Beast Academy 3A Guide BookOne of the math programs that I am using with my daughter on a rotational basis is the Art of Problem Solving’s Beast Academy.  This is a relatively new program and not all grade levels are currently available.  The company has already published material for grades 3 and 4.  They are currently working on grade 5 (only the first book has been published thus far) and expect to be finished at the end of 2016.  Then, work will begin on their second grade curriculum.

What it is:

Beast Academy is a full program even though we use it in a supplemental fashion (you can read about our math mash-up in an earlier post).  According to their website the scope is loosely based on Common Core standards, but covers topics more in-depth and offers more problem-solving opportunities.    As you can see from the photo, in year 3 the topics include: shapes, skip-counting, perimeter, area, multiplication, perfect squares, the distributive property, variables, division, units and measure, fractions, estimation, and area.Beast Academy 3 Topics for Third Grade

Each year is divided into a four-book series and there is a guide book and practice book for each section.  The guide book is in full color and contains the main story that teaches the student about the topic at hand.  You then follow up with the practice book (in black and white), and sometimes there is a very short story line before the student begins the practice problems. You can read the entire chapter before setting off on the practice problems, or you can read the guide book section that pertains to the practice book section you want to work in.

Within the guide book there are stop signs (seen towards the upper portion of the page in the left most photo below) placed where the student is supposed to pause and try to figure out the answer before reading on.  At the end of each guide book section there is also a read bar containing the corresponding page numbers in the practice book  (seen at the bottom of the page in the right-hand photo below).

In the back of the practice book there are hints to the starred challenge problems, and the full answers for every problems (shown in the fourth photo).  I always ask my daughter to check her answers and read how the authors solved the problem, as there have been a few times when their solution was a little more elegant than hers.

Beast Academy 3B Guide Book page 23 Beast Academy 3B Guide Book page 25

Beast Academy 3B Practice Book Page 82Beast Academy 3B Practice Book Answer Page


Why we like it:

My daughter loves the comic book style guides and I think she likes them even more when we read them together.  The math stories are entertaining while teaching the topic.  For us, the practice books give sufficient repetition, and we don’t bother doing every problem.  Although my daughter (somewhat) dreads the starred challenge problems I like that they make her think just a bit more.  After she has thought about the problem for a few minutes, then she either tries to solve it or she takes a peek at the hint page.

Comparison to Rightstart Math:

Rightstart Math is our main math program.  In my opinion, Beast Academy is quite rigorous, but I think there is a different flavor between the two programs.  Both are discovery based, but I feel that Beast Academy is a little quick to point out what the algorithm is while Rightstart gives plenty of examples and then has the child discern the pattern to discover the shortcut.

I think both programs are teacher intensive with Rightstart being just a bit more so.  At first I thought that I could let my daughter read through Beast Academy on her own, but I don’t think that she would pause at the stop sign points to ponder; plus, she really enjoys reading it with me.  Most of the time she can work in the practice book with little guidance from me – she checks her own answers and then lets me know how she did.

How to schedule:

This is probably the biggest difficulty with this program.  I begin by looking at the problems in the practice book and I circle the problems that I want Beast Academy 3B Practice Book Recommended Sequencemy daughter to complete.  I include almost all of the challenge problems (those with a star next to them) and about half of the other problems.  I typically assign 2-3 pages of problems a day, unless there are several challenge problems or lots of reading from the guide book for the day.

I also think it is easier to see which pages in the guide book and practice book align by checking out the first page of each chapter in the practice book. As you can see from the photo it is simple to tell which pages go together in the recommended sequence.

Where to buy:

I have included affiliate links to Amazon within this post, but you can also buy the curriculum from the Beast Academy website or other homeschooling stores, such as Rainbow Resource.

Typically, a full year of curriculum will cost $108.

If you are unsure if your child is ready for Beast Academy, there are pre-assessment tests available for all books that are currently published.

This post contains an Amazon affiliate link.
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Rightstart Math FractionsWe have been Rightstart Math users (almost) from the very beginning.  When my daughter finished level E at the end of last year I didn’t feel confident that she was ready for pre-algebra…mostly due to her young age.  So, I looked at my options and I put together a mish-mash of Rightstart Fractions and Level G, and threw in some Beast Academy and Hands on Equations as well.

