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Algebra for Breakfast Membership w/ FULL Membership Pack (Grade 3-4) Review by Debra Brinkman

Bob Hazen
Algebra for Breakfast

When I was in school, I always thought math was fun. I seemed to intuitively grasp math concepts, and I loved algebra. My kids though? Not so much. Teaching math has been a real challenge with four of the five, so I am always on the lookout for something that helps them to learn the concepts that came to me so easily.

Algebra for Breakfast by Bob Hazen intrigued me from the first moment I heard of it. The lessons are delivered online, and consist of videos of Bob teaching a class of students plus worksheets that you can print. In addition, you need to have some manipulatives that come as part of the FULL Membership package Option. This includes the Mortensen Math Combo Kit, which is a huge box of manipulatives – 164 pieces, in fact. You also receive a set of Math Dice, including five different dice in a bag, with instructions. A recommendation for a skip counting album available from Amazon is also integral to this set.

While you wait for the math toys to arrive, you can get started on the first lessons, as there are four Prep Activity lessons available. Once the manipulatives arrive, there are 40 lessons to work through. You can easily work through a lesson or two per day.

A typical lesson includes a short video of Bob working with real kids. These kids are most definitely real. Bob has to tell them to stop playing with the pieces, or to have their eyes up front with some regularity. I really loved this aspect, as Bob is responding to real questions from students in the videos. My kids found some of that a bit distracting though.

My kids love working with the blocks, and they are really grasping what the concepts mean, in a way I never actually understood when I was in higher math. When asked to factor an equation like 2x2 + 7x + 5, most high schoolers (and adults) I know give you that deer in the headlights look. Working with this program, even 3rd graders can grasp that this is (2x + 5)(x + 1). Not only can they get the right answer, but they understand WHY it is right.

They understand that if you have two “x squared” and two “x” that those things cannot be added together. My daughter says that this “is more fun than most math” and she also claims that she is learning from the program.

The complete package costs $122, but the bulk of that money is for the manipulatives that you will be able to continue to use for years after this. I’ve pulled them out to use with my high school students, and after going through Algebra for Breakfast with my children, I am better able to explain concepts to them in a way that makes sense.

There is also a set of lessons intended for 5th and 6th graders, and I would recommend this for students all the way through middle school. These lessons cover many of the same concepts, but also get into more complex algebraic issues, such as multiplying polynomials. For those of us who haven’t taken algebra in years, that is when you turn something like (x + 3)(x + 5) into an x2 + 8x + 15 format.

I wish I had been able to use this with my current high school students a few years ago. They have benefited from this review, though, as I have learned from Algebra for Breakfast, and am able to present it to them.

-Product review by Debra Brinkman, Crew Administrator, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, December, 2016