Algebra...friend or foe?
Like it or not, it is essential.
But the truth is, every parent would prefer their child to actually enjoy their math experiences. After all, who wants to spend a year, month, or even a week with a student who HATES their math program? Not me. I know that for sure because I've done it (you can read about our math experiences with Bubba here and here).
Our goal as homeschooling parents is to develop lifelong learners who know how to be in charge of their own learning...self-directed learners who have the desire and motivation to explore new topics on their own, and who are interested and excited about their education.
There are many ways to skin a cat, bake a cake, or teach algebra. Everyone has a different favorite curriculum that they swear by. Most of those curriculum choices have many different things to recommend them. It all depends on your learner and their preferences.
But the truth is that every student is different and while you may be related to all of your students since you homeschool, it doesn't mean that they will all enjoy the same curriculum or learn in the same way. So, like many homeschooling parents, I am always on the lookout for new and effective ways to enrich or learning experiences, especially math.
Well, I have an inexpensive, effective, and even enjoyable math program to share with you. Costing only $27.95, Math Essential's Non-Nonsense Algebra program by Richard Fisher will help your student master essential math skills with minimal stress and maximum progress.
As you can see, one of the keys to this program is that every lesson is short, concise, and self-contained with a minimum of fluff and distractions. Each lesson contains an introduction, example problems, practice problems, and a brief set of review problems. BUT WAIT! There's more!!
Each and every lesson also comes with its own video lesson which is an explanation of the content (with the teacher using a white board) and several additional example problems (ones different from the problems shown in the book) which are worked through step-by-step. This video service is FREE! with the purchase of the book. That's a very economical way to add an audio-visual component to your math experience.
In the screen shot above, you will see the chapter topics, as well as a listing of the additional features contained in the book: helpful hints, a glossary, example problems with step-by-step solutions, written exercises, a review section at the end of each chapter, and the complete answer key at the end of the book (however, the problems are not worked out...it is truly just the answers).
You can preview a sample of the Math Essentials Geometry book HERE, if you like, to get an idea of the book's layout. The Geometry book and the Algebra books are very similar. The Geometry book, which we also received and tried out, was shorter (only 63 pages instead of 209 pages), but was effective as a review/practice book (however, since it does not include videos, so it would not stand on its own as a curriculum). Samples of other books in the program may be found HERE.
The No-Nonsense Algebra book, however, could potentially be an excellent Algebra program for a hard-working, self-motivated student. I think it would be ideal for unschoolers who prefer to be able to explore learning as they see fit, and would very work well as a supplement for most any algebra program, especially one that does not already have some sort of audio-visual component.
The way we used it was as a supplement to Khan Academy, which has been our FREE! Pre-algebra program this year. Tex has been diligently working through screens and screens of tasks, techniques, and operations using Khan Academy, learning and reviewing mostly on his own, with me or his father checking on his progress from time to time. He has truly liked the program and been motivated to earn the different badges and stars on his page (and seems to be learning a lot), but I will tell you that it has been somewhat frustrating to me for several reasons.
First of all, it keeps changing. The site keeps getting updated, so progress Tex made gets moved or altered, and sometimes he's had to redo things. Plus, there's a lot of review worked into the program, which has been good since it has built a solid base of basic algebraic skills, but can also be daunting and tedious at times. Lastly, there is nothing tangible for ME to see that PROVES beyond a shadow of a doubt that Tex "gets it" or tells me specifically where he is on the algebra continuum (the screens show a huge flow chart, but it is not really specific to math discipline area). That drives me NUTS because I like to see something solid to show progress.
|This is what the video screen looks like. You log in then choose your topic on the right.|
Enter No-Nonsense Algebra. Hooray!
I gave the book to Tex and advised him of the code to activate the video access (a unique code is printed in every book). I told him that he could do each chapter review with or without preparation and review, as he felt comfortable with, and that if he scored a 90% or higher on each review, he could skip the chapter. You may feel 90% is a bit tough, but we are going for mastery here, and anything less indicates a need to work on something more to get there.
Anyway, he had time to complete a few of the chapters before heading off to camp, getting injured, and having emergency surgery (and that's another story). In general, he'd watch several videos for each chapter to remind himself about a few of the tougher topics (or ones he just hadn't covered in a while) before taking the review test, and I am happy to say that he has adequately proved to me that he has mastered quite a few of the skills he needs for algebra next year!
He plans to continue working through the book over the summer to see how far he can get before he hits a "bump" where he will need to actually study a topic thoroughly before moving on. Once he reaches that point, he will work with whichever math program we are using for Algebra, and use this program for review purposes...though he could, if he decides over the summer that this program is all he feels he needs to cover Algebra thoroughly, use this as his program, as it covers every topic that is normally covered in a year's worth of algebra study. I am fine with whatever he chooses, as long as it in some way shows me how he is progressing.
I have to tell you that I really liked how the teacher kept encouraging the students to "Write that down." I think that using all three learning styles: audio, visual, and kinesthetic makes math learning so much more effective, and many kids, especially those gifted at math (like Tex) tend to skip that "writing it down" step, trying to solve every problem in their heads. The main problem with that is that then you can't see where you went wrong when you do get a wrong answer, and it is harder for you to get help because of it.
I also liked how the teacher wrote the problems on the white board in one color and worked them in another color. That helped me differentiate between the original problem and the elements of the solution. The teacher's style is pleasant and his manner of speaking is easy to understand. All in all, this product gets a "two thumbs up" (that's thumbs up from both Tex and me).
Math Essentials is an award winning program that I think will excite your students. The company offers more than Algebra...it covers math topics from about fourth grade on up...and very economically, too. You can see the other levels and order many of the Math Essentials products HERE.
You can see what others on the Crew thought about Math Essentials products at the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.