math curriculum

Why Beast Academy Is My Favorite Homeschool Math Curriculum

Beast Academy came into my life by accident.  I was trying to find something to keep my child engaged in school.  The math that was being offered was not enough and boredom had started to set in.  To the Google I went.  I stumbled upon an advertisement for Beast Academy.  You know the ones I mean.  Those advertisements you promise yourself that your “only” going to “look” at.  You tell yourself you will “never” buy their product.  But, it was unique.  A math program that was set up like a comic book.  Tell me more! I went to the Beast Academy website and to my surprise the curriculum is run by the Art of Problem Solving.  These guys have an upper elementary math curriculum that is well known and highly respected in the Math community.  The Art of Problem Solving (AOPS) has grown since the 90’s to include an online school, small in person physical learning centers, streaming video lessons, an online community and multiple textbooks for mathematically minded students.  Now you really had my attention. Quick Overview About Beast Academy Beast Academy is the Art of Problem Solvings way to address meeting the needs of math minded kids between the ages of 6-13.  It was launched in 2002.  The program currently has 4 levels.  Level 1 is going to be launched soon.  You can choose to do the entire program online or in textbook format.  Either way it’s the exact same curriculum (although not the same questions).  The program is meant to be used for highly accelerated math minded kids starting in the 2nd grade (soon to be 1st) until 5th grade.  However, there are placement tests to see which level fits the needs of your child best.  I highly encourage taking these tests as many kids will find it easier to start level 2 in third grade or even 4th. Why Beast Academy is Different These guidebooks are not set up like any math book I have ever seen before.  The first thing you will notice is the color.  These books are full color on every page.  Then there is the fact that they are set up like a comic book.  It’s highly appealing to kids.  It encourages reading as well as math.  In fact, part of the reason I purchased these was because I thought it might help my child to want to read more.  Each book follows the story of a school of little characters who happen to be monsters.  They go about their day in school solving problems.  Some of these problems require teamwork.  Sometimes they must rescue their teacher from trouble. Make no mistake.  While these books may look simple, cute, fun and engaging, they are challenging.  In fact, sometimes they are so hard that I have to read through the problem solving hints in the back.  What I find amazing is that I personally have learned some incredible tips for mental math that I have started using in my everyday life.  I never have to ask for this work to be done.  Usually, I get asked if extra pages can be done.  When it’s time to read another lesson, it makes reading time more fun as well.  I strive to do about two pages in the workbook per session.  Sometimes, the work is so challenging that only one problem might get done.  Which is fine. The workbooks also work hard to be nothing like a normal math workbook.  Everything is done in puzzles or games.  Problem solving is encouraged and so is failure.  Every problem is interesting and challenging.  The harder problems are marked with a star.  The super difficult ones are marked with two stars.  The double starred problems are not always meant to be solved correctly (although it’s great if they are).  They are meant to challenge the mind to use the information the student has already learned.  So these can be very difficult if not impossible for your little one. The back of the books also contain hints and ways to solve and work through the more challenging problems when they are too difficult to solve.  It also contains an answer key for easy grading.  I find this very helpful. Online Vs. Hard Copies You have the option to do all the work online which eliminates you needing to teach the work.  The online version also includes over 700 supplementary videos that accompany the lessons.  Level 2 offers a read aloud version as well.  This is beneficial if your child can’t read fluently yet.  Parents can also view all the students’ progress via their online account. The program is also available in hardcopy Guide Books and Workbooks which is how we chose to use the program.  The books are very straightforward and easy to use.  There is even the option of bundling and doing both the online courses and the books together.  While the lessons are the same, the problems are completely different between the two programs. You could choose this option if your student really needs additional practice.  But, you really only need to do one or the other unless you really want or need to have both.   The lessons in the online course and the workbooks are the same. If you are looking for lesson plans you can find them on homeschool planet. One thing you should know is that you can’t use only the workbook hard copy by itself.  You will need either the online or hardcover guide books.  The workbook does not have enough instruction in it to be used as a stand alone. Cost The online program starts at $96 per year if you pay everything up front.  This is per child.  If you have multiple children then you will pay $48 for each additional student.  Bundling is $150 per year and includes both the online program and the books.  The hard copies cost $108 plus shipping for the entire level. The Cons I only have a few issues with these books.  One that

