Thursday, March 26, 2015

Understanding Algebra I ~ The Critical Thinking Co.

Math can often be one of the most challenging subjects for a homeschooler to teach. The Critical Thinking Co. makes learning math a bit easier with their book, Understanding Algebra I. This book is for grades 7-9.

The mission of the Critical Thinking Co. 

The Critical Thinking committed to developing students' critical thinking skills for better grades, higher test scores, and success in life. We do not teach through drill and memorization or teach to the tests - we empower the mind!

I will be totally honest, math was never an easy subject for me. I was not really good at math and I am not really good at teaching it. When The Critical Thinking Co. asked if I would like to review this particular book I jumped at the chance. You may be wondering, why? Well, let me tell you. I have six children and in my many years of homeschooling I have found that what works with one child, doesn't necessarily work for another. I have found this to be true especially for math. Math is one of those subjects that some have a natural bent towards understanding while others struggle to just grasp each concept. I am currently using three different math curriculums for just this reason.

What is Algebra?
Well, the Critical Thinking Co. explains this in the beginning of the book. Algebra is generalized arithmetic. Algebra is a powerful tool. The word "algebra" is a Latin variation of the Arabic word "al-jabr," which is taken from the title of a book written around AD 825 by the Arab mathematician known as al-Khwarizmi. The first step in understand algebra is to review concepts from our system of numbers and learn the proper use of set notation. Algebra also involves learning how to change patterns into equations to predict outcomes.

What the book covers:
  • Our Number System ~ Sets, Operations, and Properties
  • Evaluating Expressions and Solving Equations
  • From Words to Algebra ~ Translating and Solving Word Problems 
  • From Words to Algebra ~ More Word Problems
  • Inequalities ~ Compound Inequalities, and Absolute Value
  • Polynomials
  • Factoring
  • Working with Radicals
  • Linear Functions
  • Systems of Equations and Inequalities
  • Other Types of Functions
  • Working with Algebraic Fractions 
The book includes a glossary of terms, an answer key, and a reference page of formulas. There are two poems included in the book which add a bit of fun. The first poem is Arithmetic by Carl Sandburg and the second poem is Algebra by T. Husted. These poems are definitely worth reading. 

Who used this book
I currently have one child in Algebra I and two that have already completed it. I asked them to tell me what they thought about, Understanding Algebra I. I also have three children who are not yet at this level, so I studied, reviewed, and tried out some of the lessons for myself. This book may just be the perfect fit for one of them in the near future.

My 18 year old said that she liked it and it would have been a good fit for her. 
She completed Calculus before graduating high school and is one of my kids that "gets" math.

My 15 year old said that there was no way that she could have used this.
My daughter is currently in Geometry and struggling. She just doesn't "get" math. Algebra I was challenging and the thought of Algebra II this next year is frightening for her to even think about. She needs a math curriculum that is either taught by someone or is on the computer, where it is verbally explained in greater detail.

My 14 year old said that he wasn't sure if he would be able to do it without help.
My son is currently in Algebra I and is using a computer based math curriculum. This book may have been an option for him. He is kind of in between, in that math isn't his strongest subject but he does seem to grasp mathematical concepts on his own.

What I thought
I think that The Critical Thinking Co. did a great job with this book. The lessons are long enough to make sure that the student grasps the material but not so long that they feel overwhelmed. Some math books are intimidating and you see that "deer in the headlights" look on your child's face. This book does not give that gloom and doom feeling. The lesson explanations are thorough and easy to understand. I will say, that for those that stumble through math, it would probably be very helpful to have someone available that is mathematically minded to further explain the concepts. The quantity of problems in each lesson, are sufficient enough to grasp the concepts without over doing it. If you are searching for an Algebra I course, this is definitely worth checking out. 

A great offer from The Critical Thinking Company.

15% Off Any Size Order!
Details: Offer expires 5/31/2015 at Midnight PST. Use Coupon Code BLOGR315. Online prepaid orders only. Valid one per customer. Offer does not apply to iOS or Android apps, or manipulatives such as Attribute Blocks, Interlocking Cubes or Pattern Blocks. Offer may not be combined with other discounts or offers, and is not retroactive. Not valid on wholesale orders.

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