Today I thought I would show you the new fractions book.  This book is new (copyright 2014) to the Rightstart line-up…before it was simply levels A-E and G (for geometry).  I’ve read many comments over the years from people who felt that level E (1st edition) was not quite enough in the fraction department.  Having just finished level E at the end of last year, I do tend to agree with this assessment.  While my daughter became fairly proficient at adding, subtracting, mulitplying, and simplifying fractions, I was worried that she may not retain that information.  Many people remedy that situation by playing math card games that involve fractions for several weeks.  But, I’m just not a big game player.  I do play every now and then, but the idea of playing a math game every day is just not that appealing to me.

In the end, I decided that it would be worth trying out this fraction level.

Rightstart Math Fractions Table of Contents Page 1Rightstart Math Fractions Table of Contents Page 2

The first thing that you notice is that this level is only meant to be used for 42.5 days.  If you used it 5 days a week then you would finish up in about 2 months…it’s certainly not meant to fill a full year.

I’ve decided to mix up levels F and G with the AOPS Beast Academy 3B-3D with Hands on Equations.  Why?  We had already added in Beast Academy 3A and Hands on Equations while we were finishing up Rightstart Level E, and my daughter enjoyed them.  She also wanted to move on to Rightstart Level G, but I wanted her to cement her understanding of fractions first.  Each day we do 1-2 problems from Hands on Equations and then we continue with one of the three other programs.

Here is our Frakenstein math schedule:

  • Monday-Hands on Equations (HOE) and Rightstart Fractions
  • Tuesday-HOE and Beast Academy
  • Wednesday-HOE and Rightstart Fractions
  • Thursday-HOE and Rightstart Level G (these lessons take the longest of everything)
  • Friday-HOE and Beast Academy

Back to Rightstart Fractions:

You will need the following cards to play the games: fraction and percent cards, basic number cards, and multiplication cards.  On page iv of the lessons book it tells you what needs to be on the cards so that you can make these yourselves (I highly suggest laminating them), or you can find them in Rightstart’s math card games kit.

There is also a booklet of worksheets in addition to the lessons book.

What the lessons look like:

I have included photos of several of the lessons so that you can get a better idea of how Rightstart approaches fractions and what a typical lesson looks like.

Rightstart Math Fractions Day 7 LessonRightstart Math Fractions Day 7 GamesDay 7:

This lesson is part of the introductory lessons.  The intro to this lesson is a teacher-guided lesson to introduce how to divide rectangles, make tick marks, and crosshatch.  It should take only a few minutes.  Once you are sure that your student understands this process then they will fill out a worksheet – one of the few found in this program.  As you can see we are on day 7 and the student will be using worksheet number 2.  If you like a worksheet based approach, then Rightstart would not be for you.

After the worksheet is completed (notice how they work on equivalent fractions) there is a game suggested.  We have played probably half of the games so far, depending on the amount of time we have that day and if I feel that my daughter could use some extra practice or fun.


 

Rightstart Math Fractions Day 20 LessonRightstart Math Fractions Day 20 GamesDay 20:

This lesson is all about emphasizing the fact that division and fractions are the same. It is very similar to day 7: the intro is teacher-guided and then there is a worksheet (number 9).  After the worksheet there is another game suggested to help cement the concept of equivalent fractions.


 

Rightstart Math Fractions Day 30 LessonRightstart Math Fractions Day 30 GamesDay 30:

This lesson covers subtracting fractions.  Previous lessons have focused on simplifying fractions and finding the lowest common multiple, so the student should be well prepared to subtract fractions that do not have a common denominator.  What I love about Rightstart is that there is rarely any busy work.  As you can see in this lesson the teacher/parent goes over 4 problems with the student.  If your student understands and shows mastery then you move on.  If your student needs more practice then you can easily make up your own problems and/or play the fraction subtraction game that is on the next page.


Rightstart Math Fractions Day 35 LessonRightstart Math Fractions Day 35 GamesDay 35:

I wanted to include this lesson because many people are confused as to how to teach multiplication and/or division of fractions without relying on teaching the standard algorithm.  In my opinion, we are doing our students a disservice if we don’t allow them the opportunity to discover the algorithm, allowing them to really own the right to use it.  I know that I wasn’t taught in this manner and so many light bulbs went off in my head as I went through the various Rightstart levels with my daughter.  I think that Rightstart really excels in this area…better than Singapore and AOPS Beast Academy.

