Review: Math Mammoth

When Maria of Homeschool Math Blog asked if I would review her Math Mammoth curriculum, I jumped at the chance. I’ve always enjoyed her blog posts, and I liked the worksheets I had seen on her website. (Maria gives away more than 300 pages absolutely free!)

She sent me her then-new 4th grade worktexts, and Kitten and I dug in.

Well, that was longer ago than I care to admit. But of course, it takes quite a bit of daily use before one can be absolutely sure of one’s opinion about a homeschool program — or at least, it does for me. Too many times a homeschool resource will look great in the catalog, and we’ll start it with high hopes only to bog down in the day-to-day grind and abandon it after a few weeks or months. So I wanted to give Math Mammoth a thorough workout before I wrote this review.

And all excuses aside, I really am a pro at crastinating

My aim is to help parents and teachers teach math so our children and students can really understand what is going on. I’ve strived to explain the concepts so that both the teacher and the student can “get it” by reading the explanations in the books.

— Maria Miller
author of Math Mammoth worktexts
and Homeschool Math Blog


Math Mammoth books are worktexts, which means the explanations are included alongside the practice problems. (Worktext = workbook + textbook in one.) The program is structured as a systematic progression of topics with an emphasis on conceptual understanding and mastery of skills.

The Math Mammoth program is organized in a variety of ways, to make it easy for parents and teachers to buy exactly what we need. The books are color coded:

For this review, Kitten and I worked through the Light Blue Series books 4A and 4B, which cover the first and second semester of 4th grade math. Topics include:

  • multi-step word problems and order of operations
  • multi-digit multiplication
  • long division and its applications
  • problem solving using multiplication and division
  • conversions between measuring units
  • developing conceptual understanding of fractions and decimals
  • geometry topics such as measuring angles, drawing polygons & circles, perimeter, and area of rectangles

There are no teacher’s manuals, but a User Guide that accompanies the book covers the basic principles of teaching with Math Mammoth and offers tips on getting started with the program. Each chapter begins with a page or two of notes to the teacher, summarizing the material and offering suggestions. Maria includes a variety of links (which are also available at her website) to online resources, enrichment websites, and games related to the topic at hand.

The worktext pages are not divided into daily lessons but are arranged according to the amount of practice required to master the concept at hand. Some subtopics may need only a page, while others span several pages. Kitten averaged about 2 pages per day, which was a good pace for finishing both books in a school year, even though we took frequent days off for Math Club or other activities.

The Math Mammoth program includes cumulative review pages and tests. Since I don’t do testing or give grades in elementary school, we skipped most of these.

I always designed the lessons in the books so that they would teach BOTH the parent and the child the processes and concepts of elementary math. Thus, the books contain very clear explanations, lots of visual exercises and pattern exercises that help children see the structure of mathematics and clearly understand the concepts of mathematics, instead of just memorizing rules.

— Maria Miller

Addition review problems.

[Click on each image below to see sample problems.]

What I Liked

I love the variety of problems Maria has included in her Math Mammoth books. Kitten especially appreciated the algebra problems, because algebra has always seemed more like a game to her than like schoolwork. Solving algebra problems in elementary school will make any student feel smart.

I was pleased with the quantity of problems, too — not so many that Kitten felt overwhelmed, but enough to give her plenty of practice on each concept.

I like the visually uncluttered pages with the work broken into “bite-sized” boxes. Pictorial models (including bar diagrams) are used as needed to illustrate concepts, but there are no extraneous pictures merely for decoration. The pages do not have the childish feel that some elementary textbooks have, so they could be used for remediation without insulting an older student.

Mental math: Subtraction.

I love the emphasis on mental math and the continual interaction between topics, both of which I believe help build a deeper understanding of math. Maria explains not only “how to do it” but also “why it works that way.” The books seem to me to have a nearly-perfect balance between theory and practice, concept and drill.

What I Didn’t Like

My biggest problem with Math Mammoth is not with the worktexts themselves — it’s the frequent references to the program as “self-teaching” (or “practically self-teaching”), both on Maria’s website and in other reviews. Kitten is a good math student, but the explanations in the worktext were too concise for her. She tended to skim over them, assuming she understood but missing important points, and then she would get frustrated when she made a mistake or got stuck on the practice problems.

There is no teacher’s manual to offer alternative explanations or suggest how to present a new topic. This is not a problem for me, of course, and I think that most parents who are confident in their teaching ability will do fine with Math Mammoth. (To help you out, Maria is producing math video lessons. And if you have a question, she is good about answering her email.) But parents who want scripted lessons or detailed guidance should look for a different program.

