17 Jun 2011

MEP Reflections

Yesterday Jemimah completed Year 4 of MEP. Hurrah!

(She is nine years old and is in Year 3 (Her 4th year of formal education in Victoria)).

The initials MEP stand for "Mathematics Enhancement Programme" - a maths programme (obviously) developed by the CIMT - Centre for Innovation in Mathematics Teaching - at the University of Plymouth in the United Kingdom. It is the curriculum I've be using with Jemimah since the beginning, and today seemed an opportunistic time to touch base with you about how we are liking the course four years in.

Is it comprehensive in scope?

Firstly and importantly, it is a rigourous curriculum effectively covering most of what Jemimah would be studying at public school. Today as I write, Jemimah is tucked up in the room we currently use as a store room (you can see her above) completing examination papers. At the end of each term MEP has students complete an IPMA test - yes, the course is jargon and acronym heavy - short for International Project of Mathematical Attainment. According to the Coordinator's Manual:

The tests are designed to assess progress on key mathematical topics and concepts over a yearly period of time. Further questions are added each year to the original questions. In this way we hope that there will be sufficient new and relevant questions to assess progress, whilst having at least some questions on the test paper for children who are progressing slowly.
The test covers only the key mathematical concepts covered in the previous year of study, and as such I have found it reasonable to expect Jemimah to attain 100% each year. This expectation has proved achievable each year so far - including today. Go Girl!!

(The test is only moderately useful as placement test for parents who look to use MEP in place of another curriculum choice in their homeschool, since the course itself is far more comprehensive than the test indicates. Still, it could be used as a placement test if parents give the whole test and look at the stage at which their pupils baulk at the questions. A summary of the number of questions relevant to each year level and age is included in the Coordinator's Manual.)

In addition to the IPMA tests, Jemimah is today also sitting Australia's NAPLAN tests for Years 5 and 7 (Remember, she is in Grade 3 here.).

National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) testing commenced in Australian schools in 2008. Every year, students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 are assessed on the same days using national tests in Reading, Writing, Language Conventions (Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation) and Numeracy. Many of you, I know, use homeschooling curricula that regularly test your children's progress in major subject areas. Those of you who like me choose the Charlotte Mason method of educating and testing will be less sure where their children fit in relation to their State educated peers, especially since MEP only tests using the IPMA test once a year. There is no obligation for me to use these tests with my homeschooled daughter, but it is always encouraging to me to see that her mathematical learning level is at or above that of her peers. I chose the Year 5 and 7 levels rather than Year 3 because I am confident that she is familiar with the vast majority of the material included in both of these year levels. That gives me incredible confidence to continue using the MEP course in the future.

(As an aside, she also sat the Year 3 Language Conventions paper. Her English grammar and punctuation were perfect; her spelling was 'atroshus' - as usual. Sigh - what more can I do?)

After all that testing, this is her brain food reward of choice - Kool Mints.

Is it teacher intensive?

Those parents using lower levels of MEP will be reassured, I am sure, to learn that the level of daily parental input into the programme decreases somewhere through Year 3. During this past year I have spent only a few minutes at the commencement of each lesson covering the material contained in the Lesson Plans before Jemimah completes the Worksheet for that day. She is free to come to me for help, but often all I do is go through the sheet with her after she has completed it alone.

How long does it take?

Lessons at this level take between 20 minutes and half an hour. This is in line with Charlotte Mason's guidelines, since her students spent 30 minutes on arithmetic in Years 4-6. Do not allow procrastination!! Generally we cover all questions on all worksheets, but if a lesson is taking far longer than usual we may hold a question or two over to the next Friday's lesson. Friday's lesson is worksheet based only and takes less time. We like this at the end of a busy week.

Do you still use manipulatives?

At this level manipulatives are used far less often, but we still use counters and Cuisinaire rods occasionally. Dice and coins are used for probability at this level. Sometimes it is fun to use lollies as manipulatives. Smarties are fun. Maths is far more interesting when you can eat the answers!!

Do you print everything?

We continue to print all paperwork including all copymasters. Jemimah prefers to use the larger sized copymasters when they are available, even when they are reproduced on the worksheet. Each Year Level is divided into a and b. Each of these is further divided into three sections. We print one section at a time and put the sheets into a folder. At this level she completes most of the sheet in pencil with a rubber available to correct mistakes, but she always has a few textas to brighten up her day a little!

