TOS Review–Math U See Algebra 1

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So excited that we were able to review Math U See’s Algebra 1. It came at the world’s best time for us.

Here is what we received:


  • Manipulative Block Set – $38.00
  • Algebra/Decimal Inserts – $22.00


  • Algebra 1 Instruction Pack – Hard Bound Instructional Manual and the DVD video for each lesson. – $57.00
  • Algebra 1 Student Pack – Student Workbook that has the Lesson Worksheets, Review Pages, Honors Pages and Tests – $32.00

Nathan was half way through the school year for Algebra 1.  We had been using a combination of two programs to help teach both of us Algebra. If Nate ran into a question, I’d have to spend a couple of hours researching to figure out how to work the problem, then really listen to him to figure out his exact question, and the work out the problems together. This was taking about 2 hours per day. No Bueno.

What we needed in a math curriculum:

  • Informative video
    • that showed a couple of different ways to work the problem
    • gave time to work it on paper
    • engaged the student
    • sparked Ah-Ha moments.
  • Student Workbook
    • that was clear with black and white text,
    • did not require reading to understand concepts,
    • focused on problems to practice new skills
    • provided review questions of prior skills
    • and gave challenging questions if desired.
  • Teacher’s Text
    • that could help me explain skills verbally or
    • be used by Nate to understand the concepts.
  • Answers
    • that were written out showing how problems were solved.
  • Community Resources
    • with Forums and ways to contact the vendor with personal specific questions.

After taking the placement tests, watching the overview and sample videos, and reading the Table of Contents on the Algebra 1 page, I was certain that Math U See would be the perfect fit for all of our needs.

When I would ask a question on line about our Algebra struggle so far – it was always a mom who had been working with Math U See that could answer us correctly.

When I asked families that did well in math what program they used –the only confident answers with smiles I received were from Math U See families.

We only had one question left to answer – Would it be a fit for Nate as a student – and Me as the leader?


The first day – we jumped into where we were – Coin Problems. Coin problems gave ways to use the Solving Simultaneous Equation problems, and it wasn’t ‘easy’. So we backed up three lessons:

  • Solving Simultaneous Equations by Graphing
  • Solving Simultaneous Equations by Substitution
  • Solving Simultaneous Equations by Elimination
  • Coin Problems
  • Consecutive Integers
  • Multiplication and Division with Exponents
  • Negative Exponents and Raising Exponents to a Power

We watch the videos on the DVD on either the TV, desktop computer or Laptop. I prefer the TV so that it is easy for me to watch along too. Then we work on Lesson A – problems that focus on the skill learned. There was a slight learning curve to figure out the teacher’s questions and how he wanted them answered, but our answers were correct, and reading through the answers written out – showed how they wanted it broken down. This was a quick and easy beginning. The biggest thing? For the first time – ALL YEAR – he did all of the questions alone, without requiring help, and got ALL of the problems solved correctly.

I was overjoyed.

Today we started Lesson 20 – Negative Exponents and Raising Exponents to a Power. I just love watching the videos now and getting the ah-ha moments. After watching quite a few we have gotten to know the teacher a bit more. I like it when I get the answer correct along with the class and he says, “Ok, You’re getting this!”  I want to pause the DVD and clap. He’ll ask another question and Nate and I will answer him and he’ll respond with, “Where did you figure that out?” and Nate will explain, and then he’ll explain to the class. It’s very interactive. I giggle when he says, “I have a funny little mind” and then goes to show how he’d solve the problem a different way than he just showed us. Today’s lesson started out foreign to me. I’ve had troubles with negatives and positives. A few minutes into the question I was solving correctly and understanding!

But this isn’t really about me. Wait – It IS about me, because we are homeschoolers. The bottom line is – I need to know the math enough to help my boys – or know enough to know when to get help. I asked Nate if he enjoyed Math U See and what he liked or didn’t like.

He responded that he likes how the guy teaches. Nate likes to understand, really understand why in problems and solutions. We both get snagged when we are being taught “what” but not “why”. In today’s video – he didn’t share the what until the end – how to make a formula to represent what we were doing.

For Nate’s cons – he wishes we could hear the students better when they answer questions. I’m the chatty one, so I answer out loud when he asks a question, but Nate is a thinker/listener so it bothers him when he can’t hear. He says it is distracting in the video, knowing that there are kids in the room that you can not see or hear.

He said that there was too much review. Today – we switched up our learning to match what was suggested on the site.  There are 2-3 days of New Concept Review – then 2 days of Year Long Review – then a day of Honors Math. Now that I feel he has ‘caught up’ and filled in a few gaps from the first half of the year we will –

Watch the video – work on a skill worksheet A. If he answers quickly and with mastery, then he can move to the Review Sheet – and then move up a lesson. If this goes smoothly with mastery, we will continue on, if there are mistakes, we will take advantage of the extra worksheets.

