Mathseeds

Just before the end of last year, I stumbled onto Mathseeds. I have found this to be a great program for young kids. This year it has formed the backbone of our maths curriculum.

I spent most of last year using Miquon maths as the basis for our maths program. Although cuisenaire rods are an extremely valuable tool, my boys passionate dislike of worksheets meant that regular practice was something of a challenge.

We tried exercises from the books, counting piles of money, checking shopping receipts, and playing various board games. It worked reasonably well for an introduction, but it was clearly time for something with a bit more structure. I found that Mathseeds really filled this need.

The content of Mathseeds starts at kindergarten level with very basic counting. There are 120 lessons at the moment with plans to take this up to 140. These lessons follow a fairly typical Australian maths curriculum, introducing concepts up to a year two level.

Although the boys started off with a tremendous flush of enthusiasm, they have slowed down a fair bit now. Still, I was surprised to realise that we are just a couple of lessons off finishing the whole thing.

Each lesson takes about half an hour. The whole thing is presented as something of a game, so there is also plenty of opportunity to wander off into different parts of the program.

Mathseeds cartoon animals

The lessons follow a theme and also revise concepts previously covered. They are all introduced by cartoon animals which makes the whole thing appealing to kids. They win acorns along the way and each lesson finishes with a funny little video of a cartoon animal breaking out of an acorn and doing something silly. This small prize at the end provides more incentive than I would have thought. A similar concept also worked well for my boys in other maths games we have played – Elements and Dragon box.

Each set of five lessons is drawn together in a theme such as ‘India’ or ‘The Great Barrier Reef.’ An avatar moves along a map showing your progress. At the end of each map of five lessons is a review quiz. These are always approached with a sense of achievement and curiosity at what the next map will contain.

Mathseeds map 22 - India

The acorns the kids win along the way can be used to dress their avatar, buy a house, and fill it with stuff. There are also different games to play which all apply different concepts covered, but do not directly link to any lesson. This aspect adds a lot of fun to it for the boys, and also gives a break from focussed learning all the time.

Pimp my acorn - Mathseeds

Due to the logistics of dealing with two boys at once, I only bought one subscription, and both boys play at the same time. They take turns being the one to control the keyboard.

Inevitably, my four year old has found it has become a bit hard for him, and now guesses at about half of what he attempts. Given that he is doing problems designed for a seven year old, I am very impressed that he can get through half of it with no problems. My oldest boy rolls along though it quite comfortably. He has obviously learned a lot from this, and it has all been done with a sense of playfulness. At no time have they experienced any ‘maths dread.’

It comes with a two week free subscription to try it out, which is time enough to realise if your kids will like it or not. After that you buy an annual subscription. One year should be enough. I have enjoyed this program a lot, largely because the kids have enjoyed it a lot. It has been an excellent way to introduce primary school mathematics.

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About Blokeschool

I am a homeschooling dad with a wife and two boys. I'm not quite sure what I'm doing, so I feel compelled to write it all down. In my spare time, I work as a registered nurse, drink too much coffee, and intermittently renovate the house.
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2 Responses to Mathseeds

  1. Carolyn says:

    Thanks for your review!
    I had a mixed experience with mathseeds. We too went from entirely hands on and incidental maths to using mathseeds. My daughter (4) loved the concept of moving through the maps and finding the animals and really wanted to zoom through it night and day! I found that most of it was pretty easy for her (she was doing the first grade level, lesson 51 up) bar the arithmetic. She had never done ordinary algorithms before.
    The pros were that she enjoyed it, and that about a week later I found her counting by 2s in the car – not by rote, but by working out the pattern in her head. I don’t know whether that was directly due to mathseeds, but I think the immersion on the numbers must have brought it on.
    I didn’t continue with the trial though as I thought that too many concepts were being introduced too quickly for her to really thoughtfully process and play with. I’d rather at age 4 she spent more time on the basics of number than moving through more and more subtraction and addition problems without deep understanding. I also didn’t like the idea of doing a lot of maths just so that she would get the reward at the end – there’s a lot of research on people being turned off things by being offered rewards.
    I can see it would be really useful if it was rationed out week by week, in addition to other maths experiences – which is what it was probably designed to do!!
    The maths resources which have been really useful for us have been the Moebius Noodles book, and lots of maths stories, from picture books like Greg Tan’s books, to Peg + Cat, to Penrose the Mathematical Cat. Playing around with Magna-Tiles has taught her masses of geometry too.
    One of the positives of the trial was getting a good idea at where she was by using the initial tests, both for Reading Eggs and Mathseeds. I knew she was an advanced reader but I wasn’t aware that she was advanced in maths too, so that was useful to find out.

  2. Blokeschool says:

    If your daughter is doing the first grade lessons at age four, then I tend to agree with you in that there is no real need for her to be doing this, and she would be better off getting a stronger sense of basic ideas through play. My four year old only really does this because his brother does. I think that you are right in that it is probably designed to be stretched out over a long period of time and supplemented with other stuff, which would allow time for each of the concepts to solidify a bit before moving on.
    I get what you are saying about the negative effects of people learning something just so they get a reward, and it is one of the reasons I am so uncomfortable with assigning grades to anything. At the same time, I feel that there has to be some encouragement to continue, other than the fairly abstract satisfaction of learning something new. Especially in a subject like maths, which is a fairly abstract concept to begin with. I think that the non competitive and non comparative nature of this style of ‘prize’ turns it into a positive.
    The initial tests are an interesting thing to see. Despite having just said how much I don’t like comparing kids, I am often faced with the paradox of wanting to know where my kids sit compared to the norm. Interestingly, the initial assessment test didn’t really tell me much. Because my boys did not know what a test was, they kept on putting in wrong answers on purpose to see what would happen.

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