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How we use JUMP Math – the simple (lazy) way

DSC03100 A reader asked a question following this post about our JUMP Math program last week, and my reply got so long I decided I should probably give it its own separate post.  Her question was:

I had been using math mammoth, but wanted to try Jump Math after your initial positive review and the NYT article. My son is 6, if he was in school it would be Kindergarten or Pre-1A and we are currently in the middle of 1.1. I find the amount of teacher input that they suggest in the teacher's manual to be unmanageable for me. I am not sure if it is because the work, for the most part, has come easily to him thus far, but I haven't felt the need to cover more than what is in the student workbook. In fact, i haven't even opened up the teacher's manual (that took me forever to print out) Do you play all the games, implement the BLM, the online resources? I feel like all i would get done is math if that was how we covered the contents. Wondering how you use this text, because I know you cover a lot of other materials as well also. Guess i am feeling discouraged about this text, but wondering if I should switch again :(

I’ll move my usual caveat right up here to the top before I begin:

As with all advice, this/these are YOUR kids.  Feel free to say, "to heck with this," and go with another program.  There are lots of terrific math programs out there – perhaps too many.  All I can say is that this works for my daughter, it works for me, and I have already re-purchased the first JUMP workbook to use with GZ when he's ready (still a ways to go!).

I have seen this online elsewhere – JUMP looks beautiful in the workbooks, but everything else you see, the Teachers’ Guides, Blackline Masters (BLMs) and the other online resources, while valuable in their place, can make the program look exceedingly complicated. 

Further confusing things is the assertion by JUMP personnel that the workbooks are the least important part of the program. Which makes sense if you realize that it began as a remedial math tutoring program… of course JUMP is more about a philosophy by which every child can succeed.  You don’t need any preprogrammed “math genius” genetic code to become “good at math,” and we should expect no less than total math literacy for most average children.

However, for a homeschool parent just looking for a workbook to cover one grade level at a time, assertions like these just muddy the waters.  So here it is, before I get into my longer reply:  JUMP is not only a philosophy, it is an excellent series of workbooks which are, to a large extent self-explanatory for teaching parents with an average-to-decent (or higher!) understanding of math.  Believe me; it really isn’t complicated.

To reiterate:  for most parents, with most kids, I expect that the workbooks are just about all you need.

As with any Teachers’ Guides, the JUMP materials are prepared not only with an eye to steering your child through the world of math, but with an eye to keeping an entire class moving through those occasionally-murky waters.  Because the philosophy of JUMP revolves around not moving forward until every student has attained mastery, the program gets complicated because some kids are inevitably going to be ahead, average, behind the others.  That, in my opinion, is largely what the teaching materials are best at addressing.  In a homeschool setting, you probably will not have that issue at all.  So for the most part, you can skim the Teachers’ Guides once – preferably without printing them out, because they’re HUGE - and then set them aside until you need them.

In any event, on with my reply, which addresses how we use the JUMP program (aka 99% the fantastic JUMP workbooks, with maybe 1% of help from the online teacher support materials) in our homeschool:

If I were you, I would read the teacher's manual with an eye to varied *approaches* and ways of introducing material, ie when to present manipulatives etc., rather than as a script.  An average or bright child will not NEED more input from the teacher except, perhaps at the enrichment end, and there are suggestions throughout for enrichment and creating "bonuses." 

To be honest, we are finishing up 2.2 and I have only peeked at the manuals occasionally.  I'm very grateful that I didn't bother printing them.  We have used some of the BLMs, but only for manipulatives we don't have, like the blocks, tangrams, etc.  They are not the most well-organized part of the program.

What we do, ALL we do, is:  I pull out two pages - never more, never less, but that's just my thing... if there is *completely* new material, I explain it on the whiteboard, with rods, or in some other concrete way. 

Then, we look at the sheets.  99% of the time, there's an example done for you on every page.  I have Naomi read the steps at the top of the page and check them off if she wants.  We read through the example; I show how they followed the steps to get that answer.  Then, I do the first REAL problem with her.  By that point, she's usually screaming (quietly) for me to go away so she can finish the page. 

If she gets the first answer right, I will leave her alone to finish the page.  If she's having trouble with the concept, we do the next question together.  If that one is still tough, I back off: find a manipulative or another way to explain it before continuing. 

This is one point (in addition to prep ahead of time) at which the teacher's manual might come in handy!  [for suggesting manipulatives, different approaches, etc]

When all the steps seem to come together easily on the whiteboard or manipulatives or whatever, then we go back onto the page and work together until she's more sure of herself.  And then we move on.

