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Educational Helps | 3 Minutes

Mathematics: What's the Difference Between Spiral and Mastery Approach?

Hisung Choi Written by Hisung Choi
Mathematics: What's the Difference Between Spiral and Mastery Approach?

Did you know there are different methods of learning math? Although the latest Common Core math might stick out in our minds because it’s gotten a lot of attention recently, there’s been many different ways to learn math for a very long time. Some of the tried and true methods and companies you’ve heard of have different approaches, which you may not have noticed before!

Veritas Scholars Academy has a couple of different options for math courses. Before you choose a math curriculum for your student, it’s important to understand the difference between mastery and the spiral approach.

VSA math teacher Hisung Choi is here to give you a quick rundown! We hope this short video will give you clarity as you decide what curriculum is best for your family.


Hi. My name is Hisung Choi, and I teach grammar math here at VSA. I currently teach Math You See Epsilon, Delta, Zeta, and Pre-Algebra. I want to give you a brief overview of the two math curricula that we use at VSA. First is Saxon Math, which is widely known by most homeschooling families. It is more of a traditional program that utilizes paper and pencil practice for lots of repetition.

It's known for its spiral approach, in which concepts are taught a little bit at a time, and there is a continued emphasis on review. Math U See is more of a conceptual program in which hands-on manipulatives are used for students to learn the concepts. It's known for its Mastery approach, in which concepts are taught one chunk at a time, and the goal is to master that concept before moving on to another concept.

So what does that look like at VSA? Saxon math has four lessons covered in a week, it is, therefore, quite an accelerated pace and in alignment with the spiral approach, 80% of the homework is on review, while 20% of the homework is on the newly taught concept.

For Math U See, there's one lesson covered per week. Therefore it is more of a concentrated pace which is in alignment with the mastery approach. And when it comes to the homework, 52% of the homework is on the newly taught concept, while 48% is on review.

So what does this mean for your student, and how can you choose a program that best fits your student? Well, for Saxon math, it's great for auditory processors who want to learn the steps of how to solve a problem and enjoy repeating or reproducing the steps to solve a problem. Saxon math is great for those who are procedure-driven or procedure-oriented.

Math U See is great for tactile or visual learners who really enjoy exploring the why and the how behind the math concept. So students who are more deep thinkers or analyzers would benefit from Math U See. Both programs use mastery and spiral coaches. It's just that each program tends to lean slightly over to one approach over the other.

Both math programs are excellent and taught by amazing VSA teachers who would love the opportunity to teach your student. I hope this information was helpful. God bless you, and thank you.