Nate grasps math quickly and fully when he understands it. My second son, Jon, can use a full worksheet of problems before he understands the concept. He is a learn by do. I’d use the second and maybe third concept review for him each time. Nate is a learn by watching and hearing – and once he has it – it is set. Review is frustrating for him.

In the text and videos helping you with the curriculum, Math U See agrees that they do not intend for students to be bogged down with extra review for mastered skills either. Nate was glad to hear that.


I can’t tell you the peace we have in the home with math right now. It makes the rest of our day more enjoyable for sure.  I asked Nate – If we had 200 dollars – and needed to purchase Algebra 2 right this minute – thinking of all of the curriculum you have used – and you had the sole power of purchase – What would you buy? He said and XBox. Sigh. And then he said with a smile – Math U See for sure – this has been the best math ever.

What about the Manipulatives?  I am thinking that since we jumped into the second half of the book, that we may have missed using them. However, in the video on their Algebra 1 website – it shows using the manipulatives and I think we use them in the next lesson with Polynomials. It was from watching him use the manipulatives that helped me see this is what would work for us. Both boys used a curriculum that was based on rods for pre-3rd grade. (Update – we have been using the manipulatives to factor Polynomals and can see from the book that they are key to quite a few concepts to come.)

My only – only – regret – so far in Homeschooling – is that we did not switch to Math U See in the 3rd grade – or the 2nd grade. I regret that we tried  used or free or hand me down books for all of these years. It all worked out ok – but it is my single homeschool regret. At least it made me a math curriculum expert! ha!

(UPDATE) I’m now on a bandwagon to try to get all of my friends switched to MUS. We are almost done with Algebra 1. I thought it would take all summer to get through it, but with the skills so easy to grasp with this teacher – it is moving along quickly, with mastery, and smiles. Now I will be one of those moms with a peaceful smile when the other moms cmoplain about math.


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Disclaimer: I received all of the above products for Free from the Schoolhouse Review Crew. I choose to be on the list that may be selected, I chose the level of product. I agreed to use it in our home for several weeks and to write an honest review that contained what the product is and how we used it. I am disclosing this in accordance with the ever changing FTC regulations.

About +Angie Wright

The Transparent Thoughts of an Unschooling Family of Boys - Answering the question - What DO you DO all day?
This entry was posted in Math, Reviews, Schoolhouse Crew and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to TOS Review–Math U See Algebra 1

  1. coricox says:

    Thank you for this review!! I would LOVE to see MUS in person before purchasing. After using Horizons 1-4 I’m not sure the placement for the kids, the placement tests were very simple. One kid hasn’t done multi digit multiplication yet but otherwise she has multiplication down. I can’t figure out if I need the biggest set for each level and the guy over the phone was less than helpful.

  2. Pingback: When I don’t want to teach it . . . | Pebblekeeper

  3. Oh Angie, your last paragraph is sweet music to my ears. We are using the same curriculum your boys used as little guys. I have really been contemplating Math-U-See so we can follow one program all the way and not have to switch.

    Thank you,
    Julie C.

  4. Angie, that’s what we’ve always done with Math-U-See: the girls do the first practice page (A), and if they score 85% or higher on it and are obviously comprehending it well, then the next day, they do the first review page for that lesson which includes a little bit of the new concepts and then reviews some of the older concepts they’ve done in the program. One of the girls has hardly needed lesson practice pages (B) or (C), and my other daughter sometimes does. We do the same with the review pages. If they score a solid B or higher on the first review page for that lesson, they are finished with that lesson and don’t need to do an additional review page for that lesson. It’s nice to know that those extra pages are available, though, for students who need them.

    I’ve heard people say over the years that Math-U-See is a bad program because each year focuses on only one concept (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, decimals) – until Pre-Algebra is started. This really is a misconception. After addition is taught in the first main book, the second book uses addition to check the student’s subtraction work – so they are still doing addition all the time. When multiplication is introduced in the 3rd book, I think most people would agree that when a person does long multiplication, they are also doing adding, so obviously, adding is reviewed along with multiplication. And when book four focuses on division, obviously subtraction and multiplication are a big part of doing long division. The book focusing on decimals has students adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing decimals, so it would be pretty tough for a student to forget how to do the previous learned skills using Math-U-See.

    Interestingly enough, when we started homeschooling in our area in 2002, no one I knew used Math-U-See. Everyone was using Saxon Math down here, and they were horrified that we had decided NOT to use Saxon! My dad, a mechanical engineer and math specialist, looked at the sample materials from Saxon, Math-U-See, and Moving With Math or Making Math Meaningful (I don’t remember which one) and maybe Abeka, and he thought that Math-U-See was superior because of the way the “whys” behind the math was being taught. Funny thing is that almost everyone down here uses Math-U-See now! It is so much easier for a lot of families. We love it! 🙂

  5. brooke says:

    Wonderful and helpful to hear! I do wonder … would you still use Math Mammoth extras? I feel like my kids do need to return to some review. Can you save some of the mastery and go back for review practice or something? We need to do Algebra I next year, so need to know. Thanks!

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