According to S. Gudder, "The essence of mathematics is not to
make simple things complicated, but to make complicated things
simple." Have you ever had that terrible feeling when looking at
a math problem that you know, or should know, how to solve, but
you really haven't a clue? Then someone comes alongside and clears
the fog away. What at first seemed complicated turned out to be
so simple once you understood the reasoning behind the problem.
J.K. Mergens wrote the Learn Math Fast System to help
her own son understand the often very simple concepts behind most
mathematical principles. Her unique style worked so well with him
that she later used the same ideas with students she was tutoring,
and eventually she decided to publish her materials for others
to use. The program begins with the Learn Math Fast System books,
Volumes I, II, and III, which cover basic math skills from kindergarten
through seventh grade. Learn Geometry Fast covers important
geometry topics through sixth grade. Learn Life Fast provides
young adults with important life skills, such as balancing a checkbook,
tipping a waiter, understanding taxes, and purchasing a car or
home. Each book is between 50 and 100 pages long, with a simple
format. The threevolume set of Learn Math Fast System books,
a complete Answer Key, plus Learn Geometry Fast (including
a Math Kit of manipulatives) is $109, or each book can be purchased
separately for $26 to $33. Sample pages are available on the website, www.LearnMathFastBooks.com,
if you would like a closer look before purchasing. There are also
additional workbook pages online for each book if students need
more practice working through a skill.
This series does not contain any "new math," unusual ways to teach
centuriesold math principles. Rather, the focus is on really understanding
the ideas behind the math, rather than just memorizing facts. I've
always found that to be immensely helpful, personally, not only
in solving problems today but in remembering how to solve problems
later. For example, on page 43 of the Learn Geometry Fast book,
there is an attached foam circle with a oneinch diameter and a
string to measure the circumference. The circle and string are
attached on the page next to a picture of a ruler. The student
places the string around the circumference of the circle, and then
uses the ruler to measure the distance. You guessed it! The circumference
is 3.14 inches, because for every one inch of diameter, the circle
will have 3.14 inches of circumference, hence the incredibly important
geometry number of . The following page has the same exercise,
but it uses a circle with a diameter of two inches. What a simple
and yet immensely memorable way to help students understand where
this amazing little number comes from and why it is so useful in
math! Volume I of Learn Math Fast starts out with the
student using pennies to understand the principles behind simple
addition and subtraction. First, they use five pennies to make
all of the possible combinations of adding and subtracting with
five; then they move on to six, etc. By the end of Volume III,
students are learning exponents, graphing, and how to solve simple
algebraic equations. The Learn Geometry Fast book includes
a small Math Kit with several manipulatives to help students explore
the concepts through handson activities.
There is much to appreciate in this clever math series. The material
is written in an engaging, conversational tone that is easy to
understand. The books begin with simple concepts and slowly build
to much more complex ideas. There are frequent short tests to check
progressmore of a doublecheck than a long, tedious, pressurefilled
examination. The materials are very encouraging and nonintimidating,
which is especially helpful for students who are a bit nervous
about math. You can choose how much practice is needed, supplementing
with extra worksheets from the website. There is also no pressure
about how quickly each book needs to be completed, as most of the
lessons could last one day or many, as needed. The series is also
not written with a specific age in mind, so young students can
work through the books with help from mom or dad, and older students
(or parents) can brush up on their math skills independently. The
books would also be a great source for review of concepts later
after moving on to more advanced math. Now don't expect fancy books
with color photographs! The books themselves use a very simple
format with basic blackandwhite photos, but the pictures and
graphs are plentiful and helpful. Throughout the books and the
Answer Key, the materials include the answers and fairly detailed
explanations. You can ask a math question online if something doesn't
make sense. There are also some nice articles on the website about
homeschooling and teaching a fidgety kid.
Perhaps my favorite part about the Learn Math Fast books
is the frequent exhortation that if you don't understand, move
back to where the math was easy and start over. In other words,
keep working with a concept until it is easy and then move on to
the next concept. Math principles build on each other, so it is
extremely important to not move on until you understand! Many students
run into problems by being forced to move on in math before they
understood the last concept. Our family would recommend this simple
but powerful series of math books, whether you have young children
just starting out in math, or older students who need a solid review
of important concepts!
Product review by Dr. Anne Margaret Wright, Senior Product Reviewer, The
Old Schoolhouse^{®} Magazine, LLC, December 2010
