We have one son who is a visual-spatial learner. He always does much better learning a new concept when he can actually see and touch and manipulate an idea. This was an easier task when the math were were learning was addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Once we hit algebra, I had a hard time coming up with ideas to show algebra principles in a visual-spatial way.

At a home school convention, I visited the Math-U-See booth and posed the question to them. They had an answer. They showed me their math manipulative blocks along with their text and DVD. They could show me ways to offer algebra that made it fit my visual-spatial learner.

The Math-U-See system starts out with watching the DVD lesson and then moving to the text. Everything that is in the video is in the Teacher’s Guide so the parent can follow along with the DVD lesson if they want to. Not all lessons use the blocks but the DVD lessons that show author Steve Demme illustrating the algebra concepts convinced me that my son would benefit from this program. My son enjoyed Steve Demme’s casual style and the fact that he could watch any of the short video lessons over again if he didn’t get the concept the first time through.

Although I am what some people would call a “math person” and algebra came easily to me, I learned by following along with the lessons *how* algebra works.

For instance, we could visualize what it meant to factor an equation.

x² + 3x + 2 = (x +2)(x+1)

Math-U-See showed us how to factor equations with the manipulative blocks. We could see with our own eyes how this looks and understand it on a different level. We now understood the “why” and not just the mechanics of more abstract math concepts. Many of the lessons will instruct the student to “build with blocks” the equations that are in that particular lesson. After watching the short video, my son would be able to quickly apply the patterns and ideas to his set of blocks and then to the daily lesson. The lessons with the blocks are self-correcting since the student is instructed to build the equation and then check it by multiplying. This was a great way for my visual-spatial learner to teach himself how algebra works.

There is a sample video about factoring at this link that will illustrate how the system works. You will also get a feel for how Steve Demme teaches all the lessons and how he teaches math using patterns. This system also worked well for my visual-spatial learner.

There are sample pages at this link that I recommend that you look at so you can see what the teacher’s guide includes and how the student pages are set up. You might want to note too that the tests are multiple choice. At first I did not like having the multiple choice test, but I required my son to show *all* his work to substantiate his choices.

My son has since told me that this approach to learning algebra helped him to understand things like squares of numbers, square roots, and equations in a way that has stuck in his brain. Math-U-See helped us over the bumps and set the stage for a lot of math successes since.

Math-U-See is reasonably priced for the quality DVD and textbook. (see the price list) My son loved the ability to write in the text and the spiral binding made the actual book easy to work with. The DVD makes algebra an independently learned subject if need be, but I enjoyed following along with each lesson.

We did use the Honors Book in addition to the student text but really it was not necessary. There are nineteen additional practice pages available online at their website as well.

Do not skip using the manipulative blocks because you think they are too expensive. They are the backbone of this program.

Math-U-See was painless algebra for my visual-spatial learner.

*Written by Barb-Harmony Art mom. She also blogs at http://www.harmonyartmom.blogspot.com/*

Angie @ Many Little Blessings says

I have thought about Math-U-See many times before, but I just am not sure about it. I was impressed by a demonstration at a homeschooling conference that I went to, but then didn’t end up buying it. Perhaps I’ll be one step closer, because I actually just bought the starter and completer blocks, just for us to use with our current math curriculum. So, if I decide to go with Math-U-See in the future, it won’t be as a big of an investment (at that time).

Jimmie says

My daughter is quite visual-spatial. Thanks for that link! 🙂

I’m guessing it’s your Lego loving son that’s the visual spatial one, Barb? Our shift to living math has been a real help for Sprite mostly because of the hands-on aspect. Thanks for this review. We haven’t used MUS, but I have met Steve Demme at a HS conference in Asia. Great man.

Amanda says

Barb,

If I remember right you have two or three children. Would you use this curriculum with any/all of your children?

Barb-Harmony Art Mom says

Amanda,

I try to make choices for math curricula that will fit each of my children and their learning styles. Honestly, I have two boys that *love* Saxon math and we have used it exclusively for them. My daughter on the other hand would have loved MUS but I didn’t find it until she was already graduated from high school. 🙂

I honestly think that what ever math curricula you choose should be viewed as a tool to use with each child. I have tried lots of different math programs before settling into what works for my boys. The list is sort of embarrassing: Abeka, Singapore, Saxon, Teaching Textbooks, and MUS.

Jimmie, Actually, it is my airplane guy that needs MUS. My Lego guy loves Saxon’s no nonsense approach to math. He tried Teaching Textbooks this year for the first time after much deliberation and ended up *not* watching the DVDs at all. I spent a lot of money when I could have just used the Saxon Algebra 2 text that I had on the shelf. Live and learn….we will be doing some math switching this year to please my Lego guy. It is a very good thing that I have lots of options these days in the math curricula world.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Dana J Hayes says

I am wondering if it is challenging like the Saxon Math Algebra, I had look at teaching textbooks and it seemed the algebra portion was very juvenile in the approach. I need something challenging as I intend to continue Setonhome.org and their Math is extremely difficult. I am looking for a supplement that will help hem through that math. Have I confused you enough or do you understand what I need?

thanx and God Bless

Barb says

MUS was the first math program that showed my son WHY algebra works by using manipulatives. If you have a visual spatial learner, I highly recommend MUS. I am not familiar with Setonhome.org math so it is hard for me to compare. Have you thought about using something like Khan Academy’s free video tutorials as a supplement? You could pick and choose topics that way and see how it goes. https://www.khanacademy.org/math