An Honest Review of Math Lessons for A Living Education
We tried Math Lessons for a Living Education during second grade after trying several math curriculums that just did not work for us.
Everything in our homeschool was going so well…except math! And I was bouncing from curriculum to curriculum trying to find our perfect fit. We tried this one, this one, and a few others…I was too embarrassed to even tell people how many we had tried!
I was really hoping this Master Books curriculum would be our Cinderella moment and we would finally have the “just right” math curriculum for us!
Keep reading this Math Lessons for a Living Education review to find out out what we loved about the curriculum, what we didn’t, whether we decided to stick with it, and how to know if this curriculum is right for your homeschool!
Wait, What is Math Lessons for a Living Education?
Math Lessons for a Living Education is a math curriculum from Master Books.
It uses a unique storytelling style to teach math while following the adventures of Charlotte and Charlie – homeschooled twins!
This Charlotte Mason flavored math curriculum is definitely a creative, outside-the-box way of teaching math that will get your kid’s attention!
Everything is included in one hefty-sized workbook – no teacher’s manual to buy! There is a list in the workbook of suggested items to buy for manipulatives.
Math Lessons for a Living Education Review: Exactly What to Expect in a Lesson
Of course, there will be a little bit of variety, but I always walk my readers through a lesson during my curriculum reviews. It’s the next best thing to actually being able to pick up the curriculum and flip through it!
Let’s Flip through Lesson 22 in Math Lessons for a Living Education Level 2 – Reading Bar Graphs and Line Graphs
Exercise 1 (Day1)
The lesson starts with a short reading about how the twins had just learned about reading thermometers the week before. They are now learning about how to record those temperatures on a bar graph and line graph.
The twins are given some graph paper and they start keeping track of the temperature every day. They also start keeping a bar graph of all the different birds they see at their bird feeder in a week.
When the story is over, the lesson continues with short instructional directions about how to read a line graph. The student then has 5 questions to answer about the line graph in the story and 2 bonus questions.
The next day the student will answer 5 questions about reading the bar graph from the story.
As a review of the previous week’s material, there are 3 questions about thermometers.
The student will make their own line graph using information from a previous week. They are then asked to explain the graph to their teacher and quiz them on the information.
This is a 2 worksheet day!
The student is asked to read and understand a bar graph by answering 3 questions about it. The next page uses the bar graph to review some other concepts such as writing number sentences, adding, etc.
The student is asked to make their own bar graph, including labeling the x and y-axis.
How Does Math Lessons for a Living Education Teach Math Facts?
This Master Books math curriculum uses right brain flashcards to teach math facts. If you have no earthly idea what that is – you’re not alone!
I had to read up on this, so thankfully there is information explaining everything in the back of the workbook. A summary would be that the student makes up a silly story to help them remember a math fact. The student then writes the whole math fact (including the answer) on one side of the flashcard.
Below is an example that the book gives: “Slim Miss One marries Nice Mr. Nine and they have two children, Slim Sally and Big Appetite Zero!”
This child makes a card like this for all the math facts and then reviews them regularly.
Math Lesson for a Living Education also offers math fact sheets in the back of the book that you are instructed to laminate (I just slid it into a page protector) and use dry erase markers to practice with.
How Does Math Lessons for a Living Education Teach Place Value?
Math Lessons for a Living Education teaches place value by using the very popular “house method.”
This is a great way to help kids visualize the sometimes abstract concept of place value.
The “house method,” as I like to call it, teaches kids about the “one’s house,” “ten’s house,” “hundred’s house,” and “thousand’s house.”
There are pages in the back of the book to represent the houses. The teacher is instructed to tear them out, laminate them, and get containers of various sizes to hold counting manipulatives. The child will start counting out items using the houses.
For example, your child may be asked to count out 15 beans. Using the house method, your student will start by putting one bean at a time into the “one’s house.” The one’s house can only hold 9 beans, so when they get to 10 beans, your student will have to place the 10 beans in a baggie and place that baggie in the tens house. Then your child will go back to adding beans into the one’s house again till they get to 15.
Your child will be left with “one baggie of ten” and “five ones” which will equal 15.
I know that sounds WAY more confusing than it really is. It is actually quite simple. Math Lessons for a Living Education has this great 5-minute video explaining the concept in a visual way for parents. Check it out here.
How Does Math Lessons for a Living Education Teach Double Digit Addition and Subtraction?
I love the way that this math curriculum teaches double-digit addition and subtraction. They continue the house theme from place value and have the kids work the problems like this:
Kids at this age get very confused with the fact that they should read from left to right – but they need to add and subtract from right to left (especially when you start borrowing and carrying). This method is a great way of reminding them to start with the ones house and move left as you go along.
