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Jacobs Algebra Review by Tina Rice

W.H. Freeman and Company

Homeschoolers are in for a breath of fresh air when it comes to teaching algebra. A relative newcomer to the home schooling market, Elementary Algebra by Harold Jacobs, is not a new product. First written in 1979, Elementary Algebra has stood the test of time. Author Harold Jacobs is an exceptional math teacher with a great sense of humor. He taught public school in Van Nuys, California from 1962 to 1997 and was awarded the "Most Outstanding High School Math Teacher in Los Angeles" award in 1984. He is also author of Mathematics: A Human Endeavor and Geometry. Look for reviews of these books soon.

Elementary Algebra is designed for the student who has completed pre-algebra. It contains 17 chapters. Each chapter contains between four and nine lessons and a summary and review lesson. Each lesson begins with a presentation of material and contains 4 sets of exercises. The student book contains the answers to Set II exercises. The teacher's manual contains additional lesson information and answers to sets I, III, and IV.

Test Masters for Elementary Algebra and Transparency Masters for Elementary Algebra are also available. The test master book contains tests for each chapter, a midyear exam and a final exam. Each test comes in four different forms. Also contained in the test master book are word problems and additional exercises. This book contains answers to all problems presented. The Transparency Masters book contains masters for puzzles, graphs, examples, quizzes, number tricks, cartoons, and more. This book is optional. I believe most home educators can teach this subject without the Test Masters book.

The exercises for each lesson are divided into four sets. Set I is review of previous lessons. Sets II and III contain material from the lesson. Both sets have the same type of problems, so you can choose which one to use (or both for additional practice). Set IV exercises are designed to challenge advanced students. They were written to be optional and counted as extra credit.

So how does this compare to other Algebra programs? I have only used Saxon. Elementary Algebra offers a lot more practice for the current material than Saxon provides. The chart below shows the main features of each program.

Detailed Solution Manual Yes No
Review of Previous Lessons Yes Yes
Teachers Manual No Yes
Answer Key Yes Yes
Cartoons and Humor No Yes
Different versions of each test No Yes - 4 of each
Final and Midterm Exams No Yes
Reference to introduced lesson for each problem in the work set Yes No

So, is Elementary Algebra easy to use? Check back in a few months after I have test driven this program with real homeschooling kids! When I compare it to other algebra programs, it covers the same material in a different format. I prefer Mr. Jacobs presentation, and wish he had been my algebra teacher when I was in high school. I think that many kids who say they don't enjoy math will really benefit from Elementary Algebra.

Where can you buy Elementary Algebra? W.H. Freeman and Company, the publisher, sells to the public. Check them out at Each item is sold individually; so you can buy the book, teachers guide, test bank, and/or transparency masters. You can also purchase from your favorite homeschooling supplier. Rainbow Resource Center and Veratis Press highly recommend this math program.

-- Product Review by: Tina Rice, Senior Research, The Old Schoolhouse®

Further comments on Jacobs Algebra: I used Elementary Algebra with several homeschool students and found that it was much easier to present and use than Saxon Algebra. I was discouraged by the fact that Elementary Algebra requires a parent to present additional lesson information. Now don't get me wrong, this is not a bad situation. If you use Saxon or A Beka you will also need to teach the lesson. I was hoping that Elementary Algebra would be totally student taught and not require me to present a lesson. An extremely mathematically inclined student may find that they can learn the material without parental involvement, but I feel this will be the exception and not the rule. If you want an algebra program that does not require any parent teaching, look into VideoText Algebra. After working with Elementary Algebra, I can highly recommend it. My only suggestion for improvement would be that a detailed solutions manual be published. If W. H. Freeman did this, they would have the best textbook algebra program available.

-- Product Review by: Tina Rice, Senior Research, The Old Schoolhouse®