Those pesky AWOL equal signs.

We had a few minor issues, as well. Kitten often complained that the answer boxes were too small for her handwriting, and I occasionally took dictation for her. Also, she couldn’t understand Maria’s inconsistent use of the equal sign — some exercises include equal signs, while others just show an expression with space for writing the simplified version. A bit of a perfectionist, Kitten felt compelled to write in all the equal signs before working each page.

Finally, our edition of the books had several typos. Kitten enjoyed playing “editor” and finding the mistakes. (Did you spot the error on the subtraction worksheet above?) One advantage of e-books is that it’s easy for the author to make corrections, so I’m sure this is less of a problem with the current edition and will get even better as time goes on.

Let's play with fractions.

Other Comments

Kitten and I found the Math Mammoth books perfect for Buddy Math, which is her favorite way to have a math lesson. We sat together on the couch and discussed whatever was on the page, and then we took turns doing the problems out loud, checking each other as we worked.

There is no schedule provided, but we didn’t need one. Our family rule of thumb is to do 10 minutes of math a day per grade level, so Kitten had 40 minutes to fill. This averaged 2-3 pages a day, depending on the topic and on how many conversational rabbit trails we followed.

We often worked these pages at different places in the book for the sake of variety, keeping track of our progress with Post-It bookmarks. Kitten and I are both easily bored, and one page of multi-digit multiplication or long division was all we could handle at a time. So we mixed it up with fractions or geometry.

Singapore-Math-style bar diagrams.

One reviewer wrote:This is Singapore Math for the rest of us… The best elements of Singapore — the art of math evident in puzzles and looking at problems from a variety of directions — is still very much intact. It’s just easier to swallow, somehow.

I think she’s right, and this Singapore Math fan has converted. I still love the Singapore books for their word problems and bar diagram models, but I remember struggling with them when Chickenfoot was learning long division. We ended up dropping the program for several weeks to slog through worksheets from an online generator. Thanks to Math Mammoth, Kitten had a (relatively) easy time mastering long division. I’m impressed!

Buy, or Don’t Buy?

  • If you want a scripted math lesson or a detailed teacher’s manual that will walk you through the topics, look elsewhere. You will not be happy with Math Mammoth.
  • If you want lessons that include a continual review of past topics (à la Saxon Math), Math Mammoth will not fit your bill.
  • If you want a program that you can hand to your child to do independently, I don’t think you will be happy with Math Mammoth, either.
  • But if you want an affordable, no-frills program that will cover the basics of math with an emphasis on understanding concepts and enough practice to help your student master the skills (and challenge problems here and there for spice) — then Math Mammoth may be a great match for you.
  • And if you are a classroom teacher looking for supplemental worksheets for extra practice or to challenge students who finish assignments quickly, check out the Green or Golden Series.

Putting my money where my mouth is: I bought the Golden 5A and 5B books, which have been a great addition to Kitten’s 5th grade work. I expect we will continue using Math Mammoth as part of our rather eclectic (hodge-podge?) math program for at least the next couple of years.

If you think you may be interested in the Math Mammoth curriculum, be sure to take advantage of Maria’s generous offering of free samples. Try out the lessons and see how you like them. If you are not sure whether you can teach from the program, even after trying the free worksheets, then start with one of the topical Blue Series books, with prices as low as $2.

Additional Math Mammoth Links

“Follow the money” disclosure: This is not a paid review, but Maria was kind enough to send me a free review copy of the 4th grade books.

25 thoughts on “Review: Math Mammoth

    1. This is primarily a homeschool curriculum, so it would be used by homeschooling parents teaching their own children. But I think I read that the Golden and Green series were originally written for use in a tutoring center, and any of the books could be used for tutoring or after-schooling. It would depend on what your student needed, I guess.

  1. Would this be a good complement to Miquon? We just switched from MUS to Miquon Math, but I’ve heard so many people suggest that you ought to use a more traditional curriculum alongside it. Do you agree with that?

    And thanks for answering my questions!

  2. Hi, Becky!

    I think Miquon is great on its own, especially if you play math games and explore real life math alongside it. The Miquon workbooks were not intended to be the only thing that a child studied, but rather just one part of a “lifestyle” of learning math. Have you checked out Living Math?

    But that said, I must admit that I have never been content to use just one math program. There are so many interesting things to choose from, and I could never settle on one. When we did Miquon, we alternated with Singapore Math books.

