How to Choose the Right Math Curriculum? Things to Consider Before Buying

Choosing math curriculum for your homeschooled child may fill your mind with anxiety, especially if you don’t care for the subject.  You want the study to be fun, engaging and draw your child in – not push them away.

During the early educational years, math should be intriguing.  You want to instill a love for the subject, not cause it to be drudgery.

Children need to know the basics of arithmetic in order to perform lifestyle skills such as budgeting, shopping or balancing a bank account.  Exceptional math skills are needed to succeed in high level math and science courses in college.  Degrees in medicine, engineering or business require superior math skills.

If not careful, parents who experienced math anxiety when young can easily push their bias and aversion for the subject onto their children.  As a homeschool parent, it is important to banish subject biases and cultivate a love for math, science, history or whatever subjects is taught.

Before selecting math curriculum, consider the following:

  • Learning Style:  Does your child require manipulatives and hands-on activities to learn math concepts or will the aids only frustrate them?
  • The Concepts:  Do you want a concrete math curriculum that teaches math formula performance or a more abstract program that helps your child understand the reasoning behind the concept?  Some children like to know why math works the way it does.
  • The Look:  Do you want lively pictures, colorful pages and lots of stimulation or does your child prefer simple, black and white pages? Older children may see the colored illustrations as childish.  Some parents find that too many pictures distract the learning process.
  • Money:  Do you prefer a consumable workbook that can be written in or a textbook that can later be sold? Parents of multiple aged children find using a textbook helps save money when younger children inherit the book.  Some workbooks provide pages that are easy to photocopy.
  • Repetition: Does your child require minimal or a lot of review? Is repetition helpful or is it boring for your student.
  • Time: How much time do you have to instruct your child in math?  Do you prefer an independent approach to math with lessons that are self-explanatory?  Do you prefer learning and teaching alongside your child with detailed lesson plans?

Below are 10 links to math programs that are popular among homeschoolers.  The links with asterisks I recommend because I use or have used them myself with great success.

Have you found a math program that works for your family?  Share your favorites in the comments and tell us why you like the program.

About the AuthorBrenda Rufener is the author of Homeschool Diaries, a home educator of two children and writer. Get more from Brenda on Facebook and Twitter.

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  1. 1

    Melissa says

    Hello, So we are in our first year of homeschooling. My son is in 5th. He loves math but I think he needs more of a challenge. What was your favorite Math program?

    • 2

      Brenda says

      Hi Melissa,

      Thanks for your comment and question. My daughter is a ‘5th grader’ this year. We used Singapore in the past – which I love, but the review got to be a little laborious for my child. She is in Algebra/Geometry now, so I have to implement advanced math sources for her (she keeps me on my toes for math). We are currently using Art of Problem Solving (AoPS) with Life of Fred as a supplement. AoPS is a challenging program with lots of MATHCOUNTS questions. Her favorite though (and mine) is Life of Fred. It’s fun, whimsical, but solid in math skills. We have always supplemented with Life of Fred, but the higher level books really don’t need supplementing. For example, one of the books is ‘Zillions of Algebra Practice Problems.’ There is a lot of practice and with algebra, that’s a necessity!

      Hope that helps.

  2. 3

    O Butter says

    You are missing the one we are using and loving: Right Start Math

    • 4

      Brenda says

      Glad this one is working for you. I have not used Right Start Math but understand that it is a great hands-on learning approach. Lots of aids and manipulatives, right? Thanks for sharing what is working for you.

  3. 5

    Tonya Mills says

    Do you know if Right Start Math is Core Aligned? We have used Math-U-See for the past 2 years and have loved it until I found they were explicitly Core aligned. We like the manipulatives and aids, though.

    • 6

      Tonya Mills says

      I looked and the 1st edition is not…I may look into this!

      • 7

        Brenda says

        Tonya, you are correct. The 1st edition was not core aligned, but according to their website the 2nd edition is, but the company states they have provided 70% above the core standard.

  4. 8

    Chelsey says

    First, Can someone explain what core aligned means?

    Also, my son will be starting official homeschool this fall. He will be five inDecember. I have narrowed it down between Saxon and Math U See. Since you’ve used both and have asterisks by both can you give me your opinion ok which is best for early years?