There have only been a handful of days on which we have been unable to complete two pages, front and back, using this strategy.

I personally like the fact that the program is minimally scripted (ie not at all!).  The simple directions at the top of the page are USUALLY sufficient, and I don't just mean at the Grade 1-2 level; I have a copy of the Grade 8 books, too, so I know this carries all the way through the program. 

The authors have worked hard to reduce the amount of language in the book, and also to "scaffold" the program so it all pretty much progresses logically.

Key to the JUMP philosophy/program is the idea that you must not move on until one technique is mastered.  Also, this program occasionally focuses deeply on simple techniques.  This has been slightly controversial in some circles, as there are math purists who consider these merely "tricks" that prevent kids from learning "deeper" math.  One example brought up frequently in homeschool circles is finger counting for multiplication, addition, etc.  Finger counting is seen, often, as a “bad habit,” a lower form of math that must be shed before kids can attain speed and fluency.

That may be true, but what is also true – and often overlooked – is that it can be a valuable step on the way to mastery.  Hopefully, our kids will always have their fingers handy for quick calculations.  (no pun intended!)

And I personally don't believe it’s true that simple techniques hold kids back - "deeper" kids will discover the "deeper" math behind the tricks, and even kids who aren't deeply into math can master the skills needed to move on at the appropriate grade level.

If this isn’t 100% clear, feel free to ask questions!!!

Here are three actual pages from the last few days that I photographed kind of at random that nicely illustrate the progression of concepts, though I’m sure you’ll see something similar in many math books (the picture at the very top of this post is of our Daily Word Problems math – not JUMP at all!):

p. 31 – using what we have already learned about what I call “partners of 10” (numbers that make 10 together, like 7 and 3, or 8 and 2 – we have had LOTS of practice with this crucial concept, partly in JUMP and partly in The Verbal Math Lesson – but this also builds on our earlier work with Miquon and the Cuisenaire Rods), she “shuffled” groups of stars into tens to make it easy to add.  This also builds on some earlier place value lessons and adding-on-to-10 practice.


p. 33 – here, she’s doing the same thing, but the concrete representation is dots instead of stars and they are grouped closer together than on p. 31.  In other words, we are moving from the concrete to the abstract, slowly but surely.  I like these intermediate steps – I don’t know if Naomi Rivka needs them all, but I’m pretty certain many books skip some of these.  They also make the pages go quickly because this is essentially review of all our other adding-on-to-10, before we’re completely ready to move on.


p. 36 – building on adding-on-to-10s and other concepts (like the fact that adding and subtracting the same number won’t change the total, not to mention a couple of years of skip counting by 10s), the program now teaches kids the very useful-for-life “trick” of converting HARD addition problems with 9’s in them, which would normally require carrying and regrouping, into EASY addition problems with 10’s in them.  What’s simpler to add, 38 + 19 or 37 + 20?  Right; Naomi thought so, too, and was hopefully super-impressed with herself that she can add such big and complicated numbers.


Now you might object here that kids are going to HAVE to know how to add with carrying at some point, and it’s true.  But it’s pretty amazing that a kid can leap seemingly overnight from single-digit addition to 15 all the way to adding two two-digit numbers, conceivably up to 100 and beyond.  And although regrouping/carrying for addition is an important skill, I think it’s great to teach this “trick” first, because it’s guaranteed faster for adding 9’s than traditional adding with carrying ever will be.

For this page, by the way (because I think the big numbers were scaring Naomi Rivka at first!), I actually pulled out our little-used abacus, which happens to have 10 beads on each row.  It’s super-easy to “trade” beads, turning a 29 into 30 at the same time as you make 7 into 6.  I explained this by telling her the 9’s are “jealous” and want to steal beads from the other number… which Naomi totally seemed to get.

I hope I haven’t gone on too long with this, but the truth is, I didn’t love math as a kid, and now I love both doing and teaching it.  Plus, I figure if you weren’t fascinated, you’d have clicked through to the next post by now… right???


  1. Pretty nice post, I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have truly enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again very soon!

  2. Thanks so much, Jennifer! I truly appreciate the time and thought you put into answering my questions. And here I thought my comment didn't even end up going through? Everything you said makes sense and you made me feel better to know that others before have voiced my these same concerns.

  3. Help! I was just about to order Miquon math for my 5 year old and struggling-with-facts 7 year old. And then I saw your posts on Jump, and looked around their site, and saw that you once did Miquon.. and now am wondering if I should choose Jump instead? Penny for your thoughts!?! What's the best start? Doesn't seem you are totally crazy about Miquon..although I can only find positive reviews online. Curious for your thoughts! Thank you!


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