Trouble with math retention


I have a 5th grader who is having trouble retaining math formulas. We have been using MUS Epsilon and she is just so bogged down in all the methods for solving fractions. Whenever we get to the “review” workbook pages (D,E,F) she (and admittedly sometimes me too) have to go back and try to remember all the different ways they are asking her to solve the fractions.

I know that MUS is really focused on the foundations and the “why” of what they are doing. It also seems like they want the child to have several options on how to solve. I love how through the program is and for my 2nd grader who loves all things math, its a dream. It’s just not working and I feel like we have lost an entire year. She understands fundamentally what she’s doing, she just can’t remember how to solve it without a cheat sheet of the operations.

Should I choose one way to solve each (addition, subtraction, multiple and divide) and just tell her to solve them that way every time, ignoring when the book asks her to use a different method? Any way to make sure she retains the knowledge from this year and can move forward without being confused?

Any recommendations for next year? I think a less in depth program for her where she can memorize a formula without all the “why.” In a perfect world, math would click for everyone, but I can see now, it will never be a strong point for her and it makes it more frustrating to keep trying to teach her in several ways. She wants a basic way to solve it and move forward, and that’s ok with me :slight_smile:


Hey - I’m not sure this will help you at all, as we use Saxon which is a spiraling curriculum where they constantly work on new things while constantly reviewing the older things (perhaps MUS is like this?) Anyway, my daughter is a strong math student, but now that she’s in 4th grade (doing 5th grade math) there is an immense amount of new material to learn. Here’s what we do: She has an index card box on her desk devoted to math. As a new topic comes up (for example, conversion of US system to Metric), she makes a title for the card (Volume Conversions) so all the cards can be kept alphabetized. Then she puts any relevant information she needs on the card for that topic. I allow her to refer to all the cards in the box for any worksheets she wants (not tests). I was concerned she would use it for everything. However, the cards have put her in charge of looking up what she needs to know, and as the days go on, she needs to refer to older topics less and less. By the time we get to a test she usually has the material mastered and no longer needs to refer to the cards (again, I wouldn’t have her use them for the tests anyway, but it’s nice that by that time she no longer feels the need to refer to them.) I’m not sure how that would work for you, as I don’t know what kind of program MUS is, but it’s worked great for us. Good luck!!


Perhaps you will find success in slowing down a bit and maybe printing off some extra worksheets on the concepts they’re having trouble remembering, and focus on those for a while until they’re cemented better. Sometimes in our natural development we just need more time to let those new concepts stick. Fortunately with MUS, you’re not falling behind, but rather just going at your student’s pace. I used to let the curriculum drive our year, but now I see the ebb and flow of our learning, and we just need time for it to stick better. It all evens out over time.

I used MUS several years ago, ended up listening to the naysayers, and switched to something else for a time. Well, now we’re back with MUS this year, and LOVING it so much. We’re using 5 different levels in our house from Gamma all the way up to Pre-Calculus. I see the amazing way they build mathematical understanding, and also build a strong foundation with each level. I’d encourage you to stick with it, and keep riding the ebbs and flows of your student. They’ll get it in time. You’re not wasting your year, you’re just in a spot that needs more time, perhaps. I wish you the best in your homeschooling! :slight_smile:


Thanks for the suggestions!

As far as slowing it down, I feel that we have been doing these FOREVER. My son is almost done with his book and we are still in the middle of hers. We are definitely doing many more worksheets/problems than are typical. It’s just not sticking.

I agree that each child is different. MUS works great for my son, but it just doesn’t work for her. That’s why we started HS in the first place…there was some curriculum that didn’t work for us. When I approached the teachers with other methods we could use or how we could modify it to work (and how I would help with this) I was told that in the school setting with 34 kids in the class, it just wasn’t possible. They all needed to do things the same. So…homeschool it is! :slight_smile: I have to remember this — the foundation of it all. We can switch if needed! We can find new methods! I can use a different curriculum for each kid!

Thanks for the confident boost and support. I really needed to hear all this.

I had her “try out” the TT on their website. She really liked it so I purchased a used set on Ebay to try it. It should be here in a few weeks so we may or may not finish the MUS year when it arrives. (I got the same concepts she’s working on now in Epsilon {math 6})

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My son has the same problem. This is what I do: When a new concept/topic is introduced I make sure that he try all the different ways to solve the problems. I usually watch the video lesson with him and help him to solve worksheet A. Once I am sure that he understands the “why” I allow him to choose the method to solve it, even if the workbook asks for an especific way. Of course, he always chooses the shortest, simplest way. I don’t know if this is the best, but this is what works for us.

We used Abeka in the past and never had this problem because they only teach one way to solve. Perhaps it could be an option for your daughter.

@triton17’s idea is great, I have never thought of making cards. I usually make a mini chart with the steps or formula and place it on the wall for reference. But the box of cards is great for regular review.


Yes! Love the cards idea!

Thank you- that’s what we tried today. I just told her to use the method she likes best. We also got a printable from TpT (LOVE that site) With a fractions operations “wheel” :slight_smile: The problem was that she decided she likes the “rule of four” as her preferred method and this wheel uses multiplying both sides to get the LCD. Although it also has a blank version included so you could write the rule you prefer to follow- I think we’ll do that next!

I’ll add a link here if it would be helpful for anyone. She did enjoy coloring it! :slight_smile:


My 6th grader is trying to finish up Epsilon as well. We had switched to Saxon a few years back, and got back to MUS as soon as we could. He struggles, too with the different Methods for adding/subtracting, multiplying/dividing fractions. So, I know exactly what you are talking about!! There is no rushing through Epsilon, unfortunately. He is ready to be DONE with this one, but I’m making him take his time.

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Hi. My daughter really really struggles with simple retention. We can sit down and do simple problems of say long division and get it done but the next day she is asking me what the steps are again. I have been determined not to move ahead until she gets one method of doing math because when she gets to higher math I don’t want her stuck at the beginning at just a fraction or division. We started using Learn Math Fast books and it has been a game changer. It is very very simple, Black and white no pictures just an explanation then problems. The thing I love is each book covers a couple of things like fractions and decimals and then covers it all rather which has really helped her. I’ve also had to learn to chill out and not be concerned about how “behind”she is and figure if we just keep working eventually it will click. At least that’s what I keep chanting to myself over and over

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