    • 9

      Tonya Mills says

      I love Math U see, but cannot use it next year on principle. As to what Common Core is, it is an unconstitutionsl standardization of our schools that contains over 400 areas of data-mining on our children. The reason it affects homeschoolers is because #1 it coould lead to a nationalized curriculum that we will be required to follow and #2 it is going to also affect the ACT/SAT and may end up leaving our children unable to enter college because they haven’t been taught to the test. The education freedom coalition has tons of info and links you may want to read if you have further questions.

      • 10

        Tonya Mills says

        Actually, I peeked at that page, and its their facebook page with tons of info.

      • 11

        Brenda says

        Thanks for providing this information Tonya. I am doing a lot of research on Common Core, but you summed up the bulk right here. I have a difficult time believing private institutions and Ivy League would ever accept this as a standard. Love that the homeschool community is fighting against this.

  5. 12

    Denee Koonce says

    What is wrong with being core aligned? I don’t really ‘get’ the animosity from the homeschool community towards having unified standards. The Common Core just ensures that your kids are learning what they need to be learning based on their grade level. And if your homeschool adventure is intended to be for a specified time and you intend to get your kid(s) back into a school at some point, it’s helpful to know that they won’t be way behind. Or how far that they have zoomed ahead.

    • 13

      Tonya Mills says

      I don’t intend to send my kids to public school. Also, the data mining in Common Core is quite disturbing. I explained a little in the post above. I find it to be terribly dangerous.

      • 14

        Brenda says

        I agree Tonya. It is alarming and something we should be very informed about.

    • 15

      Brenda says


      Thanks for your question. While I can only speak for myself and those I have heard from in the homeschool community, I think the problem is that Common Core meets the minimum. As homeschoolers we don’t believe in a bare minimum concept for education and learning. We enjoy the freedom of allowing our children to help lead their education through preference and passion. For example, my child loves math – I mean loves it. She would do it all day every day if she could. For that reason, we allow her to really focus on the subject. Now, if it were poetry, music, writing – we do the same thing. With Common Core, we would need to focus more of our attention on ‘teaching to the test’ rather than allowing our kids to pursue their passions. This is very troublesome. Personally, we cover everything required, but if my child hates map work and geography – we do it lightly and let her focus on what she loves. Hope that helps some. Ask away if you have further questions.

      • 16

        Denee says

        Just because my GT l9 yr old LOVES science and would do it all day long if I let hike doesn’t mean that he should do it all day long. I actually focus more time on writing and math specifically because my son IS weak in those areas. Obviously if your kids are not in public school then they are not part of any data mining which you obviously feel pretty strongly about. Growing up in a small, rural town and now living in the suburbs of a major metropolitan area I have witnessed educational imbalances among those communities. The CC is just a minimum standard. So blow on by it and go on your merry way. I still don’t understand the vitriolic response from the homeschool community. Why are you even worried about it?

        • 18


          Because of the potential to become required for homeschoolers as well. Because the public school model does not work. If it did, maybe we wouldn’t homeschool.

  6. 19

    Christina V. says

    This is our first year to use a math curriculum (kindergarten). We use Horizons Math K, which my 6 year old son does not love, but is a good program. I have purchased The Critical Thinking Co.’s Mathematical Reasoning for first grade. My son asked if he could start it as soon as I showed it to him.

    • 20

      Brenda says

      Thanks for sharing Christina. We love The Critical Thinking Company resources. I don’t know too much about the math reasoning, but we do use about 6-8 other products by them. I don’t see how you could go wrong with CTC. That is wonderful about your son! Thanks for your message.

  7. 21

    Kimberly Moore says

    Great article. I was ok at math, but never loved it. As a teacher, I was aware of many math-phobic peers. I discovered math gnomes years ago by accident and set out to create a basic math introduction for all children, not just waldorf children. Arithmetic Village was then created over years and years. while homeschooling my now older daughters. Now other Homeschoolers are starting to give it a go. Have a look at Arithmetic Village dot com. I firmly believe introducing math gently and creatively can change the way many people perceive math!

  8. 22


    My kids have personally been very successful with Math U See. I don’t care if they are aligned or not, as their curriculum rocks. It’s not constuctivist, but direct instruction with incremental steps leading to more and more understanding. Start at the beginning of a concept, work to the ends. Plus their Systematic Review cycle totally rocks.

    I have tried Singapore, Saxon, and Modern Curriculum Press as well. I like Math U See above all of these listed. I use Math U See for all of my homeschool co-op math classes as well. It works very well within a one-time per week math class structure.

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