Jul 29, 2012

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Math Essentials

Math is, by far, our least favorite subject. It's my biggest struggle when it comes to teaching and for some of the kids, it is the most frustrating thing for them to learn. Kaytie, Nate, and I have, for the most part, come to terms with the fact that we have to teach and learn math, but we have yet to actually enjoy it. We were asked to review a the 4th and 5th grade book from Math Essentials. This program by Richard Fisher is intended to give kids mastery and reinforcement of math skills in a daily 20 minute session. You can read all about it here. The 4th/ 5th grade book is the first book. There are books for the next few grades up to algebra, and there are books which cover individual topics, like Geometry. You can see all their products (with prices) on this page. We were sent a workbook and a DVD. We also received a copy of the Geometry book.

The teaching part of the program in on the DVD. Mr. Fisher teaches the lesson using a white board and a red and a black pen. He expects the kids to follow along by copying his work so that they stay engaged in what they are hearing. After the kids watch the short lesson, they are to do the corresponding page in their workbook.
Each workbook page is laid out the same way: four review problems; two speed drill wheels; a Helpful Hints section; ten problems from the lesson; and a word problem. There is also a place to record the grade, but we ignored that part because we don't "do" grades. You can see a sample page here.
This book covers a lot of information, starting with addition of whole numbers and finishing up with probability and statistics. Here is a complete Table of Contents.
So, what we did, since I had two students and the workbook is not reproducible: the three of us watched the DVD lesson together, then the kids hand copied the sheets onto dry erase boards and did the work. (I did the speed drill wheels since they were a little more complicated.) It truly only took us 20 minutes a lesson.
The kids did not mind the work any more than any other math program we have ever done. They really liked the small amount of problems they had to do, and they thought the speed drill wheels were fun. They asked me to do more of those! That's a first. :) The DVD lessons were another story. The kids seemed to have a hard time focusing on them, despite copying down the problems and working along. But the biggest thing was that it just simply wasn't enough instruction. We are used to learning the "why" of math... being shown in a visual and kinesthetic way how and why it works. This program just showed us how to solve the problems and then left us to it.
The program also moved much too quickly for us. There is only one worksheet per lesson, so, if we do a lesson a day, we whip through the information very quickly and the review problems are simply not enough for us to master a concept before another one was thrown at us.
I believe that this program would work well for a student who is strong in math and wants to advance quickly. It would also be great for summer review, or a child who needs a little extra work on a concept or two.
As for us, we will be taking the concept of the speed drill wheels with us and using them for many years to come as we learn all our math facts. We love it!
The Crew reviewed various products from Math Essentials and you can read all about them on the Crew Blog!

DISCLAIMER: I received this product free of charge for the purpose of this review. All opinions are honest and my own.

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