With math being such a critical, and often challenging, subject to teach, picking a homeschool math program is never an easy choice.
Math Mammoth and CLE Math are two comprehensive, highly-respected and popular homeschool math programs that have helped many students develop and hone their math skills over the years.
That said, the two programs are quite different in terms of how they approach math learning and it can sometimes be hard for parents to figure out which might be right for their homeschool needs.
To help out, we compared Math Mammoth and CLE Math so that parents can make a more informed and effective choice.
What is Math Mammoth
Math Mammoth is a well-known and respected homeschool math program for students in grades 1-7.
An independent learning math program, Math Mammoth aims to instill in its students a strong and deep conceptual understanding of math, as well as helping them develop stronger number sense and critical thinking skills.
What is CLE Math
Christian Light Education (CLE) Math is a popular and highly esteemed Bible-based homeschool math curriculum for students in grades 1-12.
A more traditional math program, CLE Math aims to build a stronger base of math skills by instilling a strong fluency with math facts, systematic thinking and an ability to solve math problems quickly and accurately.
Math Mammoth is by and large an Elementary School level math program.
Its teaching material is aimed at grades 1-7, covering everything from basic number relationships and addition/subtraction to essential algebra concepts and linear equations.
In contrast, CLE Math covers math instruction for grades 1-12.
That is, it teaches nearly the full range of Elementary, Middle and High School math, from basic number skills to Functions and Trigonometry (essentially pre-calculus).
While CLE Math doesn’t cover Calculus, like other more traditional math programs, it does offer a practical Consumer Math course that covers topics such as personal finance, budgeting and so on.
Parents should be aware that there are, at time of writing, two different curricula offered by CLE Math – an older curriculum that is published under an agreement with Alpha Omega Publications and uses much of its material and structure, and a newer curriculum designed by CLE itself, called Sunrise Editions.
There are notable differences between the two curricula, with Sunrise editions having a tighter spiral of learning (more incremental and a greater amount of review), shorter daily lesson divisions, unique and a full color print.
Most grades in CLE Math have been shifted over to the Sunrise Editions, with the exceptions of (at time of writing) Algebra II, Geometry and Functions and Trigonometry – i.e. grades 10, 11 and 12 math, although this will probably change in time.
Note: for the purposes of this comparison, we will be referencing the CLE-designed Sunrise Editions.
Both Math Mammoth and CLE Math are, ultimately, homeschool math curricula.
As a result, although they have their intended grade ranges, they can be used by students outside the normal pace of learning, such as by precocious learners or those who are a little behind in their studies.
As both programs follow their own pace, scope and sequence (more on that later), it can be hard at times for parents switching into these programs to know where to start.
Helpfully, both Math Mammoth and CLE Math offer free placement tests that parents can use to figure out which level of either program is most appropriate for their child.
Math Mammoth offers its placement tests as a downloadable PDF on its website, and CLE Math does the same, although it also offers parents the ability to purchase physical, paper copies for $2.00, as well.
Interestingly, both programs’ diagnostic tests work quite similarly.
Rather than students taking a test for that grade level to determine if they are ready for it, a student entering grade 2 taking a grade 2 placement test for example, students are supposed to take the test for the level below them to see if they have mastered all the required concepts and are “ready.”
In both programs, for example, a student entering grade 2 will take the grade 1 placement test.
As a result of this, the exams are more like end of year tests and parents can use them to more easily identify any pertinent skill or knowledge gaps that may exist.
Math Mammoth Vs. CLE Math: How They Teach Math
Overall, Math Mammoth and CLE Math have quite a few differences when it comes to the way they approach teaching math.
Conceptual vs Procedural Math
Math Mammoth is a strongly conceptual math program.
Its curriculum is centered more on developing a strong understanding of math concepts and their logic, i.e. why the math works the way it does, rather than just how.
As with other conceptual math programs, students studying with Math Mammoth will spend less time doing drill, learning to follow step by step methodologies and memorizing math facts and more time honing their problem solving skills, critical thinking, mental math skills and general number sense.
Through the use of visual models and more complex, multi-step word problems, the overarching goal of conceptual math programs like Math Mammoth is to help students deepen their understanding of math and learn to be able to flexibly approach problems using different strategies.
In contrast, CLE Math is more of a traditional, procedural math program.
In other words, while it does explain math concepts, the focus is more on learning how to solve problems accurately (and, eventually, quickly) than on the why.
