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Mar 14, 2016

Math-U-See Digital Pack TOS Crew Review

Have I ever mentioned how much I dislike teaching math, and Mal and Xav dislike learning math?  Well, short answer is "a lot."  Like, a really lot.  About the only things that make math enjoyable around here are videos and manipulatives.  Demme Learning's Math-U-See has both of those things.  You've probably heard of Math-U-See.  They've been around for over 20 years!  We used Alpha before and it was enjoyed, but for reasons I'll discuss below, we stopped after that.

Recently, we had the chance to look over Math-U-See's Digital Pack for Gamma: single and multiple-digit multiplication.  The boys were (almost) ecstatic to get to pull out their old math rods again.  Of course, about half of the time is spent building things that have nothing to do with math!  Luckily, or not, our rods are so ancient, they don't hook together like the newer physical rod sets do.  Makes it a little more difficult to get off track that way.

What is included in Demme Learning's Digital Packs?
  • Online access for one year to streaming instruction videos at the level chosen (Gamma, in our case),
  • Instruction Manual PDFs, 
  • Lesson and test solutions, 
  • Skip Count Songs MP3s,
  • Skip Count Songbook PDFs, and other online resources from any browser. 
You'll also have access to the Math-U-See Digital Manipulatives, using Chrome or Safari browsers.  *Note: I was able to use the Digital Manipulatives on other browsers without issue.

These are the control buttons on the manipulatives screen.  You can change to one of four different backgrounds and lock in your selection, change from whole numbers to decimals, make notes, get help, erase notes, or throw away all of your hard work. I just had to use the note button to write on the screen!

Here are three of the backgrounds.  The final one is just blank, no dots or anything.  If you're familiar at all with Math-U-See, you might recognize Decimal Street.  We still have a huge tri-fold street that we made.  Just grab hold of the rod you want to use and pull it onto the screen.  They can be flipped over and rotated.  Just like you might do with the physical set.  When you've finished, click on the garbage can to disappear 'em!

Another thing you can use the digital rods for that we would do with the physical set is play.  Sigh...

We also used the worksheet generator, which can be printed for most lessons in each of the levels.  You select the number of columns and rows and the range of lessons for each worksheet.  I used this a lot for Alpha pages for Merrick's "school" while the big boys worked on their Gamma worksheets.

I found tons of other files available under the Parent Resources tab.  There are webinars, worksheets for each level, and an online fact drill app.

Demme Learning Math U See Review

What is *not* included?
  • Student Pack (workbook and test booklet - This piece is necessary to use the Digital Pack.),
  • Physical Integer Block Kit (manipulatives),
  • Physical Instruction Manual and DVD.

Demme Learning does not use grades, but levels, in both Math-U-See and Spelling You See.  You'll definitely want to take the placement test to get an idea of where you should start.  Mastery is expected as students move on at their own pace in Math-U-See.  Their manipulative rods are a necessary component of the multi-sensory curriculum.

The digital format makes the lessons completely portable.  Using a laptop or tablet, we can access the lesson videos anywhere with internet.  We can sort of use the digital manipulatives on my Kindle as well, but once I scroll to access the rods at the bottom, I can't seem to get back to the top. All I *really* need up there is the trashcan, though.  We just scroll the background up a bit and use a new area.

How we used the Digital Pack for Gamma.
To access "My Digital Packs," I created an account at the Math-U-See store.  There I select the level of instruction and a lesson number from the drop down boxes.  Even though this is a streaming product, I like having the instructional videos on the TV, so I plugged the laptop into our television for that.  The video lesson is actually for the teacher to watch and learn how to present the concept to the students.  However, we all find Steve Demme to be an engaging and amusing kind of guy, so we watch together.  I pause the video to work through the problems he is solving on the lesson and after, the boys complete a worksheet for that lesson.  Right now, Gamma is more practice and review for them, so we aren't dawdling, but we aren't rushing through it either.  I am able to check their work myself at this time, but the Digital Pack includes the answer sheets.

Difference in philosophy.
I mentioned earlier that we had used Alpha in the past.  The reason we skipped Beta is that Math-U-See is a mastery based math curriculum.  I have given up on Malachi memorizing his facts anytime soon.  That doesn't mean I don't believe he ever can, only that I don't see that happening at this time.  If we followed the Math-U-See philosophy, I would still have him in the first half of Alpha.  At his age, there are so many more concepts to learn and experience.  He thrives on the non-arithmetic parts of math; measurement, geometry, patterns, etc.  Ask him to add 17+19 or subtract 52-28 and things get very difficult.  Every day we practice.  Every time, I remind him to borrow or carry, pay attention to the sign (+, -, x).  And he struggles.  It breaks my heart.  And he's frustrated.  But I'm more sure of myself than I was two years ago.  I'm more confident.  I don't worry about the memorization.  I'm OK with giving him the videos and manipulatives that he enjoys even though the facts aren't mastered.  And that's why I've already ordered his books for Delta.  :)

Check out this "Demmestration" (<~~~See?  Funny guy.) of Gamma.  I really like the explanation used for multiplying two digit numbers.  In my *head* I understand how the tens place times the units (ones) place means starting that second row in the tens place, but I seemed to not explain it very well to Mal and Xav.

Find Math-U-See on social media.


Demme Learning's Math-U-See Review

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