Do you prepare the lessons?

Aside from pre-printing the materials I do very little lesson preparation. I generally glance over the lesson plans in the morning before school starts to see if any manipulatives are required so that I can gather them together. This takes no more than a minute or two most days. (Well, unless somebody has borrowed the dice for a board game, that is.)

Does Jemimah like maths?

Maths is not Jemimah's favourite subject, but nor is it her least favourite - studied dictation takes that ticket! Generally she just gets on and does it.

Generally if she doesn't understand a new concept the first time, MEP's continual cumulative review will give her many more opportunities to master a process later on. This removes much of the stress that children can often feel with mathematics as a subject, in my experience.

MEP Maths is not an issue either way to Jemimah.

I like it though, four years in. Does that count?

Feel free to let me know if there is anthing else you want me to cover. I'd be happy to oblige! There are plenty of other posts on MEP in the archives as well. You'll find them under Mathematics in the right sidebar.

If you have had experience with MEP how did you find it? Are your experiences similar to mine?

Do tell.


  1. I quit on the NAPLAN when Star began playing games with it [grade 5]. I know the kid's pretty ADD but it is a long way below many Homeschoolers level ~ especially for a good reader & that our Star certainly is. At this level the math started moving into more abstract areas & abstract Math Star does not do. I remember doing the grade 5 English paper as a joke with friends ~ I was the only one who came close to nailing all the questions & my friends hold degrees, so seriously, all they show is whether or not you can do exams. lol Also, without the National Curriculum some states, like QLD, are 12 ~18 months behind the southern states in the work covered so I quesion the results.

    We began homeschooling initially because we have a whole clutch of kids with difficult learning styles & learning disabilities: dyslexia, dysgraphia, ADD & the boys were just dropping through the cracks in the system. The ones we pulled out [3 out of 5] have done the best academically ~ yes, including our wonderful Star.

    I'm sure Jemimah has done wonderfully well. She has a very dedicated mummy & is a smart little cookie.

  2. Another great MEP post. I plan on using it with Faith when she is ready. I am really loving Teaching Textbooks for Carter but I have a soft spot for MEP as I think it's great. We only changed from MEP to TT because of me, I needed to make things less teacher intensive as I was struggling to meet the needs on a toddler as well.It's a great programme anyway, thanks for your update and well done Jemima for doing so well with something that is not your favourite thing to do.
    Blessings, Renelle

  3. I have an atrocious speller too, and I have had very good success with the AVKO spelling programme (google it). The difference it has made to her in such a short time is incredible. I'm hoping it sticks! The child concerned is a very good reader and enjoys writing. Just can't spell. Well, she's improving dramatically. I'm very happy.

    Thank you for the MEP post; we haven't spent very much time on it this year (ack; it's June already!) but I am not ready to let it go. I love the programme but my eldest does not love math. It is always a burden, although if he settles down he *can* do it. Little Miss I Can't Spell loves math and will excel regardless of the programme.

    Enyhoo, just thought I'd post and let you know about AVKO in case you haven't already heard of it.

  4. Great post, Jeanne! I looked ahead at the work Jemimah has just finished ... quite challenging, and excellent for promoting abstract thinking! Congratulations on finishing Year 3!

    I am using MEP (1a and 2a) as one of many maths resources, and am considering what we should use in the near and distant future. We do quite enjoy the MEP lessons we do together.

    The "trouble" is I mix it with a dash of Singapore (just reading the textbook together and doing questions orally) AND practical/ living maths AND a few great CD roms and DVDs AND mathy literature and games AND ... all this paints a picture of maths chaos ... fun and inspiring, but maybe not ideal in terms of consistency!

    How did you come to commit to MEP and filter out some other great programs? I don't mind supplementing and choosing the best parts of a couple of resources, but need to draw the line somewhere and am finding it hard to do. Not that I'm overloading the kids, I just need to tidy up my thinking and plans! Tips??

  5. Hi Jeanne! (And yay for Jemima!) As you know, I use MEP with one child and another curriculum for the other. MEP has been a great match for my math-oriented child. It takes us longer than you to complete lessons, though. Do you tackle every item on the teacher lessons plans? I've found that those take the most time. Tiny Girl completes the worksheets fairly quickly. Still and all, math typically takes 45 minutes at our house.

