Spiral or Mastery Math Curriculum: What’s the Difference?

Spiral or mastery math? This is a question that is often asked amidst the homeschool community. What are they? How do they differ? And what curriculum can I use for each one? Let’s talk spiral vs. mastery math!

Spiral vs. Mastery Math Curriculum explores the difference between spiral & mastery math, along with curriculum examples of each type.

What’s the Difference? Spiral vs. Mastery Math

Doing math through the mastery method is sometimes knocked for not reviewing and spiral math for moving too fast. The truth is I see the difference more in how they use review.

The mastery based approach uses review after a concept is learned and practiced until it’s mastered. A mastery math approach teaches a concept, then practices that concept. The intention of this practice is to understand the concept and be fully able to utilize it.

With the spiral approach review is used to master a new concept. The spiral approach also teaches and then practices. The difference being the amount of practice is smaller, and they move on to review quicker.

Mastery Math Curriculum

With a mastery approach the student shouldn’t be moving on until they fully understand the concept. They keep working on the one concept until they have mastered it. Then, and only then do they move on to the next concept. Here are a few examples of math curricula that use the mastery math approach (many of which we have used ourselves):

CTCMath Online Math Learning

CTCMath is a online homeschool math curriculum

Disclosure: I received this product for free and was compensated for my time in writing this review. All my opinions are my own, honest thoughts and I was not required to post a positive review. Your experience may vary. Please see my full Disclosure Policy for more details.}

  • A CTCMath Homeschool Family Membership allows you to enroll your whole family in their online math program, for ONE LOW COST!
  • has math for all levels from Kindergarten through Calculus (high school)
  • video based lessons with audio instructions that allow students to pause and rewind as many times as they need to until they get it
  • Allows student to repeat a lesson
  • Short manageable lessons (even in the upper levels)
  • With a CTCMath Homeschool Family Membership you have access to all grades and lessons. There are no restrictions allowing freedom to move back and forward. 
  • CTCMath is NOT aligned to Common Core
  • Homeschoolers receive a HALF-PRICE DISCOUNT!

Life of Fred

Life of Fred is likely to be one of the most unique math programs you will ever come across. It is a complete (not a supplemental!), math program that relies upon the self-teaching learning style.

The texts follow the life of Fred Gauss—a six-year-old math professor at Kittens University who was born on the slopes of the Siberian Mountains—who has many humorous, unlikely, and zany adventures. Informal in tone and approach, these books are designed to engage students in a fun narrative while also instilling a solid understanding of the principles of mathematics–without an abundance of repetitive drills!

Life of Fred texts are hardcover, non-consumable textbooks with Smyth-sewn bindings; students write their answers on separate paper. Answers are also included in the text – written directly to the student.

Beast Academy (Review Coming Soon)

Beast Academy is an advanced comic-based math program for students ages 6–13. It help kids ages build their problem-solving skills while learning elementary math.

Students learn new topics from the graphic-novel-style Guides, and then master math topics by solving engaging problems and challenging puzzles.

Beast Academy can be used either as a set of physical books, as an Online program (which also offers access to videos and chapter tests), or as a mix of both.

Math Mammoth

Math Mammoth offers full math curriculum and supplemental worktexts and workbooks for elementary and middle school. All of the books are available as downloads—and most also as printed books.

Singapore Math

Singapore Math is a textbook/workbook based math program for the elementary grades. It begins in first grade and has levels through sixth grade. Singapore math calls on concrete math, pictures, and abstract approaches to teach math.


ShillerMath offers two levels of math kits (along with a few other kits). Their math kits are Montessori Based and cover an age range from preK through 8th grade.

  • Scripted lessons guide you through each lesson, with zero lesson preparation
  • Beautiful, varied, and lifetime manipulatives capture children’s continuing interest
  • Children (and parents!) love the dozens of catchy songs that integrate with lessons
  • Multi-year kits ensure a consistent and money-saving experience
  • Lifetime consumable lesson replacement – 1 kit is all you need for the entire family!

Mr. D Math

Mr. D Math offers Middle and High School Math as well as Testing Preparation curriculum. All the courses are online with both live and recorded courses for your homeschool.

Sprial Math Curriculum

The spiral method is also known as the incremental method. Concepts are taught incrementally with lots of reviews and drills. New material is added all along the way. And it’s within the constant reviewing that concepts are mastered. Here are a few examples of math curricula that use the spiral approach:

Teaching Textbooks

Teaching Textbooks is an app based math programs for students in grades 3-12.

  • Video based lessons followed by on screen assignment questions which are also read to the student
  • Access to the printable e-book text.
  • Every problem comes with a detailed step-by-step audiovisual solution. 
  • Each level has fully automated grading

A Beka

A Beka Math homeschool curriculum provides your students with an academically rigorous, Christian mathematics course.

DIVE into Math

DIVE Interactive Education offers both Shormann and Saxon mathematics courses. Their courses offer daily video lessons, interactive assignments, auto-grading, video solutions, and Q&A support!


Saxon uses a very short spiraling approach, combined with a blend of procedural and conceptual.  Saxon ensures students build and retain mastery of mathematical concepts. · It develops a deeper understanding through integration of mathematical strands.