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Monday, November 17, 2008

First Look at MOTL

I hesitate posting about Math on the Level just yet because I have the Starter Set and we haven't used it yet. I went ahead and ordered the rest of the books already though because I am in love.

I have mixed feeling about a few elements so I just share my thoughts, it'll be fun to revisit this post after we've used it for a couple of months. I will not say negative because I don't feel there are true negatives in the program, it really depends on the user, so I'll say concerns instead.

1. There are no grade levels.
Positive: You can move at your child's pace and maturation. You have all you need for K-PreAlgebra (cost-effective) without having to buy anything else unless you choose to for convenience. A concept chart and a suggested teaching sequence are provided, as well as help from other users at the yahoo group.

Concern: There are NO grade levels! Lol. You decide what to teach at what time and you determine what your child is ready for. Of course the suggested teaching sequence is there but if you've used a math curricula- most have the scope & sequence laid out for you. There is no thinking about this on the teacher's part, you just follow the program. This of course is also a positive for the program - you don't have to follow someone else's idea of what is appropriate for your child. If you compare math programs, they are vastly different in scope & sequence - which means it doesn't really matter in the long run.

2. Record keeping
This is really another part of the fact there are no grade levels. There are two things the parent needs to keep track of: the concepts being taught and the 5-a-day reviews. The 5-a-days are 5 math problems that the child solves daily no matter what concept is being taught. The parent provides the problems for the 5-a-days, there are problems provided in the materials. The 5-a-day review has varying levels of frequency: daily, every 2 days, weekly, every 2 weeks, every 3 weeks.

Positive: You can work on what concepts your child needs at their pace. This makes the program spiral and mastery. Concepts are reviewed until a more advanced concept is taught to replace the simpler concept. Instead of using a math program that keeps revisiting the same concepts over and over again each year, the child is mastering the concepts and progressing forward into more advanced concepts as they are ready. The spiral approach is within the 5-a-day review, when the concepts are being reviewed every week then every 2 weeks, finally every 3 weeks. If the child does not do well with the concept then the problematic concept gets taught again and restarted on the review cycle.

Concern: There is a learning curve to figuring out how to use the record keeping yourself, the program provides samples and instructions but how you decide to use it in your own experience, is again...up to you. Another concern I have is the 5-a-days, when I use all of the sample problems, will I be able to make my own? I suspect the answer to this is yes, I will be able to make my own as other users have done or find other resources for problems online or from workbooks. The whole record keeping approach is new to me in math, I'm sure with time it will become second-nature but at first it is very intimidating.

3. Multi-level children can learn together
Children of different ages can be grouped together to cover the same general topic but at varying degrees of the concept. For example:
6 year old is learning how to identify and count money
8 year old is learning how to add or subtract with cent or dollar sign
12 year old is learning how to compute interest or tax
Everyone is learning about money.

Of course since they are different concepts, each child's 5-a-days will be different. One factor that I especially like is that I'm using ONE program for both kids, I can have Camille work on her 5-a-day while I work with Danny on his current concept. While Danny is working on his 5-a-day, I can work with Camille on her concept. Together as a family, we can play games to reinforce the concept.

Positive: Easier on the parent to teach multiple children without juggling multiple programs.
Concern: 5-a-days still need to be tailored to each child.

4. Real life math and teaching moments
Honestly, this was the hook that reeled me in. Real life math, games and utilizing teaching moments in LIFE is what I feel other program lack. Math is a part of life, not just a subject to study from 9:00 am to 9:30am Monday through Friday.

Of course the Concern here is how effective I'll be at taking advantage of real life situations but the positives are apparent. In the Math Adventures book alone:
Cooking: basic cooking activities; metric cooking; nutrition and meal planning/preparation; shopping
Using Money: playing store; games; budgeting and banking; creating a simple business
Travel Time: math games; mental math; math stories; music and memorization; fuel and mileage; maps; charting and graphing
Games: general principals of using games in school; tips for toddlers; purchased games; home-made games; active games
Vocabulary: basic vocabulary words; family vocabulary words; geometry words; geometry words defined
Unit Studies: Unit Studies and Math on the Level

I've already started implementing math in our life- it does take recognizing and optimizing the opportunities though. Yesterday, Danny, Camille and I went to the grocery store to pick up a few items- the kids wanted ice cream. They were both pointing at what type they would like while I was looking at the prices. Pet ice cream half gallon was $2.69 , Camille wanted to get individual pints that were $1.99 each. Instead of saying, "That will cost too much to buy them individually." I let her figure it out.

Camille the pints are $1.99 each so let's round that up to $2.00. How many do you think we'll need? She said, four, one for each of us. I asked her, what is 4 x 2? She said 8. I pointed at the half gallon and said, "how much is this half gallon that we can all share?" She replied, "$2.69." I asked her which one is the better buy? The individual pints that will cost $8 or the half-gallon that will cost $2.69. "Ptch. (I don't know how to translate mouth noises into type) The half-gallon is cheaper! I can't believe they charge so much for the pints!" Camille said.

