One 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.
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.
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 my 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.