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Math Clues, Books 1-4 (by Charlene Zastrow) Review by Donna Campos

Making Sense of Economics Workbook
(by Jim McAlpine, Betty Weincek, Sue Jeweler, and Marion Finkbinder)
Educational Impressions
116 Washington Avenue
PO Box 77
Hawthorne, NJ 07507-0077

This is a set of five math workbooks--one on the topic of economics and four that are a series (Math Clues). The Math Clues set consists of

  • Book 1: Whole-Number Operations
  • Book 2: Fractions, Decimals, and Percents
  • Book 3: Number Theory & Graphing
  • Book 4: Geometry & Measurement

The Math Clues books are recommended for grades 3-5, and the economics book is recommended for grades 5-8. The books may be purchased individually or all at once and require no additional materials beyond basic math tools, such as protractor, compass, and (optionally) calculator.

The Math Clues workbooks include teacher instructions, learning objectives, step-by-step examples, challenging word problems, and definitions of mathematical terms throughout the books. Explanations are thorough and easy enough to understand, and each section builds upon the previous ones. Answers for all of the problems can be found at the end of each book.

We found these books to do a good job of teaching mathematical concepts, which is exactly what they are designed to do. I appreciated the adequate space for the student to show their work on each page and the convenience of having several workbooks devoted to specific concept areas, rather than one larger textbook covering a broader range of material. There were not huge numbers of "busywork" problems to complete; instead, there were just enough problems to verify that each concept was learned.

Making Sense of Economics begins with a lengthy teacher section and then is divided into four parts:

  • Part 1: Basic Concepts, Terminology and Comprehension
  • Part 2: Economics Scenarios
  • Part 3: Interdisciplinary Activities
  • Part 4: Making Connections to Current Events

This is more of an instructional book, although worksheets are included. The bulk of the text is more informational, and it outlines activities for students to perform either individually or in groups. The work will require written responses or discussion with the teacher. There are no answers offered in the book because the questions are discussion oriented and require teacher judgment in determining the student's grasp of the material. The explanations of each aspect of economics are well written, and definitions are included where necessary. The interdisciplinary activities in Part 3 would be ideal for Unit Study students who are accustomed to completing work within various subject areas. The subject areas offered include Language Arts, Social Studies, Math, Science, and The Arts.

Making Sense of Economics was interesting, and it held the attention of our student. We did not notice any particular political leaning in the text, which we appreciated. Yet, at the same time, we would love to see workbooks like these that incorporated a strong Biblical worldview along with the facts.

The Math Clues series and Making Sense of Economics are more than adequate as math workbooks and will teach the desired concepts, with appropriate guidance from the parent/teacher. I would recommend for children who work well with a workbook approach and for those who prefer to learn math concepts in smaller chunks.

Product review by Donna Campos, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, December 2006