Virtual Curriculum Fair 2013: The Plans of Mice and Math

When Chipette finished Kindergarten I immediately started planning for her first grade year. While I was researching possibilities for most subjects, I knew exactly what I wanted to use for math: Singapore Standards Edition. All I heard about this program was how great it was to teach your child the “why” behind math, not just plug and chug. When the box arrived in the mail I eagerly ripped it open and began looking through the materials, especially the Home Instructor’s Guide. And I just didn’t get it.

I don’t consider myself a math dummy. I don’t like math that much, but I went all the way through Advanced Placement Calculus in high school, so I knew how to work math problems. I did not understand how to do math or teach math using this method. Obviously I was taught to “plug and chug!” I spent a few days looking over the materials and quickly realized it wouldn’t work for me, so I sold it. We floundered a bit in first grade with math, but by the end of the year I knew I wanted to try a conceptual math program like Singapore again. After trying Math Mammoth, which sent Chipette into tears with the cluttered pages, I saw Math in Focus mentioned as a conceptual program similar to Singapore. I went to their website where you can look through the entire book and I understood it! I finally got this mental math stuff and I could teach from this!

What is Math in Focus?
Math in Focus is a version of the Singapore style of math that was developed for American school system markets based upon the actual math curriculum used in Singapore called My Pals Are Here. It is published by Marshall Cavendish and distributed through Houghton Mifflin.

So what made Math in Focus workable for me?
Lots of examples and step by step instructions in the student text that allowed me to see how this mental math and conceptual Asian math worked.

Plus I love the review at the beginning of each chapter so I can make sure that Chipette really has the skills down needed to progress.

What made it work for Chipette?
I don’t know if Chipette would have done well with Singapore Standards because I never used it with her. I have a feeling she would because she is a pretty mathy kid, but I do know that she loves Math in Focus because

It has beautiful full color pages in the textbook.

It has clean black and white workbook pages with plenty of writing space.

It includes games,

Hands on activities,

Math journaling,

And critical thinking problems all in the textbook to keep math fun and engaging.

What do you NEED to make it work?
Since Math in Focus was actually developed for schools it has a LOT of extra bells and whistles that I find expensive and unnecessary. All that I purchase to use Math in Focus is the student textbook and the student workbook. I teach directly from the student textbook, and Chipette does the workbook pages on her own after we’ve worked some practice problems in the textbook together. The textbook even tells you when it’s time to do some pages in the workbook and what pages to do!

The only reason I can even see needing the Teacher’s Manual at some point in the future is to have the answers to the workbook pages. The manipulatives kit and extra workbooks are not necessary in my opinion. You can purchase just the textbooks and workbooks from Rainbow Resources and get free shipping!

While my math plan didn’t work out the way I expected, I did stumble upon a great math program that works wonderfully in our family!

Sometimes my plans crash and burn but it always works out in the end in the tree house,

Homeschooling Hearts & Minds Virtual Curriculum Fair Button

Check out the other bloggers who are participating in the Virtual Curriculum Fair:

Delight Directed Middle School Science? by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
The Hardest Part of Math by Kristi @ The Potter's Hand Academy
A Tour Through Our Math and Science Life by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool
What Works for Us…Math by Piwi Mum @ Learning & Growing the Piwi Way
Math Art – Geometry by Julie @ Highhill Education
It's Math-magical by Missouri Mama @ Ozark Ramblings
Virtual Curriculum Fair: Fun and Games with Math by Tonia @ The Sunny Patch
Discovering Patterns by Lisa @ The Golden Grasses
Math for the Natural by Erin @ Delighting in His Richness
Virtual Curriculum Fair~ Discovering Patterns by Karyn @ Teach Beside Me
Too Many Math Programs or Not by Linda B @ Homeschooling6
Virtual Curriculum Fair:  Math and More!  by April @ Coffee, Cobwebs, and Curriculum
The post where I admit I was wrong by Kristen H. @ Sunrise to Sunset
High School Math - Beyond the Textbook by TechWife @ A Playground of Words
Discovering a World of Logic and Order by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory
2013 Virtual Curriculum Fair- Discovering Patterns: Mathematics, Logic, and Science by Leah C @ As We Walk Along the Road
The Plans of Mice and Math (My Math in Focus review) by Chelli @ The Planted Trees
Rightstart Math is right for us! by Leann  @ Montessori Tidbits
Our Favorite Homeschool Math Curriculums by Wendy @ Homeschooling Blessings


  1. This is a program I've never heard of, but it looks great! I'll keep it in mind for the next time someone asks me if I know of any "different" math programs!

    1. We like it a lot. I'm trying to spread the Math in Focus love! ;)

  2. This one sounds really interesting! I love the math journaling, that might be something we have to start in our home!

    1. The math journaling is my favorite part. It makes my daughter really have to think about how to EXPLAIN how the math works instead of just doing it.

  3. I'm also using Math in Focus with my 2nd grader...for the most part it's a good fit for exactly the reasons you outline here. It does tend to go a little fast for him on certain topics, but we just slow down when we hit one of those and spend more time doing it hands-on, then we move on once he "gets it."

    Thank you for sharing with the Virtual Curriculum Fair!

  4. thanks for your great review. I just ordered it for my daughter. can't wait to start.

    1. You're welcome! And I hope you guys love it like we do.

  5. how long does a lesson take to teach and complete each day?

    1. Sorry, Cami, I just saw this comment. It takes about 15-20 minutes to teach. I let my daughter do the worksheets on her own, and they take her probably 10-15 minutes depending on how involved they are. This is at the third grade level.

  6. Thank you for your review on Math in Focus! I am trying to decide between Math in Focus and Math Mammoth for first grade. Any thoughts you can share with me? I do like the appealing pages of Math in Focus. Does it seem to cover everything that Math Mammoth does? Clocks, fractions, money, geometry? Do you really think I can do it without the teacher manual (Math in Focus)? That is the really expensive piece, and I would love to not have to buy that. If you get a chance, please email me at
    Thanks! Glad to have found your blog!

  7. Are you still using Math in Focus? Do you still like it?