There are two different approaches to math instruction; spiral and mastery. Some children learn math better with one approach instead of the other, but there is no one “best” approach.
The spiral approach refers to a built-in review of previous concepts throughout the curriculum as new topics are introduced. The student practices new concepts incrementally and reviews previously introduced topics so they build on each other systematically.
- The child can practice with incremental steps towards understanding new concepts.
- If the student needs more practice or time to understand a concept, there are many opportunities to review and practice that are built into the materials.
- Understanding and skill develop over time.
- The child’s math skills and knowledge does not go stale and he/she is less likely to forget concepts.
- The child is able to make connections between the different concepts as they are revisited throughout the materials over time.
- Some children find it more interesting because they are learning something new and different instead of focusing on the same concept for an extended period.
- Some children find this approach too slow or repetitive.
- Children may be overwhelmed learning a new concept before completely understanding the previous topic. It may feel like the material is too hard to keep up with and remember.
SPIRAL MATH PROGRAMS
- Teaching Textbooks
- Saxon Math
- Abeka Math
- Go Math
- The Good and the Beautiful Math
- Horizons Math
- RightStart Math
- BJU Math
Mastery requires the student to completely comprehend a topic, forwards and backwards, before moving on to the next topic.
- Focus on one topic at a time, in a sequential way.
- The child may work at his/her own pace.
- This approach builds a strong foundation before adding on new information.
- Often prevents learning gaps.
- Commonly used approach by public schools, so may be helpful if the child is enrolled in a traditional school later.
- Some curricula have minimal review and mastery may be diminished without the review.
- If the child needs additional resources to gain mastery, he/she could exhaust the materials in the curriculum.
- Children may become bored or frustrated working on the same concept every day for an extended time.
- The idea of “mastery” can be challenging or stressful for students as it could be interpreted as requiring perfection.
MASTERY MATH PROGRAMS
- Math U See
- CTC Math
- Khan Academy
- Math Mammoth
- Beast Academy
- Singapore Math
- Art of Problem Solving (AOPS)
There are other curricula that take unique approaches that do not fall under spiral or mastery.
- Life of Fred