How Does Math Lessons for a Living Education Teach Carrying and Borrowing?
Both carrying and borrowing are taught by a story of Charlie and Charlotte sitting with one of their parents. The parent walks the twins through the lesson using the place value method.
A one is “carried over” to the tens house when adding larger numbers and a one is “borrowed” from the tens house when subtracting.
It is definitely the classic way you were probably taught in school.
I personally really like the little boxes they put up in the ones and tens houses to help the student with this new concept.
Math Lessons for a Living Education Review: What We Loved About the Curriculum!
1. Practical Application of Math
This is the star feature of this math curriculum in my opinion.
The student learns math concepts as they apply in real life! Here are some examples from the curriculum:
- Learn about measuring and perimeter while helping a grandfather measure boards for a birdhouse
- Bar graphs show the types of birds seen at the birdhouse
- Cups, Pints, Quarts, and other volume measuring are taught through cooking a real recipe that is included in the book
- Weighing things is taught by the twins seeing their new baby sister being weighed on a scale
This is perfect for the kid who rolls their eyes and says, “Why do I need to learn this?!” There is a constant explanation of why you need the information and how kids are using it!
2. Short Lessons = No Trips on the Homeschool Math Struggle Bus
We had been doing long boring, black and white worksheets with this curriculum, so the colorful, short, story-like lessons of Math Lessons for a Living Education were a game-changer for us.
Math became a much more relaxed and calm subject. No more tears, whining, or resisting.
I would say most lessons were between 10-20 minutes long and there were usually less than 10 problems to do.
3. Christian Values Woven Through the Curriculum
As with all Master Books curriculum, you can clearly see that the book was written by Christians.
The stories are all laced with talk of God and how He works in the world and in our lives.
There is even a several page story that retells the birth of Jesus near Christmas time! As a Christian family, it’s always so nice to see those values reinforced during school hours – even with math!
4. Style of Built-in Review Time
Math Lessons for a Language Education does include built-in review (unlike some mastery-focused curriculum).
The review is very cleverly written as letters from the twins to their friends or family about what they’re learning in everyday life – which just happens to include math!
I love this for kids who don’t understand the point of review. If you’ve ever heard, “Ugh! We already did this!” then you will love this style of review!
5. Variety = No Boredom Complaints
Again, coming from our black and white worksheets that only focused on math facts, Math Lessons for a Living Education was a breath of fresh air.
Every week we were learning about something new with math! I loved that my kid was seeing that math was so much more than *just* math facts and learning to count into the hundreds.
6. It’s Easy on Your Homeschool Budget
Math Lessons for Living Education is definitely something that most families can afford. There is no teacher’s manual to buy and the workbook costs less than what I usually pay at Chick-fil-a for dinner for my family!
Check out Amazon prices for the workbook here.
Math Lessons for a Living Education: What We Didn’t Love…
I never mean to be harsh, especially to a Christian curriculum company! But I know you need to make a serious decision about what curriculum to teach your kids, so this review includes things that I found lacking in the Math Lessons for a Living Education curriculum.
1. Right Brain Flashcards Did Not Work For Us
I know I just said that my kid loved that we were not overly focused on math facts…but teaching solid math facts is still the cornerstone of elementary level math. Everything else that comes down the road will be built on those math facts.
As mentioned above, Math Lessons for a Living Education teaches math facts through the right-brain flashcard method. The student takes a list of math facts and makes flashcards that tell a story that the child can remember.
My kid was completely overwhelmed by this and to be honest, so was I. The amount of time, effort, and creativity to put together these cards (for every math fact!) was extensive. And then my kid had to remember all of these little stories in order to learn the fact.
We gave it our best shot but ended up abandoning it completely. If you do end up going with Math Lessons for a Living Education, I would recommend replacing the right-brain flashcards with the Math Facts that Stick Series by Kate Snow. The books are excellent, game-based ways to learn ALL the math facts using number sense – no stories needed.
2. Not Challenging Enough
That is saying a lot coming from a homeschool mom who was exhausted of teaching math to a kid who hated math.
But the lessons were so easy and short. Too easy and short, unfortunately.
I am pretty sure my daughter even picked up on it.
I continually felt unsure about where my kid was in math and whether she was keeping pace with kids her age. It felt like the rest of the world was speeding by us as we took a leisurely boat ride down the Charlotte Mason river of “Don’t Try Too Hard.”