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A display of math books

Choosing a Math Curriculum

  This is probably one of the most hotly debated subjects in the homeschool world. I have actually seen people argue over what constitutes a full math curriculum. Before teaching homeschool I had no idea there was even a choice in the type of math curriculum you could teach. As it turns out there isn’t just a type, but multiple types. Types of Math Curriculum These include the following:SpiralingMasteryConceptual ProceduralLiving Within, these types are subtypes as well. As a parent it can get very confusing. So, to keep it simple, I’m only going to discuss these main types today.   Mastery Mastery is the idea that the child will learn the concept they are being taught completely and thoroughly before moving on to the next concept. They would learn addition only and then subtraction. This would work great for a child struggling to understand things at a more rapid pace. It allows you to take more time on the concept until it is completely understood. The downside to this type of math is that the child does not get exposed to other concepts until later.  If you decide that you want or need to go back to a public education, it may be difficult for the child.  They will struggle to do concepts that they have not have been exposed to yet.  An example of this is the Math U See curriculum. Spiraling Spiraling is the idea that you take chunks of concepts and teach them in a more fast paced manner. You would teach the ideas in successive order. Then you would “spiral” back to the original idea and reteach the concept again at a later date.  An example of this is Saxon Math.   This works great for children who are bored easily and get concepts at a faster rate. The child would learn smaller chunks of different information at the beginning of your school year and then relearn it again to retain the information. What I have found to be problematic in some curriculums is that sometimes the spiraling gets a little confusing and sometimes it can even get boring depending on how far back or repetitive the spiraling goes. Conceptual Conceptual is the idea that mathematics will be taught in a tangible manner. It uses hard or real ideas to make the math more concrete. You will see lots of things like manipulatives being used. Manipulatives that the child can see, touch and use. There will be lots of word problems for real life situations as well. Conceptual math is really loved among educators. It gives the child a real foundation to understanding math not just in the beginning, but as they continue to get into harder concepts. The only downside is time. It is not an “open and go” curriculum. You will need to spend some time teaching the concept first.  An example of this is Singapore Math or Beast Academy.   Procedural Procedural math teaches a procedure. It shows you the algorithm or formula how to do the math and then the child will be able to complete the concept again and again. Procedural math is good at teaching how to organize data, and always get the correct answers. The downside is that the child can complete the problem, get the correct answer from the procedure, and still have no idea how they got to the answer. They may not have an understanding of the concept, even though they can do it. This can cause issues later.   Procedural math is best taught after the child fully understands the conceptual part of it.  This will prevent the problem of only knowing how to do a problem and not why you do it.  While neither conceptual or procedural is wrong, the best math curriculums will use both. Living Math Living math is math that is taught through every day life. You teach fractions through cooking and baking. You teach algebra by measuring actual buildings. You teach multiplication by sharing food with friends. It really teaches that math is everywhere. Living math works really well for kids who struggle to understand concepts. It gives real information in a fun way. The drawbacks are again time. You may also find that living math doesn’t give you as complete a curriculum as you are looking for alone. The nice thing is that it is very easy to use it as an addition to any math program. How to Choose Most Math curriculums will use one, some or even all of these types. In our home we are currently using a mix of both Saxon and Beast Academy.  Saxon is very repetitive and thorough.  Beast Academy is more engaging and fun but not as thorough.  So for us, we require two curriculums to fit our needs.  But my needs are not your needs. It’s important when looking at the curriculum to understand which one you are getting. It will help you decide more easily which program you want to teach. It will also help you get ahead of any problems you may encounter so that you can quickly and easily fix them. Just remember that no math curriculum is perfect. Choose what’s best for you and your family. I hope this gives you all a better understanding of math curriculums. Happy Homeschooling!

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