Math on the Level (MOTL) is a set of seven books that comprise a complete math program for preschool level through pre-algebra. This one set can be used to teach all of your children through all of the levels; there are no extra workbooks to purchase.
MOTL works very differently from other programs. It was written for homeschoolers by a homeschooling parent who also has many years of teaching experience in other school settings. Its design is uniquely suitable for homeschooling.
It has no grade level designations. The seven non-consumable books include:
- an Overview and Record Keeping binder that explains how to use the program plus three key charts/forms used throughout the program
- four teaching manuals: Operations, Money & Decimals, Fractions, and Geometry & Measurements
- Math Adventures
- Math Resources
The program seems very thorough; it even includes Roman Numerals! At the end of the Operations book, students are working with exponents at an advanced level, solving for variables, and graphing equations for lines and hyperbolas. Geometry reflects a similar level of difficulty in the final lessons where students are calculating the volume of cylinders and prisms.
The "Concept Chart" in the binder lists the program's 146 core objectives, with a reference to the page in one of the books where instruction for that topic is presented plus another reference (for most objectives) to a page where practice problems on the topic are found.
The parent/teacher selects which objectives to cover, likely moving from book to book rather than going straight through any single book. A suggested sequence is included, but parents are encouraged to adapt to the needs and abilities of each student.
Lessons must be taught by the teacher although the oldest students might be able to work through the lessons on their own once the parents selects those to be covered. Lesson presentation is not scripted in step-by-step order. Instead it offers strategies, examples, and directions for using hands-on/experiential activities from among which the parent chooses what to use for each student. A child who quickly grasps concepts need not be taught using manipulatives. On the other hand, there are plenty of ideas for teaching the child who needs lots of examples and hands-on activities.
The Math Adventures book helps parents teach math through everyday life experiences and games. It also shows how to incorporate math lessons directly into a unit study that you might be using. Parents need to familiarize themselves with ideas in this book, then use one of these approaches at least once or twice a week. There is plenty of explanation of how to incorporate games and activities with various math topics, but there are only a few instances where activities or games are correlated directly with one particular lesson. Generally, the ideas can each be used with many of the lessons.
Math Resources covers the creation of charts and graphs plus set theory and word problems. It also has numerous ideas and instructions for helping children memorize the math facts. The presentation on word problems in this book does not mean that word problems are missing from the rest of the program. Much of the teaching will be done using real life situations that are expressed orally as word problems. This book adds templates to help parents create their own written word problems to teach various math concepts.
As mentioned before, parents select which objectives to teach. One concept is taught each day along with plenty of examples and practice problems. Each day's lesson also includes a review set of 5 problems, but these are selected and written by the parent based upon concepts previously taught. (Note that beginning students do not have review problems until they've learned some concepts and the parent feels they are ready.) It may take several days before you decide to move on to teach a different concept. Once a concept has been learned, it is added to the "Review Chart" and scheduled for daily review for a week or so, then every few days, gradually dropping down to every 3 weeks where it stays unless dropped or replaced by another concept that incorporates the lower level skill. (For example, review of division with single-digit divisors is replaced by the topic of division with multiple-digit divisors.) Most math concepts are practiced continually at least every 3 weeks. (The "5-A-Day Record" chart is used to organize and track the schedule for review problems.) Parents are welcome to make up their own problems, but practice problems for parents to use are included at the back of each of the four topical volumes. These practice problems include complete solutions and answers. Creating the "5-A-Day" problem sheets is likely one of the most time consuming tasks with this curriculum, but this is key to ensuring that students really do master and retain all concepts and skills.
"Review Chart" and "5-A-Day Record" forms may be reproduced from the binder for use with the entire family. Excel files with these forms, along with instructions, are also provided upon request to those who purchase the program.
You might be wondering if children get enough practice with only 5 review problems a day, but remember they are also working problems as they learn each new concept, and parents are incorporating math into other life activities. In addition, lessons target exactly what each student needs to learn so they do not waste time on previously mastered or excessively repetitious material as occurs with most programs.
MOTL is one of the easiest programs to transition into if a student has already begun work in another math program. The review process that is such an essential part of the program covers all prior math concepts and makes it easy to identify gaps or weak areas before moving on to new concepts.
MOTL is a demanding program for parents to use. They have to learn the system (which should take a few hours), then they have to select and track objectives to be taught, create the 5-A-Day problem sets, teach the lessons and work through practice problems with their children, and evaluate progress on each objective, recording and planning for the next lesson.
On the other hand, parents can sometimes consolidate teaching, selecting the same topic to teach to both older and younger children (e.g., equivalent fractions), teach them simultaneously as much as possible, and then extend the lesson for the advanced student. Life activities such as cooking, grocery shopping, and learning through playing games, can easily adapt to accommodate different skill levels. As time-consuming as the program sounds, one parent reports that she is able to teach three students in less than 30 minutes a day.
An important factor to consider in evaluating this program, in my opinion, is that students are likely to think of math as something useful, and maybe even fun when it's taught in such a personal fashion. Also, MOTL allows students to learn as quickly or slowly as they are able--a real motivational advantage for all students. And the lack of grade level labels means there's no stigma for those on the slow end of the learning curve.
No particular type of manipulatives is required for this program. Real money, bundles of straws or sticks, blocks of any sort, and household objects are among suggested items you might use as teaching aids. Many games--both purchased and homemade--are recommended in Math Adventures.
Since the seven books are reused with all your students, the only cost is for reproduction of chart and record keeping pages and for student binders in which to keep their work. Even with only one student, that makes this a very affordable program if used over a number of years. If you add more than one student, the cost per student drops in half or more.
All this makes Math on the Level a great choice not only for those with more time than money, but also for those who want to provide very personally targeted and family-oriented math instruction for each of their children.
Math on the Level offers a 60-day trial period so you can see if it works for your family. They also have a very active on-line support group. You can even join the support group before purchasing so you can get an idea of how the program is working for different families.