I love words. I love to read. I love to write. I love to talk. Give me words all day long.
Not so much.
I've never been a "mathy" person. Not as a kid, not as an adult. I like to joke that I'm lucky I know how many apples I have if I have three apples.
When I did the Oak Meadow 4th Grade Curriculum with my daughter for the 2009-2010 school year, I did pretty well with its built in math curriculum. Notice I just say "pretty well." I confess. There were a few times I had to call my husband in and ask for his help.
With fourth grade math.
There were a few times my daughter didn't get something and I struggled with how to rephrase it or show it in a simple way that she would get.
Math makes me feel stupid. And I don't want it to make my daughter feel stupid. She isn't what I'd call overly "mathy" either. And once you feel like you're no good at math- I think that stays with you forever. So math was the one thing that worried me when it came to homeschooling.
These days, as I later found out, Oak Meadow has its own built-in math curriculum for later grades, too. But in the older version of the curriculum that I have, it didn't. It went from using its own math curriculum in fourth grade to recommending Saxon math for fifth grade.
When I started planning out my daughter's fifth grade schedule, I started looking through the Saxon 5/4 math book I had purchased. And I think my eyes were bleeding by the end of the first section- which was pretty much all just review. My brain hurt. It seemed so senselessly dry and technical and lengthy and, well, boring to me that I couldn't even stand to look at it. The number of problems in each lesson seemed endless. I tried to picture doing that program with my daughter, and tried to picture her enjoying it, doing well at it, and not feeling utterly lost, and I couldn't see it happening.
What I pictured, instead, were her eyes glazing over. My patience wearing thin. Her not getting it. Me not getting it.
In short, I pictured sheer misery for both of us.
So, I sold it, and good riddance.
I started researching other math programs, and that was when I came across a bunch of reviews for "Teaching Textbooks." A bunch of moms saying that math used to make their kids cry, until they found Teaching Textbooks. That they thought they'd never be able to teach math, until they found Teaching Textbooks. That kids who hated math and thought it was hard enjoyed math once they'd found Teaching Textbooks.
I was intrigued enough to go to the Teaching Textbooks website and read a little further. I watched demos of their program. I looked at samples. Once again I wanted to cry, but this time from sheer relief. THIS looked like the math program for us!
With Teaching Textbooks, you watch and listen to a "lecture" on that week's lesson on your computer, using a CD. Someone, a very knowledgeable and patient someone, explains and demonstrates that particular lesson. There are some practice problems you can do right there on the computer, and if you get it right, they pat you on the back so to speak and move on. If you get it wrong, they will tell you AND SHOW YOU step by step exactly what to do to get it right. After watching the lecture and doing the practice problems, you can move on to doing all the problems in that lesson. A perfectly reasonable number of problems.
You can pause, rewind, or rewatch the lecture as needed. You can ask to be shown step by step how to do a problem you don't understand. It will keep a "gradebook" for you, scoring all the lessons and quizzes, and letting the parent know how many tries the child took for each problem (they can have up to two tries), and whether the child viewed the solution. It will never be unsure of how to do a problem, lose patience, make you feel stupid or convey a sense of disliking math. And it would allow my daughter to be more independent with her work, freeing me up for other things- like my son's Kindergarten curriculum, for example. What could be better than this?!
I called my daughter over and showed her the website. She watched the demos too. She got excited and said she definitely wanted to do that for her math program. When I said we were going to buy it, she was thrilled. Thrilled- about MATH. Who would have thought?!
With a little diligence and patience, I was able to find TT5 used. I got the CDs and the consumable workbook. I read that some people will only use the CDs and that you don't really need the workbook. Others like to have the workbook. I was in that camp. I decided my daughter would watch the lecture and do the practice problems, then read the lesson summary on the workbook before working each problem on paper, checking it afterward on the computer as she went. That way, if she got one wrong, she would get immediate feedback. Even though I wanted the workbook, I wanted to have her use notebook paper instead of writing in it...you know, reusing for another kid and resale value and all that).
Anyway, Alexa couldn't wait until our new school year started so she could do math. She said more than once she wanted to start right away (over the summer. SHE WANTED TO DO MATH- OVER THE SUMMER. Did you catch that?)
I knew that she was going into fifth grade excited about math, and I was going into teaching fifth grade without dreading math. That was almost all I needed to know!
When we finally did start our school year, I didn't have our first math lesson scheduled until the third day in. Alexa was actually disappointed that we didn't do math during our first two days of school! Once we did get to our first lesson, she loved it.
She got a kick out of choosing her "buddy" (a little animated character that gives encouragement and occasional hints), she loved the novelty of doing math on the computer, the lecture was easy to understand, and she got every problem right. The first lesson, pertaining to "Number Patterns" and sequencing, was not new material for her, and looking through the next few lessons, I knew they wouldn't be new to her either (although many programs start off with review of older material anyway and TT does utilize lots of review throughout its lessons). But this brings me to my final thought on the subject.
