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Math for the Real World, 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 Fluency Pack includes 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 an Answer Key. The booklet has a stapled binding that allows pages to lie flat for easy printing. Each 24-page reader includes full-color illustrations, a Glossary of more difficult words, and an Index. Together, these books constitute one level (Fluency, color-coded purple) 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 third-grade concept would have an arrow pointing toward the start of the purple portion of the chart. A book teaching a fourth-grade concept would have an arrow pointing toward the end of the purple portion. The chart includes five different color coordinated zones, representing five available fluency packs, including Early Emergent, Upper Emergent, Early Fluency, Fluency (this set), and Proficiency. No additional materials are required, and the set may be used alone or in conjunction with a separate math curriculum.

Appropriate for third and fourth grade students, the books cover converting fractions to decimals, dividing three-digit numbers by one-digit numbers without remainders, solving money problems using the four math operations, measuring the perimeters of polygons, adding and subtracting times to the nearest minute, using expanded notation to represent numbers, solving addition problems involving regrouping, describing and comparing attributes of plane geometric shapes, the history of Arabic numerals, identifying right angles in geometric figures, the metric system, calculating profit and unit cost, sequencing events chronologically on a timeline, exploring probability through games, adding and subtracting simple fractions, multiplying multi-digit numbers by one-digit numbers with regrouping, solving problems of length and weight using the four math operations, and using charts, graphs, and tables. Each book covers a single mathematical concept and uses the appropriate calculations and processes to reinforce understanding. The stories are engaging for the reader, with interesting information and a few calculations per two-page spread. Unit studies could be easily created around each book by those desiring that approach, or the books could be 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 inspire creative thinkers to find similar math applications in other books they read. The subjects are also engaging for this grade level and offer broad opportunities for further research and study at a time when students are taking ownership of research skills.

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 presented as an integral part of the reading. We appreciate the representation of different ethnicities as well as traditional two-parent families. The worksheets in the support booklet use tables to structure information, provide answers to questions, and continue the themes in the various books. Although we are not generally a unit study family, I could see how easily a full group of activities and teaching material could be designed around each book. These books offer an excellent opportunity to solidify concepts for special needs children, who often learn best when using real-life scenarios. Civil War Recipes includes activities for fractions and great recipes as well. Exploring Australia would be an excellent basis for a unit study as it demonstrates charts and graphs (although it does reference Aborigines first arriving in Australia 65,000 years ago). Opportunities for further research with biographies are numerous in History of Space Exploration, as are the geography opportunities in A Trip Around the World. I learned the actual width of a football field (53 yards) in Where We Play Sports. Let's Take a Hike! references the Lewis and Clark expedition and is a fantastic nature walk book, while Creating a City Park offers an explanation of a community service project. I appreciated having vocabulary words in bold print and defined in the Glossary at the back of each book, providing additional literary value. Many of the books offer general year dates and could easily be worked into time line activities.

I have very few complaints about this series. The price may hinder some families, but the broad variety of subject matter adds to the value of the set. I wish a complete list was included for the actual order of the books (rather than the vague color chart used on the back of the books). I understand that the order of presenting concepts varies from curriculum to curriculum and from family to family, but a simple listing of books in order would have been appreciated. Amazing Animals refers to "400 million years ago," but it also includes excellent pictures and various animal facts. Be aware that Heads or Tails? incorporates dice in its explanation of probability. Another comment about millions of years ago is in A Weekend in the City, but it is worded as "Scientists think . . .," which will allow for discussion about differences of opinion regarding scientific dating. We wish the answers were not always given right on the same pages, but these books were not intended to be used as workbooks. Tangram Puzzles includes a story of the creation of tangrams "by a god named tan," but goes on to say that the story was later found to be untrue. The Tour de France misses an excellent opportunity to compare miles to kilometers, but good teachers can certainly add that in.

Math for the Real World offers an excellent opportunity for homeschools to instill real-life math use in their children. The books may be studied as a set, spread throughout a math curriculum, used to teach special needs children the real-life relevance of math, used as the basis of a unit study, or used to supplement other coursework. The real world runs on real math. Math for the Real World will help solidify mathematical concepts while increasing knowledge throughout subject areas.

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