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Algebra I: A Fresh Approach, 2016 Edition Review by Nancy MayesChristy Walters
A+ Education Services
505 Corporate Center Dr., Suite 103
Stockbridge, GA 30281
After finding Algebra I: A Fresh Approach, I believe our search for an Algebra program may finally over! In our four years of homeschooling, we have switched math programs many times with our oldest child, now in the seventh grade. It seems that although every program had its strengths, it also had its weaknesses. Each year we found ourselves initially sailing through lessons and ultimately being dragged through them later in the year.
At first, I thought that maybe my daughter was just being lazy with math, or simply going through an annual slump. I noticed that when I came alongside her during her lessons, she was frustrated, and I could not quite figure out exactly why. We would finish that particular book and then would find another program for the following year. Each year, like clockwork, the routine continued. I found myself searching for interactive, flashy and fun, even when I knew that none of those elements were near as important.
We started pre-algebra with a similar mindset, and searched for a new program. We ended up settling on a DVD instructional-based program, which she seemed to do well with, and I thought our search was finally over. Then it happened, again, at the end of the year, she was dragging, not as bad as previous years, but still dragging. I still could not figure out why.
This last summer we spent time searching for a different curriculum for algebra. We determined that if we could not find a better suited one, then we would do another year with the DVD instructional program, but we still looked. Fortunately for us, we were able to review three different algebra programs. Like always, each had their strengths, and each had their weaknesses. Staci cooperated and did okay with the first two programs, but I could tell that she really did not like them. The third program, however, has turned out to be more than I had hoped for.
When we first heard about Christy Walters' Algebra I: A Fresh Approach, 2016 Edition by A+ Education Services, I was hopeful, by the name alone. When we received the book, I reeled a bit. It is big and cumbersome, like the old high school math text books that I carried around and was trying to avoid using with my daughter. We persevered anyway. I started by reading the preface first, before giving her any assignments. I was hopeful again when I read the author’s statement that she has found that the more formulas and rules a student is initially introduced to, the more it will confuse them. And after enough practice, most students figure out the formulas on their own and will ultimately remember them as a result.To me, this author's letter personalized things and comforted me a bit to know that the text book was created by a person that cared, and not by a boardroom of book writers.
I set out to give my daughter some of the tests, to make sure that I started her in the right spot. We quickly found that she was right where she should be, at the beginning. That is where we began.
The lessons were simple. There are no additional books, DVD's, videos, or anything else. There wasn't even a Teacher's Manual. It is a very simple program. We read through the lesson together and talk about what is expected in the work and then she works through the problems. If she needs clarification or help, I am right there with her. Although my own algebra knowledge is rusty, the instructions in the text are clear and easy to understand. After her work is completed for the lesson, I go through and mark any problems that are wrong. We then go over the missed problems and rework them together to find out where she went wrong.
I was a bit surprised to see her doing phenomenally well and really liking this curriculum. It is not flashy. It is not interactive or even presented in a fun way. The pages are plain, just black and white, but it is exactly what she has needed all along! I am not sure what the reason is overall, but I do know my daughter. She is a pretty literal kid. I think that she just likes having the details, being taught the lesson, and then likes being set free to do the work. I believe that she also likes having me work through the lessons with her as well as reworking problems that she gets wrong. The biggest element missing from other programs may have been my involvement, or lack thereof. I allowed the other programs to be interactive and offer the teaching, with this one, I am right by her side. I do not think that it necessarily has to be this way, but this is what has worked with us.
There is a total of 21 Chapters, each with four to seven lessons. We have found that lessons take us approximately 15 minutes and she typically spends around a half hour completing the assigned work. The 754-page student text book contains the answers to the odd problems. Along with the main book comes a 122-page spiral-bound Even Problems Solution Guide that goes beyond just providing the answers to the even problems and shows all of the steps for solving them. This has been especially helpful for us for when we are figuring out where she went wrong with any particular problem. Sometimes it is easy to figure out and sometimes it is not as easy, but with the solution guide it is always an easier process. Also included for review were 21 tests and answer keys; one for each chapter. A+ Education Services also sells neatly organized laminated reference guides that go along with their books. I received Fractions, Decimals, and Percents, Signed Numbers, Triangles in High School Geometry, and Exponents and Logarithms Quick Reference Guides. These are sold separately at the website for $4.95 each.
-Product review by Nancy Mayes, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November, 2017