This program uses unique methods of presentation based upon sound research and a biblical Christian worldview. Detailed, easily understood instruction is given for the parent/teacher in the parent guide for levels K through 4. The guide directs parents in what to say and do, so the program must be presented one-on-one for those levels. Higher levels are presented directly to the student so students can work independently.
Levels K through 4 each require a parent guide and student book. Prices listed are for one set of the guide and student book for Levels K through 4 and for one student-directed book for levels 5, 6, and Algebra.
Levels K through 3 also require the manipulative kit that has links, large chips, and Unifix® cubes. This same kit is used for grades K through 3 for presenting and practicing math concepts.
For the early grades, students complete pages in their student book in conjunction with lesson presentations. Student books are insufficient without lesson presentation from the parent guide. Student books are consumable; extras are available for additional students.
For levels 5, 6 and Algebra, a single, large book contains both instructional material and exercise pages. Instructional material is addressed directly to the student Books for additional students are priced at half the cost. (Note: I review the algebra course, Principles from Patterns, separately.)
Making Math Meaningful seems to move more slowly than other math programs in the primary grades because the goal is a very thorough understanding of concepts. However, students are ready for the Algebra level by seventh or eighth grade if they work through this program.
A few concepts (time and calendar reading) taught in most programs are not covered here, but these are easily taught on their own. Supplement with another resource if children need additional practice for computation skills.
While Making Math Meaningful includes this kindergarten level course, you can skip it and begin with first grade. Kindergarten level covers concepts that can be taught as effectively in informal situations around the home. See Ruth Beechick's An Easy Start in Arithmetic for ideas.
Nevertheless, some parents will appreciate the security of having such a program to give their children a good start in math. As is appropriate for young learners, student worksheets are seldom used at this level, while manipulatives are used frequently.
Level 1, second edition
The student book has 160 pages for individual student work, but a significant amount of the work is drawing, recording or representing manipulative activity, and other work that develops conceptual understanding rather than workbook practice on computation skills.
While Making Math Meaningful also offers a kindergarten course, you can skip it and begin with first grade.
Making Math Meaningful 2, second edition
This level continues to use the same package of manipulatives that is used with earlier levels for hands-on learning. Mathematical thinking and understanding of concepts is stressed, so concepts are introduced at a slower pace than in most other programs. However, by the end of the second grade book, children have learned mathematical concepts relating to equations, fractions, algebra, and other topics that often are not taught until much, much later.
The revised version of the second grade program is very well developed. It is very easy to understand, has a well-designed format, and does an excellent job of presenting concepts. With the older version, it was sometimes difficult to switch from another program into Making Math Meaningful at this level, but this is no longer a problem. Occasionally there is a small amount of lesson preparation, but for most lessons you can just pick up the manual and teach.
Making Math Meaningful 3, second edition
In addition to the manipulative kit, lessons also call for some other household items such as toothpicks and coins. One area to pay special attention to at this level is computation skills. Children might need additional practice with another resource or tool to learn their math facts well.
Making Math Meaningful 4, second edition
At this level, you no longer need the manipulative kit used in younger grade levels. Concepts are taught through discussion and activities presented by the teacher. Supplemental work on computation skills might be needed.
Making Math Meaningful 5, second edition
Level 5 is presented in a single, 336-page book. Unlike younger levels, this book is designed for the student to work independently. The answer key is at the back of the book. If necessary, remove it and keep it elsewhere.
Unique methods of presentation stress conceptual understanding. For example, when students learn complex multiplication and division, they are shown why it works rather than just the steps to memorize. Students are occasionally directed to collect materials for hands-on activities: pennies, Lego blocks or similar math manipulatives, and toothpicks. Such instances are not very frequent, and materials should not be difficult to obtain or find substitutes for. These activities coupled with the illustrations and applications within the lessons help develop conceptual understanding better than do some other popular math programs.
The scope and sequence is also a little different. For example, long division is taught up through single-digit divisors and division by multiples of 10, while most fifth grade programs have moved beyond to multi-digit divisors. However, fraction concepts are presented in algebraic forms advanced beyond most programs at this level.
Students work more on concepts, patterns, logic, and word problems than on computation skills. The book is consumable, and you will need a separate book for each student taking the course.
Making Math Meaningful 6, second edition
See description of level 5. The format is the same for level 6, but concepts covered include fractions, decimals, percents, and division to complete basic arithmetic foundations. By the time children complete this level, they are prepared for the study of algebra, although they might not be mature enough to comprehend algebra lessons as presented in most textbooks. Cornerstone has introduced an algebra program that immediately follows Level 6. Students who have completed Level 6 should be ready for Cornerstone's algebra course, Principles from Patterns, since it is more concrete in presentation than other algebra courses, and because students already have a foundation of conceptual understanding as a consequence of their studies within the Making Math Meaningful curriculum.