Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Math Mania

Our family has used Right Start math since we started homeschooling.  Sierra did levels B through E and Sedona started with level A and is working on level C now with plans to continue on through level E.  We've been very happy with it and don't plan to use anything else for elementary math.

The problem with Right Start comes after Level E.  Level E is pretty much the end of the road,  there's not a natural next step.  They offer a Level G, but it turns out Level G is not a natural next step.  I can't help but wonder what in the world someone was thinking when they tacked on Level G at the end. 

Right Start leaves off with an incredibly strong base in elementary math.  I cannot adequately express how awesome Right Start has been for truly teaching math rather than drilling algorithms without the understanding of why they work.  My only, very small, complaint is that while they end up with a good understanding of fractions and decimals, there's not a lot of practice with them beyond adding and subtraction.

With Sierra in 5th grade this year, I planned on moving on to Level G this year.  Right Start recommends combining Level G with VideoText Algebra and doing both over 2 years.  I looked into VideoText Algebra and wasn't impressed, so we planned to just do Level G on its own for the first half of the year while we continued to research math programs that covered everything from algebra to calculus.

This did not work.  Level G is like a completely different program.  It's organized differently and Sierra was not ready for it.  She was frustrated and having a very difficult time with it.  I was frustrated that it was teaching some good skills, but mostly skipping over a good pre-algebra base.  Finally, I decided to ditch the whole thing.  Josh and I sat down and looked again at VideoText Algebra, Life of Fred, Art of Problem Solving, Saxon Math, Math Mammoth and others I can't even remember.  We narrowed down our options to Life of Fred and Beast Academy (elementary math from the makers of Art of Problem Solving).  Then I sat down with Sierra and showed them both to her and asked what her opinion was.  She wanted to try Beast Academy.  She liked that Art of Problem Solving is a very rigorous math program and felt like Beast Academy would be a good lead-in to that program.  We did look ahead to Art of Problem Solving and saw how it's set up (spoiler: a daunting, challenging math book), but some practice with the Beast Academy comic books in the mean time was appealing.   She liked the set-up of Life of Fred, but she felt like the work in it was too easy. 

So we set out to order Beast Academy.  I had her do several of the placement tests and we finally decided to order level 3D.  Nothing in this level is new to her, but we felt like after all the frustration at the beginning of the year, some confidence-building review would be a good idea.  There has been some fraction work that is a little bit of a challenge, so it's still been useful for skill building.  More importantly, she's enjoying math again.  I keep having to tell her to put the math away and work on other subjects a little bit so she doesn't get too behind on those.  She's nearly finished with 3D and has asked me to buy 4A for her. 

I expect she'll finish all the Beast Academy books this year and we'll need to plan out a next step again.  I don't know if she'll be ready for Art of Problem Solving at the end of the year, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. 

Are you a RightStart family?  What did you do after Level E?

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