    Math Mammoth would work wonderfully for that sort of system, too. You wouldn’t need the whole Light Blue curriculum, so the cost would be very low. You could use the grade-level worksheets (Golden) as supplements — that’s basically what I’m doing with Kitten this year — or choose the Blue workbook topics that sound most interesting to you and your kids.

  3. Thanks so much for posting this! I posted our review of Light Blue grade 3 a few weeks ago, and a followup comment yesterday: Why I like Math Mammoth even more now. It has seemed to be a great choice for my third grader, especially coming after a couple of years of Miquon–I hadn’t really thought so much about the lack of scripting, since I’m usually right there when my daughter works on it and the amount of explanation given is just about as much as I like myself. But it’s very reassuring to hear your thoughts on the program.

  4. Hi, Mama Squirrel!
    I saw your update in my feed reader and thought, “Yes, that’s exactly what I meant: a wonderful assortment of problems that provide a variety of practice.”

    I wouldn’t want a scripted program myself, either. The explanations in Math Mammoth were fine for Kitten when she only needed a reminder of something she’s studied before — which is why I think the program would work well for any parent who is not math phobic. Our problems came when there was something new that she needed to notice, or on the occasional page where Maria’s method (or way of wording things) was not the same as what she was familiar with.

  5. Hi, I just came across your site, it’s going straight into my Google reader! Thanks for your great review of Math Mammoth. We briefly tried Singapore but much prefer Math Mammoth which we’ve been using for the last term. It has a big advantage for us in the UK of being downloadable, whereas Singapore books can be hard to get and expensive here. I love the idea of Buddy Math – I’m off now to check out your post on that!

  6. Thank you for stopping by, Lula! I’m always glad to meet new readers.

    Buddy Math is a great way to work with Math Mammoth. I think the program might be overwhelming if you just hand it to a student and say, “Do this.” Working together makes it seem much less like a chore.

    I also like doing as much as possible orally, rather than writing things down. Handwriting often lags behind math skills (especially for my boys), and doing it orally builds mental math skills.

  7. THIS is the review I have been looking for! I’ve read a lot about Math Mammoth, but had yet to find a review that listed the cons as well as the pros…until now. Thanks for laying it all out there.

    I think my problem may come in not having a scripted dialogue (math really isn’t my strong point), but I think I’ll give it a try regardless. I’ve downloaded some of the samples, and I think it will be great for my son. Thanks for your review!

    1. You’re welcome, Penelope. Even without having a script, you can do a lot of teaching through dialogue. Check out my post Buddy Math for hints, and also Mathematicians Ask Questions. I found buddy math a great method to use with Math Mammoth, and having my daughter explain the stages of her thinking as she worked through problems really helped fix the concepts deep in her understanding.

  8. I gave my 6th grade son the book on ratio and proportion (I think it’s a Blue series book) since Calvert Math had only 8 days of work on these topics spread over 2 years. Ratio and Proportion was absolutely a self-teaching book for him. I just had to make sure he checked his work and corrected his errors. Two years later he said that the knowledge he had learned from it had really come in handy for his math contest problems, and he was grateful I had made him do it! How many teens thank you for making them work? Math Mammoth is good stuff.

  9. Thank you for this review! We’re beginning homeschooling this fall, and I was already leaning toward MM. One question: I think my 10yo especially will benefit from continual review (a la Saxon, but Saxon looks like overkill). Have you come across a supplement—online or not—that could provide that sort of review?

    1. Many topics get reviewed constantly because they are used within the next lesson. For instance: addition, subtraction, and multiplication are all used in long division, and all four operations are used in working with fractions. But if you want more than that, you could try the four-problem daily sheet.

      Fold a piece of paper in half both directions, to make four large rectangles. In each rectangle, write one review problem. You can use problems from your Math Mammoth pages, or from any old book you might have around, or use 10-sided dice to make up random numbers. Make each problem a different type (one subtraction, one fractions, one multiplication, etc.). You can make up a whole stack of these at once by copying from a few worksheets (even ones that your son has already worked, if they are old enough that he’s forgotten the details). You can also re-use word problems, if you change the numbers and/or the setting of the problem.

  10. do you also have topics for grade 10 math? (functions). I am a teacher in math grade 10, and as I look at your samples, this is very good materials. And how much is it? I don’t have a credit card, can I still avail it? tnx a lot!

  11. When I originally left a comment I seem to have clicked
    on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now whenever a comment
    is added I recieve four emails with the exact same comment.
    Perhaps there is a means you can remove me from that service?

    1. Elaine, only you can change your WordPress subscriptions. I don’t have access to your account. There should be a link at the bottom of every email to click if you want to unsubscribe or to edit your preferences.

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