As a result, much like programs such as Saxon Math, students learn particular ways to solve problems in a systematic, step by step manner and there can be a stronger emphasis on repetition, speed drills, memorizing math facts, flash card drills and practice and assessment in order to develop automatic recall and stronger math skill fluency, i.e. the ability to do math and get the right answer quickly.
Mastery vs Spiral
Another difference between Math Mammoth and CLE Math is in their curriculum approach.
Math Mammoth is largely a mastery math program with elements of a spiral curriculum added in.
As a mastery program, its chapters center on a single topic in math and this means that students can spend several lessons exploring each topic in depth, one at a time, moving onto a new concept when some level of student proficiency is reached (mastery).
As a result, Math Mammoth’s mastery approach can be great for students who like or need to take their time with a particular math concept, who like or need to explore topics in depth and to completion, and for those who get frustrated by frequently changing topics.
Addressing a common complaint of mastery programs, notably the lack of periodic review of previously learned concepts, Math Mammoth has added something of a spiral review of its program.
Following each chapter, students do some mixed review in their workbooks and can supplement this with further spiral review in the supplemental Math Mammoth Skills Review workbooks.
As a consequence, and unlike more “pure” mastery programs, students in Math Mammoth can brush up on previously learned material from time to time, helping them to better retain the skills and knowledge they’re developing.
In contrast, CLE Math is a spiral math curriculum.
In a spiral curriculum, math concepts are broken up into smaller, more easily digested bits and are introduced in an incremental manner.
That is, students are introduced to a topic, learn a little about it, then move onto another.
The original topic is reviewed and revisited again (often repeatedly) throughout the course, each time in a little more depth and complexity.
Rather than spending a great deal of time covering a single topic, spiral curricula cover more math topics in a given time frame and introduce new topics frequently, keeping the learning fresh and allowing concepts to link together more naturally, allowing students to get a better idea of how it all fits together.
Similarly, CLE Math periodically engages in spiral review, where previously learned concepts are practiced alongside new material.
CLE Math’s spiral curriculum can therefore be a good option for students who get bored, intimidated or frustrated studying one topic for long periods of time and for those who need a lot of constant review and revision of concepts to properly absorb what they’re learning.
Faith-based vs secular
An additional difference between Math Mammoth and CLE Math, and one that can be quite important to some homeschools, is their approach to faith-based learning.
Math Mammoth is a secular math curriculum.
Its teaching material does not make any references to religion, the Bible or God in any manner.
The focus of the program is completely on math instruction.
In contrast, Christian Light Education is a Christian publisher (Mennonite to be precise) and their math program, CLE Math, reflects this, being a strongly Christian curriculum.
As a result, although math is the primary focus of instruction, from time to time its curriculum may make references to God or the Bible, may quote scripture and may emphasize certain core values such as hard work, faith, servitude and obedience.
Similarly, Christian and Bible references may pop up from time to time in various exercises.
Interestingly, much of the artwork and illustrations in the workbooks are influenced by Mennonite culture and society, which is kind of interesting and often reflects their dress and way of life (missions, rural living, children and adults wearing traditional clothing and so on).
As a result, those looking for a secular or neural math curriculum will probably be better served with Math Mammoth, while those interested in a more Bible-integrated or faith-based math program may prefer CLE Math.
Use of manipulatives and hands-on learning
A further difference between the two programs is in the use of manipulatives as a teaching aid.
Generally speaking, Math Mammoth focuses on teaching math concepts through clear written instruction and lots of visual diagrams and exercises.
While there can be optional activities that can use common household items to demonstrate concepts, such as measuring things or cutting out and using shapes in geometry, they usually aren’t as central to the teaching as with more hands-on programs.
In contrast, at least in the first three or four years of the course (grades 1-4), CLE Math incorporates the use of manipulatives (blocks, fraction circles, teaching clocks, etc) and visual aids (flash cards, math fact charts etc) into its teaching.
As with other hands-on math programs, the program uses these manipulatives to help students better grasp more abstract concepts in math by allowing them to visualize, touch and handle physical representations of them as directed by the parent.
It also has the effect of making the earlier levels of CLE Math a little more multisensory and helpful for tactile learners.
Unlike other hands-on math programs, there isn’t really any expensive kit to purchase with CLE Math and parents are encouraged to build their own manipulative kits out of household materials or ready supplies.
Use of Technology
One notable difference between these two math programs is their use of technology.
While Math Mammoth isn’t the most technologically oriented math program out there (it is largely a traditional paper and pencil curriculum), it does offer its curriculum digitally, as downloadable PDFs and/or CDs.