  6. Great post!

    Big MEP fan here, thanks to your own passion for good maths! I so wish I had used it (and known you) from the start. Last year, I switched Olivia to years 7-9, and am allowing her to work at her own pace through the material. David started late too, so we're behind yet one year and playing "hurry-up-already." Thankfully, the others are completely on-track! Phew.

  7. Thanks for the info! I'd never heard of this program before. I wonder how it would translate for a U.S. pupil?

  8. Good stuff Jemimah and to you to Jeanne...you are an incredible teacher! We are loving MEP maths! When I first made the change I placed Joshua in level 2 and I am glad now that he has just about finished and will be starting L3. Gracie has done MEP from Recpetion and is starting 1b and I could not be more happy with how they are both growing at their own pace and most importantly understanding the maths concepts and enjoying it.

    Thank you for this post, it is very encouraging to hear your thoughts! xxx

  9. Hurrah for Jemimah!

    The only problem we have with math over here is with me eating all the counters.

  10. Thanks for your post Jeanne.
    I soo.... wanted to make MEP work for us but it just didn't. Singapore is better for Lucy.

    I am very impressed with Jemimah's progress. Congratulations!

  11. I love, love detailed posts like this about homeschooling materials, techniques, etc. Thank you.

    Math is not the favorite subject for either of my kids, but we're chugging along and doing fine. I felt our biggest accomplishment this year was when my daughter uttered the words, "Math is fun." This is not what she said a year ago, lol.

    We are also working on spelling. The approach I was using for spelling was a bit too lax and we're fixing that. Fingers crossed our new approach goes well.

  12. We love MEP here, I have one (ds) doing yr1 and another (dd) doing yr2. Ds is a maths boy and has no trouble grasping the concepts. I find that it is a good mix for him, giving something new and something much less challenging in each session. My Dd on the other hand, while being quite capable is something of a perfectionist and takes much longer at her lessons. Consequently, one lesson can often be spread over 3 days. I don't like them spending more than 30 minutes on maths as they lose energy and it becomes a struggle to keep them interested.
    We're year rounders and this curriculum is designed for children who will have had 6 weeks away from maths in between each year. I won't be doing the first 20 pages or so of yr 2 with my ds when he moves on as there is so much repetition of the material at the end of yr1. Is this also true of yr 2 and yr 3?
    Thanks for your post. It is interesting to read what lays in store for us.

  13. I can't help but comment on how strange it is to see the word "maths". Here in the States, we say "math". Is this a British thing or just not an American thing? LOL.

    Anyway, I love, love MEP! I've only homeschooled one year -- first grade. We hopped around from thing to thing and nothing worked really well until we got to MEP. It is extremely teacher intensive in the younger years, so I am glad to hear it lightens up later.

    Before we did MEP, my daughter dreaded math. Afterwards, math is one of her favorite subjects; and when we did public school for 2nd grade, she was in the advanced math group. So proud, and it was totally worth the 30-45 minutes we spent on it everyday.

    I recommend MEP to everyone! Not only is it rigorous, comprehensive, and amazing -- it's free! Makes me want to do homeschool for 3rd grade...we will see.

  14. Thanks Jeanne! We are looking at other options for maths resources at the moment. Does MEP do highschool maths too?

    Mel x

  15. For spelling, I'd recommend having a look at Sound Waves National. Just go to firefly press dot com dot au.
    Hope its helpful,
    Butter Fly

  16. Just thought you'd be interested that I pulled out the beginnings of MEP Reception to look at and thought "Faith could do that" (she's only 3y 10m). Reception is so bright and colourful, easy to use and the first day she was so keen to keep going. The first day she did the first 3 lessons before we moved on to something else. I'll keep it going and see how we go. Faith and Carter learn very differently, but Charlotte Mason home ed is just a gift to us and I am so relieved to have found out about her, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.

  17. HI there - thanks for the MEP posts. I found them through Suz at Homeschooling on the Cheap.

    If you haven't already, I'd love more info on how you use MEP with your French studies. I would like to do the Spanish with my kids (and German if they had it!) I am unsure about how to go about doing it and ensuring that both the language is comprehended and the math concepts without it being a HUGE chunk of the day. Anyway, the posts are great and I appreciate them! Thanks so much!

  18. This was a wonderful read! I think we will start trying it next week. My daughter is 11 and still in grade 4 maths. She is quite frightened of math actually. Should I start her a lower grade to make sure she does not develop any gaps?
    What are your thoughts?


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