The workbook is already 3 whole punched and the pages are easily taken out.
- It is a good “introductory” math worbook as far as conceptually understanding addition, skip counting, etc.
- It has been useful in teaching the one’s place, ten’s place, hundred’s place etc.. My son can read any number up to 999 after using this book (with errors at times of course, but he understands it.)
- Each lessons ends with one or two fun pages that motivate my son to continue with the standard practice and review pages.

So, with all that said, in nine more lessons of Math-U-See Primer, we will take a week off of math (if my son wants to) and then start with Rod & Staff Level 1. (We will probably skip the first 10 lessons or so…). I am also planning to order the first CLE Sunrise and Sonlight Horizons workbooks for supplementation. We’ll see how this new plan goes!

Hope this review of Math-U-See Primer helps someone!