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Introductory Algebra Review by Jennifer Harrison

Frank Wright
Hawkes Learning Systems
1023 Wappoo Road
Suite A-6
Charleston, SC 29407

Introductory Algebra by Hawkes Learning Systems is a straightforward beginning algebra program that helps to provide a solid base for further studies in mathematics. It is intended for students who have already completed an introductory algebra course.

This textbook manages to convey its topics in a clear and easy-to-follow manner. Vocabulary is emphasized very well, written both verbally and mathematically, which helps students to completely comprehend the myriad mathematical terms. While the text explains things very well, it is pure math and is very skill-and-drill focused. The accompanying software provides unlimited practice problems for even more drill. This is very good for students who have trouble remembering the steps to solve the problems, but it is very frustrating for the student who understands the problems and is ready to take it a step deeper.

Readability is a very important feature for any math text, and this book excels with good spacing and clean, easy-to-read text. It also includes excellent visual instruction of technology application, specifically with a T1-84 graphing calculator. It truly teaches the student how to use the calculator, frequently showing screen shots of the calculator with detailed instructions on how to use it for various formulas throughout the book.

The software that is part of this course comes as a CD with the book. In addition to offering unlimited review, the software also allows students to interact with the mathematical concepts in the lessons and tests their skill knowledge for each section of the book. The software also allows the instructor to assign homework, generate personalized tests, and keep track of course scores and credits. In the event that a textbook is purchased as a used book, software packages can also be purchased separately from the textbook. However, the software is not a necessary component of the book. In fact, the student book isn't entirely necessary either. The Teacher's Edition has answers in the sidebars but not worked problems. It might not be an option for everyone, but if it isn't a distraction or a temptation, students can work freely from the Teacher's Edition just as in the Student Text. A separate Student's Solutions Manual is available for purchase if you would like to see the solutions "worked out" for you. In that scenario, I would recommend purchasing the Solutions Manual rather than the Instructor's Edition to accompany the student text, as the Instructor's Edition is little more than an answer key accompanying the student text. Occasional Teacher's Notes are thrown in, but they are infrequent and not necessary to the understanding of the exercises.

I found the text to be strongly lacking in proofs and in life-application exercises. The word problems and such exist, but they are separate from the portion of the text that practices new formulas and are not integrated throughout the text. The lack of emphasis on practical application, combined with the staggering amount of drill, make this the kind of text that makes kids say, "When are we ever going to use this?" Students WILL learn the skills, but I'm not convinced they will understand what they learned for any purpose beyond testing. This said, the course still has many benefits. It is an excellent preparation for standardized testing. It is also an excellent program for students who need to learn the formulas in order to progress in math but who do not necessarily desire to explore why the formulas work. It could even be useful for a student who grasps the meaning behind the math and just wants to be certain the basics are covered before progressing. In this instance, the excess drill could be ignored, or teachers could even choose to assign only the end-of-chapter reviews. With the amount of extra work available, I've found the textbook helpful for pulling out extra work to supplement other math programs when a student demonstrates a need for extra review.

I was surprised to learn that this is used as a college-level course. If you are using it as a homeschool curriculum, you might want to incorporate it with an online course and earn college credit at the same time.

Product review by Jennifer Harrison, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, September 2010