My thoughts thus far:

We are on day 11 (a little more than one-fourth of the way through the lessons) and so far it’s all been far too easy for my daughter…but I like that. She definitely is not afraid of fractions and she enjoys having some “easy math.”  In my opinion, this has been a good review and I’m glad to see that she learned quite a bit in level E.  We will see how she fares in the next few weeks as we go through the operations and simplifying with fractions.

 

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The Hands On Equations App Level 1 is available for free today for both iOS and Android platforms.  It’s normally $4.99 so if you are in the market for an algebra app or just want to try it out, then download it today.

Hands On Equations is suitable for children that are working at around a 3rd grade level and on up.  I have heard that you would still want to buy the verbals problem, but that this app essentially replaces the learning system (ie. the manipulative part of the program).

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Over at TWTM boards there has been some talk about an app that teaches algebra concepts to children that is also super fun to play.  After hearing rave reviews about this app several times I decided to download for my daughter when she started saying that she wanted a new game.  It was a hit!  And she still has no idea that she is practicing math concepts.

I had to sit with my daughter and talk her through the first few screens, but she quickly caught on.  Now she calls me over every once in a while when she gets stuck.  Since DragonBox is difficult for me to explain adequately I thought that I would share a video from their website.

If you are looking to buy this app, then you need to know that there are 2 different apps: one targets young children (about age 5+) while the other is geared for students tackling middle school math.

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Touch MathTouchMath is a program that I was previously unaware of, but has been developed and expanded in the last 40 years.  According to the company’s website it is a multi-sensory math program (seeing, saying, hearing, and touching) that is aligned with the Common Core State Standards and is geared towards preK-2nd grade children.  It can be used as a complete core program or as a supplement with struggling learners.

My son currently can identify numbers 1-10, count to 20, and identify colors and shapes.  He needs to work a little more on one-to-one correspondence and cannot yet hold up the correct number of fingers when saying a number.  After looking through some samples of the preK (sample pages here) and Kindergarten lessons (sample pages here) I decided he would be better suited using the preK materials, mainly because the K material asks the child to do a fair amount of writing (which my son is not ready for).

TouchMath preK programThe preK materials consist of a PDF downloadable Teacher’s Manual that contains 6 modules and 90 “workmats” (15 per module).  The modules are as follows: counting and number sense; comparying and classifying; sorting, classifying, graphing, and patterning; identifying, sorting, and classifying 2D shapes; identifying, sorting, and classifying 3D shapes and coins; and number concepts and numerals.  Within the Teacher’s Manual are found the workmats for each module (black and white worksheets that can be printed out as necessary), pre-activity suggestions, sometimes reading book suggestions, a scripted plan to follow for each workmat, and assessments for the end of each module.  Little teacher preparation is needed besides printing out the workmats, making this a very open-and-go program in my opinion.

It is recommended that you work with your child for 2.5 times the age of the child, in minutes.  For my son this meant that I aimed for less than 10 minutes of instruction each day and that was difinitely appropriate for him, and he could still generally complete 2-3 workmats in each session.  My goal was to use the program once a day with him Monday through Friday and most days he enjoyed working on his “school work, ” as he called it.  Some days though he preferred to play with his trains and planes instead and I did not force hime to sit down for a TouchMath lesson.  However, in just the few weeks time that we had for this review we were able to complete the first module.

While this program can be used without any special manipulatives, we were sent three different types of manipulatives to try out: Texture Cards, 3D Numerals, and TouchShapes.  My son was quite excited to look through and play with the Texture Cards when they first came out of the box.  Inside of the box there are 5 sets of cards with different themes (eg. animals, shapes, fruit, sea life) for numbers 1-9.  We did use them a few times to put the numbers in order and to quiz him on his numerals, but he quickly lost interest with the cards.  Interestingly, he never really showed any interest in the 3D numerals.

texture carsfour-backfour-front3D Numerals

What we ended up using quite a bit were the TouchShapes manipulatives.   The TouchShapes are simple plastic pieces and include 6 different shapes in 6 colors and in 3 different sizes, and touchmaththey have made keeping track of what objects have been counted so much easier for my son.  I have found that both of my children, at a young age, would count so quickly that they tended to overcount.  By placing the corresponding TouchShape on the activity page while counting my son can see what he has counted and it slows him down enough that he doesn’t count more objects than are actually there.

Overall, this is a rather engaging program that doesn’t require a lot of prep work.  I think that TouchMath would be a great program for any child, but especially for those that crave tactile instruction.

Price: $59.95 for the curriculum, manipulatives sold separately

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Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

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