On a homeschooling message board I frequent, I've seen quite a few threads about Teaching Textbooks, and people seem to tend to either love it or hate it. The people who aren't big on Teaching Textbooks seem to feel that it's not a very rigorous program. They seem to feel that it may be a year or so behind other math curricula, and that you should take a placement test online to see which grade you should buy, as you may need to buy higher grade levels than what your child is actually at and so on.
Here is my thought process on that. I bought my daughter TT5, because she was going into fifth grade. I figured if it did turn out to be true that TT5 was really more like a fourth grade curriculum overall and it ended up being a bit "easy" for my daughter- guess what? I was okay with that! No, I was better than okay with that- I was happy with that. Why? Because if fifth grade turned out to be nothing more than a year of review and, more importantly, a year of CONFIDENCE BUILDING when it came to math- it would be a successful year as far as I'm concerned.
I would absolutely love for my daughter to think that math is easy. I'd love for her to have a "math isn't hard!" attitude. I'd love for her to enjoy math and find it fun.
I figure that as we move from grade to grade, eventually she's going to learn everything she needs to know. If it's a year ("or so") behind where the public schooled kids are with math, so what? (Although judging from the standardized test scores shown in our local newspaper the past two years, they're not doing so hot in math over in the public schools anyway).
And if she gets to be high school aged and I start feeling that the program is lacking (and I'm not saying I will feel that way, but IF I do), then what's the worst case scenario? I hire a tutor to catch her up on some high school math applications and concepts? Okay. I can do that.
Now... can somebody please tell me how many apples I have if I have three apples....?
P.S. I will update this post again later in the year, after we've had a chance to use TT longer, so that my glowing review can be based on some more actual experience. :) I'm interested myself to see whether she continues to enjoy it as the year goes on, if we both continue to find the lectures easy to follow and helpful, and even how she does on the standardized test she'll have to take at the end of this year in order to comply with PA law. But I can say that as of almost 8* weeks into our school year and after around 20* lessons and quizzes, Alexa continues to do well with AND HAVE FUN WITH Teaching Textbooks. So it is a hit in our house! (*Update: We've now done 39 lessons and 5 quizzes and Alexa is still understanding it, doing well with it, and enjoying it; I continue to be very pleased with it myself)!
Here are a few pictures of TT5 in action, during Lesson 1.
UPDATE 2: Well, we are much further into the school year now, and my daughter continues to enjoy and learn from Teaching Textbooks. A lesson takes about half an hour and she continues to be able to be pretty independent with it. By the way, I recently had the opportunity to see the homework a fifth grade cousin was doing for public school math, and it didn't seem any more "advanced" than what we're doing. So I'm not so sure I believe the hype about how Teaching Textbooks is so "behind" other programs!
UPDATE 3: Today we got our standardized test results back! We used the CAT/5 from Thurber's Educational Assessments. You can view my "Standardized Test" link on the sidebar to the left for our results in all areas, but I wanted to share the math portion here:
Math Computation - Stanine 6; National Percentile 77.
Math Concepts & Application - Stanine 7; National Percentile 81.
Total Mathematics - Stanine 7; National Percentile 82.
The highest the Stanine can be is 9, and the National Percentile number means she scored as well as or better than that percentage of other kids who took this test, nationwide. This is an improvement over her test scores from last year (when we were not using Teaching Textbooks), and this, to me, is a FANTASTIC score for a kid who is not particularly mathy, whose mom is a pretty relaxed homeschooler, and who has been using a math curriculum that many people worry is not "advanced" enough. She scored, overall, as well as or better than 82 percent of the rest of the kids who took this test nationwide! She's doing above average- so here's yet one more reason why I continue to love Teaching Textbooks. :)
UPDATE 4: Today my daughter had to write a "Self-Esteem List" as an activity for a book we're reading ("The Safe Zone, A Kid's Guide To Personal Safety" - highly recommended by the way!) and she was writing down a list of things she is good at, her good qualities, and things she is proud of about herself. And in her "things I'm good at" section- she wrote MATH! Thank you again, Teaching Textbooks! I loved you for letting me off the hook in regard to having to explain mathematical concepts on my own. I loved you for rebuilding my daughter's confidence in math and at least helping her no longer think "math is too hard, I'm not good at math." I loved you for making math fun, something to look forward to and not something to dread. I loved you for making math less teacher intensive and more independent. Now I love you because you've helped my daughter feel like SHE'S GOOD AT MATH!
And one last update: When I posted on a homeschooling forum about my daughter's standardized test scores, some of the responses I got were very similar to mine. I wanted to copy and paste some of the responses I got here so you can see what some other parents had to say (and some other posts I subsequently saw on the forum outside of my particular thread)...
"I posted a few days ago with a concern about whether TT was "enough" of a math program, seeing as how it is generally considered to be behind grade level. I got the kids' ITBS scores back today. I will not worry about math any more. DS, 3rd, scored a 4.4 grade equivalent and 79% nationally. DD, 4th, scored an 8.6 grade equivalent and 99% nationally. TT officially ROCKS!"