Okay so in about 5 minutes she multiplied, compared a pint to half gallon and learned to be cost conscious! I'm sure there are other concepts that were touched upon but I'm still learning myself.

I'll figure out the record keeping bit but I'm 98% sure we have a new math program that we're going to LOVE. A few things I didn't touch on- The concepts are parent taught, the books provide all that you'll need including helpful visual aids in color, game suggestions, real life suggestions and different ways to present the concept, sometimes even with different manipulatives. The 5-a-days problems that are provided also have the answers.

Math is not my favorite subject and I consider myself a non-math mom. I don't feel I've touched on every thing about this program, I hope if it sounds interesting that you will read more at the Math on the Level website and join the yahoo group to ask other users.

UPDATE: I've decided to use the Suggested Teaching Sequence and leave the option for rabbit trails open instead of creating a teaching sequence.




Lisa in the UP of MI said...

Thanks for the great review, Jessica! Keep us posted how things are going. I'm currently using Right Start level A with dd, but in a Math on the Level type of way. I might have to consider a switch.

Anonymous said...

If you decide it isn't for you, you might seriously consider christian light education math. It is very, very good. It turned my daughter from a math hater into a math lover. It's spiral, very gentle with just enough practice (without overkill). Much gentler than horizons, and very simple for teacher to use. Check out the reviews on homeschoolreviews and you'll see I'm not alone!

Jennifer said...

Thanks for the review. It sounds like a great program! I am currently using Horizons and also consider myself a non-math mom. It's just not my thing. I like the idea of using real-life situations for math, I just wonder if I would actually be able to implement it. I would love to hear how it is going a few weeks from now once you have gotten the hang of it and can see how it is working for you. I will be waiting to hear what you think :)

christinemm said...

I've never heard of MOTL.

We started with Math U See and it worked so I didn't switch until this year (year 6 of using a math curriculum), for older son. He's onto Teaching Textbooks 5 now.

Younger son used MUS for 4 years and I switched him to Singapore for this year and we'll probably go back to MUS either this year or next.

Good luck with MOTL.

(Most HS parents in my area use either Saxon, MUS or Singapore. Barely any use anything else, at least the people I know.)

jennybell said...

I am currently only doing Real Life math, but as my son is only 5 and I AM a "math mom" (degree in math from university), I don't really feel the need for more. However, as he gets older, I will want to have more of a scope and sequence, plus be able to teach to mastery. Although he does show mastery of some simple concepts, it is not on purpose. Apparently I have just used that concept enough in real life for him to get it.

So, I thank you for the review, because it sounds like just the thing for a "non-math" or a "math" mom!

mommasmurf said...

Thank you. This was really helpful. I'm intrigued by MOTL but not sure about plunging into it. My kids are still young (oldest in 1st) so we use just real life math right now. That works for now but I know I'll need more in the future. Maybe this is the answer...

Heather S. said...

First - found your blog through my google reader - it was highlighted as a recommendation.

Second - I am very interested in MOTL. I first learned about it at a homeschool convention last spring, but I hadn't really started homeschooling yet. My oldest is in kindergarten. Currently we are using My Father's World - which focuses on teaching reading with a little of everything else thrown in. I love the idea of unit studies and it seems lite MOTL would be a great fit, but because it is a fairly new curriculum, I was hesitant to buy it.
I will be interested to hear your thoughts as you actually get into it!!

Kris said...

I post this only because I am getting a sense that you are still searching for the right math niche for your family.

We started with AO Math, switched to MUS, and this year found our niche with MEP. Yes, MEP is free and that is appealing but not what attracted me to it. It is very much about understanding numbers, patterns and mental calculations, through using math. It is not about learning algorithms, drills, or memorizing ways of doing things. It fits in very well with a Living Math approach.

BTW, I am guessing you are also familiar with If not you should check it out.

If I am off base, or you know about these and didn't care for them then just ignor my ramblings, LOL!

Nancy said...

I am very anxious to see how Math on the Level works for you. I am currently switching from Saxon (moves to slow) to Horiizons. But I am not necessarily excited about the spiral approach of Horizons. I am also concerned about retention and comprehension. I like the idea of the Incremental approach that Saxon has but the k-3 program is so slow and so much extra stuff that I am constantly taking out or adjusting. I have extensively read through the Math on the Level website. The life application of it scares me; but the review and process of introducing and reinforcing math concepts is impressive. My number one concern right now is how essential is the life application techniques and am I REALISTICALLY going to be able to do that. Another concern is how easy is it to implement the math lessons and come up with/choose practice problems.