In addition, the company has created something of a basic math app called Soft Pak that provides parents and students with some more computer-based/scored practice and some additional printable worksheets.
Finally, Math Mammoth has also created a rather extensive collection of instructional math videos.
Hosted by the founder of the program, herself a former teacher and homeschool mom, these short videos explain and demonstrate math concepts and can be used to supplement the main curriculum, which can be helpful for those who need extra clarification or who are struggling with self-study.
An example of a Math Mammoth instructional video can be seen below.
In contrast, CLE Math is a traditional, paper based curriculum.
Its books, flash cards and teaching aids are all paper-based and by and large there are no online or digital options available.
Common Core Alignment
Finally, CLE Math and Math Mammoth differ in their approach to Common Core State Standards.
Math Mammoth is aligned to (and exceeds) the Common Core.
CLE Math, on the other hand, is not aligned to Common Core standards and tends to introduce and work on topics at its own pace (and often in greater depth).
In our opinion, both Math Mammoth and CLE Math are comprehensive and complete math curricula for the grades they are designed for.
Although it is used by students of all abilities, Math Mammoth is a fairly rigorous math program with a fairly strong conceptual focus.
While it explains math concepts clearly and simply, it explores math topics in greater depth, emphasizes strategic problems solving and critical thinking and tends to include more challenging and complex multi-step word problems than parents can find in many other curricula out there.
Although there is perhaps a stronger emphasis on computation than conceptual learning, CLE Math, too, can be considered a rigorous math program.
It can introduce material earlier than other programs, teaches its material very thoroughly and it does place a strong emphasis on math fundamentals, with a good amount of drill and memory work to build skill fluency.
That said, its instruction is also fairly gentle and approachable, which combined with its emphasis on incremental learning, review and repetition, makes the program quite suitable for nearly all types of learners.
Note: Prices, when mentioned, are correct as of writing and are in USD.
Both CLE Math and Math Mammoth are broadly similar in terms of price and are both quite affordable compared to most other homeschool math curricula out there.
With Math Mammoth, most individual books can be purchased for under $20, a complete set for each grade costs a little under $50 and parents can purchase the entire book series on CD (all seven grade levels) for under $200.
CLE Math divides each grade level into 10 LightBooks, and a complete grade kit costs around $41 (each Lightbook being about $4.10 or so).
|CLE Math||Math Mammoth|
|Full Math Curriculum||✅||✅|
|Grade Range||K-12||Grades 1-7|
|Approach to Math||Spiral||Mastery with spiral review|
|Faith-based or secular||Christian||Secular|
|Conceptual or Procedural Math||Procedural||Conceptual|
|Common Core Options||❌||✅|
|Optional Video Instruction||❌||✅|
Bottom Line: How do I decide between Math Mammoth and CLE Math?
Math Mammoth and CLE Math are both excellent math programs that can help students develop very strong math skills.
How they do so, however, can be quite different owing to fundamental differences in their approach to teaching math.
To help parents decide which program can best suit their student’s needs, below we’ve created a small chart with some points that parents might want to consider before purchasing one of these curricula.
|I’m a parent and…||Consider|
|I’m teaching grades 1-7||Either|
|I’m teaching Middle or High School||CLE Math|
|My homeschool is secular or faith-neutral||Math Mammoth|
|I’m looking for a Bible-based math curriculum that incorporates Christian values into its instruction||CLE Math|
|I want my student to learn more conceptual math, that is understanding the why of math and to be encouraged to use different strategies for approaching problems||Math Mammoth|
|I prefer a traditional, procedural approach to learning math, building strong computational ability through drill, math facts, practice and a step by step approach||CLE Math|
|I prefer my student to work a little more independently and am looking for a self-study program||Math Mammoth|
|I want a program that reviews previously learned concepts||Either|
|My student gets bored or is intimidated by studying one concept in depth for long periods of time||CLE Math|
|My student prefers learning one math concept at a time||Math Mammoth|
|I like the idea of using lots of manipulatives and visual aids to help teach math||CLE Math|
For More Information
To learn more about these programs you can:
Visit Math Mammoth’s website
Alternatively, you can check out each company’s curricula
Math Mammoth on Amazon
CLE Math on Rainbowresource.com
About the Author
David Belenky is a freelance writer, former science and math tutor and a tech enthusiast. When he’s not writing about educational tech, he likes to chill out with his family and dog at home.