"We started using TT last year. This year my daughter's highest standardized test scores were in math. She does not like math at all but she is 2 years above grade level now and I believe it's because of TT. That has never been the case before.
My youngest son really likes math so instead of starting him with TT3 for third grade we started with level 4. He is also doing well and his highest scores were in math.
I am a firm believer in TT now!"
"We love Teaching Textbooks here too.
Ds16 did TT Alg1, TT Alg2, and TT Geo. He took Integrated pre-calc in 10th grade at a public school and hated it. At 16yo he tested firmly into college Calculus. He used to show kids in his calculus class how to do basic algebra, because the way the ps taught it was ridiculous.
He is a mathy kid, and the program worked for him too. He just went at a faster pace than non-mathy kids would.
He excelled at all of his assesment tests, and understands how to use math out side of the text book."
"My Teaching Textbooks graduate got a 212 on his PSAT (98th percentile in math) and is doing well in Calculus.
I don't even think he quite finished Algebra 2."
"I'll add fuel to this; my son has used TT 4, 5, and 6. He scored in the 97th percentile in math on the Terra Nova this year. Last year he was 96th percentile on the Terra Nova, after using TT. Just so you know it is consistent, not just a fluke. I would not consider him a mathy child at all, he has always been a very strong reader, writer, and talker LOL. He is good at math, but it isn't his strongest area.
YAY TT! "
"My youngest son loves TT! He's used TT Math 5, 6, and 7 and is now using TT PreAlgebra.
He earned perfect scores on the math section of his 6th grade CAT test just a few weeks ago!"
"We also just got our scores back from the CAT 5.
DD 12 Math Computation-94/ Math concepts- 91..She is one who has struggled in the past with math.
DS 8 Math computation-95/ Math concepts-96...
I have one in college that used TT all the way through Pre-calc and she did well in her college calculus class.
Can you tell I am sold"
"We are using TT this year for the first time. I agonized over using it because of the bad rap it sometimes gets. I went with it as a last-ditch effort to salvage math for my dd 12. My ds 13 started this year with Saxon and did horribly. I ended up switching him to TT in Nov.
We got our scores from the ITBS yesterday. I was really curious as to how they would score on math. I think they did pretty well.
My dd's scores were:
Concepts & Estimation 89th percentile
Prob. solving & Data interp.: 75th percentile
Math Computation: 99th percentile
Math Total: 83rd percentile
I should add that she is NOT mathy and had cried over math daily before TT.
My ds's scores were:
Concepts & Estimation: 88th percentile
Prob. Solv. & Data Interp.: 77th percentile
Math Computation: 96th percentile
Math Total: 83rd percentile
He is working at grade level in TT. My dd is working 1 year ahead.
Overall I am pleased with their scores and will continue with TT. I supplement with Daily Word Problems, Math Minute, & Spectrum Math. I'm thinking I'll switch up what we're using for problem solving, but otherwise won't really change anything."
"We too had good test results using TT. We use it a year ahead, (I used TT3 for a 2nd grader last year), and the results were about the same as your daughter's."
"We live in California and my children took the STAR test last year. My ds was in 6th and dd in 4th. DS in 6th used TT 7 last year for his 6th grade, and TT 6 for his 5th grade year. He scored Advanced on the STAR test both years. Just wanted to share. (DD used Rightstart and also scored Advanced. We are switching her to TT 6 this year after completing Level E which is the same thing we did with ds.)
Also, I should add that my son used to HATE Math. Math has not come easy for him. Maybe it was developmental or maybe he just struggled with Math. But once we added Rightstart in 4th and TT in 5th (we used MUS before) his understanding and scores improved. Now he thinks he's good at Math! He used to say he was terrible. :( Last year he used TT 7 alone. He will be using TT PreAlgebra this year.
TT is working for us so far.!"
"I just received my STAR test results today and my son who did the TT Algebra 1 scored Advanced. I'm happy with the program."
"Star Tests, California- My 6th grader and 8th grader did TT Pre-Algebra last year.
The 6th grader scored Advanced in math.
The 8th grader scored 50% in Algebra 1, which I thought was excellent considering he'd only had Pre-Algebra. :D"
"I have had one daughter use it all the way through high school and she did well on her ACT and was placed into Intermediate Algebra for her college level class for Math. She just finished the class and it came very easy to her and she got an A for a grade."
"We've used TT for several years and our experience has been similar. This year DD, who struggles more in math, scored in the 86% for math. DS, who is advanced in math, didn't miss a single problem and scored in the 99%. Not to brag :) but I do agree that TT works."
Okay, I just wanted to share all of those to show it isn't just me, it isn't just my kid, it isn't just the particular test we used, it isn't just a "fluke." I don't work for Teaching Textbooks, I don't get any incentives from them, I'm just sick to death of seeing a solid program get a bad rap and parents whose kids would really benefit from it getting scared away from it by a bunch of claims that it's so "behind." I suggest you give it a try for yourself if you've read this far and what you're feeling right now is hope and longing. :) Go ahead, it's worth it. Promise!