You’ve heard math terms thrown around – Math Mammoth, new math, math mastery, and math spiraling – but what do they actually mean? What do you do if you feel ill-equipped to help your child with math?

It may be that some of us moms went to school during an era when girls were not encouraged toward math excellence. (Yes, it’s hard to believe. We know. But there is a pile of research to back this up.)

Or that may not be true of your experience at all. But for many, math is a sticking point – where the rubber meets the road, when you just have to bite the bullet and choose a curriculum, where the proverbial apples do or don’t fall far from the tree. (What other idioms can we use to describe this math pain point we sometimes feel as our children progress in math?)

Have no fear. 

New Math and Math Mammoth

If you’ve ever struggled to understand how math is taught in schools today, you’re not alone. There is an actual, science-backed reason for this; math hasn’t always been taught this way.

When we use the term “new math,” we are referring to helping students learn something called mathematical numeracy. This is basically a fancy term that means understanding the language of numbers and how they work – not just mathematical operations (e.g. 42 + 27). 

One of the reasons for this shift is based on how students in the U.S. were learning math a few decades ago; math was taught in such a way that students were not actually learning to understand how numbers work. All over the world, students in other countries were grasping mathematical concepts at a deeper level – and scoring better on tests to prove it.

Now, several decades later, educators understand that it’s because students in the U.S. memorized an operational sequence: 27 + 42 = 69. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with lining up the columns and adding. But understanding numerical value and being able to visualize the numbers is something that many students were missing.

The solution involved bar models and mental math, which includes estimation. These help students visualize numbers, and they make our kids more fluent in number sense – both in the classroom and in the real world. Keep reading to find out how Math Mammoth approaches this new math.

Mastery or Spiraling: What Type Is Math Mammoth?

When we describe math curriculum, two terms are used: mastery and spiraling. A mastery-based curriculum keeps drilling down until a concept is mastered. On the other hand, a spiraling curriculum revisits and builds on concepts that have already been taught. To some extent, all math curricula spiral; it’s why we learn basic division in one grade, and at a higher grade, we revisit division and learn long division.

A good curriculum has both mastery and spiraling without swinging too widely in either direction. 

Why Math Mammoth?

  • It’s balanced in its approach to spiraling and mastery. Students spend enough time on math concepts that they get to soak in what they’re learning (mastery that’s reasonable), yet they also learn grade-appropriate skills that spiral and build upon previously-learned concepts.
  • It’s aligned with most math curricula. While we hope that your student finds a home here through the higher grades, we know that families come to us from many different school settings and some will move on, and we want to make it easy on families to transition from any math curriculum and into any other math if they need to make changes.
  • It’s balanced, and therefore, can help with math transitions. We cannot guarantee that every Learnwell student came from a math background in which they covered all the requirements for every grade level. That’s why choosing a math curriculum that does revisit math concepts is so important. It means that because we use Math Mammoth, teachers will often circle back to a concept and discover that, for whatever reason, a student was never taught a specific operation, skill, or principle in their previous math curriculum. This is good news for our well-trained, highly capable teachers! They are very skilled in helping students once a gap in math skills is uncovered. Math Mammoth helps highlight the missed concepts, and our teachers love to help a student recover those skills.