Why Beast Academy Is My Favorite Homeschool Math Curriculum

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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

Pros & Cons of Beast Academy

Pros
  • Doesn’t feel like you are doing math.
  • Fun, engaging, unique curriculum that looks like a comic book.
  • Easy to use.
  • Has multiple (online, hardcopy or both) platforms for different lifestyles.
  • Low parent involvement, particularly online.
  • Challenging for math minded or gifted students.
  • Once completed, it leads directly into the Art of Problem Solvings’ upper curriculum.
Cons
  • Challenging curriculum may be difficult for some students to grasp.
  • Currently does not have a level 1 (coming soon).
  • Setup for level 2-5.
  • Is not as thorough as some math curriculums and some parents will feel the need to supplement.

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.

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 I truly wish the AOPS would address is that this is said to be a full math curriculum. It loosely follows common core standards.  This curriculum covers all the basics and could therefore be called a full curriculum.  However, having used Singapore, Math U See and Saxon Math I can honestly say it does not cover as much or as thoroughly as some of the others.  With that in mind, I really think that a lot of Homeschool parents would see this curriculum as enough.

I actually use both Beast Academy and Saxon in my homeschool lessons.  I regularly look through Saxon to see what was missed in Beast Academy.  Then I teach those lessons separately.  This is a shame because I think with just a little extra work AOPS could cover these missing lessons.

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It’s also a shame because although Saxon is thorough, it is dry.  It is a standard math curriculum.  No color.  No pictures.  I find that on Beast Academy days there is joy and excitement in learning.  When I have to teach Saxon I get complaints.  It also means that I’m using multiple curriculums to meet my needs which is an added expense.  I would much rather use Beast Academy entirely.

The other issue I see for parents is that because these books differ so much from a normal math curriculum it may be difficult for some children to use.  These books are meant to be used for challenging math minded students or gifted children.  If you wish to use this curriculum and are not sure if it will be too much for your child, be sure to use the placement tests first.  It will properly place your child in the correct level for the curriculum.  It will also give you an idea of what the problems will be like in the book.  If the problems are too challenging you could skip the starred math problems completely or give hints (which is what I do when things get tough) from the back of the book.

Final Thoughts

It’s such a strange thing to say I adore Beast Academy.  Even with its flaws it’s such an amazing program that I truly can’t say enough good things about it.  If you have a child that doesn’t see math as fun you should definitely give this program a try.  It is very clear that the makers of these books wanted something vastly different from the everyday math curriculum.  They definitely succeeded.

I truly wish that this curriculum had been around when I was a child.  It would have made math way more fun.  Even though it requires me to use a separate math curriculum to fill in any learning gaps, I wouldn’t give it up.  It makes what could be a truly uninteresting subject fun and engaging.  In my book, that’s worth every penny.

If you enjoyed this curriculum review be sure to check out these others:

 

Let me know what your favorite math curriculums are in the comments below.

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