Sunday, August 21, 2011

JUMP Math: the salespitch

I’ve mentioned my love affair with our math program, JUMP Math, a couple of times here.  Still, I’ve noticed a few parents lately on the Well-Trained Mind forums looking for alternative math programs, especially if they or their kids have become math-phobic or are just avoiding confronting math. 

It’s also all too clear that homeschool math is BIG BUSINESS.  There are so many companies out there waiting to take either a little ($10 and under:  Miquon, Ray’s Arithmetic) or a lot ($100 and up:  Right Start, Math U See) of your money in return for providing your kids with a solid foundation in math. 

However, a lot of these materials promote themselves in one of two annoying ways:  “You can’t possibly teach your kids math – relax and let US do it!” OR “Drill ‘em and kill ‘em – that’s all they need!”  One way is too spendy and distrustful of parents, while the other is unnecessarily harsh - and also overlooks the parent’s innate competence, in a way, reducing math learning to tables and rote recitation.

In light of this, I think my biggest reason for loving JUMP Math is that they’re not a big publishing company or a fly-by-night organization cashing in on homeschool parents’ math worries.  As a nonprofit, charitable organization, they were founded specifically and solely to help kids learn math.  Period.  And that’s what they do – in my opinion, very, very well.

I’ve jumped in a few times in various online forums to recommend the program, so I thought I’d share a bit of my enthusiasm here. 

Today’s recommendation was for a parent who had three kids in different grades and wanted to switch them all to a new program, or a couple of new programs. 

(I do realize that there are different types of learners, but still – for average kids, why start out doing two or more different kinds of math when you can at least try a similar approach to see if it works?)

For a 2nd grader who wasn't reading well, I'd see if you could get a hold of a copy of the workbook for JUMP Math.  Perhaps for the others as well, just to have a simple, unified program that you can all deal with.

The first 29 pages of the 2nd grade program are free at their website.  Also, all lesson plans, blackline masters, etc are free at their website here.  (You may need to register first for web resources.)

For kids who are particularly math-discouraged, the "introductory units," available for 3rd grade and up, are not just "fractions units", they are crucial confidence-builders, and it's recommended that you start there, if at all possible.

I don’t earn kickbacks from JUMP Math (I wish!), but we're just about to enter our 2nd year with it and it makes more sense than almost any other math program I've seen in the homeschool world... especially for kids who are discouraged or confused or math-phobic parents who want hand-holding, without the hand-holding. ;-)

There's a lot of philosophy and background on the site that would be helpful even if you don't end up using the program.  It's a nonprofit charitable organization and the only thing they charge for (about $10 each) are the workbooks... which they call the LEAST important part of the program.  They've even got a few videos here.

Though it is a Canadian program, the only thing that wouldn’t “translate” for kids in the US would be the sections on measurement (which use metric; no biggie) and money (Canadian currency).  (For money, you can probably buy a separate Math Mammoth unit to use instead.)

One thing I’ve noticed that may or may not be considered a minus.  A few people online who have investigated the program have found it too easy.  There are a couple of possible explanations OTHER than the program being too easy and trying a higher year’s program:

  • The program is very scaffolded, and assumes almost nothing at the beginning of the year.  If your only glimpse of the program is an introductory fractions unit OR the grade-level workbook preview, you’re only seeing the first tiny bit of the school year.  I wish they would put up a couple of previews that show you how in-depth the material gets, because it’s true – the first thirty pages or so of any given grade are VERY basic until your kid, or all the kids in the class, get up to speed.  The program may not seem as serious and academic as some of the homeschool programs out there, but I believe your kid will get most of the same advantages due to high math confidence levels.  Also, you’re free to move as quickly as you want through the workbooks – though they don’t recommend skipping material.  Don’t skip it:  add in bonuses if it seems like your child needs a challenge!
  • The program contains very little of the repetition that some workbooks contain.  Your kids won’t be drilling and drilling the same skillset – but they will be working the same kinds of problems at a higher and higher level of difficulty.  That said, the JUMP Math people say the essence of the program is NOT the workbooks alone but the lesson plans and blackline masters that enable you to run with the curriculum, and offer ideas for adding practice problems (and bonus problems) in areas where your particular student(s) seem like they need extra help or encouragement.
  • People also say the program is weak in the area of word problems.  This is perhaps so.  I bought a separate word-problems book just in case… but I’m not sure we’ll need it.  I’m leaning towards thinking word problems are intuitive, and the skills kids acquire with JUMP Math are easily transferrable to word problems, but if your kids are going to be undergoing a lot of formal or standardized testing which emphasizes this type of question, you may need to supplement a bit.

Have you tried JUMP Math and love it?  Hate it?  (Still searching?  What are your main criteria in a homeschool math curriculum???)  I’d love to hear about your math passions!

(and please – click the “JUMP math” tag below to see previous related posts)

5 comments:

  1. what do you think of Math Mammoth? We just started using it for 1st gradea and we like it so far, but since I have no experience with any other program, I thought i'd ask

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  2. sorry in advance for the lousy keyboard; i'm in bed resting my leg, so using the laptop...
    mm looks similar to jump, with two workbooks per year, but i believe the material is only shown once per grade, while jump revisits each 'thread' - once in the first book, once in the second book.
    it looks like mm breaks up each chapter into lessons, which is handy, because with jump i have to eyeball to see what would be a good lesson length.
    mm is more scripted, which might be helpful for some parents, and there is no separate lesson plan and teacher's materials. jump has a lot of support materials, but there is no scripting in the text itself, which is designed to be super-easy for kids to read themselves.
    As a result of this, the mm pages do look more cluttered.
    ultimately, i can only comment on the program we've used, but i was initially excited to receive all the mm samples many months ago and then decided that i just don't like the look of it as much...
    hope this is helpful!

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  3. one more thought - to be very honest, my eyes tended to cross whenever i thought about trying to buy mm because there is the blue series and the light blue series and individual worktexts and 'make it real" books and, well, my head began to spin. jump is jump - it costs $20 a year or so per kid and the rest is free. ;-)

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  4. interesting, we've only done about 30 pages in grade 1 of mm, and I haven't found it too scripted (at least not yet) I read the instructions and let ds go to the table and finish. However, I agree about feeling cross-eyed when trying to figure out what to order. It is confusing. I guess we'll stick with it this year, but not sure about next year. Thanks for your input. I know it may not be a big deal to switch metric and currency, but I am overwhelmed with two younger kids and need things to be as easy as possible, so I am gonna have to skip jump, though it sounds great.

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  5. Like I said (I think!), what's most important is to pick a program that works for you. I do suggest peeking ahead a year or two to get an idea if you're going to want to stick with it.

    There are so many terrific math programs out there. My reasons for choosing JUMP were mostly: 1) cheap; 2) local, charitable organization worth supporting; 3) easy to teach. #1 and #3 are crucial - #2 is a nice bonus.

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