by Christine Hebert

(Chicopee, MA)

My daughter has struggled with math since I pulled her out of parochial school. She did well in math until fourth grade. She scored well on standardized testing in math until then, too. She had a teacher in fourth grade who disliked her from the word go and made her life in the classroom miserable. This teacher also turned my sweet, eager to learn girl into an unhappy, confidence lacking girl.

When we decided that she needed to come home, I spent a lot of time researching programs and trying to wade through all the reviews. I looked at the books and materials my friends were using. Many used a well known math program. I looked at it and thought it was too confusing for my struggling daughter. I found it through an e-newsletter that spotlighted Systematic Mathematics (www.systemath.com).

Systemath was written by a former math teacher who began teaching before math was taught in a spiral method. He retired and started tutoring homeschooled kids in math. He thought homeschoolers would have an excellent curriculum. What he found was well known, much used curriculum that followed a spiral method but never really required mastery of the subject matter. He then wrote the curriculum that we used for 5th through 8th grade math in our homeschool.

I found that although my daughter still does not like math, she now understands it much better. I know that I now understand math better. The program is sold in individual programs or in multi program modules. I chose to purchase modules. The modules covered a whole year. Systemath is non-consumable. The modules contain DVD lessons and a data CD. You print out what you need, as you need it and you can use it again and again for as many students as you would like.

Systemath even encourages you to resell it when you are done, or pass it along to someone else. Their goal is great math skills, not getting rich.

Paul Ziegler, the teacher of this program, even has a program available for parents of very young children to teach math readiness and he teaches parents tricks for teaching math facts. Did you know, for example, that the most difficult multiplication fact to learn is 7X8? Many math facts have repetition of patterns, but not this one. He taught me a trick to teach my daughter. If you write 5678 and then insert your equals and multiplication signs 56=7x8, you have a trick to teaching this math fact.

When my daughter got stuck, I could tell her to "write it down" and she would recall this learning device. Paul is no longer running the company. His daughter's family has taken over the operations of the company and the customer support.

If you, as a parent, have difficulty with math, there is even a program for you called Math Rescue. It will help you (or your struggling older student) to understand the math that has been already learned.

The best part of the program, though, is the service. There have been times when I didn't understand how an answer was arrived at, or when we simply could not get the same answer that was on the answer CD. At those times, we called the toll free number and they talked us through the problem.

Systematic Mathematics is also available by e-mail. If you have a question you can e-mail them with the question and a best time for them to call you. They will call and talk to you or your student.

My son is using the math books that are recommended by Systemath for students in 3rd-5th grade. Next year he will use the Labeled Quantities program.

I found this program to be comprehensive, affordable and easy to use. I would recommend it (and have) to anyone who wants a math program that helps children to understand the whys of math as well as the hows.