3. Not Enough Problems
The short lessons are of course due to the fact that there are usually less than 10 problems to a page. I am not saying that my kid needs to do 50 problems a day, but I do think more is needed than what is on the worksheets.
If you looked through my example above of Lesson 22 in the workbook, I would say that most kids could do that entire week’s worth of work in 1-2 days.
As I said in a previous Master Books review -” I know the Charlotte Mason technique is all about ‘less is more,’ but in this area, it felt like not enough.”
4. The Stories Can Be Cheesy and Fluffy At Times
The stories of Charlie and Charlotte did do a good job of bringing up math concepts, but quite a few of them are just conflict-free, bubbly stories about two kids hanging out with their family. Little to no math is included.
And everybody is so happy all the time that it is hard to get excited about “what happens next” with Charlotte and Charlie.
For example, Lesson 13 goes on for paragraphs about the joys of winter and the coming Christmas holiday. It ends with the mother calling the kids to the table to learn about time.
Since the lessons are so short, I wish that the stories were more math focused and “meaty.” And I would have liked a little more excitement.
5. Felt like a Gamble
Again, just being honest here.
Maybe Math Lessons for a Living Education would have worked out.
Maybe it would have been fine, and my kid would have sailed onto third grade with flying colors. But it felt like I would be taking a gamble with this Master Books math curriculum.
Math is a core subject (that homeschoolers are often notoriously behind in) and I just did not feel comfortable with something so light and “gimmicky.”
Math Lessons for a Living Education FAQ
1. Is there a Placement Test for Math Lessons for a Living Education?
Yes! Master Books does offer a free placement test.
You will need to print it off and go through it with your child.
Click below to get the placement test:
Math Lessons for a Living Education Placement Test
2. Is Math Lessons of a Living Education Secular?
Math Lessons for a Living Education is definitely a math curriculum that includes Christian values and much talk of God and Jesus.
If you are not a Christian, I would say that this curriculum will not come across as offensive. It really is about two happy twins who live in a loving family that also loves God. I don’t think you’ll find anything here that would be considered negative or upsetting.
3. Is Math Lessons for a Living Education Common Core?
This math curriculum teaches math in the same basic, easy-to-understand way that you learned in school.
4. Is Math Lessons for a Living Education Too Easy?
A common complaint about Master Books curriculum is that it is too easy.
And I would have to agree. The lessons do not offer much in the way of academic challenge, critical thinking, or mental endurance.
I have read that some kids have benefited from going up a grade in the curriculum to be more challenged.
Did We End Up Sticking with Math Lessons for a Living Education?
Well, if you’ve read this far, you won’t be surprised to hear that we did not stick with it.
I did originally decide that we would finish out the year with it and try something else in the fall. But I had my daughter test drive a free trial of Teaching Textbooks in the spring to see if it would work for next year…and we never picked up Math Lesson for a Living Education again.
Looking back through the curriculum to write this review, I will say that there are parts of the curriculum that I like. And it did help us get through a difficult time where my homeschooler was hating and struggling with math.
I would consider using it again as a supplement for my younger kids if they struggle with certain concepts, but not as a primary math curriculum.
Math Lessons for a Living Education Might be Right for You If…
You want a gentle math curriculum
You need a math curriculum on a budget
Your kid loves to listen to stories
Your kid hates math and you need to find a new approach to get them engaged again
You want a fun supplement to go along with another math curriculum you’re already using
You love Charlotte Mason style workbooks
You are a Christian and love including Christian curriculum in your homeschool
You don’t want anything to do with common core math
Math Lessons for a Living Education is Probably Wrong for You if…
You want a rigorous math curriculum
You don’t really get (or want to get) the Charlotte Mason style of teaching
Your kid hates being read to
Your kid doesn’t care for worksheets
You want to teach math with games and other hands-on activities
You like lots of review to keep skills sharp
You want your curriculum to come in a kit – you don’t want to have to go out and buy a long list of supplies to go with it.
Your kid needs lots of practice to understand new concepts
Recap Math Lesson for a Living Education Review
I hope you appreciated the painful honesty of this Math Lessons for a Living Education review.
I really wanted this to be our “perfect fit” math curriculum. I know that there are many homeschoolers out there that love it and swear by it. It just didn’t work for us.
Have you used Math Lessons for a Living Education?
I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments! Good, bad, or ugly, I know my readers would appreciate your perspective!
I know that Masterbooks bills Math Lessons for a Living Education as being “Charlotte Mason,” but it’s really, really not. Ray’s Arithmetic is closer to what was used in Charlotte Mason’s schools, but RightStart and Math-U-See are closer to what she wanted math education to be like and are much more common in the CM community.