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Math for the Real World, Early Fluency Pack Review by Donna Campos

Various Authors
The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc.
29 E 21st Street
New York, NY 10010

The Math for the Real World Early Fluency Pack contains 18 high-interest readers (each teaching a specific math concept) and a booklet of worksheets. The worksheets include 18 pages of reproducible activities (one for each reader) and a two-page Answer Key. The booklet has a stapled binding that allows pages to lie flat for easy printing. Each 16-page reader includes full-color illustrations, a Glossary of more difficult words, and an Index. Together, these books constitute one level (Early Fluency, color-coded green) in the Math for the Real World series. A color chart on the back indicates each book's placement within the level. A book teaching a second-grade concept would have an arrow pointing toward the start of the green portion of the chart. A book teaching a third-grade concept would have an arrow pointing toward the end of the green portion. The chart includes five different color-coordinated zones, representing five available fluency packs: Early Emergent, Upper Emergent, Early Fluency (this set), Fluency, and Proficiency. No additional materials are required, and the set may be used alone or in conjunction with a separate math curriculum.

Appropriate for second and third grade students, this set covers simple division, greater than and less than, place values, time by quarter hours, fractions, timeline, inch measurement, multiplication using repeated addition, magic squares, fractions as part of a group, line graphs, estimating to nearest ones/tens/hundreds, addition and subtraction of two digit dollar amounts, addition of dollars and cents up to ten dollars, measuring with inches and feet, addition of two 3-digit numbers without regrouping, manipulating triangles to form other shapes, and subtracting two 3-digit numbers without regrouping. Each book covers a single mathematical concept and uses the appropriate calculations and processes to reinforce understanding. The stories are interesting and engaging yet short enough for the reader to digest, with only one or two actual calculations per page. You could easily create a unit study around each book or use the books as support material for an existing unit study. For students who understand best with real-life experiences, the books may be used to present the various math concepts for the first time. The books might also inspire creative thinkers to find similar math applications in other books they read.

Our family enjoyed these books. The mathematical concepts are presented incredibly well, and we enjoyed reading the stories together. The math concepts are presented directly, but they are such an integral part of the reading that each book flows fairly naturally. In the stories, different ethnicities are represented, as are traditional two-parent families. One story references a 5,000-year-old story about a terrible flood. When the people offered gifts to "the river god," the flood stopped. The reference certainly offers an opportunity to discuss the catastrophic flood of the Bible, and diligent teaching would clarify any reference to a river god. Books include a variety of subject matter, including the Lewis and Clark expedition, development of a grass frog, snakes, U.S. travel, triangle art, employment at the post office and a bakery, and more. We are not generally a unit study family, yet I could see how easily a full group of activities and teaching material could be designed around each book. The books offer an excellent opportunity to solidify concepts for special needs children, who often learn best when using real-life scenarios.

I have very few complaints about this set. The price may hinder some families, but the broad variety of subject matter adds to the value of the set. The mention of a "god" is never something I want to find in any book; however, it offers an opportunity for discussing the reality that people throughout history have searched for their heavenly Father. Openly discussing such subject matter with our children has been the best method for our family. The inch measurement in one book shows two "inches" that are actually one inch. Correct measurements should have been presented so that rulers and standard mathematical tools could be used. I also wish a complete list was included for the actual order of the books (rather than the vague color chart on the back of the books). Although the order of presenting math concepts varies from curriculum to curriculum and from family to family, I would have preferred the assurance that I was reading each book in the preferred order. A simple listing of the books in order would have calmed any concerns.

Math for the Real World books offer an excellent opportunity for homeschools to instill real-life math use in their children. We homeschoolers are good at finding multiple educational uses for almost every item we bring into our homes. The Math for the Real World books may be studied as a set, spread throughout a math curriculum, used to help special needs children learn the real-life relevance of math, used as the basis of a unit study, or used to supplement a separate unit study or other coursework. The need for mathematical readers is filled beautifully by the Math for the Real World series.

Product review by Donna Campos, Senior Product Reviewer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, August 2008