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Straight Forward Math Series: Algebra Book 1 and Algebra Book 2 Review by Christy Schaefer

Steve Jahnke
Garlic Press
1 (800) 789-0554
899 South College Mall Road, Suite 381
Bloomington, IN 47401

Selecting math curriculum can be a daunting task for any educator. There are numerous possible learning styles and even more options for each style. We were fortunate to have success early on with a single math program, but it all fell apart at algebra 1. We've since been test driving various math options, looking for the one that best suits our daughter's ever changing needs. Algebra Book 1 and Algebra Book 2, from the Garlic Press Straight Forward Math Series, become a quick front runner in our quest after a recent trial.

These two soft back books are each only 80 to 100 pages long, including the answer key. Algebra Book 1 has seven chapters that cover Pre-Algebra Review, Distributive Law, Linear Equations, Number Lines, Properties of Exponents, Polynomials, and Factoring Polynomials. Algebra Book 2 contains five chapters which teach Graphic Linear Equations, Systems of Equations, Rational Expressions, Radical Expressions, and Quadratic Equations. Each book also has review lessons interspersed every few chapters.

The Garlic Press math books are uniquely arranged in that the chapters are not divided into distinct lessons. Instead, every chapter simply has a set of topics to be learned. Each topic then has an easy to understand explanation, examples, and exercises. The number of exercises varies per concept, yet are always sufficient to practice the new information without becoming monotonous. This design encourages the student to move at their own pace, as opposed to feeling behind if they are unable to complete an entire predefined lesson each day. We greatly appreciated this aspect of the books. My daughter was able to cover all of Chapter 1 (Pre-Algebra Review) in one day, but slowed down in later chapters.

The topic explanations are simple and succinct without excessive math jargon, while still covering all the needed algebra concepts. Each chapter flows seamlessly as the topic explanations guide you right to the next concept. We found the material to be ordered in a logical pattern that helps the student feel confident in their progress. The exercises are also appropriately difficult for the topic, yet not so as to frustrate the student.

Mathematically minded students may find these Garlic Press books to be academically lighter on the more difficult algebra concepts than some of the popular math programs. However, struggling middle school and high school students will appreciate the approach taken. After using the Algebra Book 1 daily for a week, we decided to make the books part of our regular math lineup as a supplement to another algebra book. The clear delineation of topics in each chapter makes it easy to use these books in conjunction with any other math curriculum despite a possible difference in topic order.

Due to the streamlined design of this math program, a teacher's manual is not available or needed. All exercise answers, including graphs, are provided in the back of each book. Even though some of the answers do include more work than the final answer, it is good to keep in mind it really is not a complete solutions manual. Still at $12.95 for Book 1 and $13.95 for Book 2, these two resources are an absolute bargain.

The main drawback we could see in these math books also happens to be one of the great benefits: its simplicity. Although a straight forward approach helps students who become lost in detailed math instructions, if the student or teacher has difficulty with an algebra concept these books offer limited assistance past the initial instruction. Still, for the students who struggle with complex math programs these algebra books from Garlic Press introduce all the necessary algebra concepts in an easy to understand format.

After regular use, I can confidently recommend these algebra books for any middle school or high school student who needs to supplement another math program or simply wants additional algebra practice. As a complete algebra program, we did find the Garlic Press books to be a little too light and recommend it be used stand-alone only for struggling math students.

-Product Review by Christy Schaefer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November, 2015