Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Math renaissance

I think Erin actually likes the new math program I bought for her. She finished Singapore Primary Math at the age of not-quite-ten and then took a break. A long break. Two years and a bit, I think. About a year ago she finally delved into "New Math Counts 1", the first in Singapore's secondary program. She wrapped it up in about three months, but it clearly didn't thrill her. I talked to her about finding something new but she wasn't enthused about switching programs. She was convinced she liked Singapore and that it was just her motivation that was the problem. So I picked up NMC 2. She touched on it a couple of times last fall but time wore on and despite insisting in January that she didn't want to scale back her goal, previously stated on her SelfDesign Learning Plan, of completing it this academic year, nothing happened.

A few weeks ago I started looking seriously at the Teaching Textbooks curriculum. I liked what I saw and the recommendations I read. It's pricey, but I figured it was flexible and appealing enough that it would likely get used by at least a couple of my kids over the years, and possibly all four. I decided I would buy Algebra I, ostenibly for Erin, but mostly to check it out as a potential replacement for Singapore's New Math Counts with my younger kids. I told Erin about it; her enthusiasm could have been measured with a micrometer, but she did agree to at least give the first chapter a whirl and let me know what she thought of it.

She was underwhelmed when it arrived. The textbook is intimidatingly thick and has almost two hundred lessons. She thought the CD-based whiteboard lectures were likely to be gimmicky and annoying. After a few nudges she read through the first three lessons in the textbook and did the problem sets that followed. Ho hum. It was kind of okay. Not bad, actually. Algebra is kinda cool, after all. It was probably her favourite part in New Math Counts.

The next day she tried a lecture on the computer. Hmm, cool. And then the next day too. And the next day she did two or three.

She hunkers down in the tub chair with the laptop, in a hoodie and baseball hat, and works away. She actually almost seems to enjoy them. She's asking for help enforcing a little structure on herself in continuing to use the program. And she's cheerful and communicative while doing the computer-based work, as the picture above shows. She laughs at the humour in the word problems, she cracks her own jokes and even asks occasional questions that show she's thinking creatively about what she's learning.

The algebra is very easy for her, but her arithmetical skills are rusty through lack of use. For now she's doing most of the practice problems -- and not feeling frustrated by the review and remediation because she finds the format pleasant. I expect that as time goes on she'll browse and graze and not work quite so systematically. I think the program will serve her just as well in that manner.

Noah and Sophie are very much looking forward to moving into Teaching Textbooks. They like Singapore Primary Math and it is serving them well (Noah is doing 6A, Sophie 4B). I expect even Sophie will be done with that program within the year, though, and it's nice to have something that we all feel positive about waiting in the wings.


  1. My two eldest daughters are currently using TT and they love it. They too found the textbook intimidating and Lisa acctualy refused to do any for a week, until she decided it wasn't going to get any smaller!
    My other kids can hardly wait to finish Singapore and move on to this!

  2. Allison, did your kids move directly from Singapore PM into Algebra 1? I assumed I'd move my middle kids into Pre-Algebra, but from what I've seen of Algebra 1 so far, it looks like it would be the logical place to go after 6B. Is that what you did? Thanks for any input.

  3. Sarah who had also taken a break from math wanted to start with Pre-Algebra to make sure she didn't miss anything.
    Lisa liked the look of TT so much she never compleated Singapore and since she has (or used to)have diffuculty in math Math 6 looked like the best place to start.
    Noah (I've got a Noah too)will be starting with TT in a year or so and I think he, being a math lover but currently only 8 and dosen't quite understand Algebra would be most likely to do Pre-Algebra.

  4. Thanks for the info, Allison. I'm torn whether to buy pre-Algebra for Noah and Sophie. I'm looking for ways to use up our SelfDesign Learning Allowance, and pre-Alegbra would certainly be and easy way to do so. Noah will likely finish Primary Math in a month or two. Sophie is on a curve to finish around her 9th birthday (November), unless she suddenly loses interest in math. Your info has been helpful.

    Oh, and I just wanted to say that I've been driving myself nuts trying to guess where you live. My top guess is Telkwa but I have absolutely no idea why. You can keep me guessing or set me straight, whichever you please :-).

  5. Glad I could help.

    I would love to tell you where we live, but my kids don't. C. Lake is the best I can do for you. We are about half way between Whitehorse and Smithers.

  6. Just saw that I wrote Math 6 for Lisa. It should of been Math 7.

  7. Anonymous5:51 am

    Miranda, I'm curious as to your thoughts now on Teaching Textbooks after your kids have had it for a few months. I'm considering ordering either Math 7 or Pre-Algebra for my older daugher who's almost 11.


  8. Hi Lisa. Overall it's working fine, especially for Noah who, at is pretty young for his level and also suffers from occasional bouts of perfectionism and lack of confidence, and therefore benefits from a slower pace. It's clear and nicely laid out with very good explanations. We find it a little 'dumbed down' in that sometimes the most basic steps are over-explained, and there are often several lessons devoted to different parts of what are really the same concept. Compared to Singapore Math it moves at a glacial speed, but that's okay because we're getting comfortable with skipping past practice exercises and skimming through two or three lessons to get to the 'meat'. And the story problems are brilliantly humourous. eg. "Brett, the speed-reading champion, read 'War and Peace' in 2 minutes and 30 seconds, though his comprehension wasn't so great. When asked to explain the book he could only say that it was about "war and one other thing." If the book contains 352, 480 words .... "

    Overall I wish it promoted creative thinking about mathematical concepts to a greater extent. It's what I'd describe as a "solid" program, one that probably produces good competence on the sorts of things that are tested on SATs and the like, but I don't think it nurtures advanced mathematical thinking as well I'd like, or as well as we're used to from Singapore Primary Math. Still, the presentation is excellent and for now it's a compromise worth making for us.

  9. Anonymous1:28 pm

    Thanks Miranda! One more question as I know in the past you've done lots of research on different math programs. Do you have any thoughts on how TT would compare/differ from Saxon? My daughter likes the fact that Saxon is laid out lesson by lesson, and is resistant to switching (that's just partly her personality of being unsure of new things). My gut tells me that TT would be better.



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