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Backyard Math with Zac: First Grade Math Concepts Review by TOS Publisher

ShowForth Videos
Bob Jones University Press

I feel a lot of excitement about this particular product. This is something very new from BJUP's ShowForth department, and I was absolutely giddy when they told me they had something new for me to look at.

Math is really hard for me. I don't like it at all (I feel quite uncertain of my ability to even LEARN math, much less teach it!), and so in our homeschool, I lay that responsibility on my husband, who got As and Bs in math in college. When companies call us about reviewing anything mathematical, I usually quickly seek out the first review staffer on hand. I feel like I would be hard pressed to even conduct a decent review for this hard to learn (for me!) subject. Fortunately, Paul can do math reviews for us, but he is not as available as I am to do regular reviews. Sooooo, all this to say that when BJUP asked me about this math video, I began to shake.

Then I realized it is for FIRST GRADE and it's a VIDEO with a real teacher! OK. This, I think I can handle!

BJUP had let me know that the set of two videos is "almost done" (galley proof) so I was a little apprehensive in that regard; it's very hard to review unfinished works. However, she assured me that it's just a matter of some technical/visual coloring changes that still needed tweaking, and that otherwise, it's ready.

I thought that UPS would bring me two videos thrown into a paper envelope (it was supposed to be "unfinished!"), but what came made my children (and me!) ooohhh and aaahhh with delight.

This set is in a huge, boxed (plastic) video case. The artwork on the outside of it is adorable. Rich browns and greens and blues, with ZAC, an adorable puppet, on the front cover, grinning! When I saw it, I though, "Great! My kids love MUPPETS and this looks pretty similar to something by Jim Henson!" We cracked it open immediately!

Julia, my six-year-old was the most excited. Levi, my eight-year-old begged and begged to play it NOW. So we did! I sat with them and we watched as Zac and his neighbor, Mrs. Walker, discussed all sorts of math concepts! Mrs. Walker looks just like mom. She's not a Hollywood model who would make me want to turn off the video. She's REAL. I felt cozy watching this with my kids. Julia and Levi sat mesmerized, learning about place value, money, time, calendars, metric measurement, geometry, fractions (!), two digit addition and subtraction, customary measurement, and renaming. I am so impressed with this math product. My kids have learned hard-for-THIS-mom-to-teach math concepts from this incredibly FUN video.

Is it a short little video? Is it over before you turn it on? NO! I have received videos in the past that look good, but then you play them, and within 30 minutes, it's over! Not Backyard Math With Zac! This two-volume set is THREE HOURS LONG! The classes are broken into 12 15-minute segments, perfect for Kindergarteners, first graders, and second graders, which is the age category this video package serves. I love it, love it, love it!

Each morning, our schedule calls for Julia to sit for one or two segments. She hums along with the tunes; she knows many by heart now.

Clowns! Kids love clowns. Digit the Clown is an active part of this series. He brings a lot of color, music, laughs, and FUN to the series!

Mrs. Walker is the main "star," along with Zac the puppet. She is the sweet neighbor to Zac (who has a single mom for a parent, plus siblings). Mrs. Walker is a blessing to Zac's mama because she always welcomes him to her home and yard to have cookies, and chat, but best of all, LEARN in a silly, enjoyable environment.

Tables are spread out with craft projects, modeling clay, manipulatives of many kinds, calendars, and more - all in her back yard! She provides a FUN place for her first grade neighbor, Zac, to visit.

Zac learns fractions, how to tell time, how to read a calendar and how to add and subtract - all the fun stuff first graders should learn. But Mrs. Walker makes it fun for him, so our little viewers get to sit and grin and be a part of it! Julia and Levi LOVE it!

Can Mrs. Walker come stay with us for a week? A month? Please?! This mom could really use her here!

My son, Luke, age 11, enjoys helping with product reviews. He has watched quite a few of the lesson segments with his siblings (hey, it's great review for him, too!) and has the following to say about it:

"I think that Backyard Math with Zac is a really good show because it keeps my younger brother and sister occupied and it teaches them things like measurement, fractions, and more. I believe that it is a good idea to teach younger kids these math concepts, because when they are older, they'll already understand how to do these exercises."

Levi, our eight-year-old son who is going through the program with Julia, has this to say bout it:

"I think Backyard Math is a good show, because you get to learn a lot. I learned that two cups is in a pint, and two pints is in a quart, and two quarts is in a gallon [memorized]. I think Mrs. Walker teaches Zac a lot. I think she is a good teacher. Zac is really funny. I would play with him if he was here."

And of course, Julia, who is in first grade:

"I love Mrs. Walker! She teaches us a lot. I like her because she teaches us to do pluses and I love her very much! Zac is my best friend. He is really nice and he does pluses and that teaches us, too. They eat cookies. Digit the Clown is really funny! He is there while we're doing pluses and I love Mrs. Walker. She's so special!"

Well, that about says it all! The kids love it, especially Julia!

I highly recommend the program. It's incredibly easy to teach, because Mrs. Walker and the other delightful characters are there to help. The kids don't feel bored with THIS kind of math. I like the idea of starting them off young with math, but FUN math. They may as well love it from the start!

-- Product Review by: Publisher, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine