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Language Smarts and Mathematical Reasoning Review by Cindy West

Language Smarts Level B by Judy Wilson Goddard
Mathematical Reasoning Level B by Doug Brumbaugh & Lind Brumbaugh
The Critical Thinking Co.
PO Box 1610
Seaside, CA 93955

The Critical Thinking Company is known for outstanding resources to get your children thinking academically and logically. Until now, though, I've never seen a full-color workbook for the children to write in. I'm loving these!

Both books are Level B books, which translates to a first-grade level. Every page, front and back, is printed in color with appropriate pictures or words to go with the activity. At the top of each page are a title and/or clear directions so mom knows what the lesson topic is about. Directions are written in a simple to read and understand format for students who already read well.

Each page tends to focus on one skill, with an appropriate amount of work for a first grader. There is no answer key for the Mathematical Reasoning workbook, but parents should have no trouble checking the work. There is an answer key included with the Language Smarts book.

Each workbook may be used as the core curriculum for its particular subject, or parents may use the activities to supplement their existing math and language programs. The company states that both books meet state standards for first-grade math and language arts.

In Mathematical Reasoning, you will find 264 pages of activities that cover such skills as addition, subtraction, fractions, patterns, shapes, symmetry, weight, graphs, and much more. A chart at the beginning of the book allows the parent to find specific activities relating to each of the math concepts covered. The authors have based all activities on the NCTM standards. They have also included a short section of directions on how to use the book.

The worksheets encourage your children to learn and practice math concepts in progressive skill levels. For instance, the child will add numbers using picture prompts in the beginning of the workbook, add with a number line in the middle, and so on until they are adding two-digit numbers in columns by the end. Examples and explanations are short but easy to understand.

In Language Smarts, there are 346 pages of phonics and grammar activities that progress in difficulty. In the beginning of the workbook, students quickly work through letters, short vowels, and long vowels. In fact, these basic phonics skills are covered so quickly that it may not be quite enough instruction for the typical first grader. However, once those skills have been mastered, the child will be introduced to other phonics concepts, such as digraphs, diphthongs, blends, contractions, and compound words.

Grammar skills are covered fairly in-depth within the workbook too. By the end of the book, your child should have covered such things as nouns, verbs, sentences, verb tense, synonyms and antonyms, capitalization, and punctuation. There are even activities included on ordering, sequencing, reading comprehension, parts of a story, and poetry.

Even though I found this book to be a bit advanced compared to other first-grade language arts programs, I don't feel that the activities are beyond the capability of strong readers. In other words, the interest level and amount of work expected is geared toward first graders. Many second graders could benefit from this workbook as well.

The only complaint I have with either book is that the pages aren't perforated. In my experience, little ones tend to write neater and concentrate better when one page is placed before them at a time. Since these books are so big, one side of the workbook will lie flat, but the other side won't. That could cause some frustration with picky children or parents. All in all, though, I found both books to be excellent, and I wouldn't hesitate to use them as a stand-alone curriculum for math or language arts.

Product review